Working out after having babies is a whole new challenge. You can try fun workouts with your baby in tow or try these new mom tricks for staying healthy postpartum. We even asked a nutritionist to give us her best tips for energizing meals and snacks for new mamas. But the reality is that you’re super tired, your baby is crying, and you’d rather sleep than run. We get it.
My friend Bernadette and me at Dance Dance Party Party LA. Photo taken August 21, 2017.
For me, having twin girls meant that I was breastfeeding two babies five times a day. Back then, my workout routine consisted of running to get my twin breastfeeding pillow and latching them on. Unlike other moms who lost weight while breastfeeding, the 25 pounds I gained during pregnancy remained. During my high-risk pregnancy, I was diagnosed at 25 weeks with gestational diabetes, which meant I had to eat a low-carb and low-sugar diet for the rest of my pregnancy. Major bummer.
Postpartum, I wanted to lose my mommy pooch — the saggy belly fat that made it look like I was still pregnant — after being asked months after my girls were born when I was due. (Note to everyone: Never ask a woman when she’s due. Let her tell you that she’s pregnant!) I went back to working out, but my belly stayed the same. In my mommy Facebook groups, everyone was talking about an NPR article about a 10-minutes-a-day exercise to fix diastasis recti (the medical term for mommy pooch). Diastasic recti is a separation in the abdominal area that can happen after giving birth. The Dia Method, a specific core workout, should help heal the separation and reduce the pooch. (There’s a video tutorial here.)
(Source: Nick Sousanis / Courtesy Sustainable Fitness Incorporated)
It sounded too good to be true. So I tried it out.
For three months, I committed to the Dia Method, which was created by Leah Keller (pictured below), a nationally certified personal trainer who is an expert in pre- and post-natal fitness. The program isn’t only a 10-minute core exercise. It includes a three-phase eating program and a workout routine with Dia Method online videos. At Daily Burn, Keller shares six core exercises for new moms that can help fix the ab separation.
The Dia Method founder Leah Keller with her daughter.
During my first week, I performed the core exercise for five minutes a day (this is suggested for beginners who then work up to 10 minutes by week two) and read through The Dia Method: 3 Phase Fat Burn — a guide to understanding the three phases of the 12-week program. I knew it was going to be challenging to try the diet as a vegan who couldn’t eat peanuts, cashews, or pistachios (I was still breastfeeding and one of my daughters is allergic to those nuts). But when I had gestational diabetes, I followed a strict carb diet, so I went back to that. I weighed myself and took my body measurements — the Dia Method provides a handy guide for what measure and when.
Phase 1 involves eating only 50 grams of carbs, drinking broth daily, and drinking 10-12 cups of water daily since I was breastfeeding. The broth is Keller’s method for combating headaches and irritability when cutting back on carbs. I drank miso broth after workouts or when I was feeling hungry.
Instead of eating bread at every single meal, I switched from my morning toast to unsweetened coconut yogurt topped with blueberries and hemp seeds. Some mornings, I made chia puddings with unsweetened almond milk and mixed-in almond and vanilla extracts to give it a hint of sweetness. For lunch, I made salads with avocado, toasted walnuts, and tofu. For dinner, instead of pasta, I cooked spaghetti squash and tossed it with zucchini, tomatoes, garlic paste dip, and almond ricotta. For snacks, I ate tamari-roasted almonds and sipped on my miso broth. Truth be told, Phase 1 was the hardest for me since I craved just eating a sandwich, but finding substitutes for pasta and carbs helped. I ate fried rice made entirely of riced cauliflower or zoodles instead of a big bowl of spaghetti.
I moved into Phase 2 three weeks later, so I increased my carbs to 75 grams and now was allowed to have two cheat meals a week where I could eat whatever I wanted. I reserved one cheat meal for Friday night date nights with my hubby. (Date night for twin parents is ordering takeout and catching up on our fave TV shows.) During the week, I’d eat a cheat lunch or a dinner out with friends. Keller recommends only eating three bites of dessert, but as someone who loves sweets, I didn’t adhere to this. Instead, when I ate dessert, I didn’t order an appetizer or eat more than one serving of said dessert.
I did my 10 minutes of core workouts every day, did two Dia Method-led online classes, and worked out through my local Parks & Rec Cardio Fat Blast class, which is across the street from my house so I had zero excuses on why I couldn’t work out. I know there are moms who start the Dia Method a few months postpartum, but for me, I needed the time and the energy when the babies were older so I could dedicate to the program. I started this program when my twins were 18 months old and enrolled in daycare. I set myself up not to fail.
My photo taken on November 22, 2017, after 12 weeks using the Dia Method.
Three months later, the results are in. I’ve lost 17 pounds so far. Around my abdominal section at my belly button, I’ve lost six inches. No one has asked me when I’m due. I can fit better into pants since my belly doesn’t bulge out as much. Most importantly, I feel more energetic with my daughters. Working out again has made me feel less stressed out. I love planning for cheat meals so I can eat those things I miss — like tacos, vegan burgers, and chocolate cake — without feeling like I’m depriving myself of my favorite foods. I’m continuing to stay in Phase 2 and sticking with three minutes of abdominal exercises every day.
A few tricks that helped me lose my mommy pooch:
- Portioning out my food before eating so I wouldn’t eat more than my serving
- Buying healthy snacks in bulk like walnuts, almonds, and unsweetened vegan yogurt
- Reviewing restaurant menus online before going out to eat so I could find a healthy option before my hunger set in
- Enjoying every bite of my cheat meals with zero guilt
- Drinking more water
- Adding avocado to everything (this healthy fat made me feel more full, and I love avo, so it was easy)
- Doing my core workouts while breastfeeding, watching TV, or at my work desk
Would you try the Dia Method to update your postpartum abs? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know.
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(Photos via The Dia Method and Jennifer Chen)