Losing weight after having a baby can be challenging for many women. How to do it while feeling satisfied and energized after meals and without becoming malnourished is an even greater challenge.
The female body goes through radical shifts throughout pregnancy. Over the 36-42 weeks of gestation, her blood volume increases by 50%, oxygen consumption at rest increases 10-20%, absorption of nutrients increases, body weight goes up, blood pressure increases 5-10mmHg, and a new human is grown: it is a miracle. And darn hard work.
However, the physical demands of motherhood don’t stop after birth. Recovering from labor, breastfeeding, coping with interrupted sleep, and frequent diaper changing are but a few of the challenges new mothers face.
After so much turbulence, no one can blame them for not feeling patient to have their bodies back to their pre-pregnancy size and shape.
Tips for losing the baby weight
- Sleep. Assuming your baby doesn’t sleep, accepting help from others is essential to rest and recovery. This is especially important after the major physical overhaul of giving birth. If family and friends are willing to help, let them. Instead of trying to get errands done, nap with your baby. The first 6 weeks after having a baby is critical healing time (and not the time to try and lose weight). Losing sleep will delay recovery and make losing weight down the road more challenging. Resist the temptation to rely on sugar and/or caffeine for “energy” since they ultimately damage the body’s ability to produce energy and are addictive.
- Weight train. Don’t focus on cardio aside from walking or aerobic activities you truly enjoy. Weight training is more effective at weight loss and toning. Start with brief workouts with plenty of rest in between exercises.
- Eat a diet that is right for you and that leaves you feeling rejuvenated, free of cravings for sweets and satisfied for 2-3 hours. Breastfeeding isn’t an opportunity to overindulge because you think your body will burn up those extra calories making more milk. It does take energy to make breast milk so eat sensibly and until you are satisfied rather than overfull to expedite your results. Your diet should include plenty of fats such as organic butter, coconut oil, ghee, olive oil, and oils from raw nuts and seeds. High quality protein, preferably from organic animal sources speed up healing and muscle repair. Round out meals with your favorite carbs such as organic greens, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, zucchini (or even some higher starch carbs like root veggies or fruit in small amounts) to help keep your insulin levels low and help your body burn fat rather than store it.
- Take sanity breaks. Get out of the house for a walk, especially if you are having a hard day. Fresh air is calming to both moms and babies.
- Ongoing social support helps you stay positive and helps you get through the rough times. Friends, family or joining a new mom’s group are all ways to reinforce that you aren’t alone in this new chapter in your life.
For fitness and nutrition guidance, seek out a qualified professional who has experience working with women postpartum. Other local supportive services include:
- Nutritional guidance. A customized diet plan that meets your nutritional requirements and allows returning to a healthy body weight without feeling hungry is essential.
- Training at an appropriately intense program that doesn’t encourage additional cortisol production is important for fat loss and preventing overtraining.
- Gyms with childcare such as Toadal Fitness and Spa Fitness offer activities for children too and encourage fitness without creating a babysitting obstacle.
- Postpartum yoga or other calming activities help reduce stress.
- Stroller strides offers moms a network of other moms who exercise together and offer social support.
- Walking outside in the fresh air. Santa Cruz has great weather most of the year and plenty of beautiful places to take a stroll with or without the baby.
Even with these suggestions, it may take some women longer to return to what feels “normal” to them. Some changes will happen more quickly than others. It is reasonable for it to take anywhere from 4-12 months for most women. Given what it needs, the body knows how to heal. The real work is trusting and having patience with the process.