Health up, scales down

Safely and surely!

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 For some new mums, the postpartum period can be an exciting time, while for others it can also be an emotionally and physically challenging time too. While many mums feel impatient to regain their pre-pregnancy figures, it is most important to remember that adequate nutrition is most crucial at this stage. Weight loss after pregnancy should never be rushed, because losing weight too quickly is detrimental to one’s health. A successful weight-loss plan would ensure that you lose excess weight while still remaining energetic and healthy enough to take care of your family.

 

Give yourself a break

No matter how enthusiastic you are about losing weight, remember to be kind to your body. After all, it has gone through a traumatic experience – growing a baby, stretching to the max, and giving birth. As a new mother who is recovering from all that physical strain and now having to care for a baby, you will require a lot of stamina. While you will steadily and surely lose weight after pregnancy, refrain from becoming obsessed with your body. Instead on checking on the progress of your waistline every few hours, gaze down instead to that beautiful baby you have given birth to, the little bundle who needs to be cared for and nurtured by a healthy mummy!

Part of your postpartum weight will be lost naturally during the first few weeks after delivery. Extra body weight is usually still noticeable a few weeks after delivery. Remember that you cannot rush weight loss and remain healthy at the same time. A weight loss of one pound per week is recommended to look and feel great. No more than 4½ pounds lost in one month is recommended. Following a moderate, well-balanced diet and being active can help you achieve this. There is an age old belief which implies that it takes nine months to put it on (pregnancy weight), therefore it will take nine months to take it off. It does make a lot of sense, for at the end of the day, the aim is
not to force your body back to your pre-pregnancy weight, but to gradually reach it while remaining fit and healthy as a new mother.

 

When should I begin?

After undergoing the physical strain of labour and delivering a baby, your body needs time to recover. The most important rule is to wait till your postnatal check with your GP before you consider losing weight. A consultation with your doctor is always a good idea.  This is usually between six weeks and eight weeks after you’ve had your baby.

You’ll need plenty of energy to adjust to life with your newborn and to take care of your family. Starting on a weight-loss program too soon after giving birth may delay your recovery and may leave you feeling tired and frustrated instead.

If you are also breastfeeding, rest assured that you are doing the best thing for your baby and for yourself. It is no secret that breastfeeding, together with a well-balanced diet and some form of physical exercise are fool-proof ways to lose excess postpartum weight. However,
do wait until you and your baby have got the hang of breastfeeding before you embark on any kind of weight -loss program.

 

Understanding the delicate mechanics of breastfeeding and weight loss

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A pregnant mum’s body is designed to produce milk to feed her baby. The extra fat the body holds on to, or maternal stores, serves as a wonderful and constant available energy source to ensure a nursing mother’s body can produce milk at the rate and amount her baby needs. Breastfeeding is not only the best way to nourish your baby, it is also the most efficient way to use your maternal fat stores as they were intended. When you breastfeed, your body converts the nutrients you eat into milk. This is a very energy-demanding process and typically requires 500 to 700 calories more than normal needs.

The double aim in breastfeeding is to nourish your baby while getting your body to dip into those maternal stores for energy. To encourage this process, breastfeeding moms are advised to increase their calorie intake by about 500 calories over pre-pregnancy needs during the first few months. When this works the way it is intended, it encourages your body to burn approximately 250 calories a day, which is about the same as half an hour of mild to moderate cardio activity.

If you feel that your appetite is bigger now than it ever has been before, don’t despair. Ironically, breastfeeding not pregnancy, is the time when you’re actually eating for two. In time, eating adequate calories to produce breast milk will allow you to see safe, gradual weight loss.

When combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise, breastfeeding can help hasten your weight-loss efforts. Furthermore, research also shows that breastfeeding helps keep excess weight off.

It is safe to lose weight while breastfeeding as long as it is achieved gradually. Losing between half a kilogram to one kilogram a week would not affect the supply of your milk or its quality. Since your baby is taking many calories from you, it is important to eat healthy. Weight-loss diets are not recommended while breastfeeding. Milk supply may decrease if you restrict your calorie intake.

Breastfeeding also helps your uterus shrink quickly to pre-pregnancy size.

 

Principals for healthy post partum weight loss

  • Eat balanced meals.You may have healthy snacks every few hours. Newborns generally eat every three to four hours, sometimes even more often, and your body is using energy to produce milk for your baby.
  • Drink plenty of water for it is an important part of the metabolic process. A good rule of thumb is to drink at least eight ounces after every nursing session around the clock.
  • Hunger cues are the way the body lets you know it needs more energy. Do not ignore hunger cues or delay responding, even if you only ate a short time before. Going  hungry will only leave you tired, frustrated and unmotivated for  energy-burning activities.
  • Work to establish a fitness routine that gradually increases in frequency and duration. Be sure to include both cardio and strength training exercises.
  • Include your baby as part of your exercise regime. Strollers or front-of-the-body baby carriers provide wonderful resistance to help get your heart rate up while walking. Get outside or to a mall to walk and spend time with baby.
  • Remember that you did not gain weight overnight, so losing all that weight should also be done gradually. Don’t try to do anything drastic to lose weight faster. Instead, work on establishing healthy eating and fitness habits that will allow you to maintain a healthy rate of weight loss without dieting. Remember, it is important to include a variety of foods in your healthy eating plan.

Avoid denying your body the energy it needs

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If you are exercising, have a physically demanding or active job, or spend much of your day running around after other children and caring for your home, you may need even more calories than you think. Most times, hunger will help guide your intake to meet these increased needs as you work or care for your family. As long as you are listening to your hunger cues and eating enough to satisfy those cues, you should be meeting your body’s needs. A good rule of thumb if you are very active is to eat an additional 100 calories for every mile
run or 15 minutes of exercise over and above the increased needs you have for breastfeeding.

If you want to drop below your pre-pregnancy weight, realise that your body may or may not cooperate. If weight loss was difficult before pregnancy, more than likely, you will have trouble losing additional weight and providing an adequate milk supply. Try to focus more on strength training to increase muscle strength and definition.

Some new breastfeeding moms will continue to lose more weight after reaching their pre-pregnancy weight because they have developed an efficient metabolic rate. This may seem ideal, but take care that it does not decrease milk production, which is not desirable if you hope to continue breastfeeding.

 

Interesting facts on postpartum weight loss

  • Your body will automatically put your baby first! If you had eating disorders before pregnancy, your body might hold on to those maternal fat stores as insurance, for it remembers all those times it wasn’t fuelled properly, and will guard against that happening again. The best way to prevent this is to eat properly for the first three months after delivery. Increasing your calorie intake will get your metabolism going. It may take several weeks of consistently meeting or exceeding your energy needs to get your body to feel confident enough to begin releasing those maternal reserves.
  • Stress is an enemy of weight loss! It is important to note that your body’s normal mechanism responds to perceived ‘abnormalities’ by releasing adrenaline and cortisol to speed up your heart rate, slow digestion and move blood flow to major muscle groups and away from those of the digestive system. If you are rushing through your meals, live under a great deal of stress or get very little sleep, your weight-loss efforts could suffer.

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  • Some people, unfortunately, do everything right and yet do not see the desired results on the scales. This may be related to hormones, medical conditions or a combination of the two. Once you stop breastfeeding, you may attempt to ramp up your weight-loss efforts to see if that helps.  Sometimes there isn’t anything more you can do but focus on maintaining your weight, making healthy food choices and exercising for good health. If there are symptoms that might be signs of a health issue, take it up with your doctor.

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When you feel you are ready to start moving about more actively, start incorporating some light exercise into your daily regimen. Start with brisk 10- minute walks on a daily basis and as you feel stronger you should increase your time to 20 minutes a day. Power walks are not recommended during the first few months after giving birth. Keep in mind that consistency is the key to losing weight with exercise. Drink lots of water, 8 to 12 cups a day. Keeping yourself well hydrated at this period is very important and it’s also a good way to replace alternative and unhealthy drinks like soda. Drinking lots of water also fills you up, so you don’t eat more than you should.

 

 

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