Celebrity mums are famous for snapping back to their pre-pregnancy weight soon after birth, but what about us mere mortals? It took a while, but nine months after birth, I am starting to feel like myself again.
Since having my baby boy nine months ago, I’ve been careful not to put too much pressure on myself to get back in shape. Don’t get me wrong, I long to get back into my favourite jeans, but there have been some more pressing new challenges in my life recently. Such as getting more than a couple of consecutive hours’ sleep, keeping a baby fed, clean and happy, maintaining basic bodily hygiene and remembering the names of my friends, family and husband.
Once I’d mastered the basics of motherhood, I felt ready to spend some time on myself. They do say happy mummy, happy baby after all!
My fitness levels were at an all-time low from spending months sitting still, feeding my hungry boy. I’m so happy to be able to feed him myself, but it means that I have to eat extra calories to keep up with his demand, so dieting hasn’t been an option. Also, breastfeeding is exhausting. Dragging myself upstairs and into bed is about as much physical exertion as I’ve managed for a while. Water retention is common in the months post-birth, and I found myself putting on more weight on top of my baby weight, instead of sliding back into shape. Something had to be done.
My first stop was boutique studio Opus Fitness in Ladbroke Grove which provides specialist training for post-partum mothers. The owner and trainer David, a sports scientist, has a thorough understanding of the changes a body goes through during pregnancy, and is a specialist at creating bespoke training regime for new mums. He is supported by Barbi, who although not as intimidating as her namesake, definitely has the body. She also specialises in pre and post-natal exercise. Together, we set my fitness goal. Priority number one was to raise my metabolism after months of sitting at home. Another priority was to close my ab gap which is a standard post pregnancy effect. Many women who jump back to the gyp after the ‘six week signoff’ can actually delay their recovery if not careful with the ‘ab gap’. I also wanted to improve my posture which had become terrible from leaning over baby and, of course, build general strength to assist with lugging around all the baby equipment as well as my 10K baby. My self-esteem was also in bad shape, but I threw myself into weekly regime suggestions with gusto.
In order to strengthen my core, David and Barbi prescribed reps of heel slides, leg extensions and the Superman pose. For my posture I did rows on the cable machine to help my upper back which had become hunched from breastfeeding.
To build my overall fitness I completed circuits including rowing and light weights to gain the strength I need for lugging baby and equipment around, and tone up after months of no exercise. I also did So. Many. Pelvic. Floor. Exercises.
Twice per week, I came away from the uplifting sessions wobbly-legged and exhausted but absolutely euphoric with endorphins. With their expertise and encouragement, it really felt possible to get back to how I was. It wasn’t easy at all, but my fitness slowly improved and the results came through steadily. I loved feeling like I was in control of my body again. For the first time in a long time I began to feel like me. Which is physically and mentally priceless.
The final results spoke for themselves, dropping two dresses sizes and fitting back into my clothes.
Opus Fitness personal training, from £65 per session.
I decided to kick start my diet with a meal plan from Fresh Fitness Food. I chose the no carbs option, picked the meals I preferred, with plenty of lean meats and fresh veggies and selected when I wanted them delivered daily to my door. The nutrition team tailored my menu to my tastes and goals and the recipes are all designed by a Michelin starred chef. The result was delicious, healthy meals with none of the stress. A definite win.
I’ve always been a eat-the-whole-packet kind of girl so it’s easier to cut out all sugar as a flat rule when I diet. Alcohol is only permitted in the form of Bodega Bay, the alcoholic flavoured sparkling water which is only 72 calories. Cheers to that! After seven days I started to slim down. Then a well-timed bout of baby teething meant a gradual reduction of breast feeding. I could be more active and shed excess water and the weight really started falling off. I was delighted to see that my training had given me muscles underneath the fat and water and I started to look like my old self again – maybe even better.
Fresh Fitness Food, prices start at £23 per day, depending on meal plan, freshfitnessfood.com/
My body was back on track, the next step was to let my hair down from its eight-month mum-bun and survey the damage.
During pregnancy it is usual to have luscious, strong hair thanks to all the hormones. Once you give birth, these hormones disperse and your hair returns to its normal state, or gets even thinner. Sadly, I was no exception. Breastfeeding had stripped the nutrients from my hair, leaving it lifeless, falling out and in need of some serious help.
I treated myself to the Richard Ward Post Baby Package. It starts with a relaxing Decleor massage, followed by a revitalising award-winning facial. You then have lunch at the chill-our bar, with a glass of fresh juice or fizz before an in-depth consultation, wash, cut and finish. Hello, luxurious locks. The Richard Ward Post-Baby Package, £255, richardward.com
If eyelashes are also looking lack-lustre, lash extensions are always a quick win to boost confidence, however, not all clinics are equally skilled in achieving the natural look. The experts at Urban Retreat are second to none, set in the most luxurious setting in the heart of Knightsbridge. Lash extensions from £150, urbanretreat.co.uk
My sumptuous hair emphasised my grey skin, washed out from sleepless nights. I needed a reset. Or a miracle. Known as the ‘London Skin Guru’, Renée Lapino specialises in revitalising skin.
Her famous ‘Combination Resurfacing Treatment’ consists of an enzyme peel followed by nano-fractional radio frequency which is said to break down pigment and improve skin laxity, texture and tone. It also reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and boosts the production of new healthy skin cells and collagen. It’s an intensive session with microneedling and a retinol & vitamin C peel – perfect for those who mean business with their skin. Just four days later, I noticed a marked difference, my skin was smoother and firmer with a better glow than any pregnancy glow I ever saw.
Renée Lapino bespoke facials from £195, reneelapino.com/
The final stop on my road to the old/new me was my wardrobe. I’d not fitted into my beloved clothes for a year and a half and hadn’t really treated myself to any new ones other than a few sacks. Clothes aimed at mums seem well, mumsy, but my usual fashionable look felt too young now I’m a mother. I needed chic, casual clothes for my new life that revolved around being at home with my little one.
Therese Bassler came to the rescue. She is an enviable combination of effortless Swedish beauty and French style. Our journey began with my wardrobe, where she identified which pieces were working for me, which were not and where the gaps were. We ended up giving 75 per cent of my wardrobe to the local charity shop – an absolutely liberating process, leaving only clothes that I really like and wear regular. She gives frank advice about what to wear for your body shape and really breaks down the ‘rules’ you may have been dressing around your whole life.
We then got on to the fun part of filling these gaps on an incredible, tailored shopping spree. She combined my wardrobe with trousers and coats from Zara, shirts and blouses from Theory, cashmere jumpers from Vince, boots from Massimo Dutti and jeans from J Brand. Together, we created a wardrobe of neutrals that could all be interchangeable to be dressed up or down. I feel like a proper grown up in my camel coat and wide leg trousers! I would strongly recommend her services.
Therese Bassler’s initial style consultation, £195, style-coach.co.uk
The final piece of the puzzle in getting back to the ‘old me’ is ensuring that baby brain does not take over. When I found myself looking for the keys I had placed in the fridge yet again I decided I need to have some intellectual stimulation in my life beyond reading ‘That’s Not My Teddy’ for the umpteenth time.
I attended a talk on genetics created especially for new mums with Babble in Balham. Babble Talks are like Ted Talks for mums. They offer numerous topics such as war journalism, literature, history, science and climate change – a great escape from the baby bubble for an hour with other like-minded mums.
Next I booked tickets for Cliveden Literary Festival with guest speakers such as Helen Fielding, Ian McEwan and Kate Mosse. This was balm to my book-starved brain. I also attended Frieze London and the Affordable Art Fair. London is perfect for enriching the mind – and actually much more baby-friendly than I anticipated.
With my body, hair, skin, wardrobe and sanity all restored I feel better than ever before. Not only do I have everything back where it should be, I also have my incredible new family, and a lifetime of love and fun ahead. Cheers to that.