Whether you delivered your baby yesterday or last year, losing pregnancy weight can seem daunting with everything else you have to do. After months of oddly fitting maternity clothes, nothing is more exciting than the idea of getting into your jeans…or disappointing when they don’t fit. Save yourself time and frustration by avoiding these common postpartum weight loss mistakes.
New Mom Weight Loss Pitfalls
You are so focused on your baby, you forget to eat.
Life with a newborn is demanding and around the clock. It’s easy to get so busy you don’t notice hunger signals. Waiting until you’re starving means you are likely to overeat and make a poor, convenience based choice. During the day, eat something healthy every three hours whether you are hungry or not. Small nutritious mini-meals will ensure you are always full and keep your appetite small. Apples and peanut butter, cheese and whole grain crackers or carrots and humus are great choices packed with nutrients you need to keep you going.
You don’t have the time or energy to plan and cook meals.
There is no doubt that baby’s irregular schedule and nursing can exhaust you. It is important that you nap. Sleep deprivation is clinically associated with weight gain and weight retention. Don’t sabotage yourself by not getting enough sleep. Time-wise, getting in the car and ordering from a drive- through takes more time than making a sandwich or scrambled eggs. Keep no-plan staples in the house like whole wheat bread, canned tuna or peanut butter and fruit preserves for quick sandwiches. Canned black beans, cheese, tortillas, avocado and all natural salsa make easy burritos. Eggs can be scrambled with almost any vegetable on hand. When you are trying to lose weight and have little time for meal prep or planning I recommend getting protein from beans, humus and nuts. Cooking meat is time consuming and even lean chicken has way more calories and fat than beans.
You start a fad diet.
This is one of the biggest mistakes new mom’s make. In an effort to lose weight they attempt calorie restriction, cutting out food groups or attempting inflexible, complicated or difficult to sustain meal plans. This backfires because it often results in fatigue and slows your metabolism. Post pregnancy weight is most effectively lost by eating a balanced, whole foods based diet coupled with regular exercise (ideally everyday). Nursing has high caloric demands, so restricting calories shouldn’t be a weight loss strategy. Weight loss while nursing is safe and won’t interfere with milk supply, which has more to do with fluid and calorie intake. Exercise is the key.
You go back to your old exercise routine.
Your body is completely different after a pregnancy. Many women become discouraged after weeks or months of exercise with little payoff. The workouts that kept you fit or helped you lose weight in the past probably won’t work because your body composition, metabolism and hormones are different. The fastest and most effective way to lose postpartum weight is with a combination of weightlifting and interval training. Between sets of bicep curls, do jumping jacks for 30 seconds to 1 minute with no rest time between. This short burst, high intensity style of exercise brings your heart rate up and down and results in more rapid belly fat loss.
Losing pregnancy weight should be one of a new mom’s priorities because the longer you carry it around, the harder it becomes to lose it. Motherhood is a selfless job and putting your health needs last can result in self esteem issues and can contribute to depression. At the same time, don’t let weight loss become an obsession. Focus on being an exercise and food role model for your children rather than focusing on the scale and you may end up with a better body than you started with.
Danielle Federico, M.P.H. is the author of “MOMMY FABULOUS: Complete Pregnancy Fitness and Nutrition Guide, Designed to Deliver a Fabulous Postpartum Figure.” (amazon.com). She holds a Masters of Public Health from UC Berkeley and is a personal trainer and nutritional counselor. Danielle’s popular blog www.danifabulous.com provides nutrition, health and fitness information for anyone looking to lead a healthier life.