A Realistic Guide to Losing Baby Weight
Did you just have a baby and are ready to exploring losing baby weight? The first step is to decide why you want to lose weight. Do you want to feel good? Amazing! Is your well-being negatively affected by extra weight? Super, you should definitely work on getting healthy so you can be a great mom for your baby for years to come. Do you feel like you need to lose weight because celebrities or your Facebook friends are doing it? Or because your husband wants you to?
Stop right there.
Please don’t feel pressured to lose weight after you have a baby.
It is most important to take time to heal and to connect with your family. You can start working towards losing baby weight when you’re emotionally ready. I started working out right after my doctor gave me the 6-week okay because exercising helped me to feel more in control amidst all of the new baby chaos. For some of my clients, losing baby weight has helped them to build their confidence. Some of my clients don’t have a goal of weight loss and that’s okay too.
When and if you are ready to explore losing baby weight, I recommend doing so in a way that is both enjoyable (yes, it’s possible) and sustainable in the long term.
Here are a few strategies that have worked for me and my clients. Check in with your doctor and dietitian before starting any exercise or weight loss program.
Respect the process of becoming a mother. Your body just did the most amazing thing by creating a tiny human. Give her some love and some space. In the beginning you may lose weight if you are breastfeeding - you will burn around 500 calories per day just by feeding your baby. However, your body also releases a hormone called prolactin when you lactate, this hormone decreases fat metabolism. Anecdotally, I have seen that many mamas hold on to a few extra pounds until they wean.
Pay attention to what you eat. Recognize that what you eat is likely the most important part of weight loss. It’s also good to respect that every body is different. What works for one person may not work for you. Something you may not know, is that most of the trendy diets work simply because they help you eat less. If you are struggling with food, have a health condition or are still breastfeeding, schedule an appointment with a nutritionist or dietitian. Here are a few calorie cutting strategies that I have seen work: consider cutting out refined sugar, refined grains, processed foods, dairy (except plain greek yogurt and cottage cheese) and alcohol for up to a month (if this sounds overwhelming, start with just 3 days and go from there). I follow a mostly Whole30 plan and enjoy its focus on whole, unprocessed foods. I would definitely consult a nutritionist before taking this on while breastfeeding, though. Intermittent fasting is also a really useful tool for decreasing calories, the 16/8 approach is one of my favorites actually. Intermittent fasting is not recommended for breastfeeding mamas. Another important thing to consider is how you think about food. Eating provides nourishment and fuel. When it becomes a reward or a fix for an emotional issue or a guilty pleasure this is problematic.
3. Start a strength training program. Like many people, I used to think that if I ran every day I would lose weight. I didn’t. Sometimes longer form exercise can have an opposite effect because it can trigger a hunger response that makes you eat more than you work off. When I started strength training (both with bodyweight and dumbbells), I began to see better results. Even if I didn’t lose pounds on the scale, having more muscle in my composition made me appear more lean. There are also studies that show that strength training will increase your resting metabolism as muscle mass burns more energy than fat.
4. Find someone who will hold you accountable. For me, my students became my accountability partners. I have to show up for myself to show up for them. You don’t have to become a teacher to find accountability buddies. You could hire a personal trainer, join an intimate group class, enlist a friend who will let you share your goals or even post your progress on social media. The American Society of Training and Development conducted a study on accountability and found that people are 65% of the people surveyed met their goals after committing to someone else. 95% met their goals when they held regular meetings with their accountability person to check in on the progress.