Exercise & Hormones . . . Feeling Fat When I Should Be Feeling FitJanuary 27, 2016
The Battle of the Hormones
Well, I have been faithful to my daily workouts for the past four weeks. I have learned that at this point of my life, my best time to exercise is right at the end of my work day (anywhere between 2:00PM-6:00PM). I have consistently been doing 30 minutes of cardio followed by an upper body or lower body circuit routine. Each day, I focus on either abdominal exercises or oblique exercises with the strength portion of the workout.
One of my biggest struggles this month is that I am weaning off nursing. What a crazy hormonal roller coaster! However, it was a much worse experience when I stopped nursing Scarlett. When I stopped breastfeeding Scarlett, I kept thinking that I was pregnant because of the nausea and severe exhaustion. I went to my OBGYN twice. They must have thought that I was crazy. Truthfully, I felt like I was going crazy.
I have literally been pregnant or breastfeeding since December 2012. Yes, I am serious. I got pregnant in December 2012. I gave birth to Scarlett in September 2013. I had to stop nursing her in July 2014 because I wasn’t ovulating, and we wanted to get pregnant right away. In August 2014, I was pregnant. We had Daphne in April 2015. She turned nine months old on January 17, 2016, and I began weaning off of nursing her. My last day of nursing her is scheduled to be February 7th. For any mom that has nursed their child for a significant amount of time, I am sure they will agree that it is such a bitter sweet moment. I have been a slave to this little girl’s eating schedule for almost a year, but I feel guilty for not nursing her for a full year. I just have to be selfish and take full ownership of my body for just a moment. The plan is to try for baby number three this summer or fall. I have to lose the baby weight before getting pregnant again. But more importantly, I need a few months to regulate my hormones. I really need a few months to me to be a better mom, wife, business owner, boss, daughter . . . well, just a better version of me overall.
So, naturally, since I have been consistent for four weeks with my workouts, I have been jumping on the scale a few times a week to see my progress. Despite those crazy hormonal “off” moments, I am really starting to feel like me again . . . Me, the person who exercised six days a week BEFORE getting pregnant. It has been a long time. However, the scale is about to be thrown off the 11th floor of our condo. The numbers have jumped up. I keep telling myself to not weigh myself until after Valentine’s Day. Here’s why . . .
So, I have a few things going on inside me. Nope, I am not eating more because I am exercising more. I am not eating “perfect” if there is such a thing, but I do eat well for the most part. As for my diet imperfections, I enjoy a glass of wine with my husband most evenings, but that is about it… we split dessert occasionally on date nights. I had a couple of cookies at a brunch on Sunday. In my professional opinion, regardless of those little indulgences here and there, the numbers should be going down. My workouts have been intense. I eat well-balanced meals throughout the day with healthy snacks. No ifs, ands or buts, my hormones are to blame.
In addition to my hormones, typically, when someone begins an exercise program, we often see a weight gain. There are a few different factors involved. Yes, muscle weighs more than fat. But also, we are training the muscle to be more efficient in breaking down energy. The metabolism exchange takes place in our skeletal muscle. This means, the breakdown of food (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) into energy (lipids, amino acids, and glucose). Our skeletal muscles are the muscles connected to bones that are overloaded when we exercise. This is why strength training is so important for weight loss. These muscle fibers actually tear when we exercise, which causes a little inflammation.
The initial neuromuscular response to exercise can make us feel “bigger” or “swollen,” so-to-speak. This is a temporary feeling that can be very discouraging. In addition to the tearing of muscle fibers, this is also a result of plasma that is trapped within the muscle following muscle contraction: both signs that the muscles are improving. I have often had women tell me that they don’t want to exercise because they get bigger, and they don’t want to be huge. I actually had a 90-year old, frail woman tell me this once. It was cute. But as women, we lack the amount of testosterone needed to achieve this big bodybuilder look. Patience plays a large role in getting through this initial stage and seeing/feeling more trim and tone.
So in addition to the initial neuromuscular response to beginning an intense exercise program and my hormones being all over the place, probably causing additional water retention, I need to remember to drink more water overall. Being dehydrated will actually make you feel bloated and weigh more because your body is desperately trying to hold onto whatever water it does have.
So if you are eager to see those numbers drop, but like me, you are still in those beginning stages, although committed, hang tight. I always tell my clients to give it a good three months. But if you can be patient until six months, that is typically when we see the “wow factor.” You know, when people start to notice and compliment you. But until then, should you be downtown Chicago walking down Chestnut Street in the next month or so, be aware of flying scales. As much as I try to reason with myself, my hormones may get the best of me.