Poochy Belly Syndrome – Why What you Eat Affects Your Recovery After Birth

When I meet with my clients I am always interested in what they feed themselves as this has a huge impact on their recovery after their baby is born. I find that pregnancy and the postnatal period are key times when women change their eating habits and either ‘eat for two’ or are so sleep deprived that they develop unhealthy eating habits that stay with them for decades. Our bodies are amazing bits of kit. They are continually renewing and repairing, filtering toxins from our body and keeping everything in balance.

We should be feeding our bodies with optimum sources of nutrition, but too often, women are opting for convenience over clean eating and are consuming ‘empty’ calories that do not serve their bodies nutritional needs at all. Clever marketing tactics from food companies who employ psychologists to provide them with the concepts for attractive packaging and catchy slogans all grab our attention on TV adverts and in the shops and on the next shopping trip women fill their trollies with those yogurts that are ‘only 12 calories and virtually fat free’. Supermarkets make it attractive to consume bigger portions (our BOGOF offers) and mainly these apply to unhealthy choices. The demands of pregnancy and birth to a woman’s body are massive. Her blood plasma volume increases by 50%, her heart pumps 15% more to cope with this, her metabolism increases by 20% requiring more calories in her third trimester, her joints become more relaxed to allow the pelvis to birth, as well as changes in her skin colour, digestive system and hormone production.

After the baby is born, every bodily function has altered and needs to recover back to her pre-pregnant condition. For many women this recovery time can take up to 2 years so taking the time to look at how to recover well and quickly is important for mothers to function well and feel fit to care for their baby. I encourage my clients to complete a food diary for three days to give insight into their eating habits. I ask them to be honest and for the entire contents to be a realistic account of their everyday intake (so not to complete on a day they may be attending a dinner party for example) I ask about times of day, fluid intake, energy levels, sleep patterns, and exercise carried out. I ask them to be exact about portions and cooking methods. Those that completed the diary, even before we met to discuss it, all found it a useful exercise as it highlighted to them some of the unhealthy habits they had formed such as eating a big bag of sweets when the children had gone to bed or having a glass of wine when they sat down on the evening to relax. The following example is a food diary I had returned to me before a postnatal consultation.

Time

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Breakfast

White toast with margarine, cup of tea, white with 2 sugarWhite toast with margarine, cup of tea with 2 sugarCoco Pops with 150ml semi skimmed milk and half a banana, 1 tea milk and 2 sugar

Lunch

2 slices white bread and margarine with ham and cheese, 1 lemon yogurt2 slices white bread white cheese spread and cucumber, 4 finger kit KatHalf tin of tomato soup and two slices white toast and margarine.

Dinner

2 chicken kievs with oven chips and peas, 2 scoops vanilla ice-cream and 1 slice apple pieCheese and tomato pizza with jacket potato and sweetcorn, big slice of chocolate cake and creamHomemade spaghetti Bolognese and peas. Custard and chocolate cake – large slice

Snack

Half packet of custard creams1 dough nutPacket of fig rolls

Snack

2 sausage rollsHandful green grapes1 small apple

Snack

Large bag or haribo sweets2 crème eggs2 large chocolate chip cookies

Fluid Intake

2 teas, 1 glass blackcurrant squash sugar free1 tea, 2 glasses blackcurrant squash2 cans diet coke, 1 tea, 1 glass white wine

Sleep Pattern

6 hours, woke up with baby for 2 hours7 hours slept through without waking7 hours, woke once but fell back to sleep easily

Digestive

Didn’t have bowel movement todayOnce, small amountOnce, feel constipated and bloated today

Exercise

Walked to school and back twice – total 20 minutesWalked to school and back twice – 20 minutesDid some cleaning – 1 hours of hovering and ironing

Mood

Bored, tired, no energy todayTired, felt awful after lunch had to lie downFelt ok, husband off work so helped me with the children

From this diary, it is clear that this woman is going to be nutritionally malnourished, with a high intake of saturated fat, grains and refined sugar and little in the way of clean protein, healthy fats, fibre, vitamins, minerals, bioflavonoids and antioxidants. In this 3 day diary the only nutrition that would support the optimum functioning and recovery of her body’s system accounts for around a 10th of the total intake. There is also very little water intake which is so important for all functions of our bodies.

This type of diet is a common feature of many pregnant and postnatal mum’s intake, with a heavy reliance on convenience snacks, ‘treats’ and ready-made meals. Documenting and evidencing intake helps women to see the reality of what they consume and how this will impact on her recovery including her ‘poochy belly’. There is certainly going to be issues with digestion, sleep and mood when not eating the best nutrition as every part of the body is affected.

The following is an example of a food diary that I recommend to women, once we talk through allergies and particular dislikes, that helps to nourish the body, reduce the ‘mummy tummy’ and feel more energised and positive.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

BreakfastTwo poached eggs with 1 slice of homemade sweet potato bread and butter, I cup of warm water and fresh lemon(Smoothie) Half can coconut milk, 1/2 pear, 1/2 apple, ¼ fresh pineapple, 1 avocado, tablespoon chia seeds, tablespoon collagen powder, whiz in smoothie maker and drink with straw1 Portobello mushroom grilled, 2 slices of grilled bacon and 1 fried egg with turmeric
LunchGreen salad, romaine lettuce, spinach, watercress, chicken breast cooked in coconut oil and turmeric sliced with olives and cherry tomatoes, strawberries and coconut milkFeta, spinach and bacon pie –homemade with buckwheat pastry served with kale chips and baby carrots, x2 strawberry amazeballsFried halloumi in butter with chilli and sesame seeds served with cauliflower puree (added garlic and butter) and peas
DinnerRoasted root vegetables with toasted almonds on a bed of rocket with lemon and coconut milk dressingCod cooked in coconut milk with green beans, broccoli and sweet potato wedgesLeft over butternut squash cooked in coconut milk with green beans, broccoli and sweet potato wedges. Buckwheat pancakes with maple syrup and blueberries
SnackHandful of brazil nuts soaked in water for 1 hourHandful of blueberries or some edamame beansX1 large medjool date
Snack1/4 mango choppedMixed nuts handfulX2 chocolate orange yummlies treats
SnackSnack Carrot and cucumber sticks with plain hummusDried unsulphered apricotsx3 Small egg cup of mixed seeds
Fluid Intake2 litres of filtered water and 2 cups of camomile tea and water and lemonle2 litres of filtered water, 1 cup of beetroot juice 1 warm water and lemon2 litres of filtered water 1 glass coconut water 1 warm water and lemon
Of course diet is one feature of a mother’s restoration after having her baby.

There are multiple factors and everything must be taken into account, but I think that diet is paramount and where every woman must start in her recovery journey. For more information on how you can eat better for your health and recovery after childbirth and for some of the recipes mentioned in the 3 day plan contact us.

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