Now that your baby’s in your arms and no longer reliant on your body for the nutrition that sustained them through your pregnancy, you may be ready to get back to your pre-pregnancy body.
Let’s be clear: You’re under no obligation to lose weight — now or later — unless instructed to do so by your medical provider. With a newborn to care for and postpartum life to adjust to, no one expects you to jump right back into your skinny jeans. That said, there’s a balance to caring for yourself and for your baby.
If you’re motivated to lose weight and you’ve talked to your medical provider about it, go ahead and get started with these eight tips.
The best ways to lose baby weight
One size, pregnant or postpartum, does not fit all. There’s not a single approach to weight loss because countless factors, predispositions and behaviors can affect individual outcomes. Instead, there are several approaches to postpartum weight loss: a safe calorie deficit through diet and exercise, breastfeeding, lifestyle considerations and/or a medication regimen prescribed by your doctor.
As you begin to establish something like a routine with your newborn, it may be a good time to incorporate new healthy habits for yourself too.
Here are eight ways to jumpstart your weight loss journey.
1. Watch what you eat
Any effort you make to lose weight may be for nothing if it’s not coupled with a healthy diet. While you don’t have to count calories routinely, assessing your caloric intake every day over the course of a week may provide some valuable insights.
If your intake is higher than you assumed, you might be able to identify a calorie-laden culprit and find a leaner substitute.
What should you eat? It doesn’t have to be complicated. Chances are that if you reduce your intake of sugars and processed foods and increase your intake of more nutritious foods, you’ll be on your way to weight loss.
When trying to lose weight, experts recommend focusing on increasing your intake of the following:
- Healthful proteins: A study published on PubMed demonstrated that, calorie for calorie, a high-protein diet promotes greater fat loss than one low in protein. Lean chicken breast, tuna, skirt steak, firm tofu, low-fat yogurt and grated Parmesan are excellent protein sources. A high-protein diet is also associated with preserving lean mass, reducing waist circumference and feeling fuller after eating less food.
- Fiber: The Mayo Clinic also suggests that a daily intake of 30 grams of fiber can aid in achieving a weight loss goal. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control currently recommends that women try to eat at least 21 to 25 grams per day — something to shoot for if fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains have had a small role in your diet to date.
In addition to increasing your intake of protein and fiber, you’ll want to avoid the following:
- Refined carbohydrates like sugary foods and juices, white bread, rice, pasta, most breakfast cereals, chips and fries
- Most prepared salad dressings and sauces
- Highly processed foods, including frozen, dried, individually wrapped, artificially flavored and canned foods
2. Stay hydrated
Your body is 60% water, and you need it for every bodily process, including activities that promote fat loss. How does drinking water aid in weight loss? There's a number of ways:
- If you throw back two glasses of water before eating when responding to your body’s hunger cues, you could take the edge off your hunger. As the water passes into your stomach, it will signal to your brain that you’re getting full.
- Staying hydrated could stimulate your metabolism and make exercise more efficient.
- Choose water over higher-calorie alternatives and watch your calorie savings add up — filling your glass with water instead of juice, soda or other sugary options could reduce your overall liquid intake by about 250 calories a day.
- Your body needs water to burn fat for energy in a process called lipolysis. Even mild dehydration can tip the scale toward reduced fat loss.
So, just how much water should you drink each day? According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, a woman’s daily intake should amount to 11 cups of water — about 80% through actual fluid intake and 20% from water-rich foods. Hydration needs vary based on your age, whether or not you’re breastfeeding, physical activity and other factors. Let your thirst be your guide.
3. Avoid crash diets and weight loss fads
The Hollywood diet, the Master Cleanse, the tapeworm diet … these are often not the healthiest options. Leave trendy diets and other questionable strategies out of your get-back-into-shape plan, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Plans to avoid include:
- Disordered eating, including crash diets, the use of laxatives or diuretics, the exclusion of all fats or skipping meals
- Highly restrictive diets
- Exercise regimens that don’t leave time for most other things you need or want to do
While crash dieting and other strategies might give quick and encouraging results on the scale, these behaviors aren’t sustainable and typically lead to nutritional deficiencies — or worse.
4. Get some sleep
If you’re the primary caretaker for your infant, routinely getting the amount of sleep you need may not yet be possible. When you’re able to sleep, though, it’s important that you do — both for your general wellbeing and if you're trying to lose weight. A sleep-deprived body produces higher levels of the hormone ghrelin, which results in hunger and reduced calorie expenditure.
5. Exercise at home
As a new mother, your schedule likely allows less time to hit the gym than it once did. Although it may be especially challenging now, integrating exercise into your routine isn’t impossible. Whether the activity is inside of a gym or on the nursery floor, the idea is just to get moving, even if it’s in 10-minute intervals a few times a day.
Here are some exercise ideas you might find more accessible with a little one in tow:
- Buddy up with a fellow mother for a walk
- Jog lightly in place to lull your newborn to sleep on your shoulder
- Run up and down the stairs for 10 minutes without stopping
- Do intervals of body weight exercises like squats, reverse lunges, burpees, mountain climbers and pushups
- Explore a hilly neighborhood — you can bring your baby, push the stroller along, and keep a brisk pace
- Join an online fitness class
6. Breastfeeding and weight loss
Breastfeeding works well for some babies and their mothers and just isn't right for others. As long as your baby’s not subsisting on cherry-flavored soda and paint chips, we expect you’re on the right track.
A breastfeeding mother’s weight loss experience is highly individualized and is likely to fluctuate as the baby’s nutritional needs change. Are you breastfeeding with the expectation of losing weight? Your mileage may vary. Although breastfeeding burns calories, nursing women tend to eat more as they listen to their bodies and replace calories lost to breastfeeding.
If your baby’s caloric intake is primarily from breastmilk, it's probably not an ideal time to stringently adhere to a diet unless recommended by a health care practitioner. Your baby’s nutritional needs will change as they grow more physically active.
If a nursing mother ingests fewer nutrients than she requires to meet both her own physical needs and the nutritional needs of the baby who's breastfeeding, her body will draw upon her stores of nutrients. While this may include fat, it could also include other tissues and important nutrients like calcium and protein.
7. Set Realistic Goals
You may already have heard something like “nine months on, nine months off.” It took nine months to gain the weight necessary to ensure your baby could thrive outside your body; give yourself at least nine months to feel like you did physically before becoming pregnant.
You know your limits, your body and how you’re faring physically. If you set goals that are attainable for you, given all you know about yourself, you’re more likely to achieve greater — and healthier — weight loss over the course of your physical recovery. Realistic objectives prevent the unnecessary frustration of continuously coming up short.
8. Ask for help if you need to
As you know from comparing your pregnancy with anyone else’s, no two journeys are the same. Achieving a weight loss goal is just as individualized a process, and it may not be as straightforward as those months with prenatal support were, particularly if you’re attempting to lose weight on your own.
If you sense you’d be better off with the guidance or motivational support of a weight loss program, there are plenty of options. You have to do the work yourself, but no one has to go it alone.
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