Dr. Joanna McMillan: The Healthy Way to Losing Baby Weight
Forget about the pictures on social media of celebrities bouncing back into their teeny tiny bodies in the blink of an eye after giving birth. They don’t live in the same world as most of us. Actually, you shouldn’t feel envy at their seemingly easy return to their pre-baby body, just imagine the pressure they were likely under to give that impression.
Instead, focus on what is healthiest for you and for your baby. You want to have the energy to enjoy this time, not just get through it. Starving yourself and/or slamming your body with an intense exercise program will only result in burnout. If you are breastfeeding, you also risk not being able to produce enough milk and regardless of how you are feeding your baby, being exhausted is likely to end up with you in bed sick.
All that said, it’s perfectly natural to want to get your body healthy, provided you do it in the right way.
Here are a few tips to losing baby weight:
If you can, breastfeed
Pregnancy triggers your body to lay down extra fat stores for a reason – to provide the huge energy you need to breastfeed. When you are breastfeeding your energy needs are greater than at any time during your pregnancy! Even the leanest women will lay down fat during pregnancy and so remember that that is normal metabolism working as it should.
Some women find this fat is used up quickly once breastfeeding, while others find it takes longer. Breastfeeding, because it is so energy demanding, can also stimulate your appetite. If you find your extra fat stores are not shifting despite breastfeeding, be honest about your portion sizes and the quality of the foods you are eating. With a focus on eating healthily with a good variety of ‘real’ foods and limited junk food, the fat will gradually be chipped away.
You are pregnant for 9 months and so you need to give yourself at least that long to lose your baby weight. Losing baby weight too quickly is almost certainly a recipe for disaster, with most women regaining the lost weight, or losing interest when it all gets too hard and the diet is abandoned.
Even if you are not breastfeeding, your body needs nutrients to recover from the pregnancy and birth, and you are surviving on less sleep. Be patient and put your focus firmly on health and nourishing your body, rather than obsessively restricting calories (kilojoules) or cutting out entire groups of food.
Who would have thought one small person could take up so much time?! Particularly during that first year, accept help where you can, including help with meals. You may be lucky enough to have a grandparent or other relative who is willing to come and cook for you regularly. If they offer say yes! Even so and for those who don’t get help, Dietlicious can be your helping hand.
The meals are essentially home cooked by one of the Dietlicious’ fabulous chefs, taking one job off your hands. You can either pick a few meals to have in your fridge or freezer for fast, easy meals when you need them, or choose to have all meals delivered from one of the set calorie plans. If you are breast feeding, choose the higher energy level plans, like 1500 calorie plan or 1800 calorie plan.
Build exercise slowly
After you have had the all clear to exercise (if there are no complications this is usually around 6 weeks after birth), take things slowly. Your body has been carrying an extra load for several months, your pelvis has shifted, different muscles have had to work, your abdominal muscles take some time to knit back together and you have used up essential nutrients to grow another human life. It’s all quite incredible when you think about it, so be grateful to your body and treat it gently.
Exercise classes that specialise in post-pregnancy are a great idea as they will focus on helping you strengthen your core and pelvic floor for example. You may also like to find a personal trainer with experience and training in post-natal to guide you through a personalised program.
The simplest way to start however, is with something simple like walking. Pushing the pram adds some resistance and both you and your baby can benefit from fresh air and getting outside. If you are a water baby, swimming or aqua classes are another good way to get moving without putting too much pressure on your joints. These can be a little loose for some time after birth and so take care with stretching not to overdo it.
Listen to your body
Finally, trust your body and pay heed to the signals it sends you. If you have been up most of the night it’s more than OK to skip your exercise class. In fact, you’ll benefit more from trying to get a nap or two into the day than stressing to get to a sweat session.
If you are ravenously hungry, eat! Just be sure to make healthy options most of the time. The odd treat or meal of whatever you fancy won’t do any harm if it’s on occasion. Try not to think about dieting, but fuelling and nourishing your body with good food. The result will be that the baby weight will gradually slip away without you obsessing over it and you will feel happier, healthier and more energetic through the whole process.