Dropping the Baby Weight

With pregnant celebrities popping back into pre-baby shape in a few weeks, it can be hard for the average woman to know what a realistic weightloss goal is. Here to tell us how to do it right is the author of Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy, and registered dietitian, Elizabeth Somer.

Elizabeth shared this Q&A with us:

How can a woman estimate how much weight she needs to lose after the baby is born?

Not all weight gain is fat. In fact, about 10+ pounds is the baby, the placenta, and amniotic fluid. Another 4 pounds is the mother’s tissues, such as increased breast tissue, uterine enlargement. The mother also gains about 5 to 6 pounds in increased fluids, like blood supply, and another 5 to 10 pounds that prepares the body for breastfeeding. For a total of 25 to 35 pounds. If you have gained more than that, or if you went into pregnancy already over weight and then gained the recommended 25 to 35 pounds, that is where you want to focus your weight-loss efforts.

 

Will breastfeeding help a mother lose weight?

Yes! Breastfeeding will help you lose weight and tone up your insides because of the energy drain of producing milk. You have stored added fat during pregnancy in preparation for breast-feeding. Studies show that if the mother nurses, all this stored fat is "burned" by the end of the nursing period. In contrast, the fat remains if the mother doesn’t breast-feed, and she must cut calories or increase exercise to get the same results.

Women most likely to return to their pre-pregnancy weights are women who gain enough, but not too much, weight during pregnancy, and exercised and ate well during pregnancy, whether they breast feed or not. But, anyone can lose the weight if they are committed and serious about the effort.

 

Will a C Section interfere with weight loss?

A C section does not affect weight directly, but if you don’t or can’t exercise for a few weeks, that will interfere with dropping the extra pounds. If you were fit prior to pregnancy and exercised throughout your pregnancy, that will definitely help recovery and shorten the time it takes to be back in action. Once your physician says it is OK to exercise, you’ll need to start gradual and work up to vigorous, combining combine both strength training (crunches, sit ups, etc to tighten muscles) and cardiovascular (burns fat).

When can women start her post-baby weight loss diet?

 

 

A) Many women jump on the diet bandwagon immediately upon returning home from the hospital. But if you cut calories too fast or too far, you deprive your body and your baby of essential energy and nutrients, thus placing yourself and your baby at nutritional risk. Big mistake. Don’t think about dieting for the first 6 weeks. For those first few weeks, focus on taking care of you and your baby, eating healthy, sleeping when you can, nurturing yourself when possible.

B) The same goes for exercise. Granted, you must exercise. But not for awhile. In fact, when you start back to a regular exercise routine will vary enormously from one woman to the next. The key is to start at the right time and at the right intensity. Your uterus needs time to heal and an episiotomy can be sore for days or even a few weeks postpartum. You can start a gentle walking schedule as soon as you feel up to it if you’ve had a uncomplicated vaginal delivery. Gradually work up to brisk walking with your baby in a stroller. You’ll need more time to heal if you’ve had a Cesarean, so discuss the best exercise schedule with your physician. Six weeks is usually the earliest most doctors recommend returning to a more vigorous exercise routine after an uncomplicated birth. But in reality, it can take up to a year before some women feel enough like themselves to even think about vigorous exercise. One study of mothers who had given birth to healthy, full-term babies found that one in every four of them did not feel physically recovered even six months after delivery. They were battling fatigue, hemorrhoids, constipation, low sex drive, frequent colds, and...well you name it. The message here is to be patient with yourself, but at the same time start including some form of exercise as soon as you can.

 

What is the safest way to lose baby fat?

The key word here is gradual. Prior to pregnancy the weight-loss goal could have climbed as high as two pounds a week. Now it is only two pounds per month for most women and no more than one pound a week for overweight nursing mothers who use a combination of diet and exercise to shed pounds.

A breastfeeding mother needs ~ 2,700 calories daily when nursing. You can’t afford to drop much below this. On the other hand, if you formula-feed your baby, you’ll need approximately 2,000 calories a day, less if you are short or inactive and more if you are tall and exercise daily. Those calories should come from vegetables, whole grains, nonfat milk products, extra-lean meats and beans. Plus water. The non-breastfeeding mom will need a moderate-dose multi or should continue to take her Prenatal vitamins to fill in the gaps, since it is almost impossible to meet all your nutrient needs on a calorie intake of 2,000 or less.

 

 

What are some things that can slow weight loss?

A) Sleepy: The body does tend to hold onto its fat stores when it is sleep-deprived. But, eating healthy, taking a multi with extra iron, and cutting out junk calories still will lead to weight loss.

The body does tend to hold onto its fat stores when it is sleep-deprived. But, eating healthy, taking a multi with extra iron, and cutting out junk calories still will lead to weight loss.

B) Being too tired: Granted, part of the fatigue is lack of sleep. But, many women leave pregnancy iron-low, which leaves them to pooped to think about weight loss. There are several diet tricks to help with your energy level - Boost iron intake (extra-lean meat, legumes, dark green leafies, and continue to take your prenatal supplements that should contain ample iron), eat small meals and snacks, don’t skip breakfast, and cut back on sugar and refined grains, while boosting whole grains.

Granted, part of the fatigue is lack of sleep. But, many women leave pregnancy iron-low, which leaves them to pooped to think about weight loss. There are several diet tricks to help with your energy level - Boost iron intake (extra-lean meat, legumes, dark green leafies, and continue to take your prenatal supplements that should contain ample iron), eat small meals and snacks, don’t skip breakfast, and cut back on sugar and refined grains, while boosting whole grains.

C) I’m cranky and depressed. While post-partum depression is a real condition and should be discussed with your physician. There also is a food factor. The omega-3 fat DHA has shown promise in treating postpartum blues. Several studies show that women battling PPD (post partum depression) are likely to be low in DHA, while raising levels of this fat improves mood. The demands of pregnancy and breastfeeding lower DHA levels, which can double the risk for PPD. Boost your intake of salmon and other fatty fish, or look for foods fortified with DHA (not flax or walnuts...they have the wrong omega-3 fat).

While post-partum depression is a real condition and should be discussed with your physician. There also is a food factor. The omega-3 fat DHA has shown promise in treating postpartum blues. Several studies show that women battling PPD (post partum depression) are likely to be low in DHA, while raising levels of this fat improves mood. The demands of pregnancy and breastfeeding lower DHA levels, which can double the risk for PPD. Boost your intake of salmon and other fatty fish, or look for foods fortified with DHA (not flax or walnuts...they have the wrong omega-3 fat).

D) No time to eat or exercise. Sorry. That excuse doesn’t fly. It takes as little as 5 minutes to fix healthy meals and no time at all for a healthy snack. For example, dunk baby carrots in peanut butter, open a bag of lettuce and top with low-fat dressing, microwave a sweet potato and have it with a glass of milk. As for exercise, Break up the workout into manageable chunks. Get your baby into the act. Put on music and dance with your baby.

Sorry. That excuse doesn’t fly. It takes as little as 5 minutes to fix healthy meals and no time at all for a healthy snack. For example, dunk baby carrots in peanut butter, open a bag of lettuce and top with low-fat dressing, microwave a sweet potato and have it with a glass of milk. As for exercise, Break up the workout into manageable chunks. Get your baby into the act. Put on music and dance with your baby.

 

What are some quick tips for losing weight?

Your free time is scarce, and you are too sleepy to fuss with gourmet meals, but you can still eat well and lose weight by following these two rules:

  1. Stock the kitchen with ready-made quick fixes (baby carrots, sliced oranges, tubs of low-fat yogurt, bagged lettuce, etc) and
  2. Always bring food with you when you leave the house (apple slices, string cheese, etc).

In addition,

  1. Include 2 fruits or vegetables at every meal and one at every snack. I’ve had clients lose 30 pounds following that one tip alone.
  2. Make every bite count: In order to produce enough milk, lose weight, maintain enough energy to meet the demands of mommyhood, and regain your health after the baby is born, you have little wiggle room when it comes to food choices. Your nutritional needs have never been this high and will never be this high again, that means almost all your food choices must be good ones. You need foods that supply the most nutrients for the least calories.

Include foods that might help speed your weight loss, such as the omega-3s in fish or those DHA-fortified foods we talked about before, whole grains that fill you up before they fill you out, broth-based soups or thick beverages like smoothies or V8 juice that take the edge off hunger so you eat less, and of course tons of vegetables and fruits.

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