Even though I eat a pretty clean diet, I gained a lot of weight with each of my pregnancies. People often ask how I managed to lose it all (with an extra 10 lbs to boot) so I thought I would share my 10 tips for sustainable and healthy weight loss with you.
- Patience. I took a few months to bond with my baby, allow my body time to recover from childbirth, establish a healthy milk supply and adjust to my new role as a mother. Once I was ready, I acknowledged that it took 9 months to gain the weight and it wasn’t going to vanish overnight. I knew that in order to safely lose the weight and keep it off, I needed to understand it is a process and to have patience.
- Breastfeeding. I attribute a good amount of my weight loss to breastfeeding. Although this is not why I chose to breastfeed, it is certainly a nice perk! Research shows that women who exclusively breastfeed for a minimum of six months are most likely to lose all of the weight gained during pregnancy. Lactation also seems to mobilize fat accumulated before pregnancy.
- Stay hydrated. I keep a reusable glass water bottle with me at all times to make sure I’m drinking enough water (which is also important for #2). Also, cut down on or eliminate sugary, carbonated and/or caffeinated beverages. Try adding fruit slices, fresh mint, cucumber or ginger to water. If you’re really craving soda, a nice alternative is mixing a splash of 100% juice with sparkling water.
- Be active. You don’t have to go nuts in the gym or run a marathon. I took daily walks with the stroller or baby carrier which allowed us to get some fresh air and sunshine and when it was cold or rainy, we hit the indoor mall. There are also local groups of moms who walk together for extra motivation and support. When returning to work, take power walks in the morning or on your lunch break, start taking the stairs instead of the elevator and park further away from the building. Everything counts!
- Keep a food journal. Sometimes we aren’t aware of what, why or how much food we’re eating. Try keeping a daily journal of your food intake and moods. I used the Weight Watchers Points Plus online tracker which helped me eat a balanced diet, keep my portions in check and track my success which kept me motivated. I love that breastfeeding mamas get some extra points to maintain a healthy milk supply.
- Graze. Eat smaller, more frequent meals and snack throughout the day. If you work in an office, consider keeping a mini fridge under your desk and stock it with quick and easy snacks like sliced apples, carrots, cucumbers, peppers and dips like almond butter, guacamole and hummus which contain healthy fats and are satisfying. Also, be sure to keep your handbag stashed with healthy snacks for on-the-go. I like Credible Cravings Organic Perinatal Whole Food Bars and MACROBARS which come in yummy flavors like Cherries and Berries and Granola and Coconut.
- Plan ahead. Planning out meals in advance will keep you in line as it is easy to splurge on a high calorie meal when you’re hungry and pressed for time. Keeping your fridge and pantry stocked with healthy staples and having some tried and tested recipes on hand is very helpful.
- Eat the rainbow. Eating a variety of colorful fruits, veggies, legumes and grains packed with nutrients and fiber will help keep you full, satisfied and energized.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep loss has been shown to affect the secretion of cortisol, a hormone that regulates appetite. As a result, you may feel hungry even if you’re full. Sleep loss may also interfere with the body’s ability to metabolize carbs which leads to high levels of blood sugar. Sleep is a precious commodity with a baby… consider foregoing the dishes and nap when baby naps.
- Allow occasional indulgences. I don’t believe in fads or crazy diets. In order to maintain any kind of weight loss, you need to adopt a healthy balanced lifestyle which not only includes eating well and being active, but also occasionally enjoying an indulgent meal or decadent dessert!
Remember, you’ve gained more than pounds by having a child. Something I read on the La Leche League website helped put things into perspective~
You’ve acquired memories of your baby’s precious infancy, when all he wanted was your voice, your body, and your smile. You’ve grown strong from caring for your baby when he was ill. You’ve gained wisdom from learning to lovingly guide your clever explorer. You’ve discovered that even though your body may not meet pre-determined standards of beauty, it can nurture a baby in the best way possible. You’ve earned the body of a mother. Celebrate that body and appreciate the emotional and physical strengths you’ve gained. Compared to all that, a few extra pounds are insignificant.
Update #1: It is July 2014 and I am now 5 months postpartum after the birth of my second child. I was on modified rest and gained 75 lbs with this pregnancy. I have lost 50 lbs so far so if you are reading this, I am on this journey with you! It’s also important to note that my baby weighed just under 10 lbs and when you add in the placenta, amniotic fluid, maternal breast tissue, maternal blood and fluids that’s another 15+ lbs so it’s more like losing 25 lbs in 5 months. After the initial weight loss it takes longer to lose… no more than 1.5-2 lbs/week. Anything more than that I would not consider healthy for my body or milk supply. I also recently joined a well-appointed fitness club with some wonderful classes for my mind and body!
Update #2: It is November 2014 and I am 9 months postpartum. I just lost the 75th pound I gained and feel great!
Please consult with your health-care provider before making any dietary changes or starting any exercise routine.