So, you may have indulged just a wee bit more than was necessary during pregnancy and have put on more weight than what was recommended. Or, you may have only gained the typical 25–35 pounds recommended by your doctor (if starting your pregnancy at a normal weight). For the first situation, it may take up to a year to get the weight off and for the second, at least a few months.
Try not to be too frustrated and try to have a certain amount of patience with your body – not easy when you are constantly getting bombarded by photos of celebrities who appear to have gone straight from the delivery room into size 0 jeans! However, this is often achieved through an extremely strict diet and is not usually sustainable in the long term.
Here are some tips for losing that post-pregnancy weight in a sustainable and safe manner
Don’t go on a diet
This may sound like strange advice but depriving yourself of your favorite foods could derail your weight loss goals – this is true in any kind of situation in which you want to lose weight. No matter how much you want to lose weight, try not to eat fewer than 1800 calories per day, especially if you are breastfeeding. Try and snack on foods that fill you up but that don’t contain too many calories, such as fruit, wheat crackers, carrot or celery sticks.1
Make sure your diet contains lots of nutrient-heavy foods
Ensure that your diet contains lots of nutritious protein-rish foods, such as fish (in particular salmon, sardines, and canned light tuna as they contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids), lean meat and chicken. Legumes are also a really good food group to eat if you want to lose weight, as they fill you up due to containing lots of fiber and they also provide you with good amounts of protein that prevents your blood sugar levels from dropping. Milk and yoghurt are also good sources of protein as well as calcium.1,2
Breastfeed if you are able and want to
Although studies are mixed with respect to whether or not breastfeeding can help you lose weight after birth, they do tend to point towards a weight loss benefit. Put simply, breastfeeding burns calories and women who exclusively breastfeed burn about 500 calories more per day than women who do not. In general, women who are breastfeeding are instructed to eat an extra 330 calories per day and it is thought that the difference in calories burnt and the extra calories consumed is what results in weight loss. But if you are breastfeeding, don’t use it as an excuse to eat whatever you want.1,3
Start moving and keep moving
Exercise following birth has a multitude of benefits. As well as helping you lose weight, it strengthens your muscles and bones, helps with depression, helps with sleeping and also helps to relieve stress. But make sure you start off slowly and only when you feel your body has recovered enough from birth. And you don’t have to be doing anything as high-intensity as going to the gym – a brisk walk with your baby is enough to get your heart rate up and those muscles working. Look for special postnatal exercise classes as well. Experts say you should aim for around 150 minutes of exercise per week.1,2
Try to ensure you get enough sleep
I know – easier said than done with a newborn in the house. But try to have naps whenever you can throughout the day, especially if you are sleeping for fewer than five hours per night. When you are exhausted, your body releases hormones that contribute to weight gain and you are less likely to eat healthily or exercise.1,2
Ask for help
Do not hesitate to ask for help if you are struggling to get the weight off by yourself. Enlist the help of your doctor as well as a dietitian. A dietitian can help you design an eating plan that will enable you to lose weight sustainably and effectively, and a doctor can guide you on how much weight you need to lose and can advise you on your exercise regimen.1