Celeb health check: Gwen's pregnancy pain

Rebecca Davies
Monday, September 22, 2008

After giving birth, many women suffer from extreme body-confidence issues and it seems even A-listers are no different. Singer Gwen Stefani's toned tum and neat pins are the envy of women all over the world, but she recently became a mother for the second time and has told the world of her obsession with losing weight after childbirth.

BC — before children
Gwen's fans have always looked at her body and turned into green-eyed monsters, but she says: "All my life I've had to work hard to stay in shape." After the birth of her first son, Kingston, she told Elle magazine: "I've always struggled with [my weight]. I was a little chubby when I was younger and I didn't want to be that person forever."

After admitting to this obsession with her weight and acknowledging that it only got worse when she got pregnant, Gwen said she "worked out with my trainer throughout the whole pregnancy". But she pushed it a bit too hard, to the point where she "cried during my last session". The reason she did this? Vanity. "I'm extremely vain," she admitted. "I like wearing cute clothes."

But now that she has her two healthy boys, her attitude has changed. She says: "I try not to focus on it. It's boring, it's a waste of life. What I have learned is that whether I'm fatter or thinner, people seem not to mind, they like me either way. It's more in your own mind than anyone else's."

Why does this happen?
Many mums find it terribly hard to slim down after giving birth. This could be because of fatigue from the hard work of the labour together with sleep deprivation once the baby is home. After the euphoria of giving birth, it's easy to feel flat after the event — bonding with your new baby may not happen as quickly as expected and hormones can cause havoc with your body. All of these can contribute to low self-esteem.

This is not helped by the fact that you will still be carrying a lot of post-baby weight around. For many new mothers such as Gwen, this can result in lower self-esteem and an obsession to get your body back to how it was before the pregnancy, as soon as possible. It's common to retain additional pounds after the birth but you need to be patient and take your time to shed them again. And as your emotional state returns to normal, so will your body.

How to lose post-baby weight
Gwen has hinted that she rushed losing the weight after the birth of her first son. "I gave myself three months," she said, "but if I didn't have an album coming out, there's no way I would have got back into shape in that time." Many people struggle to lose baby weight and get impatient with how long it can take, but it shouldn't be rushed.

If you lose the weight too quickly, you could suffer bowel problems, dehydration, malnutrition, a damaged metabolism and fatigue. Here are a few tips on how to lose the weight in a healthy way:

  • Breastfeeding burns about 500 calories a day so the longer you breastfeed, the more you burn.
  • Drink three litres of water a day and also replace high-sugar drinks with soda water with a squeeze of lemon and fruit juices.
  • Remember that in the three weeks after the birth, you may have fluid retention — don't mistake this for weight gain.
  • Never aim to lose more than 1kg a week.
  • Avoid fatty meats; instead eat lean meats such as turkey and the leanest cuts of beef.
  • Start light exercise, but only when ready. Initially, take a 10-minute walk with baby every day to get you both out of the house.
  • Measure your bust, waist and hips — weighing scales are not always reliable.
  • Eat lots of wholegrain cereals, breads and pasta instead of the white versions.
  • Eventually, consider joining a gym, perhaps trading babysitting hours with a friend.
  • "I would really recommend doing weights," says Gwen. Try walking with wrist and ankle weights to begin with.
  • Keep snacks healthy. Try dried fruit, nuts and crackers.
  • Have a balanced food intake sufficient in vitamins and minerals and low in alcohol.
  • Remember, it took you nine months to put on the weight, so take the same amount of time to lose it.

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