I hear you, mama, I know that after 9 months of carrying extra weight, you are more than ready to lose it and feel like your normal self. The truth is, as much as you may want to magically slip into your previous clothes, many women struggle with achieving a postnatal healthy weight. In order to lose the pounds effectively and safely, it is important to take your time and to do it in a healthy, sustainable way.
Keep these tips in mind to help you achieve your weight loss goals:
Remember, it took most of you 9 months to grow a baby, so it is unreasonable to expect the pounds to disappear in a matter of weeks or months. For a healthy individual, it is recommended to gain 25-35 pounds during pregnancy, which accounts for the baby, uterus, amniotic fluid, blood, placenta, breasts, and fat stores (1,2).
During birth, most women can typically lose up to 12 pounds, but the enlarged uterus, breast tissues, blood supply, and fat stores account for the rest, and those take time to go back to normal. For example, it can take up to 6 weeks for your uterus to shrink to a normal size, so the important first step is to wait and let your body heal from delivery before you attempt any drastic measures. A study by the World Health Organization on over 1,500 women found that they lost an average of 10.4 pounds between 2 weeks and 2 years after birth (3), so don’t panic, you will get there! Set yourself realistic goals and remember to take it slow.
Depriving your body of nutrients through low-calorie diets is unhealthy, especially for a postpartum mom. Your body needs extra nutrients to heal from birth, and breastfeeding requires even more food to create nutritious breast milk. Instead of low-calorie crash diets, opt for maintaining a healthy caloric intake through frequent high nutrient snacks to keep your energy up and your hunger down. Even with a 2,000 calorie per day diet, you can lose up to a pound a week without any negative effects on milk production or the baby’s growth by eating slightly fewer calories and incorporating exercise (4,5,6).
Weight loss is not a ‘calories in, calories out’ mechanism like you might have believed. There are so many additional nuances in weight regulation, especially after giving birth. I won’t go into all the intricacies of hormones, hunger, and weight gain, but I’ll tell you this: your body cares about nutrients more than about calories. If you eat a 100 calorie pack of mini Oreos, your body will cue you to “keep eating” because you did not provide any of the nutrients that it needs to heal and function. Not to mention the additional nutrients you now need to heal the effects of all those hydrogenated fats and the fact that sugar makes you hungrier. When you eat 100 calories of a nutrient-dense soup made with bone broth, high-quality protein, and nutritious vegetables, this will be more satisfying and nurturing to your body. Just wait 20 minutes after your meal to allow your satiety cues to kick in. Don’t fool yourself thinking you will achieve long-term sustainable weight loss through calorie counting.
Include exercise into your routine
Exercise is a key component of losing weight safely. It not only gets your circulation and energy up and relieves stress, but it also helps to fight against postpartum depression.
As long as your primary provider gives you the ok to engage in physical activity:
Start slow: a slow stroll around the block, a walk around a park, a short outing are great ways to ease back into exercise. You can start with short, 10 minute increments and work your way up whenever your body feels ready.
Include baby: pushing a stroller around, or wearing your baby in a carrier are ways to include and bond with your baby while getting a workout!
Do it together: exercising with other mom friends is a wonderful way to meet new moms and feel a sense of community and camaraderie. Try a postpartum exercise class or go for a walk together.
Breastfeed if you can
Breastfeeding in itself is a calorie-burning machine (up to 500 calories a day) and can support your weight loss. In addition, there are many breastfeeding benefits to both mom and baby:
Provides the perfect food for your baby that changes according to his/her growing needs.
Shrinks the size of the uterus – during nursing, hormones that are released help contract the uterus to its normal size.
Boosts baby’s immunity – Breastmilk contains antibodies that help fight off illnesses.
Reduces the risk of disease to both mom and baby – Studies have reported that the risks of obesity, skin conditions, diabetes, sudden infant death (SIDS), and leukemia are reduced in breastfed infants and that there are lower risks of developing diabetes, breast and ovarian cancer, and postpartum depression in mothers (7).
Keep in mind that your body might hold tight to some fat in order to continue to produce breast milk, it’s an evolutionary process so don’t obsess over the last few pounds.
Be nutrient aware - Load up on superfoods!
If you are trying to lose weight in the postnatal period, fueling your body with a nutrient-dense diet is extremely important. If you are breastfeeding, you require even more nutrients than when you were pregnant. The reason? Milk production. It is a demanding process that is designed so that breast milk gets all of the necessary nutrients even at the expense of the mom’s nutrient stores. On top of these demands, your body is fighting postnatal nutrient depletion, so it is important to make sure you are taking in foods that are high in nourishing fats, protein, calcium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.
Some good foods to incorporate into your diet are avocados, fatty fish, organ meats, olives, eggs, sweet potatoes, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens. You can also pack in more nutrients into your diet by taking supplements and superfoods so that you can keep your energy and metabolism up.
Organ meats -especially liver- are considered superfoods because they are loaded with nutrients. The liver is the most nutritious part of an animal and is an excellent source of protein (full of essential amino acids), B vitamins (especially B12), vitamin A, antioxidants, iron, folate, and copper. Lucky for you, Mother Nutrient offers high-quality grass-fed liver capsules that can help boost your energy, build muscle, and support fat metabolism, exercise recovery, as well as skin, brain and heart health!
Reduce your carbs
A lot of people still believe that eating fat will make you fat, and therefore cutting their fat intake and consuming low-fat and fat-free products will help them lose weight. Let me bring you 20 years forward in nutrition science and tell you this is absolutely not true. There is only one hormone that signals your body to store fat (it’s called insulin), and eating fat does not raise insulin, carbs do. Highly-refined carbs and sugar in particular skyrocket insulin, which causes weight gain. If you are trying to lose weight, just swap high-carb foods for their low-carb (and more nutritious) substitutes:
Rice → cauliflower rice Pasta → zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash Hamburger buns → portobello mushrooms Breakfast cereal → eggs Candy bars → 80% dark chocolate Tortillas → almond flour or jicama tortillas Low-fat flavored yogurt → full-fat plain yogurt
Most of all, remember to be gentle and patient with yourself. Your body did wonders by creating and growing a baby! It is completely normal to carry extra weight after birth, so don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Do you need help figuring out how to support your postnatal weight loss? Unsure of what supplements to take?
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Content found on this website is not considered medical advice. Please consult with a physician before making any medical or lifestyle changes.
1. Yaktine A, Rasmussen K. Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Reexamining the Guidelines. Washington D.C.: National Academies Press; 2009.
2. Widen E, Gallagher D. Body composition changes in pregnancy: measurement, predictors and outcomes. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2014;68:643-652.
3. Onyango A, Nommsen-Rivers L, Siyam A, Borghi E, de Onis M, Garza C, Lartey A, Baerug A, Bhandari N et al. Post-partum weight change patterns in the WHO Multicentre Growth Reference Study. Maternal & Child Nutrition. 2011;7:228-240.
4. Nascimento S, Pudwell J, Surita F, Adamo K, Smith G. The effect of physical exercise strategies on weight loss in postpartum women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Obesity. 2013;38:626-635.
5. Lovelady C, Garner K, Moreno K, Williams J. The Effect of Weight Loss in Overweight, Lactating Women on the Growth of Their Infants. New England Journal of Medicine. 2000;342:449-453.
6. Lovelady C. Balancing exercise and food intake with lactation to promote post-partum weight loss. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2011;70:181-184.
7. Ip S. Breastfeeding and maternal and infant health outcomes in developed countries. Rockville, MD: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2007.