When it comes to pregnancy, there’s one common question asked by new moms, veteran moms, and moms-to-be: “How do I get my body back after having a baby?” While there’s no single formula that works for all women, I can definitely provide some real insights from my own personal and professional experiences.
Standing 5 feet 7 inches tall, I weighed 175 pounds postpartum. I should mention that during pregnancy I had gained a whopping 65 pounds, 40 of which I lost within 2 months of my son’s birth, thanks to breastfeeding. Although I exercised regularly, the additional 25 pounds lingered for over a year and I had some serious butt and thigh cellulite to go with it.
Fed up with my appearance and reduced energy levels, I did what I had to do.
I began to implement a very high-intensity cardio routine comprised of running, elliptical training, and cycling, 5-6 days a week with 3-4 days of resistance training emphasizing my upper- and lower-body muscle groups. In addition, I eliminated any and all overly processed foods from my diet and deprived myself of anything that I didn’t cook in order to avoid hidden fats, sugars, and sodium.
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Once I implemented these exercise and eating strategies I was able to lose the 25 pounds within a few months.
Now, everyone is different and I certainly don’t expect any woman, especially a mom, to spend countless hours in the gym day in and day out. Furthermore, I understand the need for moms to have healthy but easy to implement eating strategies for reaching their weight loss goals.
As a health expert, avid athlete, and mom with nearly 20 years of experience in helping women manage their weight, I know a thing or two about getting folks in shape prior to, during, and after pregnancy. With that said, I’ve compiled a list of six highly effective strategies that pretty much guarantee successful and sustained postpartum weight loss.
1. Consuming Ample Amounts of Lean Protein
Protein is one of the most important nutrients to consume during and after pregnancy, as it is critical for maximizing fat burning and preventing muscle wasting. Lean muscle is necessary for preserving the metabolic rate during weight loss and it’s absolutely crucial for long-term weight management and overall good health.
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To effectively maintain muscle after pregnancy, it’s best to consume at least 0.55-0.64 grams of protein per pound of your body weight in small portions spread out evenly over the course of the day. The best food sources of protein include seafood and fish, poultry, lean meats, eggs, low-fat dairy foods and/or whole soy products (edamame, tofu, and tempeh).
Related Article: Nutrition Basics: Your Daily Protein Intake
2. Performing Resistance Training
You’re probably surprised to see resistance (weight) training as the first exercise-related strategy for achieving successful weight loss after pregnancy but it is. I’m not talking about ab bootcamp either. Resistance training preserves muscle, elevates the metabolic rate, and fuels the fat burning process that’s necessary for ridding your body of baby fat, especially that stubborn fat in your midsection.
In fact, this type of training is associated with dramatic reductions in waist circumference, which is indicative of a slimming midsection. For maximal results, you should perform 2-3 sets of resistance exercises that target all the major muscle groups using enough load (weight) to fatigue your muscles within 10-15 repetitions.
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3. Eating Moderate Amounts of Healthy Fats
Eating healthy fats burns baby fat. Fats considered ‘healthy’ include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Foods rich in monounsaturated fat include avocado, nuts, and olive oil while polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 fatty acids are housed in oily fish like salmon, trout, and tuna, walnuts, flaxseeds, and soy products.
Collectively, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats prevent excess fat accumulation in the body while also reducing the excess belly fat tha’s been stored during pregnancy. In addition, eating healthy fats is great for controlling hunger and curbing appetite, as they are slow to digest and incredibly filling.
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4. Implementing Cardio Exercise Training
When it comes to postpartum weight loss, cardio exercise is an absolute must, as it effectively burns calories and promotes body-wide fat loss. While you can’t selectively choose where you lose body fat, you can perform exercises that engage your midsection (brisk walking, jogging or running, swimming, and cardio kickboxing) to help reduce belly fat.
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I must emphasize too that high-intensity exercise becomes increasingly important for postpartum women; in other words, you need to put in some real work for some real results. Many moms find it especially difficult to control their belly fat, and body fat in general, because they just aren’t exercising hard enough.
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In addition to being effective, high-intensity exercise is very time efficient, as you can get in an effective cardio workout in 30 minutes or less.
5. Choosing High-Quality Carbohydrates
For successful weight loss after pregnancy, it’s important to incorporate high-quality carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits, and whole grains) into all meals. Such foods contain incredibly large amounts of vitamins, minerals, and health-promoting antioxidants. These nutrients are especially important for postpartum women, especially when breastfeeding, as there’s an increased risk of deficiencies.
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Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains also house large amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber. Consuming soluble fiber can help reduce weight gain by binding fat in the intestines to be carried out in the feces while insoluble fiber encourages healthy elimination of this fat from the body.
Related Article: How Different Types of Fiber Affect Your Health
6. Drinking Water
Inadequate water intake leads to dehydration, which is characterized by extreme thirst. Since signs of thirst and hunger are very similar, confusing the two can easily lead to overeating and, ultimately, inhibit weight loss. For postpartum weight loss you should be drinking at least 8-12 eight-ounce cups of water each day.
On the days you exercise, be sure to take in more water (about 2-3 cups) to compensate for water lost in sweat.
Related Article: Why Water is More Important Than Food
And there you have it! Six of the most effective ways to lose weight after having a baby. Now, let me mention that breastfeeding will likely require an increased intake of certain foods and/or supplementation to ensure your baby’s nutritional needs are met. Consult with your family physician or obstetrician-gynecologist to determine your individual needs in that area.
In addition to implementing these eating strategies for postpartum weight loss, it’s also important to avoid consuming foods rich in refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats (trans fats) whenever possible. In addition to inhibiting weight loss and promoting unnecessary weight gain, a high intake of these foods greatly increases the risk of numerous chronic diseases.
Related Article: Belly Fat: Five Ways to Lose the Pooch
Healthy moms make healthy kids so let’s do this right!