Between breastfeeding and caring for your newborn to finding time for sleep and exercise, the lifestyle changes that come after having kids can take a toll on your health – and your figure.
It’s not uncommon for new moms to feel like they’re having extra trouble getting back to their pre-pregnancy weight. But the reality is that shedding pounds follows the same formula as always – with a few exceptions now that you’re a mom.
So if you’re ready to get your body back and are serious about making changes, here are a few general guidelines from our obesity experts, as well as the National Institutes of Health:
1. Take your time. Remember that losing weight after pregnancy is a process. Your body just survived a major “assault” in giving birth – and recovering from that won’t happen overnight. Also, if you lose weight too soon after childbirth, it might take you longer to recover. Wait until you’ve hit the 6-week mark before attempting to lose weight. And if you’re breastfeeding? Don’t start a weight loss program until your little one is at least 2 months old. When you’re ready to start with the weight loss phase, aim for a healthy amount – about a pound a week. This can often be accomplished just by cutting about 500 calories from your day or increasing your exercise.
2. Don’t skip meals. Food? Who has time for food?! New moms may have a bad habit of skipping meals or ignoring hunger pangs in order to deal with daily obligations of having a new baby. Don’t fall into that trap! Skipping meals will not only deprive you of the nutrients and fuel you need to run your life, but it can also cause binge eating or overeating once you finally sit down to have a meal or snack. Aim to eat about every three hours: breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with two snacks mid-morning and late afternoon.
3. Stick to low-fat dairy. Losing weight after pregnancy requires eating the same healthy foods you did before you had children. Many new moms think they should drink whole milk if they’re breastfeeding, but that’s not necessary. Stick to low-fat dairy products when you buy yogurt, cheese, or milk. Whole milk has a higher fat content, which isn’t necessary for you or your baby.
4. Avoid crash diets. It’s tempting to try a crash diet in order to lose the baby weight fast. But these types of diets have several inherent problems: 1) They tend to limit certain foods or food groups, which could deprive you of essential nutrients for you (and your baby, if you’re still breastfeeding), and 2) they will probably make you lose muscle or water weight instead of fat. You’re also very likely to gain back the weight once you start eating normally again. Instead, aim for a plan that has long-term success built into it – lifestyle changes you know that, once you make them habits, you can sustain for a while.
5. Make goals according to your new body. Reality check: you’re a beautiful new mom with a different body now. While it’s completely OK to have goals, know that losing weight after pregnancy won’t necessarily get you your “old” body back – and that’s OK. Celebrate the fact that you might now have wider hips or a softer belly, and change the things you can. Your goals should reflect a realistic view of how your body has changed.
So while you might feel like it’s harder for you to lose weight after pregnancy than before, know that the right lifestyle changes can help you reach your goals – but it’s a process. Be patient with yourself, don’t beat yourself up when you slip up, and make sure you’re doing what you can to eliminate stress, get enough exercise, and take care of your own needs.