It took you nine months to nurture a new life after going through those amazing changes. So, why expect to get back to pre-pregnancy body shape the moment your baby is born? Isn’t it really a time to celebrate the wonderful gift of life, celebrate motherhood? Hence, it is important to keep your expectations in check and take baby steps.
Most pregnant women can lose up to 12 pounds during delivery depending on factors like newborn’s birth weight, placenta, and amniotic fluid. If the average pregnancy weight gain was between 25 and 35 pounds, you are off to a healthy start! Being on a diet, soon after giving birth, may delay your recovery, and make you feel more tired.
Give yourself until the six-week postpartum checkup before you start watching your calorie intake and actively try to slim down.
So, the question is you are not pregnant anymore, do you still need to eat healthy and in a timely fashion? Absolutely! The increased caloric and nutrient requirements of pregnancy and birth have placed unique demands on your body. Hence, it is more important that you nourish your body with a diet that is high in nutrients.
Here are a few tips that worked for me, in fact, I believe for most of us. There is no overnight fix but these suggestions can act as a springboard towards your goals.
Although shedding 10-20 pounds may seem cumbersome, breastfeeding moms can vouch for the fact that it helped them shed the weight in record time.
If you’re nursing, your calorie needs are even greater after delivery than they were during the pregnancy. Let a health practitioner determine exactly how many calories you should be eating, since the number will vary depending on your BMI before pregnancy and your activity level.
On an average, a woman needs about 2,000 calories a day, and breastfeeding women should target an extra 500 to 700 calories to maintain their current weight. To lose one pound per week, you need to create a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories per week or 500 calories less per day. It can be achieved by eating less or exercising more or combination of both.
This means that the average breastfeeding woman would be back at 2,000 calories per day to lose about a pound a week. Once breastfeeding is well established, weight loss of about a pound a week is safe and won’t affect your milk supply. If you don’t plan to breast feed, your nutritional demands are not as high, but you must still eat well balanced diet to tackle the demands of motherhood.Also check out these great tips on How to lose your post pregnancy belly
Skipping meals in attempt to lose weight will more likely make you famished which results in eating more. Instead of the traditional three big meals, have five or six well spaced out smaller meals. This will help keep your energy levels up, and you will be in better control of your diet later.
Whole-wheat pita with peanut butter, sprouted whole grains with a squeeze of lemon, hummus on a whole-wheat bagel, low-fat cheese and whole-grain crackers, handful almonds are some of the healthy options.
Breakfast like a king
There may be something to the old adage to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper. A Research at Tel Aviv University (TAU) has pointed out that people who kick start their day with a wholesome breakfast have lower levels of the hormone ghrelin, which is responsible for stimulating the appetite.
The levels were lower during the day in the breakfast group, and these women also experienced higher levels of satiety throughout the day. In addition, large breakfast eaters also had significantly lower levels of insulin, glucose, and fat in their blood.
Try to eat something more wholesome like 2 boiled eggs with a sprout toast which is much more nutritious and satisfying than the traditional sweetened cereal. Think outside the box. It could be a fruit and vegetable smoothie, a steaming bowl of soup perhaps?
Take charge of your pantry
You are motivated to eat well, but wondering where to begin? The best place to start is your kitchen. Identify your shopping and eating patterns to make necessary changes. I know how you may not have the luxury to shop, but I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have a kitchen with healthful choices. The busier you get, more likely you will indulge in whatever is available.
Chuck those cereal boxes and replace them with unsweetened muesli mix. Have some snacks like trail mix handy. Stock up on pre-cut vegetables and fruits – both frozen and fresh varieties. Cook in bulk and freeze in portions. The trick that worked for me was to focus on preparing meal ingredients instead of a meal plan. It’s a slight but significant difference.
I also found out that spending some time doing meal prep on weekends was the key to easy, healthy meals throughout the week. Crock pot recipes are my favorite.
Sleep more, weigh less
Along with diet and exercise, sleep is a key factor to post pregnancy weight loss. A study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, attempts to address the importance of sleep and sleep patterns that affect postpartum weight retention. The study followed 940 pregnant women, starting at 22 weeks of pregnancy and continuing through the first 12 months after birth.
In their analysis, the researchers looked at the link between number of hours of sleep per 24 hour period 6 months after delivery and failure to return to one’s pre-pregnancy weight (that is, retaining at least 12 or more lb at one year after giving birth). They concluded that getting five or less hours of sleep over a 24-hour period doubled the risk of substantial weight retention at one year postpartum.
Even greater risk of weight retention was found among those mothers who continued to lose sleep (i.e. actually decreased amount of sleep time) between 6 and 12 months.1 It’s thought that disruptions to the sleep cycle stimulate ghrelin. Dear mom, catch some zzz’s whenever you can.
Advancement in any physical activity beyond attending the baby and household chores will depend on how you gave birth. However, one should try and be up-and-moving relatively soon after birth. At this stage the gentle lower belly exercises and pelvic floor exercises is all it takes to help your body recover. Here are a few, as I call them anytime, anywhere exercises which take little effort but great results.
I am all for baby wearing. A proper and supportive baby sling or carrier is a must buy for new moms. This way your arms and legs are free to move. Make sure your little one is snuggled close and that you’ve positioned the supportive carrier straps properly on your back. You are ready for a brisk walk.
You can’t kegel enough! You can perform kegel exercises at anytime, anywhere. Remember the importance of strengthening your pelvic muscles. To find the right muscles, try to stop urinating in midstream. Once you’ve identified where you need to contract, try tightening those muscles for five seconds, and then relax them for five seconds. Remember to breathe. Repeat 4 to 5 times.
Something you can do while in traffic, at work meetings, or when washing dishes!
Muscles that have stretched around abdomen during pregnancy will need work to return to pre-pregnancy state. One can do stretching exercises anytime after an uncomplicated vaginal birth. Lie down flat on your back with knees bent, pulling the abdomen towards the floor. Once you can comfortably do this, you can make a gradual shift to head lifts and curls.
Just a couple minutes of yoga practice each day can speed your recovery, reconnect your mind and body, and even battle postpartum depression. You can start of with a basic Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation). It consists of 12 different poses coupled with rhythmic breathing. You finish a complete round when you have performed two consecutive sets.
You have to exhale when you bend forward and inhale when you bend backwards – it is a holistic exercise, performed slowly and gracefully. It not only relaxes your mind but also improves your balance and flexibility.
Last but not the least, there will be times when you will feel you are paddling upstream in this weight loss journey. Slow down, remember, your body just gave birth to another being, and it took nine long months to get there. Give yourself at least that time frame to take it off!
1Source: Gunderson EP, Rifas-Shiman SL, Oken E et al. Association of fewer hours of sleep at six months postpartum with substantial weight retention at 1 year postpartum. Am J Epidem. 2007; 167: 178-187.