In between diaper changes, feedings and getting the hang of being a new mom, chances are losing the baby weight has been on your mind.
Shedding the pregnancy pounds takes time but getting back to your pre-pregnancy weight—or at least back to a healthy weight—should be your goal.
Carrying around extra lbs can increase your risk for several major health problems including high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea and certain types of cancer.
According to a study published in July 2014 in the journal Diabetes Care, moms who keep the baby weight 3 to 12 months after giving birth and those who gain more weight have an increased risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes later on in life.
And if you become pregnant again, the extra weight can lead to pregnancy complications.
The key to healthy weight loss is slow and steady. It took nine months to gain the baby weight so it can take just as long to lose it.
Eat Whole Foods
Fast food, take-out and processed, packaged foods can be tempting especially because it can seem like there’s no time to cook, much less sit down to a meal.
Eating a healthy diet made up mostly of whole foods will give you the energy you need to care for your baby, feel good and shed the post-baby pounds.
Rather than overhauling your diet or eliminating whole food groups in an effort to lose the baby weight, eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats like avocado. Since fresh fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrition and fiber, they’ll also help you feel fuller longer and stave off hunger.
Depending on your fitness level before you conceived and during pregnancy, your doctor will give you the green light to start exercising, although it will likely be after your 6-week check-up.
Since your joints may still feel loose and your balance will be off, start out slow and don’t push yourself if you’re not feeling it.
Stick with low impact workouts like walking or a postpartum fitness program before high-impact workouts like running, Spinning or boot camp.
Make Time For Strength Training
Cardio torches calories but building muscle also burns fat and is key to losing the baby weight. According to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research women who participated in a 1-hour strength training session burned an average 100 more calories 24 hours afterward than when they didn’t lift weights.
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 500 extra calories a day—calories your body needs for your breast milk and to 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—not zap it.
Deal With Diastasis Recti
After I gave birth to my second child, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight, eating healthy and exercising but my body looked much different than it did before I became pregnant.
After I interviewed Leah Keller, founder of Every Mother, I realized I had diastasis recti.
Diastasis recti is a condition in which the rectus abdominis or “6-pack” muscles that run down the center of the stomach separate. The connective tissue thins, weakens and stretches sideways, causing the waistline to widen and bulge. So no matter how much you exercise, you’ll have a belly. More than 32 percent of women have diastasis recti 12 months postpartum, according to a September 2016 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Diastasis recti can be resolved but it takes time and you have to do the right exercises: ones that pull the belly into the spine, never crunches.
Stop Comparing Yourself
It’s unrealistic to think you’re going to shed the baby weight in weeks flat like the celebrities do. These moms are probably resorting to extreme, unhealthy diets, have personal chefs and personal trainers and a 24/7 nanny to help them.
But you might also be trying to stack up to your own or someone else’s impossible standards about what you should look like or even compare yourself to other moms.
My advice? Don’t do it.
Your body and its chemistry are unique, and your life is different than other moms.
After you give birth, you need time to heal and recover, bond with your baby and get sleep when you can. So give yourself a break and be realistic about how much and how fast you can lose the baby weight.
Commit To Your Health
According to a January 2015 study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, 75 percent of new moms weighed more a year after they give birth than they did before becoming pregnant.
When you’re home with a newborn, you never know what your day will look like or how much energy you’ll have after being up all night. Although a 60-minute workout at the gym first thing in the morning may not be realistic, joining a mommy and me postpartum fitness program, finding another mom who can be your workout buddy or putting on a streaming workout while your baby naps may be.
Regardless of the workout you choose, make a commitment to you and your health because the healthier you are, the healthier your baby will be.
Ask For Help
Don’t feel bad about asking others to help you achieve your weight loss goals and make time for yourself. If grandma offers to babysit, take her up on it. Or, if your budget allows, consider hiring a babysitter so you can take a Yoga class or go for a walk.
Losing the baby weight should be realistic, time efficient and fun. And with the right support, you’ll be back to your pre-baby bod in no time.