There are many reasons why you may want to lose baby weight after pregnancy.
Perhaps your clothes don’t fit, or it’s because you feel uncomfortable and want to get back into shape for the new year.
Whatever your reason, there are plenty of ways that can help you shed those pounds and keep them off!
While many of us wish we could magically lose all those extra pregnancy pounds the moment the baby finally arrives, the fact is no one — not even celebs! — snaps right back to her pre-baby body so quickly.
If there’s anything we know, it’s that achieving a healthy weight post-baby can be a struggle.
It can be stressful taking care of a newborn, adjusting to a new routine, and recovering from childbirth. It’s a lot.
However, it’s essential to return to a healthy weight after delivery, especially if you plan to become pregnant again in the future.
We’ll go over some effective methods to help you achieve a healthy postpartum weight so you can take on parenthood with a pep in your step.
Here’s some background on what “baby weight” is, why it happens during pregnancy, and why it won’t be needed after a baby makes its appearance in the world.
Depending on the size of your newborn, which is usually between five and 10 pounds, and the precise weight of your amniotic fluid and placenta, which you deliver at birth, most pregnant women can lose up to 12 pounds during delivery.
Considering that women of average weight should gain between 25 and 35 pounds in pregnancy, that’s a healthy start!
Your healthcare providers may also have a different recommendation based on your own needs.
According to research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, pregnancy weight gain consists of:
- the baby
- amniotic fluid
- breast tissue
- uterus enlargement
- extra fat stores
The extra fat acts as an energy reserve for birth and breastfeeding. However, excess weight gain can result in too much fat.
This is what people generally refer to as “baby weight,” and it’s widespread.
Nearly half of all pregnant women gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy.
The consequences of keeping on some of this extra weight after pregnancy include:
- increased risk of being overweight
- heightened risk of diabetes and heart disease
- greater risk of complications during pregnancy
- higher health risks for women with gestational diabetes
The following list provides evidence-based tips to help you lose the extra pounds.
Practical Tips To Lose Baby Weight After Pregnancy
Here are some tips to help you lose weight after pregnancy and fit back into your old jeans — whatever their size.
Setting Realistic Weight-Loss Goals After Baby
After you deliver, you will slowly lose weight. You may want to speed things along by working with your doctor to set a safe, reasonable goal.
A good rule of thumb is to lose no more than one and a half pounds per week, which would be a calorie deficit of 3,500 to 5,250 calories per week, or 500 to 750 a day.
While many new mothers ditch the bulk of their pregnancy pounds by the baby’s 6-month birthday, everyone sheds weight at their own pace. Many factors have been proven to affect your weight loss journey.
The first one is your age: Your metabolism slows down by about 2 per cent every decade after age 25, so you burn fewer calories at rest as you get older.
Another is your Diet — when you eat more protein than carbs and eat larger meals earlier in the day, your body burns more calories and works more efficiently.
And lastly, other factors include your activity level — the more you move, the more calories you burn — and your natural metabolism, determined by your genes.
Keep in mind, too, that especially if you gained more than 35 pounds during your pregnancy, it could take extra time — from 10 months to two years — to bounce back.
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Going on an official “diet” could derail your post-pregnancy weight loss goals.
Feeling deprived of your favourite foods while you’re already stressed out by your new role as mom could cause you to gain weight.
If you go back to eating healthy and eating for your hunger, most women find that the weight comes off pretty naturally.
Instead of dieting, we recommend eating a well-balanced variety of foods.
Keep different snacks in the house to keep you from feeling hungry and give you energy throughout the day. For example, apple slices, carrot sticks, and wheat crackers are all good for nothing.
Maintain a Well-Balanced, Post-Baby Diet
Since your body needs ample rest and nutrition to recover from delivery, fend off infection and feed your baby, you shouldn’t even think about dieting until your baby is at least six weeks old or older — no matter how anxious you are to squeeze back into your pre-pregnancy clothes.
Once you feel ready to start a post-baby diet and you’ve gotten the OK from your doctor, make sure you’re still eating enough calories.
Crash dieting isn’t just risky for you: If you’re breastfeeding and don’t eat enough calories, your body ends up producing less milk — which means your hungry, the growing baby goes on a diet with you.
What’s more, burning fat too quickly can trigger the release of toxins that end up in breast milk.
Even if you’re not nursing, eating too few calories can make your body think you’re starving.
This confusion can slow down your metabolism, making it harder to shed those extra pounds in the long run.
Remember, if you’re nursing, your calorie needs are even more significant during the first six months after delivery than they were during the last trimester of pregnancy.
Your doctor can help determine precisely how many calories you should be eating since the number will vary depending on your BMI before pregnancy and your activity level.
To put things in perspective, the average woman needs about 2,000 calories a day, and breastfeeding women should tack on an extra 500 calories to maintain their current weight.
To lose one pound, though, you need to create a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories per week, or 500 calories less per day, by eating less or exercising more — which means the average breastfeeding woman would be back at 2,000 calories per day to lose about a pound a week.
Make sure the foods you do eat are packed with the proper nutrients.
Also, remember that the less you weigh, the fewer calories your body needs — so you may need to adjust your calorie intake as you slim down.4
Load up on “superfoods.”
When you’re a new mother, your body needs maximum nutrition, especially if you’re nursing. So choose foods that are heavy in the nutrients you need and light in calories and fat.
Fish is one of these “superfoods” because it’s packed with DHA, an essential omega-3 fatty acid that helps your newborn develop a healthy brain and nervous system.
The best sources of DHA are cold-water fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna (stick to canned light tuna because albacore tends to be high in mercury).
Milk and yogurt are also superfoods because they’re high in the calcium you need to keep your bones strong.
And don’t forget the protein. Lean meat, chicken, and beans are low in fat and high in protein and fibre. They’re good for you, and they’ll keep you feeling full for longer.
Monitor Your Calorie Intake
We know calorie counting isn’t for everyone. But if you’re finding that eating intuitively doesn’t seem to be working, monitoring calories can help you work out how much you are eating and where any problem areas in your eating plan may be.
It can also help you ensure you are getting enough calories to provide you with the energy and nutrition you need.
You can do this by:
- keeping a food diary
- taking pictures of your food as a reminder of what you have eaten
- trying a mobile calorie tracking app
- sharing your daily calorie intake with a friend who is also monitoring calories for accountability
Using these techniques can help you reduce your portion sizes and choose healthier foods, which helps with weight loss.
Eat Foods High in Fiber
It’s time to get those healthy grains and veggies on your shopping list. Eating foods that are high in fibre has been shown to help with weight loss.
For example, a 2019 study of 345 people found that an increase of 4 grams of fibre over what participants had eaten before the survey led to an average additional weight loss of 3 1/4 pounds over six months.
Soluble fibre foods (like these!) may also help you feel fuller for longer by slowing down digestion and reducing hunger hormone levels, according to a 2015 clinical trial.
These effects on digestion may help reduce calorie intake, though the results of studies overall are mixed.
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Stock up on Healthy Proteins
Including protein in your Diet can boost metabolism, decrease appetite, and reduce calorie intake.
Studies show that protein has a more significant “thermic” effect than other nutrients. That means that the body uses more energy to digest it than other foods, resulting in more calories burned.
Research also shows that protein can also suppress appetite by increasing the fullness hormones GLP and GLP-1, as well as reducing the hunger hormone ghrelin. Less hungry hormones mean less hangry-ness!
Healthy protein sources include:
- lean meats
- low mercury fish
- nuts and seeds
Keep Healthy Snacks Handy
The foods you have around can have a significant effect on what you eat. And when you’re searching the pantry for something to munch, a healthy alternative is just the ticket.
By stocking up on healthy snacks, you can ensure you have something close at hand when the mood strikes. Here are some to keep on hand:
- cut vegetables and hummus
- mixed nuts and dried fruit
- Greek yogurt and homemade granola
- air-popped popcorn
- string cheese
- spiced nuts
- seaweed snacks
Research shows that keeping fruit out on the counter has been associated with a lower body mass index (BMI).
Likewise, a comparative study showed that having unhealthy foods out on the counter is associated with increased weight.
Pro tip: Keep processed foods and sweets out of the kitchen, or even better, out of the house.
Avoid Added Sugar and Refined Carbs
Though they may be tempting, sugar and refined carbs are high in calories and usually low in nutrients. And there are healthy and delicious alternatives.
Research associates a high intake of added sugar and refined carbs with an increase in weight, diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and even cognitive decline.
Familiar sources of added sugars include:
- sugary drinks
- fruit juice
- any refined sugar
- white flour
- sweet spreads
When you’re choosing food at the grocery store, read the food labels. For example, if sugar is one of the first ingredients on the list, that product is probably better to avoid.
It’s easy to reduce your sugar intake by avoiding processed foods and sticking to whole foods such as vegetables, legumes, fruits, meats, fish, eggs, nuts, and yogurt.
Avoid Highly Processed Foods
If you’ve been taking note so far, many of these tips are made far more manageable when you’re eating whole, unprocessed foods. They’re usually full of protein, fibre, and less sugar.
On the other hand, processed foods are often high in sugar, unhealthy fats, salt, and calories, all of which can counteract your weight loss efforts, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
These foods include:
- fast foods
- prepackaged foods
- cookies and baked goods
- ready meals
- boxed mixes
- processed cheeses
- sugary cereals
Plus, research has associated the consumption of processed foods with more addictive eating behaviour.
Unfortunately, these foods make up a large part of many people’s nutritional intake.
You can reduce the number of processed foods you eat by replacing them with fresh, whole, nutrient-dense foods.
- Avoid alcohol
Research has shown that small amounts of alcohol, such as a glass of red wine, do have some health benefits.
However, when it comes to weight loss, alcohol provides extra calories without much nutrition.
Additionally, alcohol may be related to weight gain and may lead to more fat being stored around the organs, also known as belly fat.
According to research, there is no known safe level of alcohol for infants. Therefore, the CDC advises that the safest option for infants is breastfeeding mothers not to drink.
When you’re in the mood to celebrate, we’d recommend something low sugar and bubbly, like unsweetened flavoured sparkling water.
Whether breastfeeding can help you lose weight is still up in the air — some studies find that breastfeeding exclusively can help you return to your pre-baby weight faster. In contrast, others find no difference in weight loss between women who breastfeed and those who bottle feed.
For sure, breastfeeding is suitable for your baby, boosting immunity and providing several other essential health benefits.
And nursing exclusively lets you add about 300 calories a day to your Diet (you can add slightly more calories if you have a considerable eater or twins).
Just make sure that if you breastfeed, you don’t use it as an excuse to eat whatever you want.
Although shedding 10, 20 or more pounds post-baby might seem impossible, it may take less “work” — or at least fewer hours pounding it out on the treadmill — than you might think.
That’s because, as many new moms will attest, breastfeeding helps melt off the pounds in record time.
Depending on how much milk you produce, breastfeeding can burn upwards of 500 calories per day.
What’s more, it stimulates the release of hormones that help shrink your uterus and your post-baby belly.
Unfortunately, contrary to what you might have heard, you don’t need to hold on to an extra five pounds of weight as a reserve while you breastfeed — so those last few stubborn pounds might require some additional sweat sessions at the gym.
After you stop breastfeeding, your body has less work to do, which means it burns fewer calories than when you were nursing.
At the same time, you may notice that weaning naturally decreases your appetite — your body’s natural way of putting you on the right kind of Diet (so listen to it!).
You’ll likely feel freer to increase your activity level, too. So when you stop nursing, don’t worry too much about packing on the pounds you lost.
Lifestyle changes can help keep your metabolism churning — and while you’ll need to scale back on calories a bit, you can prevent those numbers on your bathroom scale from creeping back up.
Drinking plenty of water throughout the day prevents you from getting dehydrated.
It also fills you up so that you don’t eat as much, and some research has found that it may speed up your metabolism.
Whether you need the often-recommended eight glasses a day isn’t specific, so use the colour of your urine and how often you need to go to the bathroom as guides.
If you’re drinking enough fluids, your urine should be relatively straightforward, and you should be going to the bathroom about every three to four hours.
Diet is essential, but it’s only one part of your post-pregnancy weight loss plan.
It would help if you also incorporated aerobic and strength training exercises after pregnancy to burn calories and keep your muscles and bones strong.
Exercise, beyond helping you lose weight, provides so many benefits to a new mom.
It helps with depression, it helps with the sleep issue, it helps in relieving stress — and having a new baby in the house can be stressful.
You don’t have to hit the gym to get back in shape after pregnancy — taking a brisk walk with your baby in the stroller is enough to get your heart pumping and muscles working.
You want to shoot for at least 150 minutes a week. Finding 30 minutes in a row might be impossible with a new baby, so we suggest breaking up the time into 10-minute increments. Then try to work your way up to 20- or 30-minute sessions.
Lugging around a baby all day is itself a workout, but you still need to add some strength training.
Use light weights — or even a couple of soup cans — as resistance. In addition, many health clubs and community centres offer “mommy and me” classes that will let you incorporate your baby into your workout routine.
But before you start any exercise program, get your doctor’s approval, especially if you had a C-section.
Exercise does a body good. And even though you’re super busy, you can always find ways to start exercising with your baby, which can be as simple as taking out the stroller or using a baby carrier.
Just make sure you’ve gotten the green light from your practitioner before starting back on your exercise routine, and never exercise to the point of exhaustion (you’re probably exhausted enough from the lack of sleep!).
Find an activity you enjoy — jogging, yoga, cycling, swimming, walking — and plan it into your week.
Besides helping you with your weight loss after delivery, a brisk walk with the baby in a nearby park or playground is a great way to meet other moms who may be on the same weight-loss mission as you are.
Get Some Sleep.
It may seem impossible to get a total of eight hours of sleep when you have a baby, summoning you like clockwork throughout the night, but being sleep deprived could make it harder for you to shed the baby weight.
In one study, new moms who slept five hours or less a night were more likely to hold onto their extra pregnancy weight than women who slept seven hours.
When you’re tired, your body releases cortisol and other stress hormones that can promote weight gain.
Also, when you’re exhausted, you don’t feel like taking good care of yourself. As a result, you’re less likely to choose healthy food.
You’re more likely to grab something through a drive-through. You’reUnfortunately, you’re also less likely to get physical activity.”
Your friends or family members may have told you to “sleep when your baby sleeps,” and that’s good advice.
Catch as many naps as you can during the day and go to bed early — at least until your baby starts sleeping through the night.
Ask for Help.
If you’re struggling to lose weight, enlist the help of your doctor and a dietitian.
The dietitian can help you design an eating plan that will let you lose weight safely and effectively, while the doctor can guide you on how much weight you need to lose and when you can start exercising.
Carrying some extra weight after pregnancy is prevalent and nothing to get down on yourself about. However, your body did a fantastic thing.
But getting back into a healthy weight range is beneficial for your health and any future pregnancies, so it’s worth working at.
Being healthy will allow you to enjoy time with your baby and get the most out of being a new parent.
The best and most feasible way to lose weight is through a healthy diet, breastfeeding, and exercise. Talk to your healthcare team for tips, advice, and support.
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