Once the excitement of seeing your newborn settles down, and the fog of post-partum breaks, one of the biggest concerns women have after delivering is: “How quickly can I get back to my pre-pregnancy weight”.
One of the worst things you can do at this time is to expect too much, too fast. Just as it took 9 months for your body to gear itself for birth, you must allow yourself time to go back to the way it was. To help you get on the right track, I invited our guest fitness expert, Tara Marie Segundo to guide you on how you can lose weight quickly and effectively, without spending a lot of time or money.
Ok, ladies, reality check: you just delivered your bundle of joy and it finally hits you—your little one accounts for only about 7 lbs. of the 30 or so that you gained during pregnancy. You leave the hospital looking like you are still pregnant, and you start to wonder if things are ever going to make it back to their original spot…sound familiar?
The good news is that your body will one day return to some semblance of your pre-pregnancy state, and there are things that you can do to help hasten this process.
Whether you delivered via C-section or the good old-fashioned way, getting your doctor’s clearance before returning to exercise is a must. Pregnancy and delivery present quite a trauma to the body, and a certain level of healing must occur before you place additional physical stress on yourself with exercise.
Once your doc gives clearance, you can consider these tips to help you drop your pregnancy weight:
1. BREAST FEED IF YOU CAN. Breastfeeding can help you shed your excess weight while eating your regular diet. Producing milk uses 200 to 500 calories a day, on average. This may not sound like much, but that can add up to about a pound a week without making any other changes in your daily routine.
2. DO SHORT BOUTS OF EXERCISE THROUGHOUT THE DAY. As a mom caring for a newborn, you can’t expect to have long periods of time during which you can exercise. Take advantage of 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there, to squeeze in some movement. I had a client that had a treadmill in her home and everytime she got a short block of time, she would jump on the treadmill and kick out a brisk walk. She clocked an hour a day by doing 10 minutes here and there. This allowed her to care for her new baby and make use of the brief breaks that she had.
3. MAKE EVERY CALORIE COUNT. If you are breast feeding, it is recommended that you do not eat less than 1,800 calories a day so you can produce milk for your baby. If you are not breast feeding, your doctor may allow you to diet. Regardless, every calorie eaten needs to be nutritious. Your body is in recovery and you need to provide yourself with foods that offer you what your body needs to thrive. Make every calorie count toward the betterment of your health. In general, if man made it, don’t eat it. Stick to fresh whole foods that come from nature.
4. BE REALISTIC. You spent 40 weeks pregnant, so give yourself a break and don’t sweat it if it takes a full year to really feel like yourself again. You may lose the excess weight quickly, but other shifts in your body may take more time to return to their pre-pregnancy state. You will look and feel better if you don’t pressure yourself to do too much, too soon. Do what you can, when you can, and enjoy your beautiful new baby in the meantime. Most new moms report to me that it took them roughly a year to feel like themselves again. Please don’t put undo pressure on yourself.
5. PROCEED SLOWLY. Right after you deliver is not the time to launch into a brand new, physically challenging exercise routine. With your doctor’s OK, it is safe to slowly ease back into what you were doing before you were pregnant. Walking (alone or while pushing a stroller) is a great form of exercise. If you are a runner, there are some wonderful jogging strollers on the market. If you can get to the gym, using a treadmill or an eliptical trainer is a gentle way of doing some cardiovascular training.
6. DO SOME FORM OF RESISTANCE TRAINING. Best case scenario, you have been doing resistance training all along and it helped you with your delivery. If you have never embarked on a resistance training program before, work with a trainer at your gym that is knowledgable about working with women that have recently delivered a baby. If lifting weights is not your cup of tea, there are other forms of resistance training that are very effective, including resistant bands and tubing and using your own body weight. If you can’t afford to work with a personal trainer, most gyms offer a wide variety of conditioning classes. Always mention to the instructor that you just had a baby so she can help you make any necessary modifications. The name of the game in weight control is increasing your metabolic rate, and building muscle will permanently rev your metabolism. Muscle requires calories to sustain itself and you will use more calories (even at rest) if you increase the muscle mass on your body.
7. BE CREATIVE. If you can’t afford to go to a gym and you can’t buy a decent piece of exercise equipment like a treadmill for your home, you must be creative. The idea is to keep moving. Turn on your favorite music and dance, buy a jump rope and use it throughout the day, walk up and down your stairs, etc. You want to get moving and keep moving as soon as possible. This will not only help you physically but will also help you stave off post partum depression. There are a plethora of exercise DVDs on the market that specifically target different populations. Do some research and find a few that are designed to help moms bounce back after baby. Invite some of your new-mom girlfriends over and have an exercise class together! This comraderie will be good for both body and spirit. If you really want to be creative, use your baby as resistance! Holding a 12 lb. baby while doing pliés is no different than holding a 12 lb. dumbbell. Lying on your back and pressing your baby up and down works your triceps as much as holding a light barbell would. There are “Mommy and Me” classes devoted to these sorts of creative exercises that involve your little one, so ask your friends or your doctor and find the one that works for you.
8. DRINK PLENTY OF WATER. Most of us go through life dehydrated. As a new mom, the last person you think about is YOU. Be sure to drink plenty of water (one gallon daily would be great, but at least 3 liters) and do not wait until you are thirsty. Drinking water will not only help you with weight loss and metabolism, but it will also keep you feeling full and curb hunger.
9. EAT 4-6 SMALL MEALS A DAY. Your body will absorb and metabolize food more efficiently in smaller doses, and eating every 3 hours or so will keep your energy up. Taking care of a newborn is hard work and you will feel better if you don’t wait too long between your own feedings.
10. EAT HIGH FIBER FOODS. Eating a lot of fiber is always ideal, but when you are trying to shed body fat, it is the golden rule. Eating high fiber foods (and drinking plenty of water) will make you feel full more quickly and leave you feeling full longer. I personally live by this rule: I eat a large volume of food every day, but it is not calorie-dense food. I eat plenty of steamed and raw veggies that leave me feeling full without eating too many calories. High fiber foods and drinking a lot of water will also keep you regular. Recently giving birth and constipation don’t go together, and that’s all I am going to say about that.
All of this basically adds up to common sense, creativity and patience. Take good care of your body and it will take good care of you. Do the best you can, when you can, as often as you can and relax about this process. Mother Nature knows what to do, and you WILL feel like yourself again soon!
Tara Marie Segundo, M.A. is a WNBF Natural Figure Pro, personal trainer, freelance writer and radio and TV personality based in New York City. For more information or to book an appointment, call 877-692-6221 or visit www.taramariesegundo.com.