Finally, the wait is over. Your beautiful baby is here. Now the hard work starts! You’ll be busy thinking about when to feed your baby, what to do when he or she cries, how to get your baby to sleep, and of course how to lose your pregnancy weight.
The ease at which you lose baby weight depends a lot on your starting point. If you began with an average weight and gained around 25-30 pounds during pregnancy it could take as little as a few months to move the additional weight. Although that depends on your nutritional approach and how regularly you exercise.
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Perhaps you were already overweight prior to pregnancy, or you put on a larger amount of weight during your 9 month labour. If so it could take significantly longer to shift it. Pre pregnancy weight and excessive gestational weight gain are the biggest influencers of postpartum weight retention.
Every new mom wants to see herself as she looked pre-pregnancy. But one thing you must keep in mind is the need for patience. Ignore the stories of your favourite celebrity mom suddenly transforming into a pre-pregnant version of themselves. Celebrities do it with strict diets and exercise which their body is sometimes not ready for, not to mention the luxury of dedicated personal trainers on hand at all times.
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A gradual approach to weight loss is best post pregnancy. It took nine months to gain your additional weight. To completely lose pregnancy weight allow yourself at least the same time period. The good news for many moms is that pounds often seem to melt off initially from breastfeeding and other hormonal shifts that boost metabolism post delivery. Dr Emily Oken suggests “most women naturally lose much of the weight they gained… without much effort”. Although, eventually you hit the dreaded weight loss plateau where your clothes aren’t getting looser and stubborn weight stays put.
So how should you go about losing pregnancy weight? The following tips are useful for new moms eager to get back to their pre-pregnancy form. Not only will this advice assist with long-term success, it will help you feel good about yourself along the way.
Wait Until Your Body Is Ready
Before you embark on any weight loss program you must ensure your body is ready. Delivering a baby is extremely taxing on your body and it needs time to recover. Don’t put pressure on yourself to lose extra weight or get back into shape too quickly. Allow ample time to recover and to start to develop a routine with your baby… only then is it time to think about how to shed your pregnancy weight.
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Don’t Go On A Diet
Dieting soon after delivery of your baby will not only leave you feeling tired and impact your recovery, studies have also linked a calorie restricted diet of less than 1500 calories per day with a 15 percent reduction in milk volume. In fact, while breastfeeding your bodies caloric and nutrient needs are increased – requiring more protein, magnesium, zinc, calcium and several other vitamins to assist in lactation.
Further, the National Academy of Science warns against anyone dropping below 1800 calories per day during lactation due to a resultant decrease in the nutrient base of a mother’s milk.
Be Realistic With Your Weight Loss
No mother likes the feeling of being ‘big’ and often mom’s are in a hurry to return to their pre-pregnancy weight. However, it’s important to be realistic about weight loss. The ‘Nutrition During Lactation’ report cautions against losing more than 4 pounds per month after delivery, which it defines as ‘rapid weight loss’.
Sadly you may find you’re unable to return to your exact pre baby body. For many women, pregnancy causes permanent changes including a larger waistline, softer belly, and wider hips. Kathleen Rasmussen, a Professor of Maternal and Child Nutrition, says woman on average retain 2.5 to 5 pounds after having a baby. Keep this in mind when you’re setting goals for yourself relating to your post pregnancy body.
Embrace Regular Exercise
Most mothers know there is no magic pill to help reduce belly fat. A combo of healthy eating with regular exercise is the most effective and sensible way to lose pregnancy weight.
While healthy eating is the driving force, exercise is still important. A 1999 study by Sampselle et al demonstrated women who were active retained significantly less weight postpartum (8.6 pounds) than their inactive counterparts (11.3 pounds).
Walking is a great way to ease your way back into exercise post child birth. Most women can start walking soon after the baby is born. If you’re interested in more vigorous activity, such as weight training, it’s important to wait until your body is truely ready, and to seek advice from a qualified professional on an appropriate start date.
Take It Slow
Avoid setting unachievable goals. To reduce a single pound per week you need a calorie deficit of 3500 calories or 500 calories per day. A pound per week is probably a good rule of thumb or target at the outset. Anything more aggressive and you’ll find your energy levels and mood could be affected, not to mention the nutrition of your baby.
Eat Healthy Foods Regularly
One of the luxuries of being a stay at home mom is the ability to eat a healthy diet. No grabbing unhealthy snacks as your race to your next appointment or meeting. You can fill the cupboards with healthy food choices and they are available 24/7. For a list of healthy food options when breastfeeding click here.
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Avoid skipping meals. Not only will this impact your energy levels but it can also affect your metabolic rate (and calorie burning potential). You may also find you overcompensate on unhealthy snacks later in the day. Try to consume small healthy meals at regular intervals to maintain a feeling of fullness, curb your appetite and stabilize blood sugar levels.
Prepare A Weekly Food Plan
A weekly food plan is a useful tool to take the guesswork and stress out of daily meal preparation. A meal plan allows you to control meals for calories and nutrient intake and removes the hard work of deciding what to eat when meal time rolls around. You can consult a nutritionist for specific advice on foods to optimise the health or your baby, or spend some time researching food choices online to plan for the week ahead.
Remember to give yourself a sufficient amount of time to transform back into pre-pregnancy shape. Keep in mind that after giving birth your body shape will change a lot and returning back to the exact pre-pregnancy weight might prove difficult. Avoid giving yourself a hard time. Set a target for each month but make sure you goals are achievable.
Remember, your priority is your baby, and you need to focus on him or her, as well as your own health. So, new moms are you ready to shed pregnancy weight? Don’t give up. Stick to your plan and you can achieve your goals.