Weight Loss After Baby | Why The Fast 800 Works For Me

Friday 26 July 2019

Body image after having a baby is a funny old topic.

Your body has done something life-changing and momentous - growing, sustaining and nurturing an actual human being - and that seismic event also comes with some pretty seismic shifts in your looks.

Many women feel under intense pressure to drop weight quickly after they’ve given birth, and this is not only foolish, but can also be dangerous. Softer, bendier bones, wider spread hips, larger boobs to feed baby and a dinnerplate sized internal wound in a softer mid section, often with abdominal separation, are the somewhat grim body realities post-baby that mean it's not a great idea to be harsh on your body soon after you’ve had the baby.

And I get it. I really, really do. 

I’ve been there, tearfully trying to squish my new wider hips into jeans that just don’t want to know. Staring down at my jiggling, loose stomach in the bath in disgust. I know what it's like to wonder if you’ll ever really feel like you again.

Slowly, you get back into it. Slowly, the baby settles into some kind of a sleeping pattern so you don’t feel like you have to inhale cake just to stay awake during the day. You begin to be able to leave them for short periods and you can start to resume some exercise. But it's hugely difficult, and with the changed priorities you now have as a mother and the general time-sucking, all-consuming nature of raising kids it's very easy to feel that you don’t have full control.

Equally, every baby is different. With my first baby, I didn’t gain much weight - I had bags of energy so I went to the gym until I was over 8 months pregnant. I craved fresh fruit and vegetables, so if anything my diet was better.  I lost the weight I had gained much quicker.

The second time around I was tired and sick and I had a very energetic toddler to look after. I was simply too exhausted and nauseous for much exercise and didn’t do anything but once a week Pilates after the three month mark, as well as completely letting my diet go out the window. So getting my body back to normal the second time has been a much harder, longer journey.

My daughter is almost a year old as I write this, and although I managed to get back into my old clothes when she was about seven months old, there are still so many things I’m unhappy about with my body (this was true before children, if I’m honest). I have been exercising and making changes to my diet, but I still have a few goals to achieve.

At the end of August, we’re heading off for our first family holiday as a four (or technically a six, as my mother-in-law and her partner are joining us which will really help with the kids). I really want to improve the things I am unhappy about ahead of this.

I want to be able to wear my swimming costume and splash about in the pool with the kids without feeling horribly self-conscious. I want to look at the holiday photos and smile about the happy memories rather than cringe at the sight of myself. 

So, I’ve come up with a plan for a four week blitz to get me looking and feeling my best before I set off.

Fast 800  - Intermittent Fasting

So way back, in my hazy, footloose pre-children days, like most women in their 20s I was on a weight loss mission on and off. I was always about ten pounds from perfect in my own eyes, even at my lightest!

I love to eat, so I’ve always tried to focus my weight loss efforts on exercise instead. But gradually I realised a truth that personal trainers will freely admit - weight loss is about 80% diet.  Although both are important, what you eat (or don’t) will have a far greater impact on your body weight than how you sweat. I tried various diets but the only one that has ever really worked for me is the 5:2 Diet, which is a form of Intermittent Fasting.

Put simply, you eat normally on five days of the week (no headfirst diving into a tray of pastries though) and on two days you limit yourself to 500 calories only. It worked for me and my lifestyle. I’m not always brilliant on willpower, but even I could manage two days a week. It meant I could still go out to dinner and live normally - I’d just rearrange my days if I needed to. And after the first couple of weeks, I found I actually looked forward to my days ‘on’ the diet and had a lot more energy and a clearer head while fasting.

It all worked well, and I hit my lowest weight (9st 6lb at 5’7’’) right before I got pregnant for the first time.

Since then, I’ve been wanting to return to the diet. I tried it after I had Theo, but I couldn’t seem to make it stick long enough to get going. And as the diet is not safe for breastfeeding mothers, it's been on the back burner ever since.

Now, however, with Italy looming large in my mind, I want to give it a proper go. Dr Michael Mosley, author of the original, has since come out with an updated plan -  the Fast 800.

The plan involves restricting the times of day that you eat, and only eating an updated amount of 800 calories for two days a week. This combination seems to be key to flipping your metabolic switch to encourage weight loss.

More than that, it has a whole host of other health benefits, including reducing the effects of diabetes, and there’s even new evidence that it reduces the risk of some cancers and dementia. And that’s massive - but there are studies to back it up, and GPs now recommend it to diabetic patients. I’ve seen it work in my own life. My dad has Type 2 Diabetes, and with intermittent fasting, he has returned his blood sugar levels to the safe range, effectively reversing the condition.

The Fast 800 And The Very Fast 800 - Rapid Weight Loss

There are three ‘phases’ to the diet - the Very Fast 800, the Fast 800 and the Maintenance phase.

Typically, you only need to start on the Very Fast 800 if you have a lot of weight to lose as it's the hardest form. It involves an 800 calorie daily limit, and a 12 hour daily fast. You are recommended to do from 2 - 12 weeks maximum before moving to the regular Fast 800, where you eat normally for five days and have 800 calories on two days.

Because I only have a limited time of four weeks, I’m going to attempt two weeks on the Very Fast 800 and then two on the regular version. So, I’ll be eating 800 calories a day, with 50g of protein to start with. And I will only be eating from 8am - 8pm so I can achieve my 12 hour fast. I'll use the Lifesum app to monitor my daily intake.

This is going to be fairly tough, so I’m hoping I don’t crumble - hopefully the thought of all that pizza and gelato on holiday will be enough to keep me on track, because I don’t intend to behave myself while I’m away at all!

What About Exercise On The Fast 800?

Exercise is an important component as well, especially for toning up alongside the weight loss, so I have a plan for that as well. Hot spin is something that I’ve become quite addicted to, so that forms the basis of my plan, but I’m going to ramp it up during my blitz:

.>> Exercise four times a week minimum

I currently attend a hot spin class three times a week, on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  I’m going to keep on with those. I’m also going try to add an extra day in - I see this being either a 5k run outside (I used to be into running but it's dropped off my radar lately) or a HIIT workout at home - I like the Body Coach videos.

>> Add in weight training three times per week

My coach at the gym is always telling me I need to lift in order to lose weight and not just rely on cardio, but spin has become essential for me in terms of managing my mood and energy levels, so I’m planning to just add some weights on.

>> Take a 20 minute walk at lunchtime 

I am lucky enough to work on a university campus with stunning grounds. When I began my job here, I would always take a walk around the lake or across the downs at lunchtime, but over time I’ve stopped that and now I barely leave my desk. Taking a lunch break and getting my body moving will help, so I’m planning to make sure I fit in a walk unless I’m stuck in meetings.

>> Do A DR Session Every Day 

So along with all the other physical indignities that being pregnant can bring, this time around I managed to end up with Diastasis Recti (DR) - or separated abdominal muscles. This means that there’s a large gap between my stomach muscles which gives me a mum tum that I am hugely self-conscious about. It means that you can’t do the usual stomach exercises like crunches and planks, as they just make it worse. But there things you can do. I’ve been a little bit lazy about doing them regularly, but I’m now resolving to focus on them again and make sure I do at least ten minutes of repair exercises every day - in the evenings while I’m watching Netflix.

So that is my little plan -  wish me luck. I’ve come so far with my fitness and my body image, so this is hopefully that last little boost to get me over the finishing line.

Have you tried Intermittent Fasting? Do you have any hacks that can help?

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