My earliest memories of exercise are hideous – despite having a well functioning body I was put in the ‘special’ PE class so I tried hockey, netball and even rock climbing and found I had no natural talent in doing anything that involved using my body. This all changed when at the age of 15, I came across an Elle McPherson video (yes, video), gradually I toned up and started to feel comfortable with my body. It was soon after that, at college, that my life long love affair with Davina McCall DVDs started. Each day I would come back from college, work out with Davina and feel totally euphoric. From there I started running and going to the gym, and exercise became as natural as breathing. It made my body feel alive to work out.
Life continued with exercise being a consistent part of it – I continued to work out and enjoy it. Davina continued to release DVDs over the years and I marvelled at her continued dedication to exercise and her energy and ability to bounce back after three children. In November 2014, I had the wonderful news that I was expecting a baby. My pregnancy was wonderful, I was incredibly lucky and had no morning sickness, no aches and pains and little increase in appetite. I continued to do gentle exercise (10 minutes pre natal Pilates on YouTube) and also went to the gym until I was 8 months pregnant.
In the last month of my pregnancy, I naturally, slowed down a lot and started eating cake. chocolate cake, walnut cake, carrot cake, red velvet cake, cupcakes – if it was a cake, I ate it. My due date came and went and as the days passed I refused offers of inducing my baby; his due date had changed a couple of times and I was reluctant to induce unless they could prove it medically necessary. I didn’t want to induce a baby that wasn’t ready to be born. Sixteen long, heavy days after my due date I went into labour.
My ‘plan’ was to have a pool birth and feeling calm and relaxed this is how it started. After twenty hours of labour and five hours worth of signs that the baby was crowning, he had yet to be born and feeling concerned about our dropping heartbeats, I was rushed to hospital where I was given an emergency cesarean. I was very naive about what a cesarean entailed and the agony of standing, walking, moving, showering – even raising my arms after having the surgery, came as a shock. I slept with Eddie in my arms day and night for three days in hospital for fear of putting him down and not being able to pick him back up.
I was due to do a HELLO! shoot three weeks after Eddie was born and I vowed I would be looking and feeling much better for those photos. In reality it was too much pressure to put on myself.
I was determined to be sensible about what I ate, so, normally vegetarian, I ate lots of protein both beef steaks and tuna steaks whilst I was breastfeeding and a variety of carbs and veg. The shoot was a treat; having my hair and makeup done I felt wonderful, until I tried on the clothes and things didn’t fit. I ended up doing the shoot with jeans unbuttoned and a dress that was completely open at the back. I felt like a fraud and was totally dissatisfied with myself. After the shoot I found solace once again in cake and still unable to exercise due to my C-section, my weight, which had been healthily managed during pregnancy, started to creep up. This made me feel more hopeless, clothes were fitting worse than ever and the thought of going to any public events filled me with dread. I didn’t feel like myself – my body, which is normally strong and healthy, felt weak and tired and the cycle of eating sugary non-nutritious food took it toll on my skin as well, but mostly on my mind. I felt foggy, not just from the sleepless nights but from depriving my body of exercise and nutrients.
After four months I’d had enough. Two years previously I had been to Jason Vale’s Juice Master retreat in Portugal and decided to do a week of juicing at home and start exercising. I worked out once in the morning by myself and again in the evening with my sister. A combination of detoxing via the juices and a dramatic return to exercise took its toll and the week after I started, I came down with a chest infection.
I felt ashamed that I had made myself unwell and more frustrated than ever. For the first time in thirteen years I had completely forgotten how to be healthy, how to look after my body, how to exercise sensibly and I couldn’t seem to come up with a balanced way of reintroducing exercise and nutritious healthy meals back into my life. I had another two months of yo-yoing and then at six months decided that enough was enough and I simply had to start somewhere.
I started by doing ‘8-minute Abs’ on YouTube every day, first thing in the morning whilst Eddie played around me. After a couple of weeks I followed it up with ‘8-minute Buns’ and then I finally started doing Davina again. I chose Davina ‘Intense’ DVD because you work out hard for three minutes and then have two minutes to allow your heart rate to come back down. I put Eddie in his bouncer and he would watch me work out like a loon and during the two minute rest I would play with him. When I was confident at doing Davina, I would finish my workout off with ‘8-minute Abs’, take Eddie out of the bouncer and inevitably have him crawling over me, tapping my head and trying to chew my feet. I combined this with just doing one green juice a day, in the morning, and then re -introduced fish and seafood back into my diet along with more fruit and veg.
It took 18 months for me to be back at my ‘happy’ pre baby weight and for me to feel like myself mentally and physically. I wish I would have taken the first 9 months a lot easier, continued to eat a lot of cake and relaxed and known that it time, when I felt ready, I would want to exercise and I would start to feel like myself again.
For me, wanting to be back to my pre baby weight wasn’t so much about the weight but trying to regain an identity that had changed mentally and physically beyond recognition. In hindsight, no amount of dieting and running could have changed how I felt, adjusting to becoming a new mum is simply about time. First you accept the change, then you embrace it and then it becomes the proudest part of your identity – and if you want to eat a lot of cake and not exercise whilst you’re going through the process, that’s exactly what you should do.