My master’s thesis at Baylor University was on Postpartum Obesity. Before ever even planning for children, I was terrified of not losing the baby weight. The idea of my body ballooning and then deflating was daunting, especially because I was entering a career in which my body is my “equipment.”
The research I found was clear:
If you gain more than the recommended 20 to 25 pounds during pregnancy, or if you don’t lose the extra weight within six months of delivery, you are statistically likely to carry an extra 20 pounds, 10 years later. If you are overweight to begin with, that number is even higher. The six-month window for losing pregnancy weight seems to be critical. (Reichman, Today Health)
There’s debate about the recommended amount of weight gain. I believe 20-35 pounds is more accurate.
As a new or new-again mom, you’ve got a lot against you when it comes to weight loss.
-Sleep deprivation. This causes hormonal imbalances (of ghrelin and leptin) that can actually make you gain weight.
-Stress. Case in point: U.S. interrogators blast the sound of crying babies to “break” Iraqi prisoners. As stress increases, so does the stress hormone cortisol, which inflates the sugar levels in your bloodstream.
-Super nice people bring you meals. I don’t know about you, but if dessert is provided, I eat it. And my friends are all such dang good cooks. ;)
-Recovery. If you had a rough delivery or if you have c-sections like me, your recovery time is six weeks minimum. Sometimes moms are in physical pain all six of those weeks. Who wants to exercise when you’re miserable?
-Selflessness. This time is not about you. It’s about the new addition to your family. You’re giving of yourself by the moment, and it’s easy to feel guilty taking “mommy time.”
I thought it might be helpful to share my experience with postpartum weight loss. Keep in mind that I exercise for a living…so it’s not fair, really. It will be much more difficult to fit in workouts (though NOT impossible) if you aren’t in the fitness industry.
I gained 28 pounds with Finn. Bed rest for first 4 months and able to do light exercise for last 5 months. Lost all but 3 pounds…3 pounds that weren’t necessary to lose.
I gained 37 pounds with Paisley. Vigorous exercise throughout pregnancy–including running for first 5 months and weight lifting and teaching spinning until the week before her delivery. I’ve lost 22 of those pounds to date (2 months).
My body is very different the second time around. I’m sure this isn’t the case for every mom, but it has been for me. I’ve got cellulite in places I never thought possible. My ribs expanded and my stomach is not deflating as quickly as it did with Finn. My wedding ring is snug.
My Method of Weight Loss:
1. Walk! Walk fast, walk hills. Get moving! This is something you can do with baby and it’s relatively pain-free.
2. Limit carbs and desserts/sweets of any kind. I only allow them on the weekend. And now that I’m not eating dairy or caffeine, desserts aren’t as much fun anymore anyway.
3. Use a calorie counting app like My Fitness Pal or Lose It!. I don’t normally count calories, but when I’m trying to lose baby weight, it’s very helpful.
4. Once cleared from your doc, get uncomfortable. Work out hard. Sweat. Spike your heart rate. You’ll have to work twice as hard as you did pre-baby to see the same results.
Use the intense workouts to rid yourself of stress and frustration. It’s amazing how refreshed you can feel from a brisk walk as opposed to a cat nap. Or use the investment of your sweet new baby as motivation.
I work out 6 days/week. Teaching TRX, Spinning, and Kickboxing. Walking hills daily, occasionally running…thank you, colicky baby Paisley! ;) I’m not doing abdominal exercises yet, however. A stitch popped a couple weeks ago and it just doesn’t feel right yet.
5. Hire a trainer. They will track your progress with measurements other than the scale. I hired my boss and friend, Angie, to train me after both babies. She motivates me and I don’t have to think, I just do. I’ve had the privilege of training at least a dozen women postpartum and helped them reach their pre-baby goals…some even became fitter than before baby!
7. Find a pair of jeans or pants that you’d like to fit into again. Not from high school. From before baby. And try them on every week or so to track your progress. Jeans don’t lie.
8. Flood yourself with water. Especially if you’re breast feeding. Buy a nice water bottle (I like glass ones!).
9. Speaking of breast feeding, do it if you can. Aside from the benefits to baby, you’ll burn at least 500 calories/day. Release yourself of any guilt if you can’t or choose not to. No judgment.
10. Give yourself grace. This is by far my hardest step. I feel pressure to become fit again almost immediately–probably because of my job and probably because I’m type-A. This is unrealistic. Set realistic goals. Mine are: 1) Lose the weight in 6 months (Christmas Day exactly!) . 2) Fit into old jeans when it’s cold enough to wear jeans. October? 2) Be back to “normal,” if not stronger/fitter by Paisley’s first birthday.
Hope this helps! Feel free to ask questions; I’d love to help. I consider it my calling.