Type “post pregnancy weight loss” into Google and up pop, oh, over 51 million results. That's a lot of people talking and writing about how to get your pre-baby body back. And it means there's probably a lot of dodgy post pregnancy weight loss advice out there, too. But don't despair and don't beat yourself up. Embrace the elasticated pants for the moment (stick with us here). You and your body have been through a huge adjustment and it'll take some time to show your skinny jeans who's boss.
Working out, getting enough sleep and following a healthy breastfeeding diet (heck, even cooking a healthy meal rather than relying on toast) are all complicated with a new baby in the house, but weight loss is possible - you just need a plan. Get into the mindset with our seven post pregnancy weight loss tips.
1. Give Diets a Miss
First, diets don't work, it is about consistency and committing to a healthy lifestyle. Second, you've just been through a strenuous feat - and you're experiencing the withdrawal of pregnancy hormones, which can be tiring. Diets are generally built around deprivation and tend to put your body under more stress, which you don't need right now (or ever).
The 12 Week Body Transformation can give you a plan for post pregnancy weight loss with nutrition and exercise plans. We have a specific program for mums with babies between 6weeks and 12 months old in addition to our other weight loss programs.
For mums looking for some expert advice now, here are some other practical things you can introduce straight away:
- Ditch all junk food from your kitchen - studies show when you're sleep-deprived you'll be more tempted to eat it.
- Fill the fridge and pantry with lots of fruit and veg, lean meats, fish and seafood, whole grains (oats, grainy breads, beans, pulses), eggs, and healthy snacks like yoghurt, nuts and seeds (chia seeds for example, are great in a smoothie and a real fibre-booster).
- Even though you're probably short on time right now, a food diary can be a great help if you want to keep track of what you're eating. Research shows that women who monitor their eating enjoy greater weight loss than those who don't - because it makes you more mindful of what you're putting in your mouth.
2. Forget Celebrity Mums
We've all seen (probably Photoshopped) pictures of celebrity new mums on magazine covers who seem back to their pre-baby weight just weeks after giving birth. Do not be sucked in by the “How She Did It!” cover line. The sad truth is, many celebs go to dangerous lengths in the weight loss game and not just after having a baby.
You should not be looking to them for a plan. Many celebrities lose baby weight through intensive workout routines or scarily restricted diets before their body's ready for it.
The first six weeks aren't the time to get all gung-ho about a weight loss program. You should be focusing instead on bonding with your new bundle of joy. You should also consult with a doctor before making any changes to your diet or activity or embark on a post pregnancy weight loss plan.
But just so you know, Mother Nature is already at work during those six weeks, shrinking your uterus, cervix and vagina back down to their pre-pregnancy size. And your contracting uterus helps flatten your belly, so don't worry if you're still feeling pregnant for a while.
Pregnancy hormones have also softened your ligaments and joints - they'll take some time to get back to normal as well. After your six-week check up with your doctor, you can start adding in consistent, regular exercise to help get back into shape faster. Prior to that, go for walks or do some gentle stretches if you feel up to it.
Pelvic floor exercises can help your vagina to firm up and recover, and you can start soon after the birth. If you've had a tear or an episiotomy, don't do stretches until you've healed down below.
Mums recovering from a C-section shouldn't do any abdominal exercises until the wound has healed - and only once you've checked with your doctor first.
3. For Post Pregnancy Weight Loss, Consider Breastfeeding
Does breastfeeding lead to post-pregnancy weight loss? Sure, for some mums, because it burns up extra calories. Other mums find they don't lose weight until they've stopped breastfeeding their baby. It depends on so many variables, like how many calories you're eating compared to how many you're working off.
General advice is that breastfeeding mums shouldn't go on calorie-restricted diets as it's believed to affect the quality of your breast milk, but make sure you talk to your doctor about what's right for you.
4. Get Fit With Baby
Exercise should be in every new mum's tool kit. It not only helps with post pregnancy weight loss, research shows it also improves cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength, boosts energy and mood, helps relieve stress and may help alleviate the baby blues.
Studies also suggest that women who exercise after having a baby are less likely to become obese in the long term.
If you're past your six-week check and have your doctor's OK to get back into exercising (especially if you've had a C-section), there are heaps of workout options to try. You could join a mums and bubs exercise group, see if any other mums want to become your workout or walking buddy, or head to a gym - ideally one with a good crèche.
If you've never worked out following an exercise plan, now could be a great time to start. The 12 Week Body Transformation's workout programs can help ease you back into exercise and give you the framework to stay on track.
Also, don't ignore the weights room - it should be a key part of your program. Countless studies indicate that resistance training builds lean muscle, which keeps your metabolism ticking over - and burns calories - long after you've left the gym. The result? You'll get slimmer, faster.
5. Get Some Sleep. (No, We're Not Joking)
Okay, we know you're probably propping your eyes open with matchsticks right now, because there's nothing like a new baby in the house to ensure no one gets any shuteye. But it's important to try and carve out some zzzz-time somewhere - even if it means going to bed super early, napping when the baby does or taking turns with your partner doing night or first morning feeds.
Why? Well, one study found that mums who slept five or less hours per night were more likely to hold onto their extra baby weight - simply because when you're sleep deprived, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol, which can promote weight gain around your belly.
Other research shows that when you're sleep deprived you're more likely to opt for fatty foods and carbs. And of course being completely wiped out doesn't bode well for workouts, right?
6. Consider a Belly Wrap
Post-partum abdominal wraps have been used around the world for centuries. Some obstetricians still recommend post-partum mums wear one to help with posture and abdominal support for the first 6-8 weeks after birth.
There's also the theory that the gentle compression on your abs helps the uterus return to its normal size more quickly and flattens your stomach faster, too - helping with diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles, which happens during pregnancy).
Of course, others think compression garments are a gimmick or actually make you use your abdominal muscles less, and that nothing beats healthy eating and regular exercise. Your call!
7. Get Help
If it's been months of doing all the right things, working out regularly and eating correctly and you still can't shed any weight or are actually gaining more, talk to your doctor. He or she can run tests for certain conditions (such as insulin resistance, diabetes or hypothyroidism) that can make it more difficult to lose weight. Once you know what you're dealing with, you can then take steps to remedy the problem and get your weight loss back on track.
12WBT can help with your post pregnancy weight loss. Following our nutrition and exercise plans is easy. Our experts work out all the correct portion sizes, give you recipes for balanced meals and tell you the best exercises for you. Sign up for 12WBT today.