Postpartum Nutrient Deficiency and Stress Hormones

Consider this your ultimate guide to postpartum recovery! Today we are talking all about postpartum nutrient deficiency and stress hormones.

This blog post is coming at the best time. I reposted an Instagram “educational resource,” from a lactation educator on Monday, December 6, 2021. It enraged me. I am not kidding when I tell you I had to break out breathing techniques. So now, let’s talk about loving our bodies, nourishing and postpartum depletion.

The post I referenced was promoting breastfeeding for the ultimate benefit of weight loss. Yes, breastfeeding often helps new moms lose weight, but if that is your primary goal, I highly suggest you reach out to an informed and certified lactation counselor or IBCLC.

Giving birth is HARD on the body. It can be exhausting and long, short and still exhausting, or even traumatic. I want us all to remember that the uterus is a muscle. Let’s say you have 41-hour labor. Your uterus has been working out for 41 hours. When a woman delivers a baby, there is blood loss, extreme dehydration, often constipation, hemorrhoids, potential complications, vaginal tearing, etc. A lot of what I just mentioned are wounds. Let’s not forget that when the placenta detaches and is birthed, it leaves a wound in the uterus to heal. Food heals the body. Protein heals wounds.

So the postpartum period. Some have no concerns, and some have intense hormonal surges that can cause chemical imbalances leading to mood disorders. *Please reference last week’s blog post if you have any questions about mood disorders and if you may be experiencing symptoms.*

The reason I am so mad about the post from yesterday is that it does not mention any of the potential complications from birth or the reality of how you delivered your baby. It could have been a vaginal or surgical intervention. It also provided zero evidence-based information about the hormonal imbalances or needs of the breastfeeding body.

I don’t talk about it often except with close friends, but I have been in recovery from a binge eating disorder. It wrecked me. Poor habits led to extreme struggles. Constant cycles of restriction led to me hiding in my room and eating Doritos until I was sick to my stomach, then the self-loathing began. I went through this for about a year.

Most disordered patterns lead to other addictions. If you have experienced it, you know what I am talking about. I would binge, then be “really good,” do intense workouts and eat about 1,000-1,200 calories a day. I would get praise because I looked great and had a glow.

Insert relationship with Lindsay Tobias of keepyourplantson. I knew of her and followed her on the gram. We both lived in Lynchburg, VA before she and her husband moved to Florida. One day, I was in a hot yoga class at the gym I attended and she was there. We briefly chatted but it was friendly, not deep. It was then I knew I had to address my problem areas.

Linday Tobias on Postpartum recovery

Lindsay Tobias on postpartum recovery

I reached out to Lindsay in October 2019 and chose to work with her. She has the approach of no scales, no deprivation, and blood sugar balancing, and she has the best sense of humor and puns you can imagine. Her approach and smiley demeanor truly will make you smile.

Some sessions we would talk about the good parts of my week, even if it was something at work or a new recipe I made in the kitchen. Some calls, I cried to her for an hour (well over our time limit,) and she would listen and then offer strategies that could help — but the important thing is she would LISTEN first.

Overtime, I felt better. I was focusing less on my weight because I threw out my scale and I was enjoying foods again that were no longer “bad.”

You have probably seen the image floating around on social media that healing is not linear.

That is the case for me. I still struggle with body dysmorphia and hormone concerns but I credit Lindsay for the foundation of knowing that I can choose to nourish my body and if I want the cookie, I am going to eat the damn cookie. We have worked together twice. The second time was Christmas 2020 when I was going through some intense personal and family matters that wrecked me.

It was a wake up call as I was driving home from Alabama, visiting my dad at Christmas, and I listened to her podcast about finding your natural weight. I sent Lindsay a voice memo and started working with her for about two months to get back to a state of finding ME – not fitting into someone I was trying to be.

I am currently struggling with hormonal imbalances, but that is due to my occupation and lack of schedule. I can always look to food as medicine, which is what Lindsay shouts from the rooftops. For example, I am able to figure out that my thyroid levels might be a little wonky when I am craving insane amounts of seafood – or certain foods/beverages do not benefit my body when I am on my period.

With all of that to say, I know give you a conversation with Lindsay of keepyourplantson. It has been such a joy to transition from client to friend and now to a professional relationship. We will be discussing postpartum hormone depletion and what we can do to heal the postpartum body. Enjoy!

1. As a holistic nutritionist, what are the most common struggles you come across with clients?

I deal with the clients that I’ve been dating their whole life, and usually this results in Hormonal or Gut imbalances. I work with the clients that have food sensitivities, irregular bowel movements, irregular periods, and decreased overall function. This is usually coupled with this contractual relationship with food where we use food as body manipulation, rather than body nourishment. My favorite and most soul fulfilling thing to do with clients is to reframe the way they think about food and the way that they treat their bodies to make health truly sustainable.

2. During pregnancy, women gain weight – which is needed for mom and baby! What is your advice for the postpartum mom that wants to lose weight?

I really advocate that in this first season after giving birth, the number one priority is not weight loss. Because we’ve been conditioned to think of weight loss as a restriction. We need to eat less, exercise more, etc… but this poses a huge threat to our bodies that are screaming to heal. It takes a lot of energy, or calories, to heal. So when we restrict calories, we prolong our healing journey. Especially for a breast-feeding mother, we need excess calories to be able to burn the excess calories needed to nurse. My biggest encouragement to these mothers is to focus on nutrient quality rather than decreasing food quantity.

This can look like adding in as many fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, healthy fats in order to give your body nourishment to heal. This is essential as well to help combat postpartum depression, which is a dysregulation of serotonin in the gut. Step two is always going to be to balance your blood sugar, so having meals that have a really healthy balance of protein, carbs, and fats can be essential to actually regulate those hunger cues that sometimes feel out of control for new mothers.

3. What are your favorite go-to meals for the busy mom that may be returning to work or has recently had a partner return to work?

I always encourage my clients that we only have a certain amount of resources. Time, energy, and money. So if we’re really low on time and energy, we may have to spend a little bit more money to do the things we want to. For example, getting pre-chopped veggies, microwavable quinoa or brown rice, premade guacamole, sauces, or hummus. These items may cost a few extra $ but can save time and energy.

This also may be a great time to have freezer meals, making batch meal prep, which can mean making four chicken breasts instead of the one that you’re eating tonight, preparing a double batch of soup and saving it for later. Basically, if you are cooking, never cook for one!

4. Postpartum nutrient depletion is common in the early weeks postpartum and can have long-term effects. What are some easy ways moms can incorporate greens or certain foods into their diet to feel better?

I love this question! Adding in is going to be so much more helpful than cutting out. Your health is comprised of the majority of what you do, so if we can start to add in vibrant foods to your life, you will experience benefits. Some of my favorite ways of doing this are starting to have smoothies or juices. If we can add in some leafy greens into our smoothie or some vegetables into a juice, this is giving us a lot of Nutritional bang for our buck. I love adding greens to pasta, adding it to rice, adding herbs to almost every meal I eat!

Other nutrients to focus on are herbs and spices, which are packed full of antioxidants that help your body increase immunity and decrease inflammation. Going heavy on these real fresh herbs and spices doesn’t take any extra energy and can make a huge difference in your health. Omega-3 fatty acids are also a really great source of anti-inflammatory fats. Increasing quality oils, like avocado or olive or coconut oil‘s, eating eggs, fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, nuts, seeds like chia and flax seed can up this nutrient. Make it easy – canned tuna is not “cheating” it is making your life easier so that you can reallocate energy where it needs to go!

5. As a female that has struggled with disordered eating, what advice would you give to the new mom or expecting mom that is struggling with her changing body?

This short season in your life is going to challenge your value systems. Most people think they have a food issue, but I disagree. For most of us, at a young age we learned that our food can change our weight and our weight can change our value (or so society says). So we start our first diet and go into these cycles of restriction and binging to try and manipulate our weight to manipulate our value. Therefore, it’s not a food issue, because if our food didn’t change our weight or our value, we probably wouldn’t care about it. It’s moreso a value issue.

In this season I want to challenge you, where have you placed your value? How are you talking to yourself right now?

We know that our thoughts are instructions for the body. What instructions are you giving your body? If we are filled with this frustration and anger towards our body, what outcomes are our thoughts creating? Are you rooting for your body or against it?

In a more tangible sense, prioritize health and healing over weight. Focus on healing your function, like your blood sugar, like healing your gut, like balancing your hormones, this is more likely to lead to your most balanced weight then restricting, dieting, and binging ever will.

6. Tell me how KYPO came to be and what is next for your business?!

I started Keep Your Plants On about five years ago because I wanted to speak differently to clients, I wanted to have a different voice in this industry that wasn’t pushing short term health based on aesthetics, but one based on true, remarkable vitality. It’s been so incredibly fulfilling, with over 550 clients that have stopped dieting and started nursing their body sustainably. I’m currently working on a book where I dive into the perversions of food, movement, and community, teaching people how to get back to countercultural health. I’m so excited about it that I can’t sleep, so I hope you love it too!

If you have any questions about potentially working with Lindsay or her team, please give her a follow on instagram: @keepyourplantson and her program, “How to Keep your Plants on For Good.”

Lindsay Tobias, ACSM EP-C, FNC

If you are struggling with postpartum recovery, please reach out to me or Lindsay. We are here for you.

*Don’t forget to sign up for updates! Learning to Latch, releasing January 31, 2022*

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