While some of us can be very impatient and stressed out about the post-pregnancy weight gain, and wish it away in a flash, many others reconcile quickly to the fact that the extra flab is here to stay and there is no point of even trying to shed it. The typical trepidations that prevent a balanced approach towards post-partem weight loss are:
Will I be able to shed all the extra weight I gained within 3-6 months of having a baby? I want to fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans quickly.
It looks like I am stuck for life with this huge, saggy tummy…is it even worth the attempt to prune it down?
Never Say Never - Monica’s Story:
Monica has been my diet and group fitness client who doesn’t believe in giving up easily. She was 63 kgs before she conceived her second baby in Sep 2011. She went on to gain almost 30 kgs during her pregnancy as she stood at 92 kgs before she delivered her second child. Not the one to be deterred by the enormous weight gain, she went about losing all of it in a very realistic and well-thought-out manner.
Although Monica craved for her svelte body back, she decided not to make haste with trying to lose all that extra flab. She was patient because she was nursing her baby and knew that any drastic change in her diet could mess up with the quality and quantity of milk output, and also leave her without sufficient energy to nurture her new born. She was prudent enough to realise that her body was not ready yet for the onslaught of exercise therefore, for the first three months after her delivery, she made no major changes in her diet. Post three months she made a few tweaks here and there to cut down on excessive calories. She reduced some fats and simple carbohydrates based calories in favour of more fibre and protein. She started 45 minutes of walks once her baby was 6 months old. She gradually picked up pace with weekly increments of speed or distance or both. It was only after she stopped nursing her baby once he turned one year that she cut down her calories further by pruning her diet to the pre-pregnancy diet that I had prescribed for her.
With two young kids, she could not make time to join back the fitness classes, but that did not hold her back from exercising. Instead of letting her new situation act as a damper, she spent her younger baby’s nap hour as her workout time at home with a little Bollywood dance (25 mins), free weight/dumbbell exercises (25 mins) and stretches (10 mins) which was her biggest stressbuster in the day.
When I bumped into her in December, 2013 after having seen her last in her full pregnancy bloom 17 months earlier, my eyes popped out (well, almost) in bewilderment. She appeared more slender than I could ever remember. She had lost a whopping 35 kgs and stood there looking awesome. That’s when I came by her story that should inspire a lot of fence-sitters wondering whether it is really possible to lose all the baby weight, and if yes, how?
If she could do it, so can you!
After talking to her about her weight-loss journey; gleaning over my own experiences as a mother and reflecting on my time as a nutritionist combined with a decade’s experience of running a fitness studio, I have curated a few useful insights on how to lose baby weight in a sane and sensible way. Read on …
First and the foremost, don’t be obsessive about losing weight immediately to get to your pre-pregnancy body. This fixation may not only stress you out, but may also negatively affect your relationship with the new baby. Be patient while you’re beginning to bond with the baby and soak in the feeling of being a new mother. When you’re calm and happy, you’re likely to follow what you plan more systematically.
Dieting is a complete no-no at least for the first 6 weeks after having a baby. Restricting calories and following a fad diet can be counter-productive. While it could help you lose weight quickly, it may make you lose a lot more lean body mass than fat. Worse still, an austere diet could zap your energy you most certainly need at this time, and also adversely affect the quality and quantity of breast milk produced. So, eat a minimum of 1600-1800 kcals a day.
Watch what you eat after the first 6 weeks. While you shouldn’t reduce your calorific intake during the first 6 weeks of delivering, start scrubbing up your diet thereafter. While crash diets are totally out, eating anything and everything with a carefree abandon is no good either. Follow these tips:
- Cut out empty calories by cleaning up your kitchen cabinet of all junk and unhealthy foods like fried snacks, cookies, refined flour products, fizzy drinks, etc;
- Stock up on fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low fat dairy, high-fiber foods and good fats. Fibre staves off cravings for unhealthy food binges when bored by keeping you feeling full for long. Binges are the prime reason for putting on weight rather than losing it during this time;
- Eat 5-6 smaller meals a day rather than 3 big ones to avoid lethargy and to stay high on energy;
- Do not skip meals;
- Enforce portion control;
- Try avoiding outside food as much as possible;
Avoid/go easy on alcohol.
Plan to exercise only after 6 weeks after having your baby. Remember to check with your doctor before starting any exercise; even walking. It’s very important to go slow on exercise as the body is not completely ready for the rigours of exercising right after childbirth. It needs to rest for a while and heal itself especially after a C-section delivery. Even after waiting for 6 weeks, you need to ease into just 30 minutes of walk each day which could be split up into two 15 minutes sessions. Increase your pace or distance gradually.
Don’t put yourself last by not taking out time to take care of your body. Post the 6 weeks pause, even small bits of exercise count up to a decent daily workout. Even if you have 10 minutes in hand, make use of them by doing free bodyweight exercises, climbing stairs, short spurts of running, dancing, or even putting your baby in the stroller and walking/jogging. Some other exercises like Kegels and abdominal bracing can be done even while you’re busy with some chores. Besides helping you shed flab, exercise is a great stressbuster as it releases endorphins – the feel-good hormones. If you’re not healthy and happy with your body, it is likely to take a toll on motherhood besides leading to poor body image, low self-esteem and a very real risk of lifestyle diseases. If you still feel you don’t have time to spare, seek help from your husband or a close family member to chip-in as a babysitter while you’re exercising.
Once you have built up decent stamina, a combination of cardio and strength training really speeds up the fat loss process. Cardio exercises like High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) while running, Zumba, cycling, swimming, step aerobics, and cardio kick-boxing mixed with weight training are ideal. Adding a couple of yoga or Pilates sessions per week can go a long way in cutting down flab.
Minimum 6 hours of good sleep per day is an important component of weight loss. Lack of sleep and resultant exhaustion produce the stress hormone ‘cortisol’ that lowers metabolism, hence slowing down the fat-loss process.
Never emulate celebrities when you see them strut around and pose with their flat bellies barely a month post-delivery. Remember, there is definitely more to it than meets the eye. Since their livelihood majorly depends upon their looks and appearances, most of them use any means (unhealthy as well) to shrink to their pre-pregnancy size as quickly as humanly possible. Many of them follow fad diets, hire ridiculously exorbitant trainers who put them through extremely demanding exercise regime when their bodies are not even ready for any physical stress, leave alone such rigours. Some of them go to the extent of getting washboard-flat tummies by ‘going under the knife’. You certainly don’t need to put your body through such grave risks when you could achieve results with a gradual and healthy approach.
Once you start eating right after 6 weeks and add some sort of exercise to your daily regime, it’s normal to lose upto 2.5 to 3 kgs per month. It is not healthy to try and lose much more than 3 kgs a month. So, set realistic expectations.
It’s pertinent to reiterate the fact that eventually each one’s body type, age, metabolism, diet, physical activity level, medical conditions and genetics play a significant role in post-partum weight loss.