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I’ll admit that Jessica Simpson’s whopping 100-pound weight loss just 6 months after giving birth to her third child is pretty amazing, but when it comes to losing the baby weight, it’s totally unrealistic for the rest of us non-celebrity, everyday moms.
Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t an opportunity to bash Jessica, or take away from her hard work and dedication to get back to her pre-baby body. But when you have a personal chef, a personal trainer and a nanny—which I’m guessing she does—losing the baby weight is a little easier.
For most new moms, being able to take a shower or run a load of laundry feels like an accomplishment. Still, today I’d like to talk about why losing the baby weight is important, and how to make it happen without going on a diet or feeling deprived.
Why Losing The Baby Weight Is Good For Your Health
My goal isn’t to shame or make you feel bad about your weight, but we should talk about the facts.
Not only do most women start out their pregnancies overweight, but nearly half gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy, according to an April 2015 study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Both your pre-pregnancy weight and the amount you gained during pregnancy can—but not necessarily will— impact your weight loss journey.
Another thing to consider is that 75 percent of new moms weigh more a year after giving birth than they do before becoming pregnant, a January 2015 study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found.
Although losing the baby weight can take time, getting back to your pre-pregnancy weight or a healthy weight is always a good idea.
Being overweight, or obese, can increase your risk for several major health problems including high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea and certain types of cancer.
Plus, moms who don’t lose the baby weight within a year of giving birth or those who gain more weight during that time have an increased risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes later on in life, a study published in July 2014 in the journal Diabetes Care found.
If you become pregnant again, carrying around extra weight can also lead to pregnancy complications like high blood pressure, preeclampsia, blood clotting problems, gestational diabetes, and complications during labor and delivery.
Postpartum weight loss takes time
It should come as no surprise that losing the baby weight is a concern for most moms.
According to a survey by BabyCenter.com, 61 percent of new moms said they expected to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight by their baby’s first birthday but most didn’t.
In our society, it’s not easy to get around the barrage of weight loss success stories on social media, compare ourselves to celebrities and other women we know, and not feel the pressure to get our pre-bodies back fast.
Unfortunately, because of that pressure, many moms have high levels of body image dissatisfaction, putting them at risk for psychological distress, a March 2018 study in the journal Body Image found.
When it comes to losing the baby weight, the first step is to recognize that your genetics, body type and chemistry, and life are all unique.
It’s really hard to do, but try to stop comparing yourself to other moms—because the truth is, they don’t have it all together like you think they do and they’re trying to manage life just like you are.
After you give birth, it’s also important to realize that you need time to heal and recover, bond with your baby and get sleep when you can. Give yourself a break and be realistic about how much and how fast you can lose the baby weight.
The key to healthy weight loss (for your body and mind) is slow and steady. It took nine months to gain the baby weight so it can take just as long to lose it.
And if you gained more than the recommended amount of weight, it could take up to a year to lose it, Rosanne Rust, MS, RDN, LDN stated in this article.
Related: How I Lost The Baby Weight Twice
Tips for Losing The Baby Weight
With some simple, realistic strategies, you can get back to a healthy weight.
1. Eat real food
When you have a newborn and there’s not a lot of time to prepare healthy meals, getting take-out or eating your toddler’s left over boxed macaroni and cheese is an easy solution.
Yet a healthy diet made up of real, whole food will give you the energy you need to care for your baby and lose the weight.
A good rule of thumb is to eat between 5 and 9 servings a day of a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrition and fiber so they’ll help you feel fuller longer and stave off hunger.
Also be sure to include lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats like avocado on your plate.
2. Don’t starve yourself
Drastically cutting calories can put your body into starvation mode and stall your weight loss.
Plus, if you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you’re burning about 200 to 500 calories a day—calories your body needs to produce breast milk and boost your metabolism.
Instead of cutting calories, eat when you’re hungry, watch your portion sizes and choose foods that will satiate your hunger and give you energy.
3. Stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is key for losing the baby weight.
Since water takes up space in the stomach, it can help you feel full and stave off hunger. It also helps to metabolize carbohydrates and stored fat in the body and can keep your energy levels up so you’re less likely to reach for something to eat.
Thirst can also be mistaken for hunger so drinking up before reaching for something to eat can help you decide whether you’re hungry or not.
In fact, according to a 2014 study in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine, overweight women who drank an additional 500 ml of water 30 minutes before meals lost weight and fat and lowered their body mass indexes (BMI).
According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, women should aim for 2.7 liters of water a day, while breastfeeding moms should get 3.1 liters a day.
If plain water isn’t your thing, add slices of cucumber or strawberry for a hint of flavor.
4. Prioritize protein
Eating enough protein helps to stabilize blood sugar, gives you energy, prevents overeating and can help you lose weight.
Getting protein in your meals and snacks is particularly important if you’re breastfeeding since there are high demands of protein on your body.
5. Plan meals and snacks ahead of time
When hunger strikes, it so easy to grab what’s available which isn’t always the healthiest option.
If you like to do meal planning for the week, go for it, but at the very least, think ahead and have a handful of easy, healthy dinner ideas so you’re not left stranded.
Also, do your best to carve out a few minutes to set aside cut-up fruits and vegetables, individual portions of smoothie ingredients, or nuts and seeds for easy grab-and-go options.
6. Keep healthy snacks on hand
Healthy snacks help to satisfy hunger, keep blood sugar levels stable, and prevent overeating and weight gain.
Some good options include an apple with almond butter, Greek yogurt and raspberries, or hummus and baby carrots.
7. Watch your wine
Relaxing with a glass of wine or your drink of choice at night can help you decompress, but the calories can also add up fast.
Also, if you’re breastfeeding, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says an occasional drink is OK, but having more than two drinks every day can be harmful to your baby and may cause drowsiness, weakness, and abnormal weight gain.
They also recommend moms wait at last 2 hours after having a drink before breastfeeding again. One drink of alcohol includes:
- 6 ounces of wine
- 12 ounces of beer
- 1.5 ounces of liquor
8. Leave room for treats
Losing the baby weight shouldn’t mean deprivation, so leave room for a piece of dark chocolate, dried fruit, or a serving of popcorn, for example.
9. Curb emotional eating
It’s common to feel anxious and stressed especially when you’re a new mom, and if you also have postpartum depression, everything can feel overwhelming.
If you’re an emotional eater like I am, you’re not alone.
According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 31 percent of women eat to manage stress.
Although eating can be soothing, it’s always a temporary feeling and it can hinder your ability to lose weight.
Instead of turning to food to feel better, make a list of healthy activities you can do instead of eating: going for a walk with your baby, calling a friend, journaling or meditation, for example.
10. Ask an expert about losing the baby weight
If you’re looking for a customized plan and more help losing the baby weight, I recommend you speak to a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who specializes in maternal nutrition and/or breastfeeding or seek the help of a therapist who works with new moms.