Mariel Rodriguez-Padilla opens up about her struggles with motherhood

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Post-baby weight gain is something that many new moms struggle with. Mariel Rodriguez-Padilla talks about the challenges of losing weight as a mom and regaining her self-confidence. Photo by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Mariel Rodriguez-Padilla has always been candid about her struggles with motherhood. She was open about the two miscarriages she suffered in 2015, talking about the experiences in interviews and on social media. Yet when she finally gave birth to her baby girl Isabella, she seemed to slowly shy away from the spotlight. She turned down job offers and didn’t want to be seen out in public.

Motherhood had apparently taken a toll on her body.

In order to provide an adequate supply of breast milk for her baby, Mariel had to eat more than usual. Before she knew it, her weight had shot up higher than she ever expected. When she finally took notice, she said she felt like she had lost herself. “I felt like I wasn't myself anymore because I couldn't see her anymore,” she says.

Post-baby weight gain is a common struggle for new moms, and hormones play a big role in that. According to Dr. Regie Layug of Marie France, the pituitary gland secretes a hormone called prolactin, which prepares the body for lactation by producing 10 to 15 lbs. of fat. “When you look at it, a mother is really supposed to gain weight and fat in preparation for breastfeeding,” she says.

With the amount of work moms have to put in to take care of their baby, coupled with sleepless nights from breastfeeding, many moms cannot find the time or the energy to work out or even diet. For Mariel, having to pump every two hours kept her from getting any proper sleep.

There’s also the concept of “mother’s guilt,” or that feeling of not doing enough to take care of their kids, which Mariel also shares she experienced. This feeling often keeps moms from spending too much time away from their baby, making what should be a simple trip to the gym a trigger for separation anxiety.

“Without any regular physical activity, the fat stays there even after the baby comes out,” says Dr. Layug.

To combat this problem, Mariel underwent various programs with Marie France to shed off the post-natal weight and she slowly regained a sense of confidence again. She started her weight loss program with Plasti-Dermi Treatment (PDT), which helps break down stubborn fat. Physique Inch-Loss helped tone her skin and trim excess inches, and FMS Elite melted fat by speeding up calorie-burning.

Two other treatments she swears by are the Thermo Magnetic Pulse, a fat-reducing, body-recontouring, skin-tightening slimming solution, and the Endermologie+, which she likens to a hard massage. Now, months after constantly undergoing the various treatments, she is more than 40 lbs. lighter than she was at her heaviest.

We sat down with Mariel Rodriguez-Padilla to talk about her weight loss journey, her struggles with motherhood, self-esteem, and “mom guilt.” Below are edited excerpts from the interview.

Mariel and daughter2.png Mariel and her daughter Isabella, before she started undergoing treatments with Marie France. Mariel had to gain weight in order to properly breastfeed Isabella. Photo courtesy of MARIE FRANCE

The procedures you underwent, these were all non-invasive?

Non-invasive procedures, no downtime. I'm not really a workout-y kind of person. Before, I would say that the dream weight loss solution would be wherein you can just watch TV. And I'm doing just that. I am lying down, watching T.V., losing weight! That was my dream always and I'm doing it. And I'm proud of it, okay? I really am.

I mean, not everyone gets to lie down while losing weight. I'm so proud of it because really I always say ‘sana habang natutulog ka pumapayat ka.’ ‘Yun ang ginagawa ko. Because when I was breastfeeding I was so puyat. I really hardly slept.

So you spent that time to relax...

It was the time that I slept. Because I was pumping [breast milk] every two hours. So talagang, I asked them, “Am I the only client who comes here who sleeps?” Sabi nila “Ma'am meron din naman pong mga clients na nagpupunta dito natutulog, pero kayo po ‘yung pinaka.” [Laughs].

I guess you could say that that type of treatment is perfect for moms, then?

Correct, perfect for moms. Kasi, you know honestly, ‘yung mga moms they have to cook, then if they don't cook they have to think of what they're going to feed their children, so they have to prepare for that, they have to go to the grocery. They have to do so many things. They don't only take care of their kids, they take care of their husbands too.

And so, at some point, you sort of have to take care of yourself. To be able to take care of them you have to take care of yourself also, right? So the last thing that is really on your mind is, ‘Oh let me hit the gym.’ I don't know, ah. I mean I'm sure there are lots of moms who can do that and I have nothing against that. If that's what works, I’m happy for you. But really, ako I was so tired already, I was so sleep deprived, so nothing would have been more perfect.

Self-care is so uso these days, and what you did seems very much like an act of self-care.

Yes. Pero kasi as a mom, merong “mom guilt.” So what I did was sinama ko siya with me. Para hindi naman siya alone.

Kasi ang hirap na parang makikita mo tapos “O kumain ba?” So parang, hindi ka parang na-absent in her life.

I know that based on the things that you've shared online, your journey to motherhood was quite challenging, but through childbirth and afterwards, was it as challenging?

The giving birth part was actually the easiest part. I mean, yeah it was the most painful part ever, I've never experienced pain like that. Like when I gave birth to her I said “Only child. That's all.” [Laughs]. Kasi sobrang sakit. Pero when I look back, ‘yun pala ‘yung pinakamadali. It's actually raising her, taking care of her, the sleepless nights, diba? And again, like what I've mentioned to my other interviews, it wasn't what I pictured.

I had this beautiful image that we would be beautiful, I would be beautiful, and we would have those happy moments smiling in pictures ... I didn't have that because my baby was crying a lot. Why? She was hungry. I didn't have a lot of milk. That's why I had to eat so much so that I would have milk to feed her. And I'm very proud to say I was able to fully breastfeed her for 14 months.

Photo-3 (3).jpg "At one point I just accepted it. That I was big. Because I knew that I was doing it for my baby and I wouldn't have it any other way," says Mariel. "If for example it's still really the only way I could nourish her, I'd still do it again. And I felt really fulfilled doing that." Photo by JL JAVIER

Motherhood really does change your body in so many ways. Were you prepared for that? Did someone tell you to be ready for all of those changes?

It was funny because when I was pregnant I was afraid of stretch marks. I was so concerned about the stretch marks that every five minutes I would put cream. Oil, cream, everything.

I think it worked because I don't have a lot of stretch marks. Pero hindi ko in-expect na I would balloon that much. That it would be like that like, everything was fat, even my fingers. No rings fit me. Feeling ko nga pati ‘yung earlobes ko tumaba eh. As in lahat talaga. Fat was distributed everywhere. So yes, the body changes. I didn't have shoes and no, I was not prepared for it. So that's why it came to me as a big shock, syempre first time mom pa.

But you said you had to gain weight to breastfeed, diba? Why do you think that even if it’s essential to put on the weight there is still that pressure to look a certain way?

Well at one point I just accepted it. That I was big. Because I knew that I was doing it for my baby and I wouldn't have it any other way. If for example it's still really the only way I could nourish her, I'd still do it again. And I felt really fulfilled doing that.

But at the same time, I felt like I wasn't myself anymore because I couldn't see her anymore. Like, literally, ito with no exaggeration, there was a time I passed by a mirror, I did this “Huh!” Kasi nagulat ako talaga. As in I didn't want to see myself in the mirror.

Did you ever have issues with your weight in the past?

My weight was always yo-yo naman...

Then also even without me knowing, when I saw the videos from Marie France [when I was bigger], even my body gestures wala siyang confidence. And I didn't know. I didn't know that I looked like ... that I was exuding that. I didn't know it until I saw it. ‘Yung mga gestures pala na ‘yun, na my hands are here [in front of me], parang feeling ko dati hindi naman ako ganun ka-insecure. Pero ‘yun pala, it was really there. Akala mo OK lang kasi you're telling yourself na you're doing it for your baby, and then when I see it, it's like, she's really someone else.

Photo-1 (2).jpg Now 40 lbs. lighter after various treatments, Mariel wants to let other moms struggling with their weight know that they are not alone. "There are so many moms out there who are going through the same thing that I went through ... It really happens." Photo by JL JAVIER

Kasi you were very vocal about the weight gain, you shared talaga on Instagram the time when you were...

When I was super fat? I only shared that now. During that time I was fat? You won’t see a lot of photos. I couldn't post them. It was just now wherein I could just look back kasi it was a phase that I am over with. Pero during that time, I couldn't talk about it. So many people were asking me for interviews if I could talk about motherhood, I said I'm still in this phase wherein I'm not yet ready. I wasn't ready to talk about it because I was still going through something.

But was it a conscious decision? To show people na parang, when celebrities get pregnant and they give birth, minsan instantly ang ganda na nung katawan nila. But in reality, that’s not how it works. But then people assume that's what motherhood is supposed to be. That it's so easy.

Exactly, but we are a lot. I'm not the only one and there are so many moms out there who are going through the same thing that I went through, and I want them to know that they are not alone. It really happens.

But you have to do something about it. You can't wallow and be like ... you can't be okay with it. You can't be like, OK, this is the new me and we all just have to live with it. I mean, not unless you're really OK with it. If you really like it diba then OK! We're not judging you. Pero if you yourself are not happy, do something about it because no one else will.