4 tips for healthy postpartum weight loss

Your guide to healthy postpartum weight loss.

Photo: iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

The truth about losing it
“Postpartum is tough,” says midwife Andrea Lennox. “That’s really when the pressure hits. Pregnancy has become almost a sort of sexy thing, but not so much postpartum. Breastfeeding women aren’t considered to be sexy yet. We need to get to that point. So there’s a lot of pressure to lose weight fast.”

And if you look at pictures of Hollywood stars who seem to get their pre-pregnancy figures back almost instantly, chances are the pressure you’re feeling will mount. “I don’t know how they do it,” says Lennox. Dropping weight gained during pregnancy overnight is an unrealistic and unhealthy goal. “We [midwives] say to women, ‘It took nine months to make a baby and it’s probably going to take you another nine months to get back to the weight you started at.’”

1. No diets please, we’re breastfeeding
“If you’re breastfeeding, you can’t go on a restrictive diet,” says Lennox. To produce breastmilk, your body needs the nutrients and energy provided by healthy, well-balanced meals. “It takes more calories to breastfeed a baby than it does to be pregnant,” she says. Your body burns through 500 calories a day to produce milk for your baby. But it requires only 300 extra calories a day to nurture a developing fetus.

The good news is that your body burns fat to make breastmilk. So if you continue to eat healthy meals and snacks of nutrient-dense foods (fruit and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain breads and cereals) just like you did during your nine-months-in-waiting, your body will naturally shed its pregnancy padding as you breastfeed. The bad news is that many women find that five to 10 pounds stubbornly cling to their bodies and refuse to let go until they stop nursing.

2. Out with the old
You know that favourite pair of jeans you wore before you were pregnant? “Don’t expect to put them on ever again,” Fiona Marshall, a personal trainer and mother of two, tells clients right up front. “Having that aspiration is a mistake women make because your body changes. It won’t be better. It won’t be worse. But it probably won’t be exactly the same.

“Think of what happens during pregnancy,” says Marshall. “Your rib cage widens and it doesn’t go back completely. Your feet change — you’re probably not going to fit into the same-size shoes. Your hips widen and though your body will return to its previous state somewhat, for most women it won’t return 100 percent.” Many women tell Marshall that their clothes just don’t fit the same way once they’ve lost their pregnancy weight.

So what’s a new mom to do? “When you feel good about yourself,” says Marshall, “think of this as an excuse to go out and buy yourself new clothes that fit your new body.”

3. Getting in the groove
“Labour is a big shock for a lot of women,” says Marshall. “After the baby’s born, you still look four months pregnant.” Your body needs time to recover before you start exercising to lose that lingering weight or get back to your regular workout routine.

“It’s a good idea to take it easy for at least 10 days,” says Lennox. “Go for short walks and then start getting back into your routine slowly.” You can begin doing Kegel exercises immediately after you’ve given birth, but for full-on workouts, you need to wait until you’ve stopped bleeding, says Lennox. “For some women that’s four weeks, and for some women that’s six to eight weeks.” Those moms who’ve had a Caesarean often need longer to recover before exercising than others. So get the go-ahead from your caregiver before you resume a rigorous exercise program.

If you’re eating well, you don’t have to worry that exercising will affect your body’s ability to produce breastmilk. According to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, moderate exercise will not affect the quantity or composition of breastmilk or the growth of your baby. So go, mom, go!

4. Mom-friendly fitness
Finding motivation and time to exercise is a big challenge for new moms. “It’s really difficult to make yourself a priority when you become a mom,” says postpartum fitness specialist Jane Clapp. Use these tips from Clapp and Fitmom founder Andrea Page to get your exercise motor going:

• Sign up for a postpartum fitness class while you’re still pregnant. That way, you’ve paid your money, so you have to go or you will waste it.
• Find a gym with on-site child care.
• Join an exercise class or program where you can bring your baby with you.
• Look for a family-friendly trainer who will welcome your baby during sessions.
• Don’t think you have to do your exercising all at once. Breaking it up into 10- or 15-minute chunks you can do throughout the day is just as beneficial as exercising for 30 to 60 minutes straight.
• Bust the myth you have to go to a gym to get fit. You can work out with an exercise DVD, or have a trainer design a routine you can do at home without equipment.
• Bundle up baby in the stroller and put your walking shoes on. Try to walk for at least 30 minutes a day.
• Buddy up. Find a partner — a friend or a new mom in your neighbourhood — to exercise with.

Read more:
Pregnancy weight gain: How much is normal?>
Exercise with baby: 9 easy moves>
Your postpartum body—what to expect>

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