Losing Weight After Pregnancy
Congratulations! You’ve just become a new mother! For nine months, you didn’t worry about how much you ate or how many pounds you put on. After all, you were eating for two. Thoughts about losing weight after pregnancy were shoved into the back of your mind. You secretly hoped that the “baby fat” would magically disappear once you gave birth.
As you study your body, you realize with dismay that you will have to continue to wear those maternity clothes awhile longer. No way will you fit into your regular clothes! As a matter of fact, you still look several months pregnant! Oh, how you long for your old body…the one you had BEFORE pregnancy!
Don’t fret! Don’t set your expectations too high! It took nine months to gain those pounds and, realistically, you should give yourself at least that long to lose the extra weight.
Remember, too, that your body has been working since you gave birth to return to its pre-pregnancy state. Through the help of continued uterine contractions, your belly will lose much of its still-pregnant look over the course of the next few weeks. Excess fluids that remain from your pregnancy will also gradually be expelled by your body. You may discover a month or two down the road that you have already lost several pounds and are beginning to look like your old self again!
Suggestions for Healthy Weight-loss after Pregnancy
Having a baby is hard work. The mother’s body needs adequate time to recuperate from the ordeal. Steps to lose the extra pounds that were gained during pregnancy should be taken slowly and under your doctor’s direction.
Below are some suggestions to help you achieve your weight-loss goals in a timely and healthy manner:
- Avoid dieting! As a new mother, you need to eat to keep up your strength and energy level. As your body recuperates from childbirth, it needs to be properly nourished. Additionally, taking care of a newborn can be quite demanding and exhausting. You need enough calories to keep going and to stay healthy. This is especially true if you are a nursing mother. Realistically, a nursing mother needs an extra 500 calories a day to produce a sufficient supply of milk. Consuming too few calories could, in fact, result in your body retaining those extra pounds as a natural defense against perceived imminent starvation.
- Focus on healthy foods. Stay away from junk foods that are high in “empty” calories and fat. Eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Lean meats, fish, chicken, and beans are great sources of protein. Don’t forget the milk and yogurt for your calcium needs! If you’re unsure about the best food choices and portions, refer to the U.S.D.A. Food Pyramid as a guide to nutritious meals and snacks.
- Exercise is essential for weight-loss and good health! Nevertheless, don’t rush into heavy, strenuous exercise routines. Keep in mind that post-partum recuperation can take up to eight weeks. During that time, your body needs time to rest and heal. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, “if you exercised during pregnancy and had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, it’s generally safe to begin exercising within days of delivery - or as soon as you feel ready.” (But get your doctor’s approval, first!)
- Get plenty of sleep. Not only do you need plenty of sleep to keep up with the demands of motherhood, you need plenty of sleep to ensure normal regulation of hormones and metabolism. It may be difficult to get a good night’s sleep with a new baby in the house, so napping when the baby naps is a good rule to follow. David Rapoport, MD, director of the Sleep Medicine Program at the New York University School of Medicine, reports that “sleep and sleep disruption do remarkable things to the body—including possibly influencing our weight.” A June 11, 2009 article published on the research news website, www.sciencedaily.com, suggests that lack of sleep can actually lead to weight gain. Research conducted by the Associated Professional Sleep Societies indicates that sleep-deprived individuals tend to experience a decrease in appetite and eat less, even when food is readily available. “However, they gained weight over the course of the study.”
- Drink plenty of water. Water is necessary in all bodily functions, including metabolism. Keeping the body well-hydrated will help the body burn calories more efficiently and will make you feel more energetic. Drinking plenty of water will also give you a feeling of fullness, help prevent overeating, and aid in your weight-loss efforts.
Beginning an Exercise Program for Weight-loss and Good Health
If you haven’t been engaged in regular exercise for awhile, it’s even more important to get your doctor’s approval prior to beginning an exercise program. Once you’ve been given the “go ahead,” start out slowly and gradually increase the length and intensity of your workouts as your strength and endurance improve.
Caring for a new baby takes some getting used to. Finding time to exercise may seem impossible at first, so it might be easier to break up the exercise sessions into several short segments. Even working out for 5 or 10 minutes at a time can help you get back into shape.
Treadmill walking is one of the best aerobic exercises and, perhaps, the easiest and most convenient to do with a baby. It is low-impact and can be done pretty much anywhere. You can take the baby along in a stroller or a baby carrier strapped to your body.
Aerobic exercises will help you burn calories and shed pounds, but you should also perform some resistance training to build strong muscles and bones. You don’t have to be a body builder. However, a few exercises with light weights can produce noticeable results.
Healthy weight-loss doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself and don’t set unrealistic goals. Eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of water, get plenty of sleep, and exercise. Soon you’ll be back to your old self again!
Written by Cyndi Waters, Fitness Researcher and Writer