Let’s face it, “body after baby” is a topic on most moms minds. We’re constantly bombarded by images of celebs’ post-baby bodies and articles about how fast they bounced back, how quickly they return to the gym, and how easy it is for them to work, be a mom, and find time for hours of fitness. But losing weight after baby as a matter of course is not the case for most of us — nor is it the necessarily the goal.
In the new year, moms will have an added load of “Oh sh*t, I need to lose the baby weight,’ and while Romper doesn’t buy into unhealthy norms or pressure on moms to look a certain way, we recognize that some women do want reliable information on conditioning and weight loss after baby. With the caveat that the postpartum period brings a interconnected web of challenges — mental, physical, hormonal, metabolic, emotional, and in terms of social support — that each deserve to be addressed in depth, we looked into safe methods for weight loss (that don’t dry up your milk).
What’s most important isn’t the number on the scale, it’s mama being patient, persistent, and giving herself grace.
What You Need To Know About Your Body After Baby
There are very few experiences other than pregnancy and childbirth that take a woman’s body to the extreme. After giving birth, it can be difficult to get back into a nutrition and exercise routine, especially when you consider there’s no magic solution that will transform you back into your pre-baby self. That’s why you need to be realistic and patient, and always take the time to listen to your body.
The first step in postpartum weight loss is to honor the process of pregnancy, childbirth, and all the changes that come with that. “You need to remember to treat your own health like you would the health of your family: with kindness, respect, and love,” explains mom and entrepreneur Lisa Druxman, founder of FIT4MOM, and author of the upcoming, The Empowered Mama.
And when it comes to a woman’s postpartum body and her weight-loss journey after baby, Druxman tells Romper what’s most important isn’t the number on the scale, it’s mama being patient, persistent, and giving herself grace.
“You need to give your body at least nine months to shed the pounds,” says Druxman. She reminds new moms that when you begin working out, you gain muscle mass, so it’s not about the number on the scale, but the way you look and feel in your own skin.
“Society puts pressure on new moms to instantly get their ‘pre-baby body back,’ but, it’s crucial to remember you just created and carried a little human inside of you for nine months. That is almost an entire year of changes,” says Druxman.
Tell me about it.
After my first was born, I spent two years — and hundreds of dollars — trying to melt the pounds away. Cleanse, detox, low-carbs, no-carbs, intermittent fasting, fat-burners, you name it, I tried it. It seems the only thing I got right was exercise.
But the quick-fix diets all came to a screeching halt when I got pregnant with my second child (which was probably a good thing because after my son was born, I took an entirely different approach to weight loss).
Slow and steady was my motto the second time around. I committed to a lifetime of changes, rather than a diet with a start and end date. I exercised five days a week, adopted an 80/20 method of eating (80 percent of my day was whole-food, healthy choices and 20% was whatever I wanted), and treated my body with kindness.
After 10 months of consistency, flexibility, and creating new habits, I lost 75 pounds (that I have kept off for seven years). Fortunately, I didn’t have many roadblocks that got in my way — other than caring for a baby and a two-year-old.
Lauren Cecora, 29, from northern California, had a different experience. She tells Romper that she faced more than just the “normal” postpartum weight loss struggles. “I got diagnosed with an excess of prolactin in my system due to nursing and postpartum depression, and so I gained 40 pounds. None of that came off until after I weaned around 18 months.”
When it comes to life after baby, it’s about getting into a new flow, feeling good about yourself, and having energy.
While Cecora was nursing, she committed to exercising six days a week, made really good food choices, and limited alcohol. Even though the weight didn’t come off until after she weaned, the habits she created during those 18 months, set her up for success later on.
So, what are some of those habits new moms should focus on when trying to lose weight?
Food That Makes You Feel Good
Most experts will tell you that when it comes to weight loss, nutrition is key. Druxman explains that your body thrives off the food you eat. So, when you consume fresh fruit, veggies, healthy carbohydrates, and proteins, for example, your body works with you, not against you. This can help aid digestion, mood, weight-loss, and so much more.
The experts also say that when it comes to healthy, safe weight loss, nutrition deprivation does not work. “When mom is recovering from labor and delivery, breastfeeding, and putting all her energy into caring for her baby, she needs fuel,” says Druxman. Not to mention, new moms often need to consume more calories than they think.
Registered dietician, Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, tells Romper that when it comes to life after baby, it’s about getting into a new flow, feeling good about yourself, and having energy.
She recommends moms eat small meals and snacks throughout the day with carbs and protein. “Quick snacks are often all new moms have time for, but eating frequently can help you keep your energy up and curb your cravings.”
Choose from quality carbs like whole grain options, fruit paired with protein (eggs, dairy, meat, peanut butter) will help stabilize blood sugar.
Goodson also believes in powering your day with protein. She suggests having quick proteins around like string cheese, yogurt, milk, eggs, and nut/nut butters, which can all be go-to options when you’re limited on time. “Protein helps you feel full faster and stay full longer,” says Goodson. “This helps you not be as hungry at the next meal or snack.”
One strategy Goodson recommend new moms try is to fill your pantry with nutrient-rich choices. “When you are tired and stressed, as many new moms are, comfort foods often call your name and can lead to excess calorie intake and likely prevent weight loss,” she explains.
That’s why she says having foods like hummus and raw veggies, cheese and whole grain crackers, yogurt and berries, and whole granola bars and nuts can help you make quality choices. This doesn’t mean you can’t have the occasional date night with Ben & Jerry. It just makes it easier to resist the temptation to go on a double-date with the guys every day.
Making Time for Fitness Creates Lasting Change
If you were active before and during your pregnancy, you’re probably eager to get back into the groove of working out. After all, exercise is one of the best ways to improve your mood, strengthen and tone abdominal muscles, and increase overall health. It’s also one of the few self-care activities you can do with baby in tow, which makes saying “Yes” to yourself even easier.
But before you lace up your running shoes, remember that your old workout may not work anymore. Druxman says to give yourself some grace if the 5k you used to be able to run in record time is now broken up into walk-jog intervals.
You need to have compassion for your postpartum body. Starting slow is the only way to go. Now is not the time to jump right back into your high-intensity workouts. You need to allow time for your body to heal.
Getting fit and staying healthy isn’t about vanity or squeezing into your pre-pregnancy jeans.
If you go back to your fitness routine too quickly, you risk getting injured, feeling defeated, or giving up entirely on your weight-loss goal because it feels too hard.
And when you are ready to move from gentle workouts to more intense sessions, Druxman says interval training for cardio and strength training is the best way to challenge the postpartum body. She believes this type of training helps work different muscle groups, build lean muscle mass, and burn more fat.
It may have taken several years, two pregnancies, and lots of soul-searching to get to where I’m at today, but what I’ve learned is that getting fit and staying healthy isn’t about vanity or squeezing into your pre-pregnancy jeans. For me, it’s about creating a positive lifestyle that is maintainable, realistic, and allows me to feel good about myself.
Something all moms should strive for.
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