Motherhood hit Cassi Villaneuva like a tornado. When her twins arrived eight months ago, the twenty-nine-year-old brunette says her world turned upside down. The once-active runner who had exercised through most of her pregnancy until pre-term contractions confined her to bed rest, lost all of her momentum and motivation by the time she delivered little Maggie and Micah. And she had no idea why.
“The first six weeks were just like dark,” recalls Villanueva, who later learned she was battling postpartum depression. When she was finally diagnosed, her doctor also gave her the green light to go back to the gym. She believes this was a crucial step in regaining her sanity.
“Exercise saved my life,” she says.
But on that first gentle work out, she had no idea how it would change her mental outlook, especially when she didn’t even recognize her own body.
“My body was broken ... I just felt like this beached whale that was trying to walk on the treadmill,” she remembers.
Slowly, she built up her endurance and returned to low impact kickboxing. In time, as she got stronger and slimmed down, her spirits and energy levels rose. Breastfeeding helped speed her weight loss to a point. But she eventually had to focus more on what she was eating in order to fit back into her old jeans. So Villanueva, who lives outside Atlanta, initially followed a low carb/South Beach approach and eventually moved to a more informal overall healthy eating plan with a conscious effort to avoid processed foods. Although the last fifteen pounds of the thirty-six she gained came off more slowly, eight months postpartum, she says she is now fitter and stronger than she was before motherhood.
“Today, I strength train three days a week and run four days a week. I have lost my weight, gained muscle and endurance through nothing but hard work, healthy eating, and a lot of discipline,” says Villanueva, who works part-time and credits her husband with supporting her by babysitting so she can go to the gym in the evenings.
With two healthy new babies, a stronger body and sense of self, Villanueva says she’s even thinking about training for a marathon.
“The body and the mind are so connected and when we take care of our bodies and build back physically, we get in touch with our minds,” she says.
Photo courtesy of The Well Mom