As if there weren't enough to think about with a new baby, many moms experience anxiety about losing pregnancy weight after childbirth. While women may be hard on themselves in a world of instant gratification and celebrity obsession, it's best to concentrate on planning for healthy post-partum weight loss.
Not surprisingly, prevention is the best strategy. Mothers still in the planning stages should strive to gain a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy (25 to 35 pounds), making it a little easier to rebound post-partum.
The first several months post-partum, however, is not the ideal time for a drastic weight-loss program. Recovery should be the priority the first month after pregnancy. Staying hydrated and eating nutritious meals and snacks will help the body rebuild after the trauma of childbirth.
The most healthful and sustainable strategy to return to pre-pregnancy weight is by making gradual, permanent changes in eating habits.
As a new mom, or even if this isn't your first rodeo, you'll need plenty of energy to take care of baby. Choosing the right foods — fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and dairy — is especially important if you are breast-feeding. To ensure adequate milk supply, you'll need to meet your energy needs and include essential nutrients. Moms who breast-feed exclusively need about 600 to 700 more calories a day, some of which comes from the body's fat stores that built up during pregnancy.
Rather than count calories, focus on choosing foods that are nutrient-rich. If you find yourself losing more than one pound per week, you probably should add a few nutritious calories into your diet. If you gained more than 35 pounds during your pregnancy, it may take up to a year or more to lose the weight, but you can do it!
6 Tips for Mom's Healthy Meal Plan
- Don't skip meals.
- Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water. If breast-feeding, get into the habit of filling a tall glass of water to keep with you all day.
- You need 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. You can get this easily by consuming three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy throughout the day.
- Consume at least 2 cups of fruits and 2½ cups of vegetables.
- Include protein at each meal.
- Plan healthy snacks (fresh fruit, nuts, Greek yogurt with granola, hummus with vegetables, or a protein bar).
Getting Back to Exercising
After recovering from delivery (which may take a couple months), walking may be the perfect post-partum activity because it's easy to do, not strenuous and can include baby. You can incorporate weightlifting or a resistance routine (such as yoga or using exercise bands) once you regain your strength and your baby is a little older, but to start, aim for a daily 2- to 4-mile walk with your baby and stroller.
Avoiding Weight Loss Fads
After bringing your baby home from the hospital, it's easy to slip into the "I want to lose weight fast!" mentality. Some quick weight loss plans may be tempting as you stand (often sleep-deprived) in the grocery store check-out line, and see images of slim celebrity moms splashed onto the covers of popular magazines. Say no to fad diets and focus on balanced nutrition and enjoyable exercise instead.