**First off, I want to state that I am not a doctor. I am a nurse, but I do not claim to offer medical advice. Anything I share is from my own personal experience and research and I encourage you to check with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet or exercise.**
This post has been on my mind for a few months now, but I never took the time to write it out. Until now. I realized that I couldn’t be the only one struggling after weaning my child. I couldn’t be the only one seeing more weight pack on in undesired places despite all of my efforts to eat clean & exercise! I couldn’t be the only one feeling discouraged and stuck.
The common perception of weaning is one of celebration. Sure, part of me was more than ready to see that chapter close, but part of me wasn’t ready to stop at all. Even though breastfeeding is an immense and time-consuming job, the rewards you reap are truly special. We’re learning more and more about how magical and powerful breastmilk is and how beneficial it is for our babies. In addition to those health benefits, there’s an amazing emotional benefit for the mom. Each time your milk lets down, your body releases oxytocin, the “feel good” or “love” hormone. No matter what frustrations you’re dealing with, as soon as that milk lets down and your baby begins to drink, you feel a sense of calm. Contentedness. It was like I could cherish being in the moment, no matter what was going on or how hard life was. The breastfeeding relationship changes as your child grows and I felt relieved when I wasn’t the sole source of nutrition for Charley (I dealt with low milk supply starting at 3 months postpartum), but I wasn’t prepared for the difficulty that came after I weaned Charley at 18 months.
I feel like breastfeeding challenges commonly faced in the beginning are talked about much more often than challenges after it’s come to an end (like engorgement, mastitis, etc). There isn’t just the initial emotional sadness over the end of the breastfeeding relationship, but there are physical changes, as well. People share about how their breasts are small or saggy or feel deflated (which is unfortunately true!), but no one really covers the part about gaining weight and how it’ll be such a struggle to lose it! This has been what I’ve been struggling with the most right now, and I’m just trying to grapple with the situation. It’s seriously so frustrating. Due to Charley’s food sensitivities, I ate fairly clean while breastfeeding. I’ve eaten even cleaner after weaning (*ahem* fewer french fries… and indulging in fewer treats) and yet I’ve gained weight in my belly and my thighs. Oh and I’m also exercising more than when I was breastfeeding!! It’s not because I’m used to eating more and I haven’t adjusted to eating as a non-lactating woman again. If anything, I’ve been eating less because I’m not as hungry as I was when I was breastfeeding!! (This is probably the worst advice that comes from doctors’ mouths…) I’ve also had more mood swings prior to each period and more PMS symptoms than I’ve had in awhile. Clearly, this is a hormonal issue.
No matter how little you eat, no matter how clean you eat, no matter how much you exercise, if you have a hormonal imbalance, losing weight is going to be near impossible. Hormones are wonderful, powerful things. But when they’re out of whack, it’s chaos. Even though I know what I need to do to balance my hormones, it’s incredibly discouraging because I know how long it takes for that to happen. There isn’t a quick fix (which is what we all want). When I got off hormonal birth control years ago, my body went through a major detox and it probably took a year to balance my hormones. Estrogen dominance has plagued me for years now and it’s something a lot of women face. Not only do many women take synthetic hormones, but we ingest food that can be estrogen-mimicking and exacerbate the problem. Our personal care products have ingredients that are hormone disrupters and add fuel to the fire. I talk more about that here. I don’t mention this to overwhelm you, but just to explain how we are exposed to so many things that make it hard for our bodies to have healthy & balanced levels of hormones. It could be the reason why no matter how hard you’re trying, you’re not losing that weight. Which, believe me, I know is VERY frustrating.
If we could just balance our hormones, we could alleviate so many of our struggles. Not only would it help us to achieve a healthy weight, it can help those struggling with infertility, bypassing expensive medical treatments and months of heartache & disappointment. It could help us feel less moody right before our period. It could help us have fewer breakouts and bloating. It could help us have less cramps during our periods (Alisa Vitti from FloLiving.com blew my mind when she shared that having cramps during your period isn’t inevitable – it’s a myth and we don’t have to have them!). Our libido would be higher if our hormones were balanced. Think about how all of the ways your life and the lives of your spouse and children could improve if your hormones were balanced!
So although I’m currently a bit discouraged by the extra fat in my lower stomach and hips/thighs, I’m also hopeful because I know I can balance my hormones! I’ve done it before and I can do it again. A lot of what I know is because of my own research, but I’ve also been receiving wonderful health advice from my doctor. He’s my chiropractor, but let me tell you, he has immense knowledge about the human body and I’ve received more useful and helpful information from him than from any other doctor. My advice to you if you’re struggling with hormone imbalance, is to find a naturopath or an amazing chiropractor and utilize them. Research online, as well. Download myFlo, the app that Alisa Vitti created as an adjunct tool for the book she wrote called, ‘Woman Code.’ Wellness Mama is another wonderful source and she did an awesome podcast with Alisa where she talked about hormonal imbalances & our monthly cycle which I absolutely loved.
Personally, here are the steps I’m taking to help correct my hormonal imbalance:
- Limit or eliminate caffeine. I’m sticking to one cup a day, in the morning, mixed with my Califia almond milk creamer & my Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides. (They also have creamer now, in case you didn’t know!). I don’t drink it on an empty stomach to avoid blood sugar spikes/crashes.
- Get more sleep. I’ve been taking more naps during the week when Charley naps. This has helped a lot. I can’t always get 8 hours of sleep at night (because hello, I like to hang out with my husband after C goes to bed!), but this is an important and often overlooked step. SLEEP!
- Apply a couple drops of Young Living Progessence Plus Serum every day. I dab it on my neck (where you’d put perfume). Even though the amount of progesterone in it is rather small, it’s been very helpful in balancing my hormones in the past. It helped me regulate my period and eased my mood swings and other PMS symptoms. I need to reorder! (Side note: I have a Young Living membership, so if you’d like to order through me and get a discount, I’d be happy to help – just email me and we can get you set up. This is my number one product I suggest when anyone tells me that they’re struggling with hormonal imbalance.) I also use an essential oil blend called ‘Dragon Time’ that helps support you during times of moodiness. It contains clary sage + fennel, both oils are helpful with balancing hormones, especially during the time you usually experience PMS symptoms (about a week before you get your period). Another essential oil that supports your hormones is grapefruit. I need to restock this one, but aside from supporting your hormonal health, it smells lovely and so uplifting. It’s a happy and cheerful essential oil!
- Drink more lemon water. A lot of times, our liver is clogged and overworked so it can’t efficiently clear excess estrogen. Lemon supports your liver and body’s natural detoxification processes. This is an easy and inexpensive solution. Drinking it first thing in the morning is the best, but any time you can do it is wonderful.
- Eat more cilantro. Cilantro is another food that supports your liver. I love to make guacamole and I also like to make cilantro lime cauliflower rice. Both are easy and light – perfect for a summer snack!
- Take an adrenal supplement. I didn’t do this the first time I balanced my hormones, but I felt like I needed the extra support this time around. My chiropractor suggested adding this to my plan of attack. He informed me that there are two types of adrenal supplements. Herbal and glandular. He prefers glandular because they stimulate your own adrenals to secrete the hormones they need to, instead of doing all the work for them (like an herbal supplement would). There are also teas you can make to support your adrenal glands. See this post from Wellness Mama for more information.
- Dry brush before showering. Using a brush with natural, stiff bristles and brushing towards your heart can help support your lymphatic system, which helps stimulates your body’s own detoxifying process. Learn more about the benefits of dry brushing, how to pick out a brush, and how to brush here.
I hope this is helpful for you. Know that you’re not crazy, you don’t have to “work harder” at eating less/cleaner or exercising more to lose that weight. Your body is sending you signals that it’s stressed and if we are attentive to those signs, then we can address them and live a healthy and abundant life!
Have you ever experienced something similar? Maybe instead of gaining weight after weaning you gained weight during breastfeeding? Our bodies are all different! I’d love to know in the comments. We’re all in this together. xx