Storck S and Zieve D (2012) Losing weight after pregnancy (Accessed August 2013). MedlinePlus.
Congratulations! You are now entering the ‘4th trimester’. Your baby is here and you’re probably hoping to get rid of the pregnancy weight in much less time than the nine months it took to get there. While your pre-baby wardrobe may look extremely appealing, give yourself time before you try these skinny jeans again. With your hormone levels still fluctuating, a little someone to take care of, and a sleep schedule that leaves you craving for more, shedding the baby fat healthily will require patience, perseverance and planning.
Your favourite celebrity may have gone from pregnancy size to a size six in the blink of an eye but she may not have done it in a way that was kind on her body. And remember that celebrities have money for top trainers, dietitians and personal chefs. Give your body at least 6 weeks to recover from pregnancy and labour.
Exercising will help restore muscle strength, tone your body and boost your metabolism, thereby facilitating weight loss. Exercise has also been shown to reduce the risks of postpartum depression.
Start slowly (10 to 15 minutes) and gradually build up your endurance and strength but stop if you get overly tired or feel any pain. Aim for a daily 30-minute walk with baby in a stroller. If the weather does not allow for any outdoor activity, use a home exercise DVD and bounce around the room with baby as a spectator — don’t overdo it though.
Remember: Whether you had a vaginal delivery or a C-section, do not start exercising until you get your doctor’s approval.
After a few weeks of regular walking, try including low-intensity jogging in your routine (again with your doctor’s go-ahead). You could alternate between walking at a fast pace for 2 minutes and jogging for 1 minute. Swimming and bicycle riding are other great options.
You also want to incorporate some resistance training in your daily activity. Sure, carrying baby around does work your muscles but try to lift some light weights —some plastic bottles filled with sand or water can also do the trick.
'People say that breastfeeding mothers should avoid exercising as it can make their milk sour.'
That’s a myth. While the lactic acid produced during exercise may affect your milk’s taste — just like many foods do — exercise will not make your milk sour. So, there’s no need to worry that your baby may reject your breast milk or feel gassy if you exercise.
Advice for nursing mothers: You may want to schedule any exercise after feeding, when your breasts are empty — exercising will be more comfy.
Sounds strange? Did you know that if you deprive yourself of certain foods, you put yourself at risk of further padding your waistline? Sceptic? Well, all these erratic pregnancy hormones in addition to the stress of being a novice mom, can lead to extreme cravings of these foods.
Also, steer clear of fad diets that promise unrealistic, express weight loss: studies show that it is difficult to comply with an overly restrictive diet and when you drop out, you are likely to experience sugar cravings and a decreased metabolism which will derail your weight loss goals.
Schedule 3 main meals and 1 or 2 snacks: This will help keep your blood sugar and energy levels constant so you’ll feel less tired and fewer hunger pangs will hinder the way of healthy food choices.
Never skip breakfast: Eating within 1 to 2 hours of waking up will help boost your metabolism which will assist your body in spending more energy. Breakfast will not only help prevent overeating later during the day but it will also provide you with a fresh energy supply to take care of your baby.
Add veggies and fruits to your daily meals: Vegetables and fruits are full of fibre that can help you feel full faster and will prevent constipation. They also contain loads of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can boost your recovery.
Include a protein in your main meals: Proteins induce satiety and can help you eat less without any feeling that you’re depriving yourself. Have an egg or a cup of low-fat milk at breakfast, some lean meat/ skinless chicken or turkey/ legumes/ tofu for lunch and dinner. Make sure to consume fatty fish (tuna, salmon or mackerel) twice a week for a sufficient intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
Choose healthy snacks: Go for vegetable sticks and a hummus spread, a fruit and nut salad, some Greek yoghurt or a slice of whole wheat toast with some peanut butter. 100 to 150 calorie snacks with 50% carbs, 30% fats (ZERO trans fats) and 20% protein are good alternatives.
Cut the sugar and avoid refined products: Go for quality foods. Sugar-laden and refined products not only lack many nutrients; they have also been shown to induce sugar cravings and fatigue by causing spikes and rapid declines in your blood sugar levels.
Need additional convincing?
Cutting sugar and refined products = Decreased fat storage + Reduced risks of inflammatory diseases + a Slower ageing rate! Cheers for whole grains?
Keep yourself well hydrated: Research suggest that drinking enough water will render your body more efficient in ‘burning’ calories. As a guide, your urine should be clear (or pale yellow) and odourless.
Don’t rush through your meals: Your body needs about 20 minutes to signal to your brain that it has had enough to eat. So, if you go for that 2nd serve less than 20 minutes after your 1st, chances are you may overeat.
Sleep deprivation causes your body to release cortisol, stress and hunger hormones that have been associated with weight gain.
Breastfeeding uses up a lot of calories but if you choose to formula-feed your baby, then simply cut back a bit on calories and exercise a little bit more.
Take baby steps, and focus on your bundle of joy. Babies grow SO fast!
The experts' guide to pregnancy and early parenthood - by Dr Anne Deans
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