The best way to lose baby weight after pregnancy is with a clear strategy. This in-depth guide with practical tips on diet and exercise will help you safely lose weight after giving birth.
The average pregnancy weight gain is 30 pounds. The recommended weight loss rate is 1 pound per week.
Drink lots of water and eat a balanced diet high in fiber, vegetables, fruits, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and whole grains.
Get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week (30 minutes 5x/week) at a moderate intensity level.
Be mindful - aim for progress, not perfection.
You are not alone - reach out for support as you need it.
Pregnancy weight loss strategy & goals
Weight loss after pregnancy is similar to weight loss under other conditions. Diet and exercise are important to adjust so that you have a negative calorie deficit - meaning you burn more than you take in over a week.
A recommended safe weight loss rate is 1 pound of fat per week. Rapid weight loss can be unhealthy. Adopting exercise habits and a healthy diet that you can stick to in the long term is much more effective. Crash diets or extreme temporary lifestyle changes put a lot of unnecessary stress on your body.
Everybody and every pregnancy are different, so do not get discouraged if your weight loss progress is slow.
Managing your diet after pregnancy
Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is essential to keep your energy up. Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and whole grains will keep you feeling full and energized. You do not have to starve yourself to lose pregnancy weight. Aim for a healthy and nutritionally balanced diet.
Avoid or limit sugar, high amounts of fat, and refined/processed carbohydrates such as white bread or rice. An excess of sugar affects your insulin response and risk of developing diabetes. Eating higher amounts of fiber and protein can also help you feel fuller for longer, so you’ll be less likely to overeat or reach for unhealthy snacks.
Fat is given a bad reputation. Healthy fat is necessary to maintain balanced hormones and for breastfeeding. Fat is also important for a sense of satisfaction after meals; low-fat diets can leave people hungry, leading them to overeat or make unhealthy snacking choices.
Not all fat is equal though. Studies have found that heart health is supported by a Mediterranean diet high in monounsaturated fats such as olive oil or polyunsaturated fats found in nuts, seeds, and fatty fish, rather than saturated fats such as butter, lard, or dairy.
Post-pregnancy snacking tips
Healthy snacks include:
- Air-popped popcorn.
- Vegetables with dips such as hummus, guacamole, and other bean dips.
- Greek yogurt.
Keeping unhealthy snacks out of the house will make it much easier to resist temptation. If you do keep treats, use an opaque jar to store their results in less snacking than using transparent jars.
Tips for healthy eating after giving birth
Make sure you are drinking enough water since sometimes thirst can feel like hunger. Aim for 8 glasses of water per day. If you’re hungry, a good tip is to drink a large glass of water and observe how you feel. If you are still hungry, have something to eat. Try to eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that it is full. If you eat too quickly, you could end up eating too much before you realize you are full.
Sit down to eat. Limit or turn off other distractions, such as television, so you can focus on your food. Mindful eating has been found to lead to greater satisfaction and enjoyment of a meal and less overall food consumption.
Become familiar with skimming nutrition labels when they’re available. Picking foods with more fiber and protein will tend to keep you full for longer.
Another important thing to look at on nutrition labels is the sugar content. Many foods contain hidden added sugar. Items such as bread, salad dressings, baked beans, peanut butter, cereal, and bars can contain high amounts of sugar.
Some “health” bars are even more unhealthy than candy bars! Juice also contains a surprisingly high amount of sugar, so try to have fresh fruit instead of the juice version.
Managing exercise postpartum
Exercising after pregnancy can be tough with a new baby to take care of. Your body needs some recovery time from the delivery. If you had a c-section, you will need a longer recovery time than a vaginal delivery. Get cleared for exercise by your doctor before designing a fitness plan.
Aim for at least 2.5 hours per week of moderately intense aerobic activity, such as walking briskly. Try for 30 minutes 5 days a week, or about 20 minutes per day.
If you find walking too difficult, try cycling or swimming. Do whatever you can to stay active.
You can sneak in exercise by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking in a faraway spot when you go shopping, or doing some stretches or exercises while watching tv.
Once your body has recovered from the birth, you may also seek out interval training or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. They give your metabolism a temporary boosting effect which can last up to 24 hours after the workout. Get advice from your doctor before attempting this, especially if you had a c-section.
Enlist an exercise or accountability buddy, go to support groups or group classes, or hire a fitness coach or personal trainer. Exercising with others can further motivate and help you stay on track.
Your environment matters a lot, and can significantly impact your weight loss success. Here are some tips on keeping your environment in line with your pregnancy weight loss goals:
- Keep unhealthy food out of the house, and snacks out of sight.
- Keep a food diary or tracker.
- If you usually eat out with your friends, suggest doing a different activity instead, such as a walk in the park.
- Break old routines that encourage unhealthy habits.
- Try to limit eating out to no more than once per week. Cooking at home allows you to know exactly what you are eating.
The importance of mindset in postpartum weight loss
Mindset is often overlooked. Many new moms get frustrated when their weight loss attempts to slow down or even go backward. Your weight can fluctuate up to 5 pounds due to water weight, so do not get discouraged by the number on the scale.
Aim for progress, not perfection. Be kind to yourself and don’t let guilt or shame cause you to eat more, give up on your exercise plans, or reach for unhealthy sources of comfort. Let go of mistakes, and celebrate each step of your progress, without needing it to be perfect.
Losing weight after pregnancy is a struggle for almost all moms. You are not alone. Do not hesitate to reach out for support.