Health & Fitness
Farewell Baby Fat, Hello Pre-Pregnancy Body!
It’s been a long nine months and your body has undergone changes only a mother can fully comprehend. Chances are you have a one heck of a case of the ‘jelly belly’ and some serious weight gain on your thighs, butt, and just about everywhere else you can think of! But now your bundle of joy is in your arms and so begins the long road ahead of regaining your pre-pregnancy body. Finding the time and energy to get back in shape with a new baby is not an easy feat, what with the sleep deprivation, late night feedings, and endless diaper changes. However, with realistic goals, proper sleep habits, and an effective exercise routine and diet plan, nothing is impossible. Read on for some surefire tips to help you say “Bye Bye” to baby fat and “Hello Again” to your favorite pair of pre-pregnancy jeans!
Eating right is essential in any weight loss plan. Avoid any fad diets – while you may lose a few pounds at first, the minute you start eating normally again the weight will pile back on! Many of these diets also eliminate entire food groups, which needless to say is not ideal at a time when you need to keep yourself healthy and breastfeed a baby. Steer clear of empty-calorie-foods and eat a nutrient-rich diet. The best post-pregnancy diet is low in fat, but not fat-free. It should be vitamin-rich and high in fiber as well. Avoid consuming too many sugary treats as eating too much sugar affects your blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar drops, you are more likely to eat the first thing in sight. To avoid temptation, which will no doubt be followed by guilt and regret, stock up on healthy snacks like low-fat yogurt. Studies have shown that calcium from milk and yogurt can aid weight loss by blocking a hormone that allows the body to store fat. As with any effective weight loss program, try to eat small, frequent meals throughout the day that will help you maintain steady blood-sugar levels and prevent you from overeating. If your calories are distributed throughout the day into six small meals, they are metabolized more efficiently and are less likely to be stored as fat.
While diet is important, its only part of your post-pregnancy weight loss plan, you must incorporate some kind of physical activity to really get results. Not only will exercise aid in getting you back in shape, but it also provides numerous other benefits to a new mom beyond weight loss. Exercise helps in dealing with depression and sleep issues and also relieves stress – and with a newborn in the house, you will definitely need a stress reliever! Don’t start with any exercise regime until you have consulted your doctor, usually physicians won’t allow you to dust off your trainers and get back into action until at least six weeks after giving birth (12 weeks if you had a caesarean delivery). Once you get the all clear, aim to start off slow and work your way up to longer workout sessions. Try to squeeze ten minutes of exercise into your schedule wherever you can, gradually working your way up to 30 minutes three times a week. Remember you don’t have to go to the gym to get a good workout; briskly walking with your baby in the stroller is a good start. While some women may think that carrying around a baby all day counts as a workout in itself, you really need to incorporate aerobic and strength training. Use some light weights at home, throw in an aerobics DVD or if you have a treadmill at home, jump on whenever you get the chance. Pelvic floor exercises can also be done virtually anywhere and at anytime. Remember to always listen to your body; don’t push yourself too hard too quickly and again, always consult with your doctor before starting any kind of exercise.
While a full eight hours of sleep is virtually impossible with a newborn baby, lack of sleep can actually make it harder for you to shed those extra kilos you accumulated during pregnancy. Strange sleep cycles like those forced on you by a newborn can upset your metabolism and make it harder for you to lose your pregnancy weight. When you're tired, your body releases cortisol and other stress hormones that can promote weight gain. In addition, if you are well rested chances are you will be less likely to binge on high-calorie, sugary foods for energy. When you are exhausted you are also less likely to take good care of yourself and focus on nutrition and more likely to opt for the easy way out – usually meaning a drive-through of some sort. Whatever you do, don’t sacrifice sleep for exercise time in those early weeks. If you don’t sleep enough, you won’t have enough energy for satisfying workouts anyway. We have all heard the advice ‘sleep when your baby sleeps’ and this really is the best way to go about it; forget the housework and chores, when your little one finally gets to sleep, do the same!
Not only does breastfeeding provide your baby with important nutrients it can’t get anywhere else, it can also help contribute to weight loss after pregnancy. Your body requires an extra 500 calories when breastfeeding, bringing your total daily calories to about 2,700. But since breastfeeding burns 600 to 800 calories a day, even if all you do is sit comfortably and feed your baby, you could still be losing weight. Studies also show that breastfeeding triggers the release of certain hormones that help your uterus get back to its original size faster than if you didn’t breastfeed. With this in mind, know that breastfeeding will only boost your weight loss – exercise and a healthy diet are needed to reap the true benefits and really get results.
Be realistic in the weight loss goals that you set for yourself. Don’t be discouraged by reports of A-list celebrities like Beyoncé springing back into shape in almost no time. Unless you have the luxury of a live-in nanny and housekeeping staff, night nurse, cook, and personal trainer on service, chances are it will take a little longer than that! It took you nine months to gain the baby weight and chances are it will take around the same amount of time to lose it. The worst thing that you can do is try to do too much too soon – you’ll burn yourself out fast and not have the motivation to continue trying to lose the weight afterwards. The result: you’ll be stuck with the extra pounds you didn’t burn off in your two-week spurt of exercise! Don’t expect instant results and remember that each body type is different; what works for one new mom, may not necessarily work for you. Hang in there and stay strong, it won’t happen overnight, but if you stick with it you’ll be back in those pre-pregnancy clothes before you know it!