My Health Journey and Postpartum Body
The key to getting your body back after you've had a baby is being as healthy as possible during pregnancy or even before pregnancy. But if it's too late for that (OR if you haven't had a baby and you want to get healthy), then now is the time to start.
Let me begin by telling you I have never had body confidence. Even though I didn't feel like it, I was quite thin in high school. My negative body image was fuelled by my modelling agencies at the age of 15. They made me feel like I could always be one-inch thinner or one-kilo lighter. Along with this, they also told me that carbohydrates were bad. Models were always told to cut the carbs before a fashion show or a photo shoot (the worst nutritional advice you could ever give someone). In order to gain their approval, I followed their advice doing fad diets such as the Aiken's Diet, the Liver Cleansing Diet, the Pritikin Diet, and the Lemon Detox Diet. These diets which swore weight loss, in fact, only made me put on more weight (diets cause metabolic damage and as a result cause weight gain).
My teenage years were overshadowed by my obsession with being thin.
I can clearly remember two main instances where the modeling industry really affected my self-esteem. The first was when I was sent home from New Zealand's Next Top Model for not meeting the judge's weight requirements. I was 16. But what really hurt me was when I was selected to walk for one of New Zealand's top designers at a fashion show. I worked harder than I had ever worked to get down to the designers sample size through excessive exercise and extreme calorie restriction. I remember at one training session I passed out in the bathroom as I had only eaten an apple that morning. I was doing so well and I believed I could finally meet their expectations. A month out from the show I was told I had been pulled out because I didn't fit the part - ie. not skinny enough. Go figure - I was starving myself and then secretly eating processed animal products and carbohydrates before bed and then throwing them up. After being rejected, I then starting losing control of my eating habits and my hormones travelled in all different directions. Before I knew it I was wearing a New Zealand size 14 and became bulimic.
I was left emotionally unhappy as I couldn't succeed.
That year I gave up on diets, ate what I wanted and dug deep into youth ministry at my church. I put my focus elsewhere and just accepted that I had big hips and that I would never be a model again.
In my second year of university and in the lead up to my wedding day, I started a new health journey. But again it wasn't a healthy one. Once again I tried my hardest to loose weight to look as skinny as possible in my wedding dress. A body builder and a nutritionist put me on a strict diet and training schedule. My meal plan consisted of chicken, eggs, skim milk, broccoli, whey protein shakes and a maximum of two pieces of fruit a day. It was horrible! By the end of the day I was left feeling so under carbed and un-nourished.
My wedding day came, and I did what most people would do coming off a strict diet, I starting binge eating again. I remember one night I bought Tim Tams (chocolate biscuits) ten minutes before the supermarket closed at night. I devoured most of the packet before going to bed. And of course when I saw them in the fridge the morning after, I finished the packet off before breakfast. Gross! Who else can relate?
My husband and I got quite into the paleo movement soon after we were married. We ate a high fat, high protein diet with lots meat, nuts and vegetables in the hope for me to get lean - and him, well, stay lean. That plan failed miserably for me. It did nothing but block me up and left me craving sweet foods after every meal, especially dinner.
I then started researching more and more into what I was doing wrong. I soon learnt that my hormones (which were completely out of balance) were causing some serious issues. To make matters worse, I have poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). At that point, I decided for my health and for the future of my family to stop taking the pill and seek a hormonal consultant. At the same time, I started my Instagram account and started following a few vegan accounts.
They were gorgeous and trim, which made me want to start eating a plant-based diet. So my journey began.
Thereafter, everything I read on hormones, it all came back down to nutrition - plant-based nutrition! This fuelled my interest in the vegan diet that much more.
My hormone cream was still a few weeks away when I found out that I was four weeks pregnant. I ordered proestrogen cream after taking a few blood tests that detected I had high levels of estrogen and low levels of proestrogen. Falling pregnant was such a surprise (and we thought we were being safe!), because when I was first diagnosed with PCOS doctors said it would take longer to conceive. They also said I would have to go on a series of hormonal treatments to make it all happen. Of course, I knew that I had God's grace and that conceiving wouldn't be an issue for me, but for it to happen then - it was a shock! I had just become my own boss as communications consultant and I was working for a client that I loved.
Then the next big question hit me - can you eat a vegan diet when you're pregnant?
I googled it - as you'd expect, and I found a big Australian media company had recently written an article about a pregnant mum who ate 30 bananas a day. I also found a tonne of other pregnant and previously pregnant vegan mothers. What I'd learnt from them was mind-boggling. Not only was it completely safe, it is much healthier for the baby and the mother. Vegan pregnancies create healthier babies and have overall less complications.
Falling pregnant was the best thing that had happened to me, my husband as well as my health. I pursued a vegan diet in the beginning to get thin, not for the cruelty of the animals or the nutritional and environmental aspects that come with it. But, as soon as my body became my baby's also, my mindset changed. It was all about nutrition. I would constantly ask myself 'what can I eat that will give my body and my baby the most nutrients?'
Once my morning sickness wore off, my pregnancy diet was all about nutrients. I packed in as much nutrient dense plant-based foods as I could. I gained a healthy pregnancy weight (about 14kg) and smoothies were the only thing I craved - never any animal products.
In October 2014, Bethany was born (home birth story here) and within a few months I was smaller than I was pre-pregnancy.
And that is it. No pills, crazy amounts of exercise, no calorie restriction - nothing out of the ordinary! By just eating as many nutrients through plant-based foods and eating as much as my body desired (until I was full), I was a healthy and happy weight.
When Bethany was six months old, I then changed to a whole food high carbohydrate and low-fat plant-based diet. With a new baby, I lacked the energy I needed to be the best mum I could be. I also suffered a few skin problems due to eating too much healthy fat.
When you eat food high in fat, the fat goes into your bloodstream. This can make you feel tired and lethargic, which was exactly how I was feeling. I was eating a lot of nuts, raw cheesecakes and oil. I now have lots of energy even though I am up with a baby every night. This is because I eat a diet high in carbohydrates, which are full of glucose and fructose, your body's preferred source of energy (not fat).
If you would like to learn about the science behind eating a more whole food high carb diet, check out my short summaries and the recommend reading books I have mentioned on my FAQ page here.
Since I have lowered the level of fat I eat and increased the carbs, I have gained more than just energy. My face is becoming clearer, I have lost that last bit of trouble weight around my hips AND my cellulite has almost completely vanished (and this is with bare minimum exercise - only because I find it hard to find the time to do it with a baby).
I have gained control of my health issues, weight/ body image issues and I am also eating in a way that is not harming the planet, the animals and is not paying for big corporate companies to mislead the public about real nutrition.
Every minute of every day I would think about my weight. Every piece of food I would pick up, I would question whether it will make me fat. Now, I never think about my weight, and I can eat as much food as I want.
You too can gain control of your health with a plant-based diet. Don't let your genetics, hormones or situation give you an excuse. If I can do it, you can too. Heal your body the way God intended with the plants and herbs he has provided for us since the Garden of Eden.
I hope my health story has inspired you. If you need help or have any questions get in touch with me. I would love to help you on your journey.
UPDATED: I now promote and eat a whole food plant-based diet! See more in my FAQ section.