A person asked me the following question online:
‘I had a caesarean section a month ago. I had gained 25 kg during my pregnancy. If I start my weight loss programme such as fast walking, exercises, diet foods – will it affect me or my baby? What is the right time for both of us to start losing weight? How many months does it take to recover from C-section stitches? Kindly answer these questions. This is very important to me. I hate to see myself so fat.’
Before I answer this question, I would like to deconstruct it to understand what’s going on in this person’s mind.
This new mother has not even completed her six weeks postpartum and she is eager to shed weight.
As a mother of two, I understand her angst very well but the poor woman needs to realise that now is not the time to agonise over vanity. The second part of her question emphasises the need for quick solutions to her big problem. She wants to quickly go on ‘brisk walks’ and shed her fat by some miraculous ‘diet foods’. After asserting how she is in a tearing hurry to lose all those extra pounds does she pause to finally ask something relevant to her health? What would be the right time for ‘both of us’ to lose weight. Dear, do you really want both you and your baby to lose weight? And almost as an afterthought does she ask the most pressing question of all – about her recovery. To compensate for the distracting question about her stitches, she rebounds back to her weight issue.
Dear new mother, step away from your weighing scales. It is not your friend right now. Your weight gain isn’t all fat. Your baby must have been 3–3.5 kg out of the twenty-five. Then there is a lot of water retention that occurs during pregnancy. Your blood vessels filled up with more blood and the increased volume was to make sure the blood supply to the baby was never compromised. When you sat, stood or rushed to do endless chores, the placenta and the baby were always getting their life fluid. Your breasts retained more volume than your bra is capable of containing. They had more tissue, more fat and more blood in them. Once the baby is out, the fat nourishes the evacuated home that is now your body. The house needs to be renovated, patched up and refurbished. Right after delivery, you look at least six months pregnant. That is because you kind of are six months pregnant. Your uterus is still very large and filling up a big section of your belly. It needs around six weeks to go back to its original tiny size fitting into just the pelvic cavity.
But till then, enjoy the fat-rich foods, laddoos, ghee, milk and jaggery. Your body needs all the protein from the milk, eggs, coconut and rava. The iron from jaggery and dates will make up for all the iron pass on in your milk. It needs carbohydrates to fuel your body. Which is like a machine working overtime, trying to recover from delivery and provide nourishment to this tiny person your amazing body has made.
Millions of women agonise over their weight and forget to enjoy motherhood. They want the Kareena Kapoor weight-loss story. To add to their insecurities are nosy neighbours and relatives who mock them mercilessly.
I have had my share of mockery and ridicule. I had just one reply to them, ‘If I diet, my baby diets.’
That seemed to temporarily shut them up (even though it’s not entirely true!). A man who with a beer belly is seldom targeted but a healthy woman, who has had a baby a month ago, isn’t spared.
The evolutionary reason why such a premium is placed on tiny waists with wide hips and ample breasts is for attracting a mate. The waist-hip ratio reflects fertility in a woman. The breasts signify her ability to feed the offspring that would result from the mating (in reality breast size does not affect milk production.) The tiny waist has an essential part to play in attracting a mate. It signifies the woman is a virgin, has not had babies and hence it is so tiny. So, meri patli kamar main hai jaadu? Most certainly! Although virginity and waist size have no real correlation!
In fact, the totally out of whack waist to hip ratio in a new mother is important biologically. If our shape and size are sending signals to our mate, then so is the pear-shaped postpartum body. The big waist is unappealing because it is propagating that it just had a baby and is in no mood to entertain any mating propositions. The body is still reeling from the effects of its last mating and it looks unattractive because it does not want to attract anyone just yet!
Dr. Farah Adam Mukadam
Dr Farah is a family physician based in Bangalore. She is the author of the bestseller Newborns and New Moms, an urban woman’s guide to life after childbirth.
For more such articles and content on health & wellness, don’t forget to follow us!