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      The great postnatal shape-up!

      As printed in the Supermum supplement with The Mail on Sunday

      There’s no big secret to losing that baby weight, says ALISON CANAVAN.
      Simply forget dieting and replace with sensible exercise and healthy eating
      As women we spend our lives worrying about our weight. We’re dictated to by magazines and celebrities. No matter what, and believe me  I’ve been in the fashion business for more than half my life, we’re never happy with the way we look. There’s always something we want to improve or change. When I became pregnant I decided to let my body do what it needed. Yes I did keep up exercise and I did eat well, sometimes too well, but I tried not to panic when I hit that extra third stone towards the end. We spend our lives living in the future. While pregnant we worry about after the baby and losing the weight. After the baby we want instant results. We want to look exactly the way we did before and as quick as possible. Really? Let’s think about what we have just done. We’ve created a miracle and for those nine months our bodies worked hard. Be kind to yourself and, more importantly, be realistic. We need to remove the word ‘diet’ from our vocabulary. Diets don’t work. Eating well and exercising does though. There’s no big secret and yes some have to work harder than others but with anything in life you get what you work for. Being healthy is not just about looking good it’s about feeling good too. You’ll sleep better, your moods will improve and your quality of life gets better as a result. Where do you start though? With so much information out there I set out to cut through the fads and find out what really works. As I’m a great procrastinator I decided I needed a push in the form of a trainer. When I’m in the gym I cheat. Fascinating how the mind works when the only person I’m cheating is myself. John Lane had been recommended. He’s affordable and gets results. He gave me exercises to do at home in case I missed a session so there was no escaping. The first bit of advice he gave me was ‘diet is 90 per cent of the equation in achieving the physique that you desire. However it is important to realise that aerobic exercise and weighttraining can aid and significantly improve and speed up progress. Weight training will not lead to bulky muscle but rather is the secret behind every sleek Hollywood-esque physique’. I was always terrified of bulking but he had me at the ‘Hollywood-esque’. I soon realised how important weight training is. It helps in the fight against osteoporosis and increases your metabolism. You can begin at any age. In fact a couple of tins of beans are perfect for starters. For those that are not members of a gym or with a trainer there are home exercises that you can do with no equipment other than a chair. Squats, lunges, dips, planks and leg raises form the core of any weight training program for women looking to get in shape and can all be replicated in the home. (As in the photos, there’s lunges, box squats, and the plank) A combination of aerobic exercise and weight-training can work wonders in speeding up weight loss’..

      Try to do some some weight training two/three times a week. Time is very limited as a new mum so begin with 20-minute sessions. For the box squats do three sets of 10 reps. For the lunges do three sets of 10 reps on each leg. For the plank do three 20-second holds (as in the photo). Also get moving, walk where and when you can. John has instilled in me ‘that the return to exercise should be steady and not extreme. Training should be taken in a patient and progressive manner. Results will come’. Don’t return to any vigorous exercise for three months as your body needs a rest post-birth. By all means during this time do your Kegel exercises and yoga or pilates. High intensity workouts are not advised. Your muscles and joints have softened for the birth and you could injure yourself. If you’re breastfeeding like me you need to be extra careful and make sure you’re getting the proper nutrition you need for both yourself and the baby. Making smarter choices and eating foods that release energy slowly like porridge are perfect. Cut back on sugary foods and increase fruit and vegetable intake. If its weight loss you’re after alcohol is a killer and loaded with calories. By all means enjoy a glass of Rosé but not the whole bottle!

      Here’s John’s top tips:
      – When looking to shed fat, total calories in versus total calories out should be your primary interest. The easiest way to maintain satiety while in a caloric deficit is to consume more protein and fat rich foods. Controlling insulin levels through a reduction in simple carbohydrates (sugars) is critical in an effort to shed fat. Chocolate, sweets, pastries and alcohol will significantly impinge on progress.

      – Nutrient timing is also significant – if eating complex carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, sweet potato etc. one should try to limit their intake to before 3pm. Late afternoon and evening meals should be rich in protein and healthy fats and steer clear of excessive amounts of carbohydrate.

      – Drink 2 litres of water a day MINIMUM – water is critical to fat oxidization.

      – Avoid ‘Diet’ anything – in many ‘diet’ products fat content is taken out and replaced with simple sugars (Many diet yoghurts are a typical example).

      – Eat unlimited amounts of fibrous green vegetables; spinach, broccoli and cabbage, not only do they provide satiety but they are rich in iron, which is particularly important for females.

      1 Work out with friends.
      2 Don’t skip Breakfast.
      3 Eat vegetables and fruits of different colours every day.
      4 Stay away from stimulants near bedtime (tea, coffee, chocolate).
      5 Take the stairs and not the lift.
      6 Always wear SPF.
      7 Start your toning exercises now!
      8 Increase your fish intake.
      9 Drink at least 7/8 glasses of water a day.
      10 Exercise portion control and keep a food diary.

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