During the last month of my pregnancy with Mya, a magazine threw me into a rage. It had one of the those "amazing post-pregnancy weight loss" sets of pictures of pregnant celebs before and after giving birth. All of the celeb moms with the tight bodies only days after pregnancy made me feel every extra pound of the 30 that I gained during my pregnancy.
While I was admittedly mad because the magazine made me feel like a whale, I was also pissed about the message it sent. Celebrating the celebrities rapid weight loss meant celebrating unhealthy and dangerous dieting methods that can hurt both mom and newborn baby. So I'm writing this article to set the record straight. When Mya was born, I lost weight (though it seemed agonizingly slow at times) using normal healthy methods.
Losing 30 lbs in a few days is not a reasonable goal. Those celebs are crazy. This is one of those cases that professional help (i.e. a doctor consultation) is probably needed. During my first pregnancy, I tried to revert to my pre-pregnancy eating plan. It didn't really work. My body had changed, so I consulted with my doctor. He gave me a target calorie consumption that took my new body (and breastfeeding) into consideration.
As a basic rule of thumb, WebMB recommends to not to dip below 1,800 calories a day. Remember that it took nine months to gain all that weight. It took me another nine months to lose it again. So what's reasonable? 6 months to return to pre-pregnancy weight is a goal recommended by LiveScience, but a return within 12 months is still acceptable.
Even when I lost all the weight I had gained, I still didn't make one of my goals - to return to my pre-pregnancy pant size. It just didn't happen. I suddenly had much larger hips that I ever had before. While I was tempted to roll on the floor screaming like a newborn baby myself, I sucked it up and accepted my new pant size. It was a good excuse for a little shopping. Even good goals may fail in the face of reality.
Crash diets will get the weight off but at a steep cost. Think about it, can you actually manage a crash diet while completely exhausted? Being a new mother is hard enough without trying to count calories on two hours of sleep. Even if you do manage to maintain a crazy diet, you shouldn't. If you're breastfeeding, a crash diet will also cause your baby to go on a diet. What to Expect warns that dieting can cause mothers to produce less milk. Not breastfeeding? It's still a bad idea because dieting at this stage can convince your body it's starving, leading it to cling to those last few pounds on your behalf. As in, dieting may make it harder to lose weight.
Many experts recommend waiting one month to 6 weeks before even thinking about losing weight. New mothers have enough to worry about without fixating on weight. Give yourself a break for a while. To give you some hope and confidence, here's an awesome quote from WebMD, "...if you go back to eating healthy and eating for your hunger, most women find that the weight comes off pretty naturally."
While breastfeeding is not a golden ticket back to your pre-pregnancy weight, it does burn a few hundred more calories per day. Some breastfeeding mothers may notice weight loss happen naturally. Breastfeeding can be even more effective for the baby if new mothers focus on eating super foods. The important nutrients are DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, and calcium, according to WebMD. DHA can be found in cold-water fish like salmon and tuna. Though if you are breastfeeding, it would be good to avoid albacore, which can have high mercury levels. In addition to fish, eat yogurt and drink extra milk to increase your calcium levels. I became a big fan of Greek yogurt during my first pregnancy and continued eating it as a major food group through Mya's first few weeks.
While many mothers can begin exercising again only a few days after giving birth, those that had complicated pregnancies should consult their doctor before starting an exercise regimen. I was lucky enough to have an uncomplicated birth with Mya, so I was excited to return to my free weights and stability ball after only a few days. I know I'm a bit of an exercise nut, so if you need more convincing to start exercising again, the Mayo Clinic provides a laundry list of reasons to work out again: promote weight loss, improve fitness, strengthen abs, boost energy levels, relieve stress and promote better sleep.
Some of the exercises can even be done with the baby. If you are ridiculously overprotective for the first few weeks (hem, hem me), you can always take the newborn baby with you. I walked around the block with Mya in a stroller for weeks after her birth. Not only was I getting some cardio training in, but I also got to watch her eyes as she focused on the blue sky above. I've also let her wiggle on the floor next to me as I do crunches. It feels a little like a group workout. If you need more ideas, there might be classes for mothers and newborns in your area.
While doing any sort of workout will get you back on track, there are some particular post-pregnancy exercises that you may want to focus on. Pregnancy moves your guts around in ways that are uncomfortable to think about, but certain exercises will help you restore them to their proper place.
Pelvic tilts are commonly recommended to build up the abdominal muscles. To do pelvic tilts, start by lying on the floor. Tilt your pelvis up and flatten your back against the floor. The Mayo Clinic recommends holding this position for up to 10 seconds and repeating at least five repetitions, working up to 10 or 20. Kegel exercises are also helpful, says the Mayo Clinic. They tone your pelvic floor, which supports the uterus, bladder, small intensive and rectum. They are also a cool exercise because you can do them anywhere. It's tightening the muscles that you usually use to stop urinating. If you want a more comprehensive exercise plan to guide you, exercise.com provides some good strength training options.
I know this is the dumbest thing to recommend for weight loss, but everyone forgets it. When there is a screaming infant, a wailing toddler and you have three hours of sleep, water is easily forgotten. But it's important to drink enough water every day. It doesn't have to be the recommended eight glasses per day. You should listen to your body. WebMD recommends that you drink enough that your urine is clear and you pee every three to four hours. Drinking enough water also fills up your stomach, which may help you lose weight too.
While sleep may be the last priority on new mother's minds, consider that WebMD says "...when you're tired, your body releases cortisol and other stress hormones that can promote weight gain." Being tired leads to late night fast food stops and an intrinsic hatred of the treadmill. Basically, if you're tired, you can't do all the other things you need to do in order to lose weight in a healthy way. Don't believe me? A study cited by WebMD showed that mothers with less than five hours of sleep per night were more likely to hold onto their pregnancy weight than mothers who got seven hours. Sleep is good for both weight loss and sanity.
The last ten pounds between you and your pre-pregnancy weight can be daunting. Many women keep those pounds for a lifetime, according to What to Expect. However, the additional weight is often more of a result of lifestyle changes. There is now a small being in the world that demands your constant attention. Your time is more likely to be spent changing diapers instead of crafting healthy kale salads. If those last ten pounds aren't acceptable to you though, there is something you can do about it. Dig in, eat right and exercise. It's the same formula as always. If you need help to make time in your new busy life, band together with a friend or join an exercise class.
After looking for a good video on the topic, I found this one from Ways and How essentially reiterates a lot of my same points. Check it out:
Returning to fitness after pregnancy is about more than weight loss. Getting enough sleep, water, and healthy food also helps you to take better care of your baby. Even simple exercises like pushing a stroller can help you get back to your pre-pregnancy weight. While there is no need to rush back to your old jeans, returning to a healthy weight benefits both you and your newborn baby.
Pushing through the weight loss plateau may be difficult, but it's totally possible. It's okay to be jealous of the celeb moms who lose weight immediately. I totally was. Those pictures haunted me. But, months after Mya's birth, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight with a happy, healthy baby. I lost the weight as quickly as I gained it and all it took was some basic health techniques.