Published on Jul 20, 2015
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Published on Apr 12, 2013
There was a big reaction from the public when fitness trainers Sharny and Julius Kieser spoke about their controversial views on obesity.
She says that anyone can have a pain-free, 15 minute labour. And that’s bloody unhelpful.
Seriously, what have we been thinking?
Silly, lazy women.
In fact, if only I had listened to certain “experts”, I may never have known just how indescribably excruciating it is to push a tiny human out of your far, far tinier vagina. I would have tensed something, flexed something, stretched out an elegant, toned leg and Pop- we’re done here.
How? If I’d have done more exercise when I was pregnant.
This past week it seems exercise is being floated as a cure-all when it comes to those difficult parts of pregnancy and childbirth that women have lived and died by for centuries.
Michelle Bridges says her fitness has handed her a pregnancy at 44 without the need for all the pesky fertility treatment that she might have otherwise have had to explore.
It’s wonderful for Michelle, of course, but an irritating comment for millions who have struggled with infertility. Those women might well hear in that reasoning an insinuation that they weren’t sacrificing hard enough to get pregnant, that they’ve been sitting on their over-sized bums scarfing party pies when they could have solved all their problems with a few more sit-ups. That is rarely the case.
And now there’s another thing exercise can do for us – take away the pain of childbirth. Last July, ‘fitmum’ Sharny Kieser went into labour and gave birth to her fifth child in a birthing pool. The whole process took 15 minutes.
I have spoken to Sharny about her in-your-face views on motherhood and fitness in the past. Hers is a take-no-prisoners transformation story. She was, in her opinion, overweight and unhappy and now, through eye-watering self-discipline and a business model that revolves around her and her husband Julius’s impressive physiques, she is now pregnant with her SIXTH child, and peddling a book about how to have a FIT PREGNANCY, not a FAT PREGNANCY. In Sharny’s eyes, there is no reason why we can’t all do what she has done.
Sharny is a shining example of healthy living. She has made fitness her business, but that comes with a side of judgement. And when that judgement is around birth and babies, it’s dangerous, dangerous territory.
Because when it comes to how women give birth, we already see judgement in all corners.
Didn’t take any drugs? You’re smug.
Opted for the epidural? You’re selfish, and drugging your baby.
Had a C-section? Well, you didn’t REALLY give birth, did you?
Did it in a birthing pool with the midwife? You risk-taking hippie, you.
But one thing that is generally not in dispute when it comes to the discussion of childbirth is this: It hurts. It hurts like hell.
And yes, there is a way to have a (relatively) pain-free birth: The administration of DRUGS, early and often. But drugs aside, it’s unlikely that pain is what’s going to be missing from your experience of giving birth.
Obstetrician, gynaecologist and fertility specialist Dr Joseph Sgroi, says that it’s undeniable that being fit and healthy and having a BMI that’s well within a healthy range is going to impact positively on labour.
“It’s a bit like running a marathon, you want to be as fit as you possibly can because you need to have good stamina to get through the labour itself, and the pushing. If you’re fatigued it’s a lot harder to achieve. In my experience, women who are extremely fit do very well in labour.”
BUT, he says, that is not necessarily related to pain, and how much your labour will hurt.
“Certain women will experience pain at different thresholds… There are some mechanics at play, for some women no matter how fit and healthy you are, a natural birth might not be possible. Different women have different pain thresholds.
“I’m wary of health gurus overstating something that might let a woman feel let down afterwards, and that will be detrimental to her psychological state.”
In other words, being fit and healthy is very important for pregnant women, but it’s a false promise to suggest it will somehow magically score you a quick, painless labour.
Women who have not yet given birth (and many who have) are afraid of that. As well they should be. There’s pain, and bleeding, and danger. And before modern obstetric medicine, many, many women and babies died doing it.
Which makes pregnant women a vulnerable market for people selling The New Birth Solution. They will grasp on to the idea that there is a way of delivering a child that is safe, and doesn’t hurt like hell.
They will throw money at that promise, hand over fist.
Hypnobirthing, or Calm Birthing, is another technique that also promises a “pain-free” labour. And its teachings, which many women have found very helpful, revolve in large part about reframing how you see the pain of labour in your mind.
Rather than something terrifying to fight, Calm Birth ideology goes, see the pain as the inevitable, purposeful steps to getting your ultimate prize – your baby.
Hats off to you if you can keep that positive thinking going for one, two, 24, 36 hours.
The average calm-birth class program in Sydney costs around $500.
Again, promising frightened women a less painful birth is big business.
When I gave birth to my first child, I went to the average pre-natal classes with all the other scared people. Overwhelmingly, the question that most asked most often and earliest was “But how much does it hurt, really?”
The midwife tried to avoid the word PAIN, replacing it with its bullshit cousin DISCOMFORT, but, I’m telling you, there was nothing DISCOMFORTABLE about the pain I found myself in, several weeks later, in the middle of an early, high-speed delivery.
All the pre-natal yoga and perineal massage in the world can’t take away from the fact that labour hurts an incredible amount. It hurts so much that you temporarily, you lose your mind. And it hurts so much that when it’s over, you have no idea how you just lived through that.
But really, if the pain is the only thing that sucks about your birthing experience, then you’re doing okay. You’re lucky. If you get a baby in your arms and a couple of stitches and some war stories to tell at mothers’ group, you’re doing just fine.
Because for so many women, and for so many babies, things get a lot more complicated than that, with much higher stakes.
Not getting the labour you planned for is not the worst thing that can happen.
Telling pregnant women that they can achieve a pain-free birth plays to their fear of pain and their fear of failure.
And if a woman is safe, with a healthy child in her arms, failure is something they should never be feeling.
However long their labour lasted. And however much it hurt. Mums need to remember this: You have not failed. You are brave. And no one is having a pain-free birth. Ever.
Do you think people like Sharny are exploiting a woman’s need to “control” the birth experience.
* Dr Sgroi is a representative of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
I took my kids to Fit Mum's place for dinner and this is what happened
Feeding my children nutritious food is important to me, but I’m also human and when my day goes pear-shaped I’ve often resorted to meals of drive-thru variety. My week generally starts great and is full of home-baked and healthy treats, but somewhere about Wednesday the wheels start to fall off and we fall into some unhealthy habits.
I recently saw Sharny Kieser, aka Fit Mum, at a presentation on healthy lunchbox ideas at my daughter’s kindy. The food she presented on the night tasted great and I felt inspired, but peanut butter made from sunflower seeds? Fried rice made from cauliflower? I wasn’t quite sure my kids would feel the same, so like any nosy journalist would, I invited us all over to her house for dinner to see if her ‘Healthy Junk’ would get a thumbs up or thumbs down from the harshest of culinary critics, my son Jamie, 5 and daughter Jessica, 3.
I’ll admit my children aren’t ‘bad eaters’, but we have our challenges. Jamie is the ultimate carnivore and will eat a plate of baby octopus, but gag if presented with a banana. My dainty salad eating daughter is easily distracted at mealtimes and will be ravenous at bedtime because she’s ‘forgotten’ to eat all day.
I briefed my children by simply saying we were going to a friend’s house for dinner. The moment of truth arrived and we’re greeted by Sharny and her husband Julius’ three youngest children, all aged under four. Enthusiasm is an understatement. Feed a child all the organic, grain-free fodder you like, but dinnertime with a toddler, let alone three, is never easy. I silently applaud them for getting through dinner prep without a wine glass in sight.
I follow the amazing smell to the kitchen where a feast is being prepared. Their kitchen is big and there’s a lot going on. Granted, it’s not every day you feed three adults and five children, but the prep work that’s going on makes me worry I little I couldn’t pull off something like this in my own home.
That is until I see the fried rice.
Sharny’s version has all the usual ingredients in there; egg, shallots, ham. Except in this instance the rice is replace with processed cauliflower. Julius throws three big chunks in their Thermomix and in less than five seconds we’ve got ‘rice’, he tells me a food processor will produce the same result.
Jamie approached the bowl apprehensively, took a reluctant bite and refused anymore. Jessica flat out refused. Okay, healthy fried rice wasn’t a winner, but I’m prepared to try this again at home because it ticks all of my boxes; fast, healthy and delicious!
Course two is pizza, a regular in our house. We usually make our own, and I like to think it’s pretty healthy anyway, but Sharny has upped the stakes by replacing the carb-laden base with a thinly filleted chicken breast. It’s smeared with tomato paste and topped with mushrooms, ham, fresh pineapple and cheese. Success! While Jamie was at first put off by the large basil leaves on top, both of them ate almost all of what they were served.
Next was dessert. Unfortunately the habit of a little something sweet after dinner is well-entrenched in my children. This is certainly an area I need some help in. I think we all cheered when Sharny told us that chocolate ice cream and handmade chocolates would be on the menu. We pull out the Thermomix again to help us turn frozen bananas and an egg white into ice cream. I’m blown away at how much it looks like deliciously creamy vanilla ice cream, it tastes great too! Making chocolate ice cream is as simple as adding some raw cacao powder. It looks like the real deal and the kids run to the table to eat. A few spoonfuls in though and my sweet-toothed children have had enough. The same happens with the hand-made chocolates. On the other hand, Sharny’s children, who have rarely been exposed to refined sugars, devour theirs and desperately seek out more.
I understand that our tastebuds grow accustomed to eating less sweet foods, but it’s actually quite confronting to see how my children at such a young age have already become affected by sugar. We’ve been making the frozen banana ice cream, sans cacao, at home in the blender for the past week now with much success.
So aside from the fact that my children eat too much sugar, what have I learned? Not all foods on the menu on the night were a success with my kids, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try them again. Raising a healthy family is a lifetime journey, not something that can be conquered at a dinner party or in a 12 week challenge, as long as we’re all on the same path I’m sure we’ll end up at the same destination.
Lost some weight doing HCG or some other very low calorie diet and now put on fat just looking at food? Your metabolism might be broken. Let's fix it...
Every time I see someone promoting a VLCD (Very Low Calorie Diet) as a lifestyle diet I just want to slap them in the greedy little faces. We once promoted it. We tried it and lost weight. Then we slapped ourselves in the impatient faces when we finished the diet and found we would put on fat eating a f*(n salad.
So we got fat and blamed ourselves. "Low self control," we said.
Out came the whip of self loathing...
Jokes. We don't do that shit. We don't hate ourselves when we try something and fail!
That just doesn't help. Instead, we educate ourselves. Which is what I'm going to do here for you. Save you the 5 years of yo-yo dieting we went through...
first, let's quickly work out if your metabolism is running ineffectively...
Fill in the following form:
Scroll down to the bottom of the results, and you'll see the following table:
Your numbers will be different to the above ones, but whatever they are, you should be able to eat somewhere around this many calories every single day, without gaining or losing weight.
If your look at your calculated calories and think, "no way can I eat that much," then your metabolism could be broken. So read on...
If you have no idea how much food that is, then get on over to the App MyFitnessPal (it's free) and log your day's food. Compare it to the numbers above and see where you're at.
We just calculated what is called your "maintenance" calories. Every time you eat less than your maintenance calories, your body responds by dropping or slowing non essential processes, like reproduction, hair growth, muscle growth etc.
The most important thing for dieters is to be patient, diet as close to maintenance as you can, so you avoid any of the following:
After years of fucking up my metabolism with the diet/binge roller coaster yo-yo, I just thought the feelings I had meant I was getting old. But since I fixed up my metabolism, I found that most of the problems I had were just little odd jobs my body was putting aside until the calories came rolling back in.
So if you have been doing the same diet-binge-diet-binge yoyo for a while, you'll most likely feel like shit. I can tell you that once you correct your metabolism, you'll experience some or all of the following:
imagine being able to eat so much more food that you never feel hungry, and still lose weight? It is possible. It's why top fitness models can stay lean year round. Read on to find out how you can too...
Alright, you know your metabolism is stuffed and you'd like to eat way more without becoming Jabba the Hut, so let's do it, in 3 easy weeks.
go back up and see what your maintenance calories are. Eat at or above your maintenance calories to give your body the signal that the famine has ended. Good times are here and they're here to stay.
Make sure you eat early and don't skip meals. Don't let yourself feel hungry ever during the 2 weeks.
*It's not a free for all junk fest. In this 2 weeks, ensure you eat a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as meat. Try to steer clear of addictive foods or over processed foods. The additives in them can mess with your metabolism dramatically. So stick to eating a healthy balanced diet, and making sure you eat a lot of it.
You WILL gain weight. But that's not because this process isn't working, its because the diets you've been doing have broken your metabolism. Your body needs to regenerate organ tissue, blood, hair, brain matter and all the other things it's been putting off for so long. The weight gain won't be only fat, it will be necessary weight.
Spend 3 weeks getting it back and you'll be set to lose fat on more calories than you can currently stomach.
For the third week, drop calories below maintenance, but no more than say a 500 calorie per day deficit, otherwise you risk undoing your good work.
It's actually really healthy to eat just a bit less than maintenance.
I'm sure you would have noticed people talk about carb cycling. Carb cycling done right will prevent the downregulation of your metabolism, and in most cases, force upregulation - you can eat more and still lose fat.
There are two ways you can do this.
Two ways to carb cycle:
The first method is a fixed diet plan - 2 days low carb/low cal and 1 day high carb/high cal. Or something like this. But we're not a fan of "one size fits all" dieting, so we prefer a tailored approach, specific to you.
Doing this may seem a little more work, but you'll benefit by being responsible for your own results. Something most people don't want to do. It's important to remember though, you have no vested interest in your diet other than your own success.
Firstly, buy from the chemist something called Ketostix - you put them in your pee and they will tell you if your body is producing ketones.
Ketones in the blood mean that you are burning fat, yes, but this is because you have run out of useable carbohydrates.
This is the alarm bell for your body to downregulate non-essential processes, the result being homeostasis, but for you, the dieter, that means a plateau. To lose weight, you'll need to then diet harder. You’ll eat even less and the down regulation happens again.
Worse still, if you go back to your original maintenance calories, your body will take a bit of time to upregulate - the excess calories consumed will be stored as fat.
This is the diet trap most people find themselves in - their bodies have become efficient. Only using consumed energy for essential processes - storing the rest for better times.
But remember that efficient doesn't mean healthy. A lot of processes are just not getting any energy and therefore not working. If you have been dieting on and off for a few years, I'd suggest first taking about 2 weeks of eating LOTS of NUTRITIOUS food. Not a junk fest, but eating LOTS.
What is important is that there is a bit of lag between states - diet hard and a few days later, the process is downregulated. Eat lots and a few days later the processes are upregulated - business as normal.
So keep checking your ketone levels - normal is zero. You're not meant to have ketones. Ketones are a survival mechanism. For a week, check them 2 or 3 times a day (don't worry ketostix are really affordable). Try and see how long it takes you, while dieting, to produce ketones.
AS SOON AS YOU SEE A CHANGE, you need to eat carbs.
But not just any carbs - carbs that have glucose, not fructose. Remember that fructose doesn't affect the hormones the way you want them to. Now, how many grams of carbohydrate is up to you.
The severity of upregulation depends on the type and quantity of carbs consumed. Eating high glucose, high GI carbs will force upregulation nearly straight away. You'll notice this on your ketostix.
Another great indicator that you have upregulated is that you poo lots. Your body believes food is in surplus so flushes out the excess (the opposite happens when you’re restricting calories).
I start the carb refeed by eating bananas. I know there is a little fructose in them, but the greener, the more glucose. AND bananas have so many other health benefits. I blend 2 bananas with a tablespoon of cacao powder, wait 20 minutes and see if that has changed my ketone levels.
If not, I will have a bowl of oats with rice malt syrup, water and a protein powder (I add the protein because one of the benefits of high GI carbs is insulin, which promotes better storage - I want my body to take up the protein.).
Realistically, you can eat any high GI carb you want, I know some people who eat lollies (candy). Some would argue that they are better for upregulation, since they are mostly glucose.
High GI carbs can make you hungry as hell too. You don't want a carb load to become an all day feeding frenzy. So choose your carbs wisely. I don't like grains, sugar or dairy, so I stay off them as a blanket rule for overall health reasons. I choose carbs that will carry an ancillary benefit, like sweet potato, pumpkin, quinoa - they give you that full gut feeling, psychological break and good nutrition.
You can feel like you've come off your diet, but not blown it. I also like to make banana bread with banana flour. It's a resistant starch - really good for you and for digestion.
As soon as you're finished the workout, have your carb feed - this will ensure that the carbs you do eat are taken up by the muscles and the liver - not converted to fat.
Test your ketones and add more carbs until ketone levels are 0 again. As you progress, your metabolism will lift and you will be able to eat quite a lot of carbs, which is very exciting!
This is a very confusing thing for people, but it's actually very, very simple. Just eat AT LEAST the difference between your diet calories and your maintenance. So if you are dieting at 500kCal less than maintenance, then eat at least 500kCal of carbs for your refeed meal.
maintenance cal - diet cal = refeed cal (at least)
It's that simple.
If you’re restricting calories, especially if you’re restricting carbs, big workouts just don’t have the same punch - so I program the biggest workouts (squats) for carb day.
The night of carb load, try to put the carbs to use - doing legs at the gym is best I find. Nothing upregulates metabolism like heavy squats. I used squats every third day to gain muscle, but keep fat low.
Do conditioning (HIIT) workouts 2 to 5 times a week and remind your body that it needs to keep muscle tissue by strength training in the gym at least one night a week.
Better cardiovascular fitness is essential to slowing the severity of downregulation.
But, I would avoid traditional cardio (like running or cycling etc) anything above say 20 minutes will force your body to become more efficient so that it can stay in homeostasis (sounds counterintuitive, but think about it for a bit longer…).
walking is a great exercise for fat loss without any downregulation, or muscle loss.
You should be able to last about 2 days between carb refeeds. Initially this may be less. If you can't last this long, then you need to increase daily calories by bumping up carbs and/or fat.
Some people like to do a depletion day (or a few). This means continuing with low carb/low cal for a few days once you’re producing ketones. This is OK if you can still train at intensity, some people are good with ketones, some not.
It has been proven that when in ketosis, we consume 60% protein and only 40% fat. You can reduce this through strength training, but I just don’t like those numbers.
Carb cycling properly will actually increase your maintenance metabolism higher than it was before. Your body will essentially be allowed to do more stuff (which in turn means you will be healthier) and the big plus is that you get to eat way more than you are right now, while still losing body fat.
That's the holy grail of dieting right there!
You see, when you take all of these things together, it’s so much more than being “fat” or being “thin”. Fat or thin are a small part. But fat or thin (or fit) are important, because like the iceberg, they are usually all that we can see - and give a pretty clear picture of what is going on under the surface.
"My baby feels like a big creamy doughnut..." I'd say. My baby liked doughnuts. Nearly every day. Then he came out. And I was still eating doughnuts.
I stopped breastfeeding and was still eating doughnuts...
It took me that long to realise that maybe it was just my fat ass that felt like eating doughnuts.
Back then, we didn’t have “squatters arse” to hide behind. If you had a fat arse (which I certainly did) it was because you had a fat arse. You couldn’t pretend you’d been doing squats your whole life.
I hated my arse. In fact I hated everything. My outlook on life was fat on every level there was.
I can remember my teenage son avoiding eye contact with me so that I wouldn’t go off at him. That was when he was around. That poor boy avoided home… I barely saw him, and when I did, I just unloaded all my anger on him. Everything he had done or hadn’t done became bones of contention I’d carry around all day (with my packet of biscuits) so I could use them on his “arrogant teenage attitude.”
Julius has a mate Aaron who has 4 kids, and I laughed when he told me how Aaron said one day that going home after work was scary.
“It’s like having a monster in the house. The closer to home I get, the more anxious I get. By the time I get home I'm on edge. I sneak inside nervous about what mood she is in, and what part of the house she is in.”
I laugh now, but that monster was me.
My husband would avoid me because he didn’t want to fight, but I saw it as he didn’t care about me. So when I saw him I'd just be even more angry. Angry at myself for eating so much, for hurting and for yelling at him yesterday. So angry that I’d just scream at him again.
I blamed hormones, I blamed him, I blamed pregnancy, I turned against everything but myself. Because I was the victim. I was the one that this pregnancy was happening to.
Then the children were born and my behaviour had become habitual.
I blamed breastfeeding and lack of sleep. I blamed having too many children and not enough money. These were all real things, and to me they were valid. But they just amplified the truth underneath.
…and the behaviour continued.
I got pregnant again. The cycle repeated for 3 pregnancies and then one day I decided that enough was enough. The house only ever saw joy when I was asleep. My husband didn’t want to come near me, my children were scared of me and I hated myself.
How could this have happened? Was I always this much of a bitch?
I remember having fun. Being fun. It was as if I had forgotten how to have fun. And when I thought about having fun, I just felt sad. “You’re a mum. You’re pregnant again. You’ve got bills and stress and… It’s all just too hard… you need to take this seriously Sharny.”
And there it was.
I knew that to be good at anything, I had to take it seriously.
But did I need to be so serious?
To take something seriously, do you need to be serious?
To take something seriously, do you need to be serious? #pregfit
In my pursuit to be a good mother, I had taken serious to a whole other level - I had become an aggressive dictator.
I realised then and there that I could take mothering seriously and have fun at the same time. I’m in the fitness industry. I’m surrounded by and working with world class athletes all day. They take their sport seriously. But they also have fun.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that to be at their best, a professional athlete needs to be having fun. Being in the zone, feeling it. Being in that state of perfection requires you to take your job seriously, but to do it with love, and to have fun.
See, not once was body fat the real issue. Fat and Fit are my language, the language I speak. I’m in the fitness industry. PregFAT was not about body shape, it was about being a monster, while believing I was the victim.
#PregFAT was not about body shape, it was about being a monster, while believing I was the victim.
Sure, I had put on 30kg, but what I looked like on the outside was just indicative of what I felt like on the inside.
And when I changed my inside, not only did my body change… my whole world changed.
I get emotional when I see another pregFAT mum. I can see myself in her and I just wish I could reach out and hug her and tell her “you’re not a monster…”
Think of it like this.
Does the butterfly see herself as a monster because she is no longer a caterpillar?
Pregnancy and birth are a complete transformation. From beautiful girl to beautiful woman. See, it’s not just the baby that gets born. The girl is reborn, transformed. The girl becomes a woman.
All I did to go from pregFAT to pregFIT was to see myself for what I had become. I wasn’t a deformed caterpillar, I was a perfect, beautiful, magnificent butterfly.
“I am pregFIT”
It’s literally that easy.
Say it out loud.
Once you see yourself as pregFIT, you’ll be pregFIT. You’ll do pregFIT things.
You’ll eat to support your pregFIT body, which will become stronger because it supports your pregFIT mind… You’ll love the people around you. and you’ll love yourself.
When I finally transformed, I felt as though I had been given a gift. A second chance at life. I was so lucky that I changed when I did. If I’d kept going the way I was, I would have caused irreparable damage.
the journey from pregFAT to pregFIT is so exciting and so individual and personal for each mum. If I could wish for anything it would be that every mother gets the chance to experience a pregFIT pregnancy once in their lives.
Your journey, your transformation starts within. The joys of which will fill an entire book. I sat down to write my journey down one day and it ended up becoming a book.
Women have read my book and felt inspired by it and began their own transformations.
The love and joy I get from them on a daily basis literally floods me with happiness.
If you’re pregnant now, I URGE you to get the book for yourself. It’s not a long read and I promise you that you’ll be a different person by the time you’ve finished reading it.
You’ll be pregFIT. But to be it, you've got to believe it's possible, then see that it's possible for you. That's what the book does. You deserve to know.
PregFAT is a product of fear. Fear of doing something wrong. Fear of hurting your baby. Fear of being judged as a bad mother.
PregFIT needs to be born from courage. Know and BELIEVE that it is all inside you and you have all the tools and all the knowledge you need to do the right thing by your baby.
Your baby chose you for a reason. They believe in you so much, that they put their entire life on the line. They gave you total control. Now you need to stop giving away that control to your fears. To someone else.
That picture I started the whole post with... that's me. That's how I feel and that's how I am.
I am physically and mentally fit. I am emotionally stable and optimistic. Internally and externally healthy. People tell me I am exuding vitality and they are right!
I'm spiritually connected to my baby, my husband and 5 children. I'm connected to myself, which is something I never knew I had been avoiding.
I'm self confident and I'm just in LOVE!
I made a whole infographic on the changes I've seen in myself. Below you'll see them, and the ones I've listed are the most remarkable ones. So many little things have changed for the better, but I'll leave them for you to discover for yourself in your journey.
The choice is truly yours.
All my love