Weight loss after pregnancy: Reclaiming your body
If you're like most new moms, you're eager to hang your maternity clothes in the back of the closet. Thankfully, there's no secret to weight loss after pregnancy. It takes healthy foods, a commitment to physical activity — and plenty of patience. Remember, too, there's more to weight loss after pregnancy than simply fitting into your favorite jeans again. The excess pounds you shed now can help promote a lifetime of good health.
Consider your eating habits
When you were pregnant, you may have changed your eating habits to support your baby's growth and development. After pregnancy, proper nutrition is still important — especially if you're breast-feeding. Making wise choices can promote healthy weight loss after pregnancy.
- Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean sources of protein. Foods high in fiber — such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains — provide you with many important nutrients while helping you feel full longer. Other nutrient-rich choices include low-fat dairy products, such as skim milk, yogurt and low-fat cheeses. Skinless poultry, most fish, beans, and lean cuts of beef and pork are good sources of protein.
- Avoid temptation. Surround yourself with healthy foods. If junk food poses too much temptation, keep it out of the house.
- Eat smaller portions. You may want to trade traditional meals for smaller, more frequent meals. Don't skip meals or limit the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet, though — you'll miss vital nutrients.
- Eat only when you're hungry. If you're anxious or nervous or if you simply think it's time to eat, distract yourself. Take your baby for a walk, call a friend or read a favorite magazine.
Include physical activity in your daily routine
In the past, women were often instructed to wait at least six weeks after giving birth to begin exercising. Today, however, the waiting game may be over. If you exercised during pregnancy and had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, it's generally safe to begin exercising within days of delivery — or as soon as you feel ready. If you had a C-section or a complicated birth, talk to your health care provider about when to start an exercise program.
When your health care provider gives you the OK:
- Get comfortable. If you're breast-feeding, feed your baby right before you exercise. Wear a supportive bra and comfortable clothing.
- Start slowly. Begin with light aerobic activity, such as walking, stationary cycling or swimming. As your stamina improves, gradually increase the length and intensity of your workouts.
- Include your baby. If you have trouble finding time to exercise, include your baby in your routine. Take your baby for a daily walk in a stroller or baby carrier. If you prefer to jog, use a jogging stroller designed for infants. Lay your baby next to you while you stretch on the floor.
- Target your abs. Losing abdominal fat takes dietary changes and aerobic exercise, but abdominal crunches and other ab exercises can help tone your abdominal muscles.
- Don't go it alone. Invite other new moms to join you for a daily walk, or join a postpartum exercise class at a local fitness club, community center or hospital.
- Remember your Kegels. These exercises won't help you lose weight, but they will tone your pelvic floor muscles. Simply tighten your pelvic muscles as if you're stopping your stream of urine. Try it for five seconds at a time, four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions. Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day. You can do Kegels while standing, sitting or lying down — even while breast-feeding your baby.
Remember to drink plenty of water before, during and after each workout. Stop exercising immediately if you experience pain, dizziness, shortness of breath or a sudden increase in vaginal bleeding. These may be signs that you're overdoing it.
Set realistic weight-loss goals
Most women lose more than 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) during childbirth, including the weight of the baby, placenta and amniotic fluid. During the first week after delivery, you'll lose additional weight as you shed retained fluids — but the fat stored during pregnancy won't disappear on its own.
Through diet and exercise, it's reasonable to lose up to 1 pound (0.5 kilogram) a week. It may take six months or even longer to return to your pre-pregnancy weight, whether you're breast-feeding or not — and even then, your weight may be distributed differently from how it was before pregnancy. You may have extra skin as a result of the stretching of your abdominal wall, and pregnancy-related changes in bone structure may be permanent. Be gentle with yourself as you accept the changes in your body. Above all, take pride in your healthy lifestyle.
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