By Elizabeth Holmes, MS, RD, LDN, CSOWM
Postpartum weight loss is similar to weight loss at other times in your life. The major difference is the change to your body and life after having a baby.
What worked to lose weight and stay healthy before the baby may not work the same after baby. Losing weight after having a baby will take time, and it can take longer after baby No. 2 or 3. Some of the weight you gain during pregnancy lingers after baby, such as increased fluid volume, increased breast tissue and the weight of the enlarged uterus. It will take time for these to shrink back down. Try to be patient with yourself and your body.
Taking care of a new baby changes a lot of things. Stress may increase and self-care may decrease. Self-care includes a lot of the key areas for weight management, including sleep, exercise, planning and cooking meals.
Managing stress with a new baby can be challenging. There is evidence supporting increased stress levels resulting in decreased weight loss and even weight gain. A few things to think about with managing stress are: staying connected with family and friends, prioritizing your time (the laundry can wait), seeking support when needed and staying active. Exercise has been shown to be effective in managing changes in mood, including stress, and could decrease the desire to cope with foods.
Here are a few ideas to get you started on losing weight after giving birth:
Map out a schedule for exercise. Set specific realistic goals such as 30 minutes, three times a week on specific days and times. Put it on your calendar like an appointment. Protect this time as you would an actual appointment. Find activities you can include the baby in, such as walking with a stroller or using a gym with childcare.
Schedule time to plan meals, shop and cook. Try batch cooking. Cooking foods in larger amounts will give you quick microwavable options for when you have less time. This may also help you avoid unplanned eating out. Some examples can include roasting or steaming vegetables, crockpot chicken and batches of stir fry. Think of meals you may need to eat with one hand so you can hold your baby with the other.
Plan for quick, grab-and-go healthy foods. This will be a lifesaver when you are short on time and need snacks fast. Some examples include fruit, nuts, individually wrapped cheeses, veggies in prepacked food storage containers, meal replacement bars or shakes.
Log food to get a better estimate of calorie intake. You could be under eating, especially if you are breastfeeding and exercising. Meeting with a dietitian could help you figure out how many calories you need to support breastfeeding, exercise and weight loss.
Elizabeth Holmes, MS, RD, LDN, CSOWM, is a Registered Dietitian/Clinical Nutritionist Educator with Mission Weight Management.