I have been able to get back down to my size 6 after each baby, and I even hit size 4 thrice. My most recent addition is 10 months old and I have yet to slip comfortably into those size 4’s, but the waistband is getting more comfortable all the time. I am not one of those genetically blessed women who snap back to their teenage weight and figure before the epidural wears off either. I have had to work for it, but my advice is all the more compelling because of that.
Weight Gain During Pregnancy
I digress just a bit, giving the impression that I am not genetically blessed and that my ability to achieve weight loss after pregnancy is all hard fought blood, sweat and lycra. Anyone can lose the baby fat easily with a bit of an insiders scoop. After 4 kids, 4 pregnancies and 4 post-partum races back to the skinny jeans I can unequivocally state it is my firm belief that the ease of weight loss after pregnancy is directly tied to the way in which weight is put on during those nine months in waiting.
I am a doula and prenatal teacher to boot. This has given me the opportunity to perform my own informal study and there is a direct link to women who exhibit a speedy return to pre-pregnancy size and the way they managed the weight gain and dietary demands of pregnancy. Some schools of thought regarding the heavy state of eating for two have mommies thinking, and then eating, as much of whatever they want for 9 months. It is as if a healthy diet is suddenly composed of the twin ideals of volume and the whims of the pregnancy-driven craving’s fancy.
Let me tell you, I have put this pregnancy nutrition ideology to the test. During my first pregnancy I ate as much as I wanted of anything I wanted, including chili dogs, chips, cookies and other such foods. I did do a few things right. I made certain that seated right next to my chips and cupcakes was a triple sized serving of spinach, broccoli and blueberries. I also exercised regularly, running 3+ miles daily until I was 38 weeks along.
I ended up delivering a 6 lb, 13 oz baby after gaining some odd 70 pounds. I came home from the hospital sporting a net weight loss of only 5 pounds. (If anyone can tell me how that works out mathematically, I’d love to hear it.) I was losing that weight, but it took me a good 9 months of work to do so. That being my first child I had the time and energy to focus on caring for baby and losing weight after pregnancy to the exclusivity of all else. But I decided to revise my personal policy of eating for two when babies 2 and 3 came along.
Eat for Two: Take Two
By the time my second pregnancy came into being I had graduated from school and had been teaching prenatal classes and working as a doula for nearly two years. Needless to say, I learned a lot. This time I ate less and gained fewer pounds in pure fat but I let exercise fly out the window. I rationalized that chasing a toddler was exercise enough.
Why head to the gym when I feel crummy and would rather lay on my nursery floor assembling blocks with my three year old while eating freshly sliced tomatoes sprinkled with pepper and balsamic vinegar? Tomatoes don’t have enough calories to really matter and the thought of cake made me ill. Baby two came into the world, and I was a much smaller new mama, but it still took several months of hard work to move from the large maternity sizes into the size fours.
Eating for Baby, and Exercising for Baby
My third pregnancy I was determined to get it right this time. I had no extra time after wrangling toddlers, running the house, being on call 24/7 and seeing to the needs of a newborn to get to the gym. I concocted a flexible, but regimented eating plan that encompassed the healthiest foods and a few of my favorite taste treats. I walked, ran, did yoga or some other form of exercise daily…I counted playful bouts of ‘I’ll get you” chasing the older children as exercise, but I treated it as such, meaning I also actually ran.
This time, when baby came I was amazed at how easily the weight just fell off. I was back into the smaller sizes of my wardrobe in only 8 weeks – a record I never thought I’d myself achieve, even though I have had several students over the years perform this very feat with ease. So what came together for me during this third pregnancy? It was the magical combination of eating the right things, in reasonable amounts and gaining weight the right way in the proper amounts all while maintaining strong, well exercised muscles.
Getting it Right and Falling Off the Wagon
As stated before, I have four children. And what do you think the weight gain vs. weight loss picture looked like for this most recent arrival? Well, it was ugly. I totally fell off the wagon. I know how to nurture a baby healthily while not puffing up to bovine proportions but do you think I put that knowledge to work to do it? NOPE
I steadily and persistently repeated the old mantra of “I am pregnant and can eat whatever I want” for the entire 9 months. Then I proceeded to do just that. The results are just this: I am packing a 10 month old in addition to several extra pounds of junk in my trunk. So what can you take away from this? First off, no one is perfect. So don’t beat yourself up about mistakes made during yesterday’s ho-ho feast and don’t get too cocky thinking you are impervious to temptation or a cravings break down.
Just starting where you are right now: making consistent efforts will win you the prize of the returned buttoning of your skinny jeans. Next, it does take effort on your part. You can make the major effort while pregnant or exert yourself losing weight after pregnancy, but at some point you will most likely have to work for it. How do you work to ensure weight loss, healthy gestation and rich milk production all at the same time? Don’t worry, it’s not too hard!
Taking It Off: Making a Plan Now
The first step to losing weight after pregnancy is to make a plan now. If you are still pregnant, make your plan. It will include strict portion control, regular exercise no matter how unenthusiastic you may feel and the substitution of the very best food choices instead of empty calorie snacks. If you are already past the pregnancy phase, your plan will be different. The caloric needs of a pregnant body are lower than that of a lactating new mom. You need about 500 calories more per day, but don’t get too hung up on counting calories.
It is far easier to simply take a long hard look at your mealtime plate. The goal of loosing weight after pregnancy is not the headlong dive back into skinny clothes with healthy body, baby and breast milk production taking a back seat to the lessening numbers on the scale. You need to eat well, exceptionally even, to get the baby pounds off while maintaining breast milk production for your baby. Load up on fresh green vegetables, yellow and orange fruits, lean meats and skip any pre-assembled boxed, bagged or canned foods. Become your own personal chef.
To that end cut the junk. Sugar especially is your enemy. Sugar stimulates an insulin reaction even if you are not diabetic. The in rush of insulin does more than regulate blood sugars within normal levels. It also tells the body it should store fat, and that is not what you want. Avoid getting too much sugar, even from healthy sources like fruits.
Exercise for Postpartum Weight Loss
Exercise is not a four letter word! Healthy, regular, even strenuous physical exertion is good for you and your baby no matter which side of the pregnancy your current situation is. Exercise during pregnancy will help your major muscle groups maintain their strength. This will make the child birthing process easier, give you more stamina and decrease healing times.
Regular exercise during pregnancy also keeps fat gains in check. Loosing weight after pregnancy will be that much easier if there is less to lose. Having strong muscles also keeps the metabolism revved up and burning fuel or baby fat at optimum capacity. This comes into play during those postpartum days when all you do is sit and hold your bundle of joy as you heal, figure out how to nurse and adjust to motherhood generally.
After the birth of your baby, don’t jump right into those exercise pants too soon. Take it easy for several weeks. Once you get the all clear from your midwife or OB you should still listen to your body. If postpartum bleeding increases after a workout it is your body’s way of telling you to slow down a bit. Once your body is ready to hit the gym again postpartum, get there, but easy does it. One reason so many women have difficulty loosing weight after pregnancy is because their exercise routines swing too far from one end of the spectrum to the other.
Continuing a sedentary, rocking chair life style will not encourage the shedding of weight but hitting the gym and training as if you were to run a marathon next will won’t do you any fat loss favors either. Instead pick 2-3 activities, classes or aerobic exercises you enjoy and mix it up. Aim for an every other day sweat session for at least 30 minutes, and mild exercises in the off days, like a stroll in the park with your baby‘s pram.
Loosing Weight after Pregnancy and Sleep
A healthy body will always return to equilibrium. If your body is getting the support it needs the extra pounds will come off, but part of supporting healthy weight loss means getting enough sleep. If you are perpetually tired because your little one thinks midnight is suddenly play time, dropping the weight can be challenging.
Get the sleep you need even if it means adopting a modified sleep schedule. Sleep in shifts with your baby. Stocking up on those vital zz’s tells your body that you are fit and that is it time to let go of the stored fat layers. The body will greedily cling to stored fats as a way to ensure your health and healthy breast feeding. Getting sleep and proper nutrition in balance with physical activity lull’s your body’s fears allowing it to drop the security fat blanket.
The Last Few Pounds of Baby Fat
No matter what you do, you haven’t lost the baby weight battle unless you just give up. Some moms just accept the last 5 pounds as the price of admission to motherhood. Hogwash! Let the cover charge be taken out in other ways: stretch marks, stains on what were once spotless carpets and spit-up on favorite cashmere sweaters.
You can lose that last bit of weight. Just keep a few things in mind. Pregnancy sets an amazing change rolling in your body. These physical and chemical changes take nearly a year to come to fruition. It takes just about the same amount of time for your body to revert back to pre-pregnancy normal. Be patient with yourself. If you slip up, just start over again.
Life, food and babies are meant to be enjoyed. Don’t sully the memories of pregnancy with feelings of dread and guilt due to weight gain or loss. Just know genetics doesn’t have to be on your side to get you back into your pre-pregnancy clothes. You can do it.
Eat well, laugh much and keep up with your toddler. You will be zipping up the skinny pants in no time. Believe me I know…4 kids and 150 pounds gained then lost later I am happy to report weight loss after pregnancy happens.