For most first-time Moms, pregnancy is a beautiful, exciting time, where you enjoy all the extra attention while eagerly waiting to see your little one. But once the baby is out, you find that your world has turned upside down! It’s quite chaotic and as joyful as it is, caring for a newborn takes a toll.
Once the initial chaos subsides and you finally have a minute to yourself, you look in the mirror and wonder at how much your body has changed. Most women have mixed feelings at this point – there’s the feeling of pride that your body has done something amazing, and also the worry about that extra ‘lumpiness’ here and there. In short, the baby no longer lives in your body, but it still doesn’t look anything like it’s pre-baby self!
Why Do Women Gain Weight During Pregnancy?
Because of the baby, obviously!! Well, that’s true, but there’s also weight gain due to the placenta, amniotic fluid, extra blood, enlarged uterus, more breast tissue and excess fat, which acts as a reserve for birth and breastfeeding.
Most women gain an extra weight of 11-16 kg during pregnancy, although this may depend on how much the woman weight initially and other medical conditions. These days, doctors find that more and more women are gaining more than healthy weight during pregnancy, primarily due to incorrect eating habits.
Gaining more weight than normal during pregnancy can prove dangerous down the road. For one, it can become harder to lose that weight after pregnancy, which can lead to all kinds of diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Women who end up overweight after childbirth can also have trouble during subsequent pregnancies.
How Long Does Postpartum Weight Loss Take?
Celebrity Moms may look like they are back to their pre-baby selves a week after stepping out of the hospital, but that is not an ideal to strive for! Postpartum weight loss is not the same as a weight loss program at any other time, as there are many factors to consider here. The body has just been through some massive changes, so it needs to be treated gently.
Depending upon the type of delivery and general health during pregnancy, it can take any number of weeks for the body to recover. Childbirth alone causes a loss of nearly 6 kg, with the baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid out of the body. During the next week or so, more fluid is lost from the body, meaning more weight loss. It is the extra fat reserves that are hard to shake off.
Postpartum weight loss is different for everyone, and many factors come into play, including your innate metabolism and your genes. A study by the WHO found that women can take anywhere between two weeks and two years to lose 5 kg. This shows why you shouldn’t compare your postpartum weight loss journey to another person’s. However, you can take steps to kick start your own weight loss, with some simple and doable tips that don’t require too much time or effort.
Important: The information below is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your doctor before making any kind of diet changes or starting any kind of exercise.
7 Tips for Postpartum Weight Loss
You’ve heard it before, and we’ll repeat it, breastfeeding is the best gift you can give your baby and yourself – and weight loss is just one of the benefits! Breastfeeding helps to use up those stubborn fat reserves accumulated during pregnancy. This fat comes into use to produce more milk.
Studies show that breastfeeding can burn up to 500 calories a day. However, it is important to remember that there may be no visible results in the first three months, as the body takes time to adjust to a proper demand and supply system.
Another benefit of breastfeeding is that it helps the uterus contract in the days following childbirth. This means that your abdominal area will appear flatter after about six weeks, and you’ll feel slimmer.
2. Eat More Protein
Like all the experts say, your diet is what’ll influence your weight loss results the most. That said, postpartum is not the time to start fad diets or skip meals. If you can, consult a nutritionist for a tailor-made diet plan. In any case, you’ll need an extra 500 calories a day to keep up your milk supply, and the best way to get these is through protein.
Our bodies use up more energy to digest protein, almost 20-30%, which means protein burns more calories than other foods. What’s more is that protein increases the feeling of fullness, suppressing the appetite and preventing overeating.
3. Eat More Fiber
One major concern of new Moms who’ve had a vaginal birth is regarding bowel movements, especially when an episiotomy is involved. This is where fiber-rich foods can help, in addition to boosting your postpartum weight loss efforts.
Dietary fiber absorbs water and makes it easier for everything to move through the digestive system. Soluble fiber increases feelings of fullness, since it cannot be broken down. Fiber also takes longer to digest and may increase fat loss around the stomach.
4. Avoid Processed and Junk Food
We know that we need a certain number of calories a day, but the source of those calories is equally important. Avoiding processed foods doesn’t just help with postpartum weight loss; it’ll greatly improve your long term health and keep you safe from lifestyle diseases.
Processed foods are chock full of sugar, salt, added flavors, preservatives, and all kinds of chemicals. Not only are these high in calories, but they can also harm your body in other ways while promoting addictive eating disorders. Replace sugary drinks, processed spreads, baked goods and instant meals with healthier alternatives like cut vegetables, fruit, nuts and yogurt.
5. Track Your Meals
Amidst the chaos of caring for a newborn, it can be challenging to know whether you’re getting enough calories and nutrients. This is why it’s helpful to track your meals. It may seem like an additional chore in the beginning, but it soon gets easier and can greatly help in postpartum weight loss.
You can do this either by keeping a food diary, taking photos of your meals or using an app. Apps are really useful since they do everything from tracking calories to letting you know if you’re missing out on any important nutrients. You can also track your weight on such apps.
6. Drink Lots of Water
While you’re paying so much attention to food, it can be easy to ignore how much water you’re drinking! In general, an adult person needs to drink about 2 liters of water a day, but breastfeeding women need more to replace the fluid lost through breast milk.
Drinking lots of water can increase feelings of fullness and keep the digestive system working at optimum levels. According to studies, just drinking an extra liter of water a day can result in losing an extra 2 kg a year.
7. Include Some Physical Activity
While diet is what will make the major impact in any weight loss program, combining it with some exercise makes it more effective. Studies show that including some exercise along with a calorie-controlled diet can help you lose an additional 1.5 kg, rather than just dieting.
Exercising after childbirth requires more care, especially if you’ve had surgery and if there were any complications. The doctor’s go ahead is absolutely necessary before starting any kind of exercise. It also depends upon whether you were a regular exerciser previously.
At any rate, it’s best to start slow. Start with pelvic floor exercises, and once your doctor approves, move on to exercising large muscle groups like the abdomen and back. Gradually move on to other muscles. Lifting weights is something that’s important not only in the postpartum stage, but for the rest of your life. If you’re breastfeeding, it’s better to feed your baby before exercising so you can avoid the discomfort of engorgement.
Please remember that postpartum weight loss is a slow process, and results take time. However, by being consistent and making gradual changes, you can set yourself up for a lifetime of healthy habits. Stay away from any kind of fad diet or weight loss pills – these can seriously harm yourself and your baby. If you suffer from postpartum depression, don’t hesitate to seek help.
Giving birth is a huge event, and it can be very tiring. Remember that your mental wellbeing is more important than anything else, so be sure to take enough rest. Reach out for help, whether it’s to watch the baby for a while or to help out with household chores. Simplify life, and you’ll find that you’re soon losing the extra weight without compromising on your and your baby’s health.