Do you wonder if you will ever be able to fit in your pre-pregnancy jeans again? Are you tired of people telling you to not worry about losing weight and to just focus on the baby?
Think about this, research in 2014 analysed data from 800 women and validated that a year after giving birth, 75% women were not able to shed the weight they gained during pregnancy. (Ref1)
Did your doctor tell you to wait and see how the weight will come off naturally within a year’s time?
Despite it not being true, this is what most mothers are told. New moms are repeatedly told not to worry about how their body looks and to just take it easy, etc etc.
This and other things that makes weight loss after pregnancy more difficult – the sleepless nights, the stress and anxiety of taking care of a new life, the energy draining round the clock demands on your time, and of course the regular house cleaning, not to mention cooking, laundry, grocery shopping. It is exhausting to just talk about them!
Despite all this some women have the energy and willingness to do what it takes to get their bodies back in shape. This, my dear, is for you:
Walking is not going to melt the fat and in some cases neither is breastfeeding
Walking is a good way to start exercising post delivery. However treat it as a stepping stone and move on to more strenuous exercise as and when your body can handle it. You will know that your body is fully ready when your menstrual cycle normalises (Ref2). Always, always consult your doctor before you start any workout post delivery.
There are moms who will be ready to get their running shoes on even a few days after delivery. Others might take from 6 weeks to 3 months.
Similarly, there will be mothers who will see inches melt away as they continue to breastfeed. While some experience weight loss when they stop breastfeeding and a few would feel no difference either way. They need the good old exercise routine and clean-healthy diet.
Whichever way your body responds, you will soon know and you should therefore set your goals accordingly.
Which exercises are excellent for weight loss after pregnancy?
Strength training. Strength training. Strength training. This is the best exercise you can do to tone your body. It is also slow and does not have any bouncing or jerky movements. Your back needs to be strengthened and you need your abdomen muscles to tighten as well after suffering immensely through delivery.
Also, there is nothing wrong with cardio except that for the real calorie burn, you need to spend a lot of time doing it. This is time that you can spend with your baby.
HIIT workouts on the other hand are shorter and will leave you feeling satisfied of having done a full, complete workout. You can start with this Post Natal Beginners HIIT Workout by Lindsay Brin:
After a few weeks, if this is too easy, do a few of them i.e. squats and bridge exercises, with your baby in your arms. Babies find this relaxing as it reminds them of when they were in your tummy while you get a great strength workout!
There is no reason you cannot do this workout everyday. The important things to keep in mind when doing any exercise:
- Keep yourself hydrated. A bottle of water, next to you before you begin your workout is important
- If you are breastfeeding, it is best to do your workouts after the feed
- You NEED to support your breasts while exercising, even if you are working out at home. So invest in a good sports bra.
If you are low on energy and just completely drained, choose an exercise routine that is calming – a walk with the baby and your partner in the evening, postnatal yoga classes at home. This workout DVD from Jillian Michaels is perfect if you want a Yoga workout at home.
What you eat, truly determines how much you lose
You cannot out exercise a bad diet. Even research suggests that either diet alone or a combination of diet and exercise is most effective to lose weight after childbirth.
The combination of both diet and exercise is preferable as it improves the mother’s cardiorespiratory health and prevents muscle loss. Muscle loss is likely if weight loss is targeted from diet alone (Ref3).
Which diet is most successful when it comes to weight loss after pregnancy?
It is not advisable to go on very restrictive diets. You should eat all food groups – don’t leave out those carbs or fats – they are very important especially when you are breastfeeding. Dieting at this stage is about moderately limiting calorie intake.
It is ideal to lose weight slowly – to preserve your bone density, muscle mass (as a result your metabolism) and also your skin elasticity (Ref4). You should aim for 1.5 – 2kgs of weight loss per month. Ideally, set a goal to reach your pre-pregnancy weight by your child’s first birthday.
Now, lets talk some numbers:
If you are breast-feeding then your daily calorie requirement increases by 625 calories (Ref5). In a well nourished women, part of this energy can be mobilised from their fat tissues and the calorie consumption can be safely reduced by 170 calories per day to experience fat loss without affecting milk quality or quantity.
So, calculate your current BMR here (http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/). Adjust for activity levels, i.e. if you are active i.e. playing a sport or any strenuous exercise for more than 3 hours every week multiply your BMR with 1.375 else multiply by 1.2
If you are breastfeeding you want to add an additional 625 calories to arrive at your final calorie requirement.
Plan your meals so that you are in 10% deficit to begin with. It will not have any affect on your milk quantity or quality. Nevertheless, keep an eye out for any change in baby’s poop frequency or consistency.
If you are past the breast-feeding stage, your calorie requirement is similar to any other women and the calories required should take into account your activity levels.
Follow a complete diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals. Those who are breastfeeding should consume at least 1.1g of protein per kg of body weight and 210g of carbohydrates to meet the daily requirement set by the Institute of Medicine (Ref6).
However, whether you are breastfeeding or not, crash dieting or severely restricting carbs is not advisable as it may increase postpartum fatigue and have a negative impact on mood. Severe restriction of calories at this stage is also likely to cause significant decrease in bone mineral density (Ref4).
Ref1: Endres L, et al. Postpartum Weight Retention Risk Factors and Relationship to Obesity at 1 Year. Obstetrics & Gynaecology. 2014
Ref2: Hammer RL, et al. Exercise During Childbearing Year. J Perinat Educ. 2000 Winter; 9(1): 1- 14 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1595006/)
Ref3: Amorim AAR, Linne YM. Diet or exercise or both, for weight reduction in women after childbirth. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jul 23; 7: CDN005627 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23881656/)
Ref4: Oliveri B, Parisi MS, Zeni S, Mautalen C. Mineral and bone mass changes during pregnancy and lactation. Nutrition 2004;20(2):235-40
Ref5: Butte NF, King JC, Energy requirements during pregnancy and lactation. Public Health Nutr. 2005 Oct; 8(7A):1010-27 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16277817)
Ref6: Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate. Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (2002/2005), Institute of Medicine (https://iom.nationalacademies.org)