Congratulations! You made it through pregnancy and delivery and are hopefully at home with a beautiful, healthy baby. If you’re like most newly delivered women, you stepped on the scale shortly after arriving home to find that you had only lost 10 to15 pounds of the weight you gained during pregnancy and are eager to get to work on the rest.
As you start to settle into life as a new mother, it is important to approach postpartum weight loss in a healthy and realistic way. Your goal to return to or reach a normal BMI is an important one. Achieving it will help lower your lifelong risk of disease and increase the chances of remaining energetic and active until you become a grandparent!
As with weight loss in general, losing the pregnancy weight comes down to burning more calories than you consume. For most new moms, it’s smartest to focus on increasing activity and healthy eating rather than calorie counting or dieting. You need to nourish your body to heal from delivery and produce quality breast milk for your baby. A realistic and safe goal is to lose one half to one pound per week.
The best advice I have is to find a realistic way to incorporate exercise and activity into your day most days as your primary weight loss strategy. This is not easy, but it is possible. Here are a few tips:
- Find ways to exercise at home while your baby sleeps (use postpartum exercise DVDs or a treadmill/elliptical). In general, the investment in some home exercise equipment will pay off (if you use it) in saved gym memberships (and dad can get fit, too!). Wake up before the rest of the family and exercise then.
- Exercise with your baby. There are some great local exercise classes available that allow you to work out with your baby (and sometimes older kids) and meet new moms: an exercise and mom’s group all in one! (Examples include Baby Boot Camp and Stroller Strides.)
- Start slowly as your body recovers and work up as you feel ready. Get out for walks as soon as your provider has given you the okay. Think of this as a time to incorporate exercise into your life to improve your lifelong health and set a wonderful example for your family.
In terms of diet, I encourage you to focus on finding ways to increase the number of servings of whole grains, fruits and veggies in your diet rather than trying to restrict what you eat (which often makes us feel deprived and want the forbidden foods even more). If you have a bowl of vegetable soup, a full glass of water or a piece of fruit before each meal, you’ll start the meal less hungry and naturally eat less of the higher calorie/higher fat foods in your meal without feeling hungry or deprived. Find ways to make it easy to choose healthy snacks. I recommend buying a bunch of vegetables at the start of the week and cutting them up to make snack-size bags that are excellent when paired with hummus. Also, drink more water–it is important for lactation, but can also replace sugary drinks and help you feel less hungry. Little changes that you can stick with make a huge impact over time. Again, think of this as an opportunity to establish a healthier diet for the rest of your life and set a good example for the rest of your family.
Let’s be honest: one of the challenges to making healthy choices in our lives are all of the other things we need to get done in the day. When you have a new baby, there is not enough time in the day or night! Enlist your support person or people to help you. Dad wants to help? Assign him to make sure there are always fresh fruit or veggie bags in the fridge all cut up and ready to go. Neighbor wants to help? Ask her to keep you accountable for walking a couple times a week so you and baby can get some activity and fresh air. Your mom keeps buying cute baby clothes and you have plenty? Ask her for a month pass to baby boot camp instead.
Finally, I encourage you to rethink how you feel about your postpartum body. Be amazed at the wonderful thing your body has done in growing and delivering your baby! Give yourself a break. Don’t let frustration over extra softness get in the way of enjoying this precious time in you and your baby’s life.
Contact a Women’s Healthcare Associates office to make an appointment to discuss your postpartum health >