Postpartum weight: 8 strategies for shedding extra pounds
By Jane Harrison, R.D., Staff Nutritionist, myOptumHealth
Weight gain is an expected part of a healthy pregnancy. But now that your baby has arrived, you are probably eager for the extra weight to disappear.
It’s natural to want to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight after you give birth. And aside from the benefit of fitting into your old jeans, shedding the weight is important for long-term health as well.
Even so, there is no reason to rush into quick weight loss. Putting too much pressure on yourself can backfire. The following tips will help you get your weight, and your mindset, back on track.
1. Avoid crash dieting. With a healthy diet and exercise, most women can return to their pre-pregnancy weight within the first year after delivery.
- If you are moderately active, your calories should not go below 1,800 per day. If you are breast-feeding, you will need to add an extra 300 to 500 calories above that. Less than that and you won’t get in the nutrition you need for yourself and your baby, and your milk supply may suffer.
- And remember, very strict diets will not give you enough nutrients. They are also too limiting and hard to stick to in the long run.
2. Be patient. Don’t aim to lose lots of weight over a short period of time.
- A goal of one half to one pound a week is best for long-term weight loss and maintenance.
- Remember, slow and steady wins the race!
3. Space your meals and snacks. Make sure your calories are spread evenly throughout the day. Avoid eating as little as you can during the day and “saving” calories for later. This often sets you up for afternoon or late-night bingeing.
- For instance, on a 2,000-calorie meal plan, aim for 500 to 600 calories at each meal, with two 200-calorie snacks in between.
- Eat every three hours to keep your appetite under control.
4. Combine food groups. This helps you prevent cravings and feel satisfied. Examples would be:
- Two eggs with a whole-grain English muffin and fruit
- Turkey and avocado on a whole-wheat pita with raw veggies
- Salad with tuna, chickpeas and a small amount of olive oil dressing
- A bowl of oatmeal made with skim milk, topped with a handful of walnuts
- Low-fat cottage cheese with almonds and sliced fruit
Let yourself have a treat once in a while too!
5. Maximize nutrition. Eat wholesome, satisfying foods that have plenty of fiber.
- They will keep you full without breaking your calorie budget. These include bean soups, lots of cooked vegetables, salads and whole grains (such as brown rice, barley, whole-grain breads and cereals).
- Include some healthy fat in your meal plan, such as avocado, nuts or olive oil.
6. Write it down. Keep a food journal with several days’ worth of eating, including the timing of all your meals, snacks and drinks. Little things can add up. Ask yourself these questions to gain awareness of your current patterns:
- Are you drinking calories that you are not aware of?
- Are you going long periods of time without eating?
- Are all your calories concentrated in the later part of the day?
- Are you getting enough healthy fat, protein and wholesome carbohydrates (fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains)?
7. Attitude counts. Don’t think of this as a diet, but as a change in your eating habits for health, weight control and quality of life. Feeding your body nutritious foods is a gift you can give yourself. Remember, it’s important to be a healthy role model for your new baby, too.
8. Move! Studies show that regular exercise may be especially helpful in losing the baby weight and keeping it off. Walk your child in the stroller if you don’t have alone time. Aim for four to five times a week for at least 30 minutes per session.
Finally, although there are numerous benefits to breast-feeding, there is no clear research to support its role in weight loss. So whether or not you decide to breast-feed, following a healthy lifestyle is important for losing weight.
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- O’Toole ML, Sawicki MA, Artal R. Structured diet and physical activity prevent postpartum weight retention. Journal of Women’s Health. 2003;;12(10):991-998.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. My pyramid for pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Wosje KS, Kalkwarf HJ. Lactation, weaning, and calcium supplementation: effects on body composition in postpartum women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2004;80(2):423-429.
- Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. Counseling postpartum patients about diet and exercise.