Now that your baby’s in your arms and no longer reliant on your body for nutrition, 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 you’re instructed to do so by your medical provider. With a newborn to care for and postpartum life to adjust to, no one should expect you to jump right back into your skinny jeans. And remember: A healthy weight for one person might not be healthy for another. That said, there’s a balance to caring for yourself and 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 10 tips.
The best ways to lose baby weight
There’s no universal approach to weight loss because countless factors, predispositions and behaviors can affect individual outcomes. However, there are several common 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 10 ways to jump-start your weight loss journey:
1. Monitor your calorie intake
Any effort you make to lose weight may be for nothing if it’s not coupled with a healthy diet. While you may not want to count calories endlessly, assessing your daily caloric intake 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.
A healthy diet doesn’t have to be complicated. Chances are that if you reduce your intake of sugars and processed foods and increase your intake of vegetables and lean proteins, you’ll be on your way to weight loss.
For more, read our 31 tips to lose weight fast.
2. Eat more fiber and healthy proteins
The CDC recommends at least 21 to 25 grams of fiber per day.
When trying to lose weight, focus on increasing your intake of the following:
- Healthy proteins: A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 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 Parmesan cheese 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 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 and Prevention currently recommends that women 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.
3. Avoid carbs and sugars
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
4. Stay hydrated
Drinking water promotes fat loss in a number of ways:
- If you throw back two glasses of water before eating, 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.
- Choosing water over higher-calorie alternatives can make 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 at least 91 ounces 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, your level of physical activity and other factors.
5. Breastfeed if you can
Breastfeeding works well for some families but not others. Likewise, a breastfeeding parent’s weight loss experience is highly individualized and likely to fluctuate as the baby’s nutritional needs change. Although breastfeeding burns calories, nursing parents tend to eat more as they listen to their bodies and replace the 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 a health care practitioner recommends it. Your baby’s nutritional needs will change as they grow more physically active, too.
If a nursing parent ingests fewer nutrients than they require to meet both their own physical needs and the baby’s nutritional needs, their body will draw upon its stores of nutrients. While this may include fat, it could also include other tissues and important nutrients like calcium and protein.
6. Exercise at home
As a new parent, your schedule likely allows less time to hit the gym than it once did. Although it may be especially challenging now, integrating postpartum exercise into your routine isn’t impossible. Whether the workout 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 parent for regular walks or safe pregnancy workouts.
- 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, such as Beachbody.
- Consider investing in a home gym for strength training workouts.
7. Get enough 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.
8. Avoid crash diets and weight loss fads
Leave trendy diets and other questionable strategies out of your weight loss plan, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Especially avoid:
- Disordered eating, including crash diets, the use of laxatives or diuretics and the exclusion of all fats
- 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, encouraging results on the scale, these behaviors aren’t sustainable and typically lead to nutritional deficiencies — or worse. Remember, there’s no “trick” to losing belly fat.
9. Set realistic goals
You may already have heard phrases like “nine months on, nine months off.” It took nine months of weight gain to ensure your baby could thrive outside your body; give yourself at least nine months to feel like you did 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.
10. Ask for help if you need it
As you know from comparing your pregnancy with anyone else’s, no two journeys are the same. Achieving a postpartum 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 motivation 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 in terms of support.
Postpartum weight loss FAQ
- What is “baby weight”?
- The term “baby weight” refers to weight gained during pregnancy, but the actual pounds you may have put on have different sources. Most newborns weigh five to 10 pounds. However, pregnancy weight gain is usually much more significant than that. It’s not uncommon to gain 25 or 40 pounds during pregnancy. This includes more than just belly fat, though. There are also fluids and tissues that develop over gestation, like the placenta.
- When can you start losing baby weight?
- You should start to lose weight after delivery. It’s not uncommon to lose about half of your baby weight within six weeks.
- How long does it take to lose baby weight?
- It could take a year or more to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight. Remember, losing weight should be a gradual process. It could be dangerous to lose more than a pound or two each week, especially as your body is healing. Don’t feel rushed to lose your post-baby weight.
- Is it more difficult to lose weight after pregnancy?
- Many women say they find it more difficult to lose weight after pregnancy. It’s normal to struggle with this while your body is healing — it takes time for your abdominal muscles to heal. New parents are also often stressed out and dehydrated, which can make pregnancy weight harder to lose. Diastasis recti can make it more difficult to tone your six-pack, too.
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