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. 

 

My Story 

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).

 This is me at 15 years old - my first photoshoot before I started yo-yo dieting

This is me at 15 years old - my first photoshoot before I started yo-yo dieting

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. 

 Me at 17 years old, after months of training and calorie restriction. This photoshoot was taken just before I was pulled from the fashion show.

Me at 17 years old, after months of training and calorie restriction. This photoshoot was taken just before I was pulled from the fashion show.


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 wedding day December 15, 2012

My wedding day December 15, 2012

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 plant-based nutritionist and influencers.

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 a plant-based 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.  

 This is me at 34 weeks pregnant

This is me at 34 weeks pregnant


Then the next big question hit me - can you eat a plant-based diet when you're pregnant?

I googled it - as you'd expect, and found some great sources from dieticians in the USA, as well as many living examples of families thriving off a plant-based diet. Not only was it completely safe, it is healthy 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 plant-based 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 back to a weight and size i felt more than happy with.

 

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. 

 Me 4 months postpartum with no makeup!

Me 4 months postpartum with no makeup!

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, and doesn’t support cruel factory farming of animals.

 

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. 

I decided to heal my body the way God intended with the plants and herbs he has provided for us since the Garden of Eden.  

The human body is Intelligently designed to heal itself, and given the proper nutrients and care, it will.
— Chris Wark - Chrisbeatcancer.com

I hope my health story has inspired you whether you want to focus on starting a plant-based diet or eat more plant-based in your health journey. You can read through some of my answers to common questions in my FAQ section.

Sarah
xo