I’ve seen it so often. Women find out their pregnant, start feeling the effects of it, and quit coming to the gym or their classes. When I see them again postpartum, they feel huge and out of shape.

 

Now, let me preface this by saying that I’m not throwing rocks. I know how debilitating some of pregnancy’s “side effects” are. As one who has experienced hyperemesis through two pregnancies myself, it can be extremely difficult to lift your head to do a daily task (other than hang out with the toilet) let alone get yourself dressed for a workout.

 

I’m also going to say that working out is the¬†only thing that saved me from 1) losing my lunch (and my mind) completely and 2) turning into a couch potato. Even though by eight weeks I could no longer do my usual workouts due to the severity of my nausea, practicing and teaching Yoga and Pilates really, really helped me maintain a healthy weight, keep down the nausea, maintain strength and flexibility and a strong core (essential for delivering babies), and mental clarity.

 

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Pregnancy is a wonderful new adventure, and the perfect time to clean up your routine. This doesn’t necessarily mean starting something new or increasing your goals. It means making small, healthy changes that benefit you and the baby and your household. Gentle, consistent exercise is the main way to keep pregnancy side effects at bay. It helps maintain muscle tone and bone strength, increases adherence to healthy behaviors and therefore a healthy weight, increases circulation and oxygen to the body (and baby), increases positive mindset and mood while decreasing anxiety and depression, and also reduces all the side effects of pregnancy such as swelling, excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, insomnia and exhaustion.

 

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This sounds wonderful (and is!) but I always provide a word of caution. Whenever pregnant, make sure you consult your physician and/or OB about your routine. Each pregnancy is unique and needs to be well attended by both you and your doctor. Complications and contraindications can occur at any time, in which case you must curtail or change your regimen to meet doctor’s orders. Never go against them (seek a second opinion if you don’t agree with the decision) for your own sake and that of the baby.

 

Most of all, enjoy the journey. Be gentle with yourself. You are venturing down a new path–yes, even those of us who have multiple children, it’s still new because there’s another one coming ūüėČ Take care of the important things, learn to let the little things go, and laugh a lot. Children are precious and fun…and I bet you’ll feel better when you do!

Right now I’m working on a couple things as far as minimizing sugar consumption and clean eating. I’m still in the process of figuring things out for myself as well as doing a bunch of research on food and the Western Diet. In doing so, I’ve come across¬†a lot of dialogue concerning body size and health. While I’ve recognized these facts for some time, it is important that more people do also, so I thought I’d share them with you.

 

Myth: If I’m¬†“fat”, I’m¬†unhealthy.

Fact: Weight gain is caused by a myriad of factors, of which about 25% relates to genetics, and even more related to hormones (for women in particular). I have met women who struggle with losing weight who eat well and exercise daily, so one cannot judge just by surface appearance.

 

Myth: If I’m¬†“skinny”, I’m healthy.

Fact: Skinny doesn’t mean a thing in the realm of healthy living. There are people who are thin as a rail who develop heart disease in their 20’s because they lead a sedentary life combined with poor dietary choices. I also know people who start to gain weight the minute they begin eating well and exercising regularly–indeed, this is one way to improve overall health for those who are ¬†medically classified as underweight.

 

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Myth: If I diet, the weight will stay off.

Fact: Dieting is one of the leading causes of regaining weight–and regaining¬†more weight than one previously weighed before beginning a diet! Most people who follow a standardized diet have one of two outcomes: either they have poor results because the diet does not work well for their body type, metabolism, and so forth; or they achieve their weight loss goals and stop dieting, only to regain it all back, plus some. Yo-yo dieting is not a solution to the problem. Exchanging healthy habits for unhealthy ones over a long period of time is.

 

Myth: If I exercise, the weight melts away.

Fact:¬†There is a lot of truth to this statement, yet many¬†people will find this more difficult than others due to a body’s initial homeostatic preferences, hormone- and disease-related issues, current dietary habits, sleep patterns, workplace stress factors, support in relationships (friendship, romance, parents, etc.), medications, mental health…the list can go on for pages.

 

Myth: If obesity¬†runs in the family, there’s nothing I can do about it.

Fact: Genetics only make up about 25% of the picture, and a lot of what is perceived as hereditary actually comes back to the habits you learned as a child. Choices matter even when they don’t add up to the emaciated super-modelesque physique popular culture thrusts upon us each day. They matter a¬†lot!

 

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Myth: If I’m obese when considering a proper diet and exercise regimen to begin, surgery is my only option.

Fact: Surgeries that help reduce weight rapidly should not be looked at as a permanent solution to the equation. For those who are morbidly obese, surgery is a starting point for your weight loss journey. The problem so many people find is that the moment they undo them, they gain back more weight than ever before. If surgery is something you are considering, you must discuss habitual lifestyle behaviors with your team of specialists (physician, registered dietitian, surgeon, personal trainer, therapist, etc.) in order to determine what steps you need to take are right for you. In my opinion, surgery is a last resort and only the first step to consistent, positive lifestyle habits.

 

The bottom line¬†is if you’re having issues losing weight via “mainstream” diet and health guidelines, consulting your physician is a good place to start. Depending on your situation, you may need to work with a team of people that include a registered dietitian, personal trainer, psychologist, and other therapists. You should seek referrals from your doctor and anyone else you are currently working with in order to discover and tackle the issues you are facing, but at the end of the day, determination will win the day!

 

There is no one right kind of body shape. We are all created from a unique mold. Embrace your curves (or lack thereof) and think about why you are really here in this world. It isn’t to look amazing every single moment of every single day (not even Hollywood stars that do that). Utimately, it is to fulfill your purpose and live generously.

I have spent a lot of time in the past year reading and working toward my yoga certification, a process that is now on hold due to the fact that the class I needed to take to finish “on time” was sold out. It’s not that there’s a time limit on my certifications; I just wanted to have it completed before my baby came. Ah well…

In¬†Your Body Speaks Your Mind (Part I and Part II), and elsewhere, there is an idea in Eastern medicine that all disease starts in the mind. The chemicals developed in the brain transmit into the body, where they’re stored. Over time, the same negative signals (in addition to other factors such as diet, chemicals, environment…) can promote disease within the body and/or mind.

Yesterday, as I was teaching prenatal yoga, the ladies and I were discussing the idea that the Western world is obsessed with disease. It got started with a mention on anorexia nervosa (AN), an eating disorder. Strange, because this week I stumbled across a Tumblr post about a girl whose battled AN for ten years and now has heart problems because her perception of her self-image has forced her body to eat her own heart muscle. The post advocated a resistance against those Tumblr blogs promoting–and, in fact–giving¬†advice to young boys and girls on–achieving the ultimate thin body.

It reminds me of this story I read in 7th Grade, where two girls became obsessed with a machine that magically transformed their bodies into the “ideal image.” They could eat whatever they wanted. In fact, I believe the machines were set up in an ice cream parlor. So they’d gorge on sweets and then pop into the machine for a slim-up. Over time, even what had been a healthy body slowly shrank into skeletal features because they couldn’t perceive what was thin anymore, and what had been thin yesterday wasn’t thin today.

Sound familiar? Look at what’s on TV, in magazines, in music videos, in shopping malls. What are young people today striving to look like? The recent Abercrombie & Fitch CEO’s admission to limiting his company’s sizes IS the norm in the fashionable world. And who doesn’t want to be fashionable?

What about the other end of the spectrum? Several years ago, I watched¬†The Ultimate Fat Debate on Dr. Phil. It was a fabulous discussion held by three trim fitness instructors, three huge women, and (as a kind of mediator with Dr. Phil) Kelly Osborne, who’d been on both sides of the fence. I thought both sides had points–that we shouldn’t discriminate based on size (it happens to thin people as well as fat, friends, just so you know), and that people should be responsible for their own actions pertaining to their bodies.

What I didn’t agree with (personally) is the mindset of one of the heavy women, who advocates for an organization that promotes fairness for overweight/obese individuals. It reflects a large percentage of what overweight/obese individuals think, and the trend is growing: I look good the way I am. To me–please, again, don’t judge, because I’ve been on the heavy side myself so I know what it feels like–this is an excuse to maintain the same poor behaviors that have caused the weight gain in the first place. This isn’t a judgment. It’s more of an observation from the countless times I’ve seen overweight individuals shrug their shoulders and continue to do nothing to promote a healthier body and improve their quality of life.

What about school-aged children? I just finished reading¬†Natural Prozac, a book on how to help reverse depression. (I say help because you might need a doctor first before ever trying the methods suggested in it.) One of the things that struck me was his talk on dopamine and norephinephrine levels of the brain, how they cause anxiety-based depression that keep people doing so much, they don’t feel it until they crash. I got to thinking about children in schools whose parents are told they need Ritalin because they have ADD/ADHD.

Granted, there are real cases out there where people do need drug therapy. A vast majority of kids however, as Dr. Robertson later states, actually just have abnormally high levels of dopamine and norephiphrine running through their systems on account of partaking of the things that cause the elevation of the levels of these neurotransmitters, namely (but not only) violent/action-packed movies and TV, violent/loud music, video games, and poor high-processed diets. They watch/listen/play these things before school, eat a lot of sugar, and then sit in a classroom. The answer? Exercise! They need to be allowed to burn off the excess energy (and neurotransmitters) so they can sit and focus easier. (Incidentally, this is one reason why I feel that physical education should be a requirement for all grades through high school, which it isn’t.)

Or, think on the huge boom in pharmacology in the last 60 years. Today, antidepressants are one of the biggest prescribed classes of drugs in medicine. Pain killers are another. Look at the advertisements on television. Drugs (and weight loss diets/supplements) are everywhere. I believe it’s like 1 in 5 adults are on some kind of anxiety or pain medication.

There’s also a rise in how often people go to the doctor to be diagnosed for something. Disease, in general, is on the rise. Again, this is partially due to things like high-processed diets, environmental factors, chemicals, and the like; but it is also due to a believe that¬†something is wrong and instead of looking at what they can change in their own lives to improve (and even prevent) unhealthy feelings and disease, people want a quick fix. Drugs, surgery, etc. These businesses are booming.

Now at this point, you’re like, get on with it. So here is my point. You may or may not agree with me, and that’s okay. Not everyone will, or does. There are people out there who’ve begun movements to help bring awareness to these, and other, areas so that we may live healthier, better lives. It’s awesome to see!

In a yoga lifestyle, it is believed that you only have one body. Therefore, in a yoga lifestyle, we encourage people to accept themselves, love themselves, and build a fierce desire to take care of themselves. No replacement parts necessary. No mind-chemical-altering drugs needed. Food, exercise, meditation, hard work, and living in accordance with nature are all the best medicines a person needs…and laughter too!

Does that mean that, if you’re one of those struggling, this is all you need to do? No! For many people, we need a doctor’s help to get started. We need to talk to a therapist to get through some tough parts of our childhood/lives. We need the drugs to help balance us out until we just don’t need them anymore (or need less of them).

The yoga mentality is not one of absolutes, like so many other diets, etc., out there. It’s about taking care of¬†you. It’s about letting go of the thought that contribute to disease-forming factors. It’s about living in moderation: enjoying that piece of chocolate cake but also enjoying the exercise you do afterward to burn off the excess calories. Living healthy can be fun¬†if we believe it.

Take the chance. Read books like¬†Natural Prozac and¬†Your Body Speaks Your Mind. Go see a doctor or a friend or a nutritionist if you don’t know what’s going on or what you’re doing. You’ll thank yourself later, and your quality of life with increase.

And who doesn’t want increase in their life?