One of the biggest surprises I had, when I was pregnant was how much people comment on your size and weight. As someone whose job is focused on helping people look and feel their best and improve their body image, I was shocked when people said to me, “Wow, you’re so big,” “Wow, you’re so small,” “Are you sure there aren’t twins in there?” (and this was all in the same week!).
Because we are about SO much more than our size, and because we never know what is going on with someone’s health that may be impacting their weight, I rarely comment on weight unless we are specifically discussing it or they bring it up because if I say, “Wow, you lost weight, you look AMAZING,” well that’s great, but what if the person gains weight? Would I say, “Wow, you gained weight?” Of course not. We are about much more than the number on the scale. So can we make a pact not to fixate on everyone’s weight so much?
Take it off one step at a time.
If you’ve decided that losing the baby weight is a priority for you, great! Be kind to yourself, though. It’s not a race, but you can take healthy actions from the start that will be better for your health, your baby’s health, and your waistline. If you had your baby 2, 5, 10, or more years ago and are thinking… can I still call it “baby weight?” it’s all semantics. Many of the same strategies can help, whether it’s been two months or ten years. Here are some key strategies.
Plan and eat healthy meals.
People told you to prep food before bringing your baby home, and it’s all gone, so what now? Keep prepping and planning. If getting to a healthier size is a priority, and you are oh so busy with baby (or babies!), keep your meals simple, but prep in advance.
- Make your environment (home, work, etc.) “healthy choice friendly.” When you open your fridge or cabinets, what do you see first? Fruit, veggies, yogurt, or soda and leftover pizza? On Sundays, make a BIG salad to last a few days. Keep your fresh fruit and snacking veggies (carrots, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas) front and center in the fridge. Stock up on YOUR healthy favorites (some of mine are low-fat yogurt, string cheese, hummus, carrots, fruit, eggs, Dr. Praeger’s veggie burgers for a meal in a pinch).
- Make a list of your ten favorite foods for each meal (no, no, no, not French Fries, we’re talking favorite healthy foods!). Once you’ve got your list, make that your go-to list for grocery shopping and meal planning. Whole wheat English Muffins with almond butter and blueberries for breakfast, hummus on whole wheat pita with carrots and a peach for lunch, stir-fry for dinner, raspberries for dessert…now we’re talking!
- Prep meals once and eat two or more times. You can make a batch of grilled salmon and have it with veggies on Monday and make salmon fish tacos on Tuesday. It takes virtually the same effort. I often make a big batch of turkey burgers on a Sunday, eat some that week and freeze some.
- Don’t feel like cooking? You don’t have to! A no-cook meal doesn’t mean unhealthy. There’s NOTHING wrong with a turkey sandwich with carrots for dinner or a salad with chicken, beans, or hummus.
To lose weight, your calorie intake needs to be less than your body uses, BUT to have the energy to be an on-the-go mom, you need to make sure you don’t cut back too much, and your calories are nutrient-dense (and, if you are nursing, you need about 500 calories more a day). For your menus, focus on whole grains, lean protein, fruits and lots of veggies, of course, and high calcium foods.
Of course, you will have special events where you enjoy something not on the regular menu. That’s okay. Don’t feel guilty. Savor every bite and get satisfaction from your “treat” foods, then continue with your healthy choices. And repeat after me “No Fad Diets!”
Start getting active.
- Get started. Start getting active again as soon as you are cleared to do so. This usually starts soon after your baby is born. Most health care providers will tell you to start walking as soon as you are able. Work with your doctor on what is right for you and gradually increase your intensity.
- Short duration is better than no duration. Of course, fitting in exercise can be very different after having a baby. Start with shorter time periods of exercise, perhaps during your little one’s nap time, like walking, doing squats with awesome ready-to-pick-up-the baby form, and low back stretches. When you are ready for more, establish a regular routine of doing some activity, most days of the week.
- Take a realistic look at your schedule. What can you plan in and stick with? Is morning the best time? Evening? When are you LEAST likely to miss your exercise time? If you go back to work, see if you can fit in power walking at lunchtime (if you’re fortunate, you’ll have a corporate wellness program with onsite fitness classes. I am SO thankful to have this). Maybe taking a walk with your baby in the evening works best.
- Get out with others. Schedule time with other moms to work out. Or plan fitness time with family or your non-mom friends. Research shows that planning time to meet with others makes you more likely to stick with it.
- Your time. What exercise did you enjoy before your baby? If you loved Zumba, boxing, dancing, tennis, or other workouts try to have a spouse, friend, or babysitter watch your baby so you can enjoy some of your favorite activities. I recently took the Trampoline Fitness class and I felt so rejuvenated afterward!
They key is to create a schedule you can stick to, and find ways to make your workouts a time of your day you enjoy, not dread. And don’t get hung up on how long your workout is; start by getting it in your schedule, regularly, What type of activities do you look forward to?
And the #1 most important thing is to be nice to yourself!
Some days, you’ll feel more energetic than others, and you might not feel like exercising when the baby’s been up all night, but that’s okay. Listen to your body, make yourself a priority (taking care of yourself is not “selfish”; it’s essential!), and always be mindful when making food choices.