How Katherine Heigl got in shape after having her baby

And baby makes five! On Dec. 20, 2016, Grey's Anatomy alum Katherine Heigl and husband Josh Kelley welcomed another child into the fold. The little boy — named Joshua Bishop Kelley Jr. — rounded out the family, joining big sisters Adalaide and Naleigh. 

While it's impossible not to marvel at the body's ability to create and nurture a tiny human for nearly 10 months, it can also feel impossible not to dwell on the havoc that incubation wreaks. Although most of the pains and quirks subside once that precious bundle is born, women are often left with a tangible reminder: baby weight. 

But a little over a year after Joshua Jr.'s arrival, Heigl had managed to reclaim her pre-baby body. It's easy to imagine that, being a celebrity, she accomplished her fitness goals with a veritable team of trainers, personal chefs, and wellness gurus. Refreshingly, though, the down-to-earth actress (and busy mom) got in shape after having her baby through good old fashioned hard work. Keep reading for more details on her healthy transformation. 

Classic new mom cardio — the stroller push

After giving birth, you need to ease back into an exercise routine — doctor's orders. But once you get the go-ahead to start breaking a sweat again, pushing a stroller is arguably the most ideal activity. After all, you have to do it anyway, right? Plus, it gives mama and baby a chance to soak up some much-needed vitamin D and take in the fresh outdoor air. Just ask Katherine Heigl

On Feb. 8, 2017 — around seven weeks after little Joshua Jr. was born — the actress returned to physical activity with some classic mom cardio. "1st day back on the exercise postpartum and I'm feeling fine!" she shared on Instagram, joking about her new mom ensemble of a sweatshirt (with her face on it, no less), a fanny pack, and an Ol' Miss ski hat.

On her blog, Heavenly Days, Heigl elaborated in August 2017 that it took around two months after birth until she "finally felt up to getting some hikes in twice a week." 

Watching what she eats (but not depriving herself)

For Heigl, the gift of perspective proved to be an unexpected side effect of pregnancy. "The years of deprivation, counting every single calorie, completely eliminating major food groups and setting unreasonable weight goals are over," she explained on her blog in August 2017, noting that she didn't want to pass body image issues on to her daughters. Heigl emphasized that pregnancy made her more body-positive and freed her from "body shaming that has been such a persistent part of my life for so long." 

In keeping with this new-and-improved relationship with food, Heigl doesn't obsess over what she eats. She simply sticks to wholesome, nutritious meals chock full of healthy ingredients. 

She accomplishes this by downloading EatingWell's weekly meal plans, taking advantage of HelloFresh's meal delivery service, and preparing meals at home. For the latter, Heigl sources super-fresh local food — as in, she picks veggies from her own garden for dishes like late harvest tomato spaghetti. Yum! 

Carving out "me time"

Nobody is saying motherhood isn't incredibly rewarding. It absolutely is. As the saying goes, though, you can't be the best mother possible if you don't also invest in yourself. For Heigl, this revelation was a long time coming — but, after having kids, it hit her hard.

"It became abundantly clear to me that I needed to find a way to instill peace and ease into my daily life," Heigl wrote on her blog in September 2017. Often, the actress-slash-mom's "me time" involves meditation in the sacred space she set up in her home. "It's really pretty simple but for me it has been life changing. It has helped me to become a much better version of myself. I am more often than not the mother I want to be. The wife I want to be. The friend, sister, daughter I want to be.

Other days, finding time to focus on herself turns out to be less existential — whether that means spending a "super chill" Saturday lounging in the pool, taking a quick getaway sans-kids, or reconnecting with high school girlfriends for a long-overdue ladies' trip.  

Mastering the art of positive thinking

If you're betting Heigl has a secret weapon stashed up her sleeve, you're right. However, it's probably not what you suspect. For Heigl, an integral part of losing weight in a healthy way has been something everyone is capable of: thinking positive. 

"My best weight loss advice is to start every morning by saying out loud a positive mantra of your choice about your body. Mine is 'I am easily, with good health, inspiration, grace, and gratitude losing weight faster than I can even imagine with harm to none,'" Heigl revealed on Heavenly Days in August 2017. In addition to her mantra, the star expresses her "gratefuls" — thanking her body for endowing her with things like strength and beauty (even when she doesn't entirely feel those things are true).

In doing so, Heigl swears she's created a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. "The difference I've found in doing the work with a loving and positive attitude versus an anxious, frustrated and negative one is that the weight really does seem to just fall away with less struggle," she said. 

Practicing total self-care

Going hand-in-hand with carving out "me time" is holding space for all the things that make Heigl feel happy and healthy — and for the actress, that includes pampering her skin and body with beauty treatments. Or, in her own words, "a few things that help me look and feel my most beautiful."

In a two-part series on her blog in November 2017, Heigl divulged all of her favorite finds for feeling just that. These products range from face washes designed to fight off cystic acne (which she's been prone to since she turned 18) to serums that target pregnancy-induced hyper-pigmentation.

But Heigl really raves about the transformative effect of one particular kind of self-care: getting faux lashes. "Spending an hour and a half on my back with my eyes closed while Kelly, the great gal who expertly applied my lashes, did her work was probably the best spent me time I've had in awhile," Heigl wrote on Heavenly Days, adding that the kids can't stop commenting on how pretty she looks. 

Bikin' and hikin' with her favorite guy

Heigl wasn't joking around back in August 2017 when she noted on Heavenly Days that she was "more motivated" to go on hikes if she had a buddy. And, for Heigl, there's no better buddy than her better half — her musician husband Josh Kelley. This couldn't have been more clear by the time December 2017 rolled around, when Heigl began sharing the hilarious aftermath of her husband's extracurricular persuasions. 

"I let @joshbkelley talk me into a bike ride with him and let me tell you, the couple that bikes together, stays together," Heigl shared on Instagram on Dec. 14. "At least until the end of the ride at which point, the wife talked into this ludicrous adventure, races into the house, grabs a bag of ice for her lady parts, calls a divorce lawyer and files for everything." Ha! 

Happily, Kelley made it up to his lovely wife (and her bruised nether-regions) by springing for her very own bike — "with a seat that is far less abusive," according to Heigl. Whew, right? The cute couple now continues to cycle together, throwing in the occasional hike for good measure. 

Getting her "Bikini Body Guide" fitness on

When you work hard to get your pre-baby body back, it's only natural to want to document your progress — especially when you've done it in such a healthy, body-positive way like Heigl did. In February 2018, the star took to Instagram to share just how far she's come (and how).

"It's been almost 14 months since Joshua Jr. was born and it has taken me about that long to really get back in shape," she captioned a collage of three photos: the first taken a month after the baby's birth, the second a year later, and the third in February. The results, well, they speak for themselves. But how exactly did Heigl find the abs she knew were "buried under that belly somewhere"?

As she explains in the Instagram post, Heigl turned to online fitness trainer Kayla Itsines' Bikini Body Guide workout program. The workouts — which the star calls "real a** kickers" — are also featured on the Sweat app, which Heigl utilized to "help get my butt back up where it belongs." 

Readjusting to the work groove

As heartbreaking as it can be to say goodbye to your brand-new baby after being home for an extended time post-birth, many women eventually do have to return to work. While Heigl had the luxury of drawing hers out longer than the typical maternity leave, she, too, struggled with picking up where she left off career-wise. 

In an April 2018 post on Heavenly Days titled "Transitions," Heigl chronicled all of the moments she stands to miss: bedtime kisses, school plays, birthday parties, and even Joshua Jr.'s first steps. "It goes without saying that the missing is hard," she opened up. "On me and my kids. I will not tell you it's always worth it, it's not, but it is the choice I made the day I welcomed my first baby into my heart. I chose to be a mother and I chose to continue to work."

So back to acting she went, which — bonus! — boasted some physical benefits. On April 10, the actress shared a snapshot from the set of the TV show Suits in which she's getting prepped to kick-box. Get it, girl! 

Just mommin', y'all

Mothers may not punch a time card each day, but there's no doubt they're working. Being a mom requires endless amounts of hustle and heart in equal measure. It's kind of a running joke among moms that losing the baby weight is a byproduct of trying to keep up with your tiny human (once the toddling begins, life remains in constant motion). In fact, according to ModernMom, a Harvard Medical School study found that simply playing with your child for half an hour burns around 150 calories. Chasing them? Well, that'll net you a whoppin' 460 calories or more burned.

Considering Katherine Heigl has three precious little ones, she undoubtedly torches calories on a daily basis just doing her mom thing. She certainly doesn't seem to mind the extra exertion, though.

"This divine family @joshbkelley and I have created has defined my purpose, grounded my existence and filled every nook, cranny, and corner of my souls with the most profound love," she gushed on Instagram in May 2018. "I wish I had an even bigger word than gratitude, perhaps grace. Either way, my cup runneth over."