By Nancy Noreman
The female body is amazing! Pregnancy is the most incredible thing your body can do. Think about it—you are creating a whole new life!
At the recent IFBB New York Pro Bodybuilding, Figure, Bikini & Physique competition, I spoke with quite a few women who were pregnant. Some asked questions about what to eat during their pregnancies and how to get their bodies back after they deliver. I hear these questions all the time, and it makes me sad. These women are rushing through their pregnancy and not enjoying it or focusing on the baby.
Your time during pregnancy is supposed to be about the baby you are creating—making it healthy—not generating stress about your appearance. To worry about your weight during your pregnancy is an unhealthy mindset, unless there are medical reasons.
When you’re expecting, you’re already seeing a doctor regularly and being checked for high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and all the other concerns that come with the gift of pregnancy. You need to relax with regards to staying in shape, and fully embrace the pregnancy, with all it has to offer, including the new shape your body is taking. Not everyone will carry like a basketball belly with legs; each will have her own journey.
I repeat that this time is about the baby. If you cannot grasp that, the unselfish endeavor of parenting is going to be a very tough challenge for you.
I will admit that watching your body morph into a different shape is completely strange, especially if you have been training for a long time. As a fitness person used to standing tall, kind of holding my abs in, shoulders back, when I walked, I felt totally strange. It was impossible to hold it in. Instead, it was, push out that belly, loud and proud.
Why do people feel it is a badge of honor not to wear maternity pants for a designated amount of time? That stretch panel in the front is a blessing from the gods, but, hey, if you want to be a hero and say, “I went into my eighth month suffering until I wore them, you go for it. Me, I was in them at four weeks—but I was having twins. I went from a size 0/2 to maternity pants in the superfast lane. I knew immediately that it was going to be a long, large road, and having waited such a long time—I was turning 40—I wanted it all. Bring it on, I said, and it came on, and on, and on!
During pregnancy, when you have a food craving, you must give in. It will take over your mind. For example, if you see a commercial for something, it’s, Boom, game over! You are on a mission for it, and you will not stop until you find it!
Mine was considered a high-risk pregnancy. I remember my doctor saying it was okay to do certain things—before I was put on bed rest. I was allowed to waddle into the gym for light exercise and cardio, but my body did not feel right. I got cramps, and things just felt wrong to me. It had taken me so long to get pregnant, as I said, and I’d had a miscarriage. I thought, I don’t care what the doctor says. I am stopping this. If something happens to these twins because I was concerned about going to the gym, I will never forgive myself.
That was when I knew I was really their mom. It was only about them. Even when I was on bed rest, I could sit there as long as needed to, bored, eating all the macaroni and cheese that I wanted, just to make sure they were safe. Those two were gonna come out okay if it was up to me. My point is, you must use your instinct to do what you know is right because you know better than anyone.
Here is my advice for those who are concerned about having a fit pregnancy or worried about their post-pregnancy appearance: do weight training and some form of cardio as part of a healthy life style while you are young. There is no better foundation for your body’s future. It has carried me through so many things in my life and made them much easier—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Having a fit body prior to pregnancy will help it bounce back, even if you have a restricted pregnancy.
Something you must remember: your body took nine months to get into the physical condition it is in, and you must allow it at the very least the same amount of time to get back to where it was. If you have a healthy baby who gets on a sleep schedule, it will not be difficult to get yourself on a schedule too. Create a schedule for yourself around your baby. In the beginning, your primary concern is your baby, and after that comes getting some sleep. So, when your baby sleeps, you must sleep. After that, you can map out your day.
Go slow, and work your way back to where you were before. You will get there. But, if you are constantly worried about it and not enjoying those precious moments with your child, they will slip through your fingers and you will never get them back.
Your appearance will fall in line if you do not stress about it. I did not train at all during my pregnancy, and I gained approximately 80 pounds on bed rest. While I was just taking care of them and being a mom, my foundation of training did the trick and got me back into all of my clothes in eight months. I am not alone. I know plenty of other moms for whom that is true. They trained prior to their pregnancies, and a year after their babies were born, they looked even better!
Admittedly, I may be an exception, as I did not get back into training regularly for many years, but my decades of training carried me through and enabled me to maintain my size, albeit with a bit different muscle tone.
At the other end of the spectrum is Lauren Gazele, a bikini competitor who had a healthy pregnancy and was able to get back to a body she was “happy with” in approximately 20 weeks. Sixteen months after her daughter, Calliana, was born, she got back onstage, winning her class at both the NPC Long Island Championships and Bev Francis Atlantic States. She accomplished that by being disciplined and getting up at 4 a.m. every day for fasted cardio, and then doing her weight training while her fiancé, national-level bodybuilder Daniel Carceres, watched their daughter. Lauren is an example of someone who wanted to push the envelope a bit harder and had a partner who could step up and provide great teamwork to make it happen. Other women will fall somewhere between the two extremes, but we share the common denominator of having reaped the benefits of training consistently prior to pregnancy.
Stressing over your body and the cortisol that produces will throw your body off and will not be good for your pregnancy. As a seasoned parent, I can tell you that there will be many other things to worry about during your journey. Pregnancy should be a time when you soak up as much peace and happiness as you can while you nourish and build your baby. Make sure to eat the correct foods for your baby’s development, enjoy the extra padding, and, above all, take care of yourself.
My final piece advice: use cocoa butter generously on your belly and glutes to avoid stretch marks. I swear by it!
And check out DigitalMuscle.com Women’s Blog for more useful info!
Nancy Noreman has been immersed in the fitness industry for more than 25 years.
Her unique perspectives, coming from her experiences as a supplement maker, media host, fitness model, trainer, designer, author and wife to one of the brightest minds in the sport, has made her a keen observer of all facets of the fitness lifestyle. Formerly the owner of Nuclear Nutrition, Nancy is also a judge for the United States Pole Dance Federation (USPDF), as well as a trusted insider on the bodybuilding scene.