After what seems like an endless pregnancy, those early years of parenthood are bewildering for new Mums. Aside from the inevitable pandemonium of raising an infant, many women are left wondering what has happened to their body in the wake of pregnancy. Indeed, for many of us the prospect of returning to our pre-pregnancy weight and appearance is an unattainable pipe dream. The battle against your baby weight, however, is one that you can and will win! Unfortunately, it will be won neither by a quick fix nor a conveniently packaged solution.
While it’s possible to find diet shakes that work and supplements that can cover the shortfalls of what you can achieve nutritionally on your budget, most of your battle against the post-pregnancy bulge will be a war on many fronts…
Breastfeed if you can
There are numerous reasons why women can’t breastfeed, however much they want to. Likewise, for their own reasons, many women simply may not want to. However, if you are able and willing to breastfeed, you will not only be giving your baby optimal nutrition for their growth but burn 600-800 calories a day in doing so.
Nutrition is more important than calories
The diet industry has made a fortune out of skewing and oversimplifying our thinking in ways that are less than helpful to our goals. One of its greatest ills is getting us to think in terms of calories, rather than the nutritional content that they compose. A can of Coke, for example, has the same amount of calories as a boiled egg, but few would claim that they are nutritionally similar. In a time when your sleeping will be compromised by late night feeds, nutrition is doubly important for you to stay as healthy and happy as possible postpartum.
Eat as much real food as possible
Having just given birth, you’ve just completed the most incredible and physically gruelling thing a human body can do. While you definitely deserve a treat, it’s a bad idea to become overly reliant on processed convenience foods. You should still aim to cook nutritious meals consisting entirely of whole foods with as little human involvement as possible. Of course, this is easier said than done given the busy schedule of the average new Mum. Nonetheless, every meal should be a colourful plate loaded with the nutritious goodies that will keep the baby weight off while ensuring good health.
Oh, and avoid pre-packaged ‘health foods’ too. The baby weight battle is one that the billion dollar diet industry desperately wants you not to win. Sure their reduced calorific profile might cause a loss of weight but as soon as you stop buying their products, don’t be surprised when the weight piles back on.
By all means snack, but snack healthily, opting for whole nuts (almonds are particularly nutrient dense), berries, dried fruits and baked kale chips rather than crisps and sweets.
Unleash the power of plants
It’s been conclusively proven that a wholefoods plant based diet is the best way of losing weight and maintaining overall health, while meat and dairy products are known to exacerbate a host of health problems from diabetes to heart failure. While not every new Mum will be able (or inclined) to go fully vegan after childbirth, loading up on veggies and cutting down on meat and dairy is one of the safest bets when it comes to assuring weight loss and general health.
Exercise little and often
I know, you’re thinking “Yeah, like I have time to go to the gym”. The good news is that sustained weight loss isn’t just achieved by reducing yourself to a sweating, wobbly-legged mess three times a week at the gym. You can get plenty of exercise without even taking your eyes off your newborn with the following exercises…
- Baby curls- A variation on the normal crunches. Lying face up, raise your knees up and gently place baby on your shins. Contract your abs to raise your head and shoulders bringing you nose to nose with baby. Try this for 3 sets of 15-20 reps.
- Baby shoulder press- Sitting cross legged on the floor, hold your baby in front of your head. Lift them up over your head and enjoy the squeal of delight that they make while your shoulders feel the burn. Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps.
- Baby bench press- Lie on your back with your knees bent, bringing baby up to your face. Extend your arms fully (maintaining a slight bend in your elbow), before bringing baby slowly back to the start position. Aim again for 3 sets of 10.
These will burn calories while giving you the lean muscle mass to boost your metabolism and keeping that extra weight off for good (and, of course, giving you some quality time with your baby).
Women in field image by Shutterstock.