Whether you’re thinking about becoming pregnant, currently have a bun in the oven or, are already gazing into your new baby’s eyes, the topic of postpartum weight loss can instill feelings of anxiety, stress and fear in many (if not all) women.
Looking at yourself more frequently in the mirror to scrutinize the physical effects of a diet could actually lead you to feel less comfortable with your appearance than before you lost.
Dr. Yoni Freedhoff in The Diet Fix
It’s natural and necessary to put on weight during pregnancy. During this magical time, there are a myriad of hormonal changes that happen within your body, personally in first pregnancy I added 5 kgs while in my second pregnancy I added 20kgs.Every pregnancy is different. What usually happens is that your body produce human placental lactogen (HPL) which promotes insulin resistance. This state of insulin resistance does two things, first it helps you increase your blood glucose to feed your growing baby and second, it increases visceral fat stores that will be utilized during breastfeeding. Both totally necessary and vital functions. The truth is my second pregnancy wasn’t very conducive to staying fit and healthy. I’m not trying to make excuses (okay, maybe a little), but between my unrelenting, all-day, all-pregnancy morning sickness that made it nearly impossible to eat anything in the first trimester but refined carbs and my pelvic condition that make it hard to even walk from the bedroom to the bathroom, let alone workout, the weight piled on for me during pregnancy. And even more important to me than that, my fitness and general health plummeted—I had a scare with false labor, and I figure my inactive lifestyle and poor diet during pregnancy probably contributed to that.
I pretty much took a 6 months’ vacation, I can feel it. My joints ache. I’m tired—and not just new-mom sleep-deprived tired. I have no energy. My hair is dull and lifeless. My nails are constantly breaking all the time. My skin doesn’t have the nice, healthy girl glow it once had. I just don’t feel good. And I used to feel really good.
And then there is the weight thing. I don’t really put a lot of value in weight as an indicator of health on a global scale, but I do think it’s possible to use weight as one guidepost (among many) to help you gauge your health on an individual basis. I know what number feels good on my body. It’s the number where my knees stop hurting, my energy spikes, and I can enjoy going on a strenuous walk or run. And that number is about 14kgs away from where I am right now— 6kgs of that is baby weight and the other 78kgs is extra weight I was carrying around before I got pregnant.
It is important to me to give myself a pass of the first few weeks of motherhood. When we first came home with Baby Samarah , I gave myself a deadline. I said that I’d try to get back to living a healthier life from month one—and if I got the urge earlier, I’d go with it. Turns out, here I am three weeks shy of my deadline, and I’ve got the fitness itch again! Yay! I’m so glad I am taking the time to just focus on being a mom and letting my whole world revolve around my daughter, but I think it’s now time to slowly bring back in taking care of myself, and that includes getting healthy again.
I’ve been thinking of a plan for the past few days, and it’s really nothing ground-breaking. It’s doing the same things I did the first time I had 10kgs to lose ,only adapted to take into account the fact that I’m taking care of a tiny human.
- Reduce sugar. I’m not one to believe a few sugary treats is going to derail a healthy lifestyle, but I do think my diet has been a little too sugar focused lately. I’d like to cut back on the amount of sugary treats (and I’m not just talking white sugar, I’m talking honey, maple syrup, etc.), and make them more of an accent to my diet.
- Drink more water. One of the biggest keys to my earlier weight loss success was keeping very well hydrated. I’m not dehydrated now (I get my 8-10 cups a day), but I could definitely be better about it. I feel so much better when my body is properly hydrated. And I have to remember that since I have a little baby, and carrying around more weight, my body requires even more water than it did before.
- Get back to food prepping.it may seem silly to prep food and pack my lunch considering I work from home, but I think going through the process of thinking about everything I’d eat in a day in order to pack my lunch when I was working in an office really helped keep me on track. Now, I can graze all day, or, more commonly, I can skip meals all day because I’m busy, and then eat a huge dinner to make up for it—neither of those are very healthy. Have a food regimen during the day is really helpful for me.
- By far, the easiest way to lose your baby weight is to breastfeed. Remember that hormone HPL that helps you hang on to weight during pregnancy? When you breastfeed, HPL is replaced by Prolactin. Prolactin’s job is to support lactation, reduce estrogen levels (causing freedom from menstrual periods) and mobilize nutrient stores to feed your growing baby. Prolactin produced please DON’T starve yourself. Ensure you are getting adequate calories to support your body’s recovery and activity levels. If you drop calories too low your milk supply will suffer.
- Estrogen: If you have suffered from PCOS in the past, aren’t able to breastfeed or you’re baby has weaned early you may suffer from a condition called estrogen dominance. In hormonally healthy women, estrogen levels should be balanced by progesterone levels in ratios of roughly 1:5 on day 21 of their cycle. Having too much estrogen or too little progesterone can create this state of estrogen dominance which can cause weight gain, fatigue, cravings for sweets, trouble sleeping and thyroid dysfunction. See your functional medicine specialist if you think this may be happening to you. There are a number of supplements and lifestyle changes that can support a healthy estrogen/progesterone balance.
- Eat Carbs:Low carb or ketogenic diets are in vogue right now in the weight loss world. For most women, the childbearing years are not the time to experiment with ultra-low carb diets. Limiting carbs in your diet (below 100g/day) can cause a host of issues for postpartum women. It can stress your adrenals, tax your thyroid, and decrease your milk supply and cause insomnia or other sleep disturbances. We’ll be sure to dive into the carb-conundrum and get into specific levels in the upcoming baby making and beyond program, but for now, just be sure to add healthy and friendly carbs like potatoes, yams, squashes and even some rice into your diet.
- Stress-less: Stress can increase cortisol levels (produced by your adrenal glands) making weight loss very difficul. Limiting caffeine, practicing regular meditation and sleeping will all make the journey so much easier.
- Spending time exercising outdoors is a bonus. Outdoor movement increases endorphins and dopamine levels helping you stay happy and balanced.
- Exercise: A little intelligent movement will support muscle growth and help sustain fat loss. Please, don’t go crazy and don’t start too soon. Start walking around 2-4 weeks. After 6 weeks, you can introduce some light weight bearing exercise. The best combination of exercise for postpartum women is lots of walking, a little yoga and some form of weight lifting, or body weight movement.
Remember, it takes 9 months to gain the baby weight and it will take 9-18 months to lose it. Practice gentle loving kindness for yourself and don’t sweat the small stuff. In the grand scheme of life, 10 extra pounds is a first world problem, focus on the things that really matter like family, friendships and being an active and informed citizen of your community and planet.