Let me begin by saying that today’s interviewee, Valerie Merriweather, is my hero! Seriously. If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you may remember a post I wrote two years ago about losing the baby weight from my first pregnancy.
It’s a kind of a long post, so to sum things up, with my first pregnancy, I gained over 40 pounds (yes, well, over 40 pounds). I lost all but 15 pounds of my baby weight by seven weeks postpartum through just breastfeeding and eating crap and sitting on my couch watching Lifetime movies. Literally.
After seven weeks, however, and even with diet and exercise, the last pounds just would not budge. So like any “good”
neurotic, weight conscious mom would, I went online. And it was there that I came across Valerie Merriweather’s answers to the questions of breastfeeding moms on the Discovery Health forums. I followed her advice, ate more of the right foods, added weight training, etc. and lost all my baby weight (and some) by five to six months postpartum.
Even now at four months postpartum with my second daughter, her responses are proving invaluable in my postpartum weight loss journey.
I love her, and I know you will, too!
Jessica: So, to begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and your background in health and fitness?
Valerie: I’m a wife to an amazing husband and mom to four wonderful children! I’ve lived in the Silver Spring (Maryland) area for eight years after relocating from northern California. I’ve been a fitness fanatic for as long as I can remember. I was a ballet dancer as a teenager, danced with the Howard University Dance Ensemble and taught aerobics classes in my dorm room. I received my degree in Radiation Therapy as well as a Master’s in Health Administration from The Ohio State University. Shortly after graduation, I worked as a healthcare consultant and a Health Education Manager for Kaiser Permanente.
Jessica: So how did you get started as a personal trainer/entrepreneur?
Valerie: There were two significant events that started the process for my fitness career. In early 2000, I worked with several doctors who were overwhelmed by the number of kids developing Type 2 Diabetes. At the time, they didn’t know that the ideal way to address this issue and I thought to myself that the best way to reach the children is through the parents, specifically the mom. I started thinking about ways to help moms get healthy and be a role model for their families. The second event happened after I had my first child. Even though I was pretty active before and during pregnancy, after delivery, my body felt very different! Not only was I recovering from childbirth and an emergency C-section, I wanted to work my abs but didn’t know where to start. I began researching the best ways to get my body back after baby and soon afterwards began preparing for my fitness career.
Jessica: That’s awesome! I actually think our post-baby fitness stories are similar in many ways. In my story, I began researching, found your advice on Discovery Health, and starting exercising and eating better and the weight came off. Now, with two kids, I’m still using your advice. But this time, with two kids, things are bit more “tricky.” Which leads me to my next question, how do you do it as a mom of four kids?!?
Valerie: First, I take one day at a time and I encourage all moms to do the same! Most time-management books say to plan quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. I tried that and it got pretty frustrating and here’s why: if you’re a busy mom like me, an ear infection can de-rail your entire week! I start my week with a best-case scenario plan (e.g. no illnesses, no hubby travel, no early release school days) and then I plan from there. I consider my time every day and make sure that I schedule my workouts that can range from 15 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. I stay flexible and always have a plan if my plan changes. For example, if I can’t get to the gym, I jump rope and do a quick strength training routine that builds in cardio. My motto is that you have to make time for you. I like to call it “Me time.” I encourage all my moms to get in the habit of making “Me Time” while their kids are little, that way they’ll hit a stride by the time they get older.
Jessica: That’s such a clever idea that, at least, for me makes my current workout goals feel more important to my long-term health. Now, I want to talk about pregnancy fitness. You said earlier that you stayed fit before and during your pregnancy. Can you explain to MNR’s readers why this is important?
Valerie: I tell moms that they should get in the best shape of their life before pregnancy – seriously! This isn’t about vanity either. Studies show that if a woman is overweight before pregnancy, she has a greater risk of getting gestational diabetes and hypertension; conditions which could lead to preeclampsia and other complications. Here’s the other thing; for every pound you’re over weight, you run the risk of gaining more weight with each pregnancy. For example, if you’re carrying an extra 15 pounds after baby #1, after baby #2 you could have an extra 30 pounds to take off and guess what? As you age, weight gets a little harder to lose. You get settled, your routine revolves around family and then you look up and ask yourself how did this happen? It’s as subtle as the scenario above and I work with so many women who can’t understand how they let themselves go. The reality is that the subtle weight gain can be traced back up to 10 years!
Jessica: Okay, so exercising before and during pregnancy is important, but what exercises should pregnant moms be doing to ensure that they stay healthy?
Valerie: Some easy exercises during pregnancy to stay fit include brisk walking, swimming, and the elliptical. I am a real believer in strength training especially since moms-to-be lift all the time (car seats anyone?). The key is to think about the kind of movements you’ll be doing and mimic those moves in your training. Pushing, pulling, squatting and twisting are moves that you’ll need to master so you can take care of your little ones.
Jessica: I love that idea! And it makes so much sense. Thank you for that! Now…we have a lot to cover, but let’s stop here for today and come back with a part 2 on how to lose the baby weight and breastfeeding for weight loss.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for part 2 of our interview. If you have any questions for anything Valerie’s said in this interview, leave a comment on today’s post and she’ll answer you that way! See you tomorrow!!
Valerie Merriweather is the founder of Fitwell Training Solutions. She’s a wife, mom to four kids, and lives in the Silver Spring, MD area. Her wisdom on health and fitness has been featured in articles appearing on She Knows and Discovery Health.