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6 Tips for Losing Weight After Pregnancy

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Now that your baby has arrived and you’ve had time to get used to the changes and challenges of every day life with your little bundle of joy, it’s time for you to think about you again.

It’s completely normal to gain weight during pregnancy and many women continue to carry excess pounds after giving birth. If you are wanting to regain your pre-pregnancy figure or are purely focusing on getting a lean, athletic body to celebrate motherhood then this article will give you everything you need to know.

With a mix of nutrition, lifestyle and exercise tips, this guide will help you achieve the body you are after in no time at all.


Pregnancy and Weight Gain

During pregnancy you will put weight on – it’s an inevitable and healthy part of the process. Some women put a modest amount of weight on and other a lot more, but regardless of how much it’s unlikely that you’ll lose it straight away.

The average weight gain during pregnancy is around 25-30 pounds. And it’s actually pretty healthy for you to put weight on during pregnancy as low weight gain is strongly associated with pre-term birth, particularly if you were underweight or of average weight before pregnancy [1].

Most newborns weigh between 5 and 10 pounds. Add on top of that, the weight of the placenta and amniotic fluid and that’s 10-12 pounds you’ll lose during delivery. But that still leaves around 15-20 pounds of excess weight once baby has arrived. And whilst a very small percentage of women rebound back to their pre-baby weight quite quickly, for many of you it takes a lot more time, work and effort.

What is important though is that you don’t leave it too long before starting to lose the extra pounds. Whilst it is important to give your self time to allow your body to recover from the traumatic experience of giving birth, and not to exercise vigorously within the first 6 week, research shows that those who fail to lose weight within the first 6-months of giving birth are more likely to keep the weight on for years afterwards. 

In one study, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology [2], researchers found that in a group of 540 women, failure to lose weight by 6-months was a strong predictor of long-term obesity with an average 8.4 kg weight gain over a 10-year period.

Whilst it’s important to be patient and put your health first, there are a number of hacks you can put in place to help you achieve your weight loss goals safely. By following these tips you’ll be able to exercise more efficiently and follow a diet that nourishes your body but till allows fat loss to occur.

Here are our top 6…



#1. Be More Active

A great way to get the ball rolling on your return to pre-baby weight is to add in regular but short bouts of unstructured physical activity. Not exercise per se but low-intensity movement.

The chances are – particularly in the first few weeks of motherhood – that you’re still getting to grips with the broken sleep patterns. The last thing your body needs right now is intense, structured workouts that leave you tired and sore.

A simple stroll around the block or through the local park is a good way to get started. It promotes blood flow, nutrient delivery and fat burning too. Start at 10 minutes and build up a little each day. Taking baby with you is also a great way to get fresh air for the both of you and continue the important early bonding phase.


#2. Breastfeed

Breastfeeding is a important boding experience between mother and child. Not only does it provide your baby with essential nutrients for optimal early development, it can also enhance your ability to lose weight too.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women that breastfed for longer than 3 months lost significantly more weight than those who stopped earlier [3].

Lactation enhances weight loss as it’s a big calorie burner, and by breastfeeding on a regular basis you can expect to burn over 600 kcal per day. The Subcommittee on Nutrition during Lactation [4] suggest that when women breastfeed and eat based on appetite, they can expect to lose around 1.6 pounds per month. 

Be aware though that feeding your baby is energy sapping so you’ll also feel much hungrier yourself. We don’t suggest that you actively diet as such during this period as restricting calories too much might leave you fatigued and tired. Instead, watch what you eat and limit excess calories to achieve a small energy deficit. Eat until content but not full.


#3. Take Naps

The chances of you getting a good, full night’s sleep are pretty small. And if you are then think yourself very lucky as broken or sleepless nights are common for new parents.

Continuous restricted sleep has been shown to increase appetite, decrease cognitive and physical performance and make you much more likely to binge on high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. Put this all together and its a surefire recipe for weight gain [5].

Poor sleep patterns are also associated with a sharp increase in cortisol – the body’s stress hormone. As levels of this hormone start to rise your chance of losing muscle and adding belly fat goes up massively so you need to do all you can to keep it at bay. And sleeping is a perfect way of keeping it low.

If you can’t sleep well at night then aim for naps whenever you can through the day. If baby is asleep then you should consider a nap.

By doing this, you’ll regulate your metabolism and have a much more positive outlook and emotional well-being – this in turn will increase your chances of eating properly and being active.


#4. Eat Plenty of Protein

Eating protein-rich foods are essential for supporting the immune system, regulating enzymes and most important of all, promoting growth and repair of your body.

Take your pick of protein foods based on preference, but meats, eggs and dairy all provide complete proteins that contain all essential amino acids. If you don’t eat these then combining grains, beans and rices will also give you all of the essential building blocks you need to restore your body.

Studies show that diets high in protein help to reduce fat mass, increase feelings of fullness, reduce appetite and promote increases in lean muscle mass – an important determinant of a high metabolism [6].

Dependent on the individual food, protein sources also provide important nutrients such as zinc and vitamins B6 and B12. These are all important enhancers of metabolism and optimize the use of fatty acids for energy.


#5. Eat Your Greens

This one should go without saying, but just as a gentle reminder, dark green vegetables are pound-for-pound one of the most nutritious food sources you could hope for.

Broccoli, spinach, kale and green beans are all examples of foods high in vitamins, mineral and antioxidants and are all low in calories too. You’ll also find that your dark green plant food contains magnesium, calcium and chromium – an important mineral for metabolizing glucose and decreasing hunger levels.

Dark green vegetables contain folic acid – a nutrient you’ll have been told to focus on in the early stages of your pregnancy. Whilst it’s not essential to take folic acid supplements post-pregnancy, eating foods rich in the nutrient – especially whilst breastfeeding – helps your body regulate cells and maintain health.

By eating your greens you’ll be less vulnerable to immune system illnesses and give yourself a great boost in your weight loss journey.


#6. Treat Yourself

Again, you have to remember that no one expects you to bounce back to your pre-baby weight straight. Take your time and enjoy the process. It’s a special time and the last thing you want is to do is deny yourself the little pleasures in life in favour of a hugely restricted diet.

This means that rather than going all out by massively slashing your calorie intake and feeling constantly drained, you should instead indulge with some treats to boost your morale. Whilst this isn’t a licence to relentlessly hit the high-calorie foods, it is important to reward yourself every now and then.

Fantastic snack ideas include 1-2 squares of dark chocolate, Greek yogurt or a glass of red. These shouldn’t appear regularly in your diet, but a couple of times a week in moderation will help to keep you on track.

Each of these foods are high in nutrients too meaning you don’t have to feel too guilty – dark chocolate is packed full of zinc, Greek yogurt is full of casein protein and not only is a nice red wine an indulgence, it contains the antioxidant nutrient resveratrol too which can help with fat loss.


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References

  1. Scheive, LA et al. Prepregnancy body mass index and pregnancy weight gain: associations with preterm delivery. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2000; 96(2): 194–200
  2. Rooney, BL et al. Excess Pregnancy Weight Gain and Long‐Term Obesity: One Decade Later. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2002; 100(2); 245-252
  3. Dewey, KG et al. Maternal weight-loss patterns during prolonged lactation. Am J Clin Nutr. 1993; 58(2): 162-166
  4. Subcommittee on Nutrition during Lactation. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, Nutrition During Lactation. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1991 p.15, 74, 140
  5. Patel, SR et al. Short Sleep Duration and Weight Gain: A Systematic Review. Obesity. 2008; 16(3): 643–653
  6. Weigle, DS et al. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations Am J Clin Nutr. 200582(1): 41-48