Many new moms, relieved to shed their maternity clothes, are also looking to shed some pounds after giving birth. Luckily, you’ll find there is no big secret to losing weight after pregnancy. It takes a loving spoonful of patience, along with three things our doctors often recommend—eat right, exercise, and get adequate sleep (if you can).
It’s comforting to know, too, that losing those extra pounds at this point can give you a positive outlook on living a healthy lifestyle moving forward.
Gradual Weight Loss Is Best
Be good to your body and plan a healthy weight loss regimen. Before you start any exercise or nutrition program, get your doctor's approval.
Melinda Johnson, MS, RD, registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA) recommends a gradual approach to losing weight. "It took nine months to get there. It should take at least that long to get back to their fighting weight."
If you were over your ideal weight prior to pregnancy or added more weight than your doctor recommended, it might take longer to take the pounds off.
Get Out There and Move!
Once your doctor has given you the ok to start exercising, how and where do you begin? If you can afford it, join a local gym – or do your exercise in your living room or neighborhood.
Some gyms even offer mommy and me classes so you can include your baby in the exercise routine. If you’re at home, you can even exercise with your baby in a bouncy chair or baby swing next to you.
Start by figuring out a workable exercise schedule and stick to it. James Pivarnik, PhD, and professor of kinesiology and epidemiology at Michigan State University, recommends about 150 minutes of exercise a week. It may be hard to find big chunks of time, so try breaking it into 20- or 30-minute segments in the following:
Strength and aerobics training – Include enough strength training or aerobic exercise (like Zumba or indoor cycling) to keep fit and strong.
Brisk walking – Walking around your block while pushing your baby in a stroller can get your heart pumping and legs moving.
Yoga – This improves flexibility and the ability to calm your mind, helping to relieve stress.
“Dos and Don’ts” to Shed Post-Baby Pounds
Don’t diet! - Going on a fad "diet" could disrupt your post-baby weight loss goals. Depriving yourself of favorite foods while under stress could cause you to put on weight!
Do eat a variety of healthy foods – Keep snacks like apples, baby carrots, and roasted almonds in your house to hold your appetite at bay.
Don’t go below 1,800 calories a day – Check the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPyramid site to get guidelines for an eating plan based on your age, activity, and goals for weight loss. You’ll even find a special section for breastfeeding mothers.
Do fill up on "super foods” – New moms need the best nutrition possible, particularly if you’re nursing your baby. Pick foods that have the nutrients you need, but that are low in fat and calories.
Do choose fish – If you’re nursing, this is an excellent food selection. Fish is loaded with DHA, an essential omega-3 fatty acid that helps your baby’s brain and nervous system development. Best choices include cold-water fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna (stick to canned light tuna because albacore tends to be high in mercury).
Do enjoy milk and yogurt – As long as you and your baby are not allergic to these superfoods, they can help boost your calcium intake to maintain bone strength.
Do eat lean meat, chicken, and beans – Low in fat, these food choices are high in protein and keep you feeling full for longer periods.
Assess Your Everyday Eating Routine
When you were expecting, maybe you changed your eating behavior to ensure your baby’s healthy development. Now your own proper nutrition is key—particularly if you’re breastfeeding your newborn. Keep this in mind as you make your food choices:
Eat lots of fruits and veggies. These foods are high in fiber, and offer important nutrients. They have the added benefit of making you feel full for a longer period of time.
Take smaller portions. Instead of having just three big meals a day, opt for more meals—in smaller amounts.
Eat only when you're hungry. If you're anxious or nervous or if you simply think it's time to eat, distract yourself. Take your baby for a walk, call a friend, or read a magazine.
Skip the junk-food snacks. Keep candy and cookies in a place not easily accessible. That way, you’ll be less likely to give into temptation.
Get Enough ZZZZs
Sleep 7 hours, at least – If you’re sleep deprived from attending to a crying baby through the night, it could be harder to shed weight. Moms who sleep less than five hours a night hold onto their extra post-baby pounds more than those that sleep seven hours or more.
Stop the stress – Did you know that when you’re tired, your body also releases stress hormones like cortisol. These can promote weight gain.
"Sleep when your baby sleeps" – Family and friends probably advised you to do this, and it’s good advice! Catching as many Zs as you can during the day (until your baby sleeps through the night) and going to bed early will help you meet your overall fitness goals.
Ask Others for Help
If you're having a hard time sticking to your weight-loss plan, get help from your doctor and dietitian. They can help you create a meal program to shed weight safely. Remember to be patient, and you’ll be wearing those pre-baby jeans before you know it!