Book Review: Lean Mommy by Lisa Druxman

Most women, regardless of their history, experience some degree of dissatisfaction with their bodies after having a baby. I, despite my long history of being comfortable in my own skin, have been no exception.

It wasn’t particularly about the weight for me – although that contributes. Because of how much fluid I’d gained, I lost over 50 pounds in the first three weeks of Tirzah Mae’s life. That might have felt good, except for the overwhelming sense I had that my body had failed me – and Tirzah Mae.

Sometimes people will remark that Tirzah Mae “just wanted to come out” – and I have to bite back an angry remark. Tirzah Mae’s premature birth had nothing to do with Tirzah Mae. It wasn’t her body that stopped regulating its blood pressure. It wasn’t her body that started spilling protein in her urine. It wasn’t her liver that shut down, making the womb inhospitable to life. It was MY body. It was MY womb that was poised to become a living coffin (although not for long – it would have killed me in addition to Tirzah Mae.) My body betrayed us. That’s why Tirzah Mae was born early.

Even when thankfulness for Tirzah Mae’s safe delivery overcame the sense of my body’s betrayal, I still felt dissatisfaction towards my body. My weight came down, my blood pressure started coming down – but I spent a month seeing in shades of gray except for occasional bright floaters. My weight came down and started rising again, stabilizing about 25 pounds higher than my pre-pregnancy weight. For the first time in my life, I was overweight.

But the weight wasn’t the worst of it. The worst was how weak I was. I exercised regularly during my pregnancy – my second trimester before I started retaining water was probably the fittest I’ve ever been. But after nearly a month of some form of bedrest, 8 days of it hospitalized, I couldn’t do anything. I was weak, I got winded, I felt every muscle in my body after formerly routine movements. My body betrayed me again.

The weakness (and a desire to be ready for VBAC next time around) is what motivated me to get exercising after Tirzah Mae was born – and I’ve been taking the opportunity to also read the books my library has available to help postpartum moms get fit.

Lisa Druxman’s Lean Mommy is the best book I’ve read so far.

Reasons I love Lean Mommy:

  • It’s not all about the weight – it’s [honestly] about making healthy lifestyle changes
  • It uses the [science-based] Cognitive-Behavior Therapy to help moms change self-defeating thoughts and actions
  • It gives a straightforward program for physical fitness and healthy eating habit formation – with different regimens depending on your starting fitness level
  • Apart from an overemphasis on choosing organic and avoiding additives, the nutrition advice was actually not terrible (which is saying a LOT!)

I was already working out regularly when I started reading this book – and what I was doing was working for me – so, apart from trying the workouts once, I didn’t follow this program. But I would have no qualms about doing this program straight through.

The author is the founder of “Stroller Strides” – a playdate slash exercise group that walks with their kids in strollers – and the workouts come from this program. Which means having a stroller definitely makes it easier to do this program (I didn’t when I first borrowed the book from the library). So does having exercise bands (I didn’t and still don’t – I used free weights.) That said, even if you don’t choose to do the three different workouts detailed in this book, the book still has plenty to offer in helping you set up an individualized program for getting fit after having a baby.

I recommend it.

Rating: 4 stars
Category: Postpartum fitness
Synopsis: The author helps mothers establish healthy exercise and eating habits after having a baby – all while enjoying their babies and modeling healthy attitudes towards their bodies, exercise, and eating.
Recommendation: An excellent resource for moms – even if they don’t intend to use the “Stroller Strides” workouts found within

Book Review: Lose that Baby Fat! by La Reine Chabut

Despite ending my pregnancy eight weeks early, I gained significantly more than the recommended amount – at least 50 pounds. Much of it was water weight, which means that, after rigorous diuresing, I returned from the hospital only 8 pounds above my prepregnancy weight. Which perfectly explains why I’m now closer to 18 pounds above my prepregnancy weight.

Well, actuallly, there is an explanation for that. Almost three weeks of bedrest meant a rapid loss of muscle mass, leaving me with a still-voracious appetite (from breastfeeding), but nowhere near as much muscle to use up the calories I’m consuming.

Now, I’m not particularly worried about my weight – I’m still in the healthy range and only a bit above my post-high school norm (I was about 5 pounds lighter than this through college). But I am worried about the loss of muscle mass (and gaining fat mass). Which is why I’ve been making a concerted effort to be active – and to include strength training in my routine. And, of course, this gives me opportunity to read some more books!

Lose that Baby Fat! is supposed to be a month-by-month exercise guide for the first year after having a baby – but I didn’t use it as such. Instead, I worked through the various exercises and routines more quickly (about one month per week) in order to allow me to try and review other books as well. This means that I can’t comment on the effectiveness of the program as written except from a theoretical standpoint – but, actually, there is very little guidance as to how often one is supposed to do the monthly exercises (or whether one is supposed to do anything in addition to them), so I suppose it’d be hard to comment on effectiveness anyway – it will be what you put into it.

As I worked my way through the book, I wrote up comments as seen below.

First Six Weeks: Kegels
Very simple version of Kegels.

Month 2: Walking and Stretching
Do stretches REALLY need to use an exercise ball? I had a hard time balancing well enough to get a good stretch – and nearly all of the stretches could just as easily be done without any equipment at all. (In the author’s defense, it’s easier to balance with tennis shoes on – and I frequently exercise without them.)

Month 3: Abdominals
I like the use of the ball for abdominal exercises like the bicycle and the abdominal crunch – I felt like the ball helped me stay focused (or maybe distracted from the monotony?) and made me less likely to hurt my neck than with the traditional floor exercise. This chapter included a nice range of difficulty, from very easy to quite difficult, perfect for ramping up after a life-experience that rather stretches out those abs :-) (Little complaint here: at the beginning of each chapter the author has a “how you may be feeling” blurb, and this month’s is “Thinking twice about continuing with breastfeeding.” My experience as a WIC dietitian is that women who stick it out to three months very rarely have second thoughts – by then they’ve gotten through the most difficult learning curve and can’t imagine having to wait to mix up a bottle and get it warm before feeding their baby.)

Month 4: Arms and Chest
Pretty standard arm exercises (biceps curls, triceps kickbacks, chest presses) done on the exercise ball with a resistance band. We own an exercise ball, so I did the exercises on it – but I didn’t purchase a resistance band to test these out (I know enough of myself to know that buying a piece of exercise equipment will not motivate me to use it.) Instead, I used the 3 pound weights I already have. All the exercises in this chapter happen to have the resistance working in line with gravity, so no postural changes were required to adapt from one to another. I officially like doing arm exercises on the ball (versus standing or on a bench) – it adds a bit of an ab workout and doesn’t take as much space as a weight bench.

Month 5: Butt
A couple of the exercises involved standing with some part of your body against an exercise ball which is positioned against a wall. Obviously, the author is a fitness-lover rather than a book-lover – she has a room with plenty of wide-open walls. All of my walls are jammed full with either bookshelves or windows. Thankfully, the exercises that she does this with (squats and lunges) can be done just as well without a ball or a wall.

Month 6: Shoulders and Upper Back
This includes four ball and band exercises, half of which require postural modifications to do with free weights (of course, the author doesn’t explain how to do that). Disappointing chapter.

Month 7: Legs
Jumping rope in 30 second intervals. I didn’t do this because I couldn’t be bothered to find my jump rope.

Month 8: Full Body
The first workout that is actually a full workout (as opposed to just a few exercises for a target area). Most of the exercises are duplicates from past chapters – making me wonder if one was really supposed to only be working on the butt in Month 5, for example, instead of incorporating each new monthly set of exercises into a weekly rotation (as I would have assumed).

Month 9: Circuit training
A very short (6 minutes total) but very intense (at least for me) workout with 30 second intervals (Daniel uses a HIIT interval timer on his phone for interval training – and I tried it for this workout, which worked well). This workout uses a coffee table for triceps dips and pushups, but since I don’t have a coffee table, I used a footstool for dips and did girlie pushups straight on the floor. I’m definitely going to have to try this again – it was a good FAST workout.

Month 10: Strength training
These are fairly traditional dumbbell exercises using the exercise ball as a bench.

Month 11: Running
Sorry, even if I did decide to purchase a jogging stroller, you’re not going to get me running. I had enough trouble keeping my bosom controlled before baby and breastfeeding – trying to do it now sounds like a major OUCH!

If you read through my notes so far, you’ve seen that I had numerous comments regarding equipment use. This book assumes that you have 1) an exercise ball, which is used for almost every exercise, 2) a fitness band, 3) a jump rope, and later on 4) dumbbells and 5) a jogging stroller. I do not feel that any of these are necessary for a good post-pregnancy workout (although having some form of resistance for strength training is worthwhile). I did find that I enjoyed many of the exercises using the ball.

If you have this equipment already, I would recommend this book as a good source for a variety of exercises that can be done using them. If I were to use this book as my complete program, I would plan on doing some sort of aerobic activity (probably walking) at least three times a week and do at least two or three exercises from the current month a couple times a week, adding in a couple exercises from each previous month as well. (It seems crazy to me that the author only puts things together into a full-body workout in month 8 – you’d lose any muscle tone you’d gained in your abs, for example, by then if you hadn’t kept on working with them.)

**Side note: The author knows nothing about nutrition. Disregard anything she says (thankfully, she doesn’t say much.)**

Rating: 3 stars
Category: Post-pregnancy exercise
Synopsis: A month-by-month selection of exercises for the post-pregnancy year.
Recommendation: A good selection of exercises if you already have the equipment (or were already intending to get it). You have to be proactive about setting up your own schedule and making sure you don’t lose gains you’ve made during previous months working on different body parts.