I’ve been asked a lot lately about my thoughts on Tracy Anderson’s recent media frenzy over her opinions on gaining weight during pregnancy. “A lot of women use pregnancy as an excuse to let their bodies go, and that’s the worst thing,” she told the magazine. “I’ve seen so many women who come to me right after [having children] with disaster bodies that have gone through hell, or they come to me years later and say, ‘Oh, my body is like this because I had three kids.’” My original reaction was to bite my tongue and keep my mouth shut, but the more I’ve been asked about it (and the more she talked about), the more I’ve felt the need to respond. So for what it’s worth, here’s two cents from a certified pre & postnatal exercise specialist and new mommy …
Women do not intentionally “use pregnancy to let their bodies go,” but rather, our bodies take on a new form as they protect our growing babies and prepare for labor. Through my education and experience, I’ve learned that this is different for every woman and every pregnancy. Some of us put on baby weight in the spots where we usually gain weight, some of us gain it all around, and others carry it all in our bellies. There is no way to specifically know how, where, or why this happens. It could be your pregnancy hormones, your mom’s genes you inherited, how many babies you are having, food choices, circumstances …
In general, I actually feel that women take better care of their bodies when we are pregnant – we eat better foods; we eat more often; we exercise in a safer way; we sleep more often; and we make a more conscious effort to de-stress ourselves. I actually just had a new mommy-to-be email me this past week to say, “I never knew how psycho I was until I got pregnant.” Now that she’s going to be a mom, she’s looking at her life in new eyes and seeing how stressed out and over-run her body was, how she had not given herself time to breath, and how she maybe had not been exercising or eating in a way that was truly healthy. Miss Anderson may interpret this as “letting our bodies go,” but I see it as allowing our bodies to breath, relax and enjoy being pregnant.
Also, keep in mind, there is an entire group of women who are considered high risk during their pregnancy – for all sorts of reasons. High risk pregnant women are often restricted, by their doctors, in their exercise regiment, which may cause more weight gain than desired or anticipated. Again, this is not them “letting their bodies go,” but rather, doing what’s best for their baby.
Unfortunately, if I’ve seen anything that’s lacking during pregnancy, it’s information on exercise, so of course some prenatal women gain more weight than desired. Again, not a situation where they are letting themselves go. It’s more that they get scared of what they can or cannot do, so they sometimes do nothing or not enough, and the pounds creep on. Much of this is due to the lack of information out there. Women come to me often wondering what they can do, how much they can do, how hard they can work, and how all of this will effect their baby. That’s why, when I was pregnant, I created a pregnancy work out program. My business partner, celebrity trainer Anna Kaiser, and I saw the need to create a prenatal workout system that ALL pregnant women can use throughout their ENTIRE pregnancy. When I became pregnant with my son Landon, we decided it was the perfect time to create an all-inclusive pregnancy workout DVD, Expecting More™.
When asked about their workout regiments, I most often hear pregnant women tell me that they stick to walking and prenatal yoga. For many of us, however, this is not enough for us to stay strong, fit or stimulated throughout our pregnancy. The main components of fitness (cardio respiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and body composition) do not change when we get pregnant. We need to continue to balance them all. We just have to reduce them, as most things during pregnancy, to a moderate level. So, in accordance with my Daily Sweat™ brand, I encourage women (with their doctors’ approval) to always listen to their bodies as they get a little sweaty, feel a little sexy, and have fun, while they work out. Expecting More™ consists of six different workouts that provide all of this!
Unlike many pregnancy programs, including Miss Anderson’s, that break up the pregnancy workouts according to trimesters, Kaiser and I created the Expecting More™ program so you can use the workouts throughout all three trimesters. The program teaches you how to do exercises in your first trimester that will be safe throughout the remainder of your pregnancy. The goal is to get good at them as soon as you can (hopefully right away in your first trimester), so you won’t be struggling so much later in your pregnancy. Expecting More™ teaches women how to listen to their bodies, so that they know when to slow down or when to “bump it up” (a fun saying I created for the mommy-to-be who feels confident and safe in pushing herself a little).
I also want to respond to Anderson’s comment, “I’ve seen so many women who come to me right after [having children] with disaster bodies that have gone through hell.” When I was pregnant I gladly accepted the weight gain and changes in my body – after all I was creating human life. The bigger change and the harder adjustment, for me and for many others, is the aftermath – the postnatal. It can be a very sensitive time. You are no longer pregnant, but you often still look pregnant for a while. It took nine months to put on the weight; you have to be patient in taking it off. Going back too soon or doing the wrong exercises too soon, can set you back even more. Our bodies are not “disasters” after having a baby; they are simply different. It is not “hell” we have gone through, but rather, the most miraculous thing a woman could possibly go though. We deserve to take some time to breath and get a grip on the new world we now live in.
I truly believe the first three to four months after having a baby should be called the fourth trimester, after all, Dr. Harvey Karp says it is for the baby’s development (in his book The Happiest Baby on the Block). Why should it be any different for a postnatal woman? I get wanting to have your body bounce back as quick as it can. I do. As a fitness professional, I felt the pressure to get my body back sooner (I realize now this was only pressure I put on myself.), but as a pre & postnatal specialist and a new mommy who couldn’t stand being away from her new son, I told myself to take the time to heal, to slowly get back in the game, and to enjoy every moment of my son being so little.