**This is an ongoing series where women email perintatal fitness expert Kathleen Donahoe their questions about pre and postnatal exercise. Have a question about working out during your pregnancy or as a new mom? Email your questions to Kathleen@ohbabyfitness.com**

Question: I weigh less than I did when before I got pregnant, but I look bigger. What’s up with that? 

More details: When I conceived I was 137 lbs, running all the time and in very good shape. I ran up until I was about 8 months pregnant. So I just weighed myself today, and I’m 134.  I’m 7.5 months postpartum (and still breastfeeding). Very little exercise happening, I started to run again in July, but I tore my quad so I stopped. Anyway, I look down and I see not the cute little runner girl that I was before. I still feel just…flabby.- Melissa

I totally hear you. This is a super common occurrence, and not something that’s “just in your head”– you likely DO look pretty different even though you weigh less than you did pre-pregnancy. This is actually something we see more in our clients than the more often discussed “having trouble losing baby weight” issue. It is frustrating though to see the scale look the same but have your body not look the same. A couple of items to note:

1- Oh Baby! Fitness consulted on a study that is looking at higher levels of fat in the abdominal area in postpartum women. It’s totally real, and there’s a pretty massive ongoing study happening to try and figure out why.

2- So you can’t control where the fat is (that whole “you can’t spot train fat off” is true) but you can affect change on what’s happening under the fat. Have you been checked for diastasis recti? Have you done any deep transverse training/work? I would absolutely start there. Pilates, Barre3, something like that. Either in a class or just find some online workouts. Repairing the transverse (which gets so so stretched out during pregnancy, and then the rectus abs on top of the transverse split open which just = MESS) I think will go far in getting you to a place where you can  look down and recognize yourself better.

3- Know that when breastfeeding you still have relaxin (low levels, but its there) in your body. Researchers used to think that when the placenta was delivered (which makes the relaxin) that was it, but new research shows it sticks around in breastfeeding moms. This means loose joints and higher risk of injury, but is also means….things aren’t quite back where they are going to be. You may find that after you wean your rib cage and/or hips settle or shift a bit, closer to what they were before pregnancy.

It also sounds like this is probably not just a physical “I don’t recognize myself” moment, but maybe an identity one as well. The running injury would make anyone crazy, but it’s probably especially frustrating as you can’t hang on to that part of yourself that was so important both before and during your pregnancy. I know you know you’ll get that back, but I’ll say it too– you’ll be running again in the not too distant future, and it’ll feel great.

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2 thoughts on “Ask the expert- Why do I weigh less but look bigger after baby?

  • September 22, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    I appreciate your programs and this blog. However, I think the picture you chose is pretty tasteless. Your postpartum body is about more than just squeezable chub. Your postpartum feelings are about more than being in shape (as you clearly explained in your post above.) I think this picture is meant to make women feel ashamed of their bodies, and that’s a message that we need to move away from. Next time, try to go with something empowering. Thanks.

    • September 22, 2014 at 2:54 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment– you are totally right. I’ve updated the picture with something that better reflects our values and beliefs about the postpartum experience. I really REALLY appreciate your candor and comment.


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