Becoming a new mom can be one of the most exciting and change-filled times in your life. Oftentimes, these changes may temporarily derail your healthy habits. Even if your new bundle of joy has put your healthy lifestyle on the backburner, don't worry — there are plenty of ways to bounce back.
It’s important to remember that everyone’s bodies and lives are different, so it’s never useful to compare your progress to someone else’s. Instead, you should set realistic goals and create a plan that works specifically for you. To help encourage your progress, it’s best to do activities that you like to do and to make sure you’re not overexerting yourself. You don’t want to become fatigued or injured when you have a little one to take care of.
Another thing to avoid is paying too much attention to the scale. Although you want to feel healthier and find the best way to lose weight after the baby, what’s most important is that you’re healthy, not that you’re shedding a certain number of pounds. After you give birth, your body goes through hormonal changes, and these fluctuations can lead to things like water retention and bloating1. As a result, the number on your scale might be higher, and it can end up discouraging you when in reality, you’re actually on the right track. It’s important to not give and keep going because most important of all, you are building healthy habits.
By using the following food, body and mind tips to get back on track with your healthy eating and activity habits, you can get back to your pre-pregnancy weight:
Food: Focus on Healthy Eating
For months now, you've been eating a little extra to support a growing baby — which is a good thing! During your transition from pregnancy to motherhood, you may feel exhausted, stressed, or emotionally drained, and these feelings can be increased if you aren't eating well. Be sure to eat a variety of lean protein, fruits and vegetables, whole-grains and nonfat dairy products throughout the day. Avoid crash diets or restrictive eating plans that may deprive your body of important nutrients. Instead, focus on eating healthy, balanced meals and snacks.
If you are breastfeeding, you still need to be eating extra calories to support your body and to produce breast milk. While you are nursing, the needs for most nutrients increase so it is essential that you eat a healthy diet including a variety of nutrient-rich foods. It is equally important to stay hydrated in order to maintain an adequate milk supply; so drink plenty of water, nonfat milk and occasionally 100% fruit juice.
Chances are, you are going to have your hands full with a new baby, so to make things easy, keep plenty of one-handed healthy snacks around. Items like fresh fruit, sliced and pre-washed veggies, cheese sticks, single-serving size packages of nuts and whole-wheat crackers for eating on the go are great for new moms. Remember to drink lots of water and eat snacks while you nurse to help keep yourself energized throughout the day.
Snacking on healthy foods is a good way to keep your blood sugar steady, keep unhealthy cravings at bay, and prevent binge eating. It can also help prevent you from getting hungry late at night and eating before bed2. Another thing to be mindful of is portion control. You might feel ravenous from all the energy you’re exerting, but be sure to follow nutrition guidelines and pay attention to serving sizes. Opt for filling foods that contain fiber such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fiber not only helps you feel more full for longer, but it also can help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure, and improve your response to insulin3.
No matter how hectic your mornings are, you’ll also want to make sure you eat breakfast. Again, it’s about keeping your energy levels up and avoiding getting so hungry that you won’t reach for unhealthy foods later on. Another way to ensure your energy levels are high is to drink a lot of water (8 ounces a day). Research shows that even just mild dehydration can lead to moodiness, problems focusing, and fatigue4. Plus, staying hydrated can keep you full and keep cravings at bay, as our bodies tend to mistake thirst for hunger.5
Body: Get Your Muscles Moving...But Slowly!
Be sure to talk with your medical provider before starting any activity plan. When it comes to postpartum exercise, slow and steady is best. In fact, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that postpartum women gradually return to their pre-pregnancy activities. Some ideas to get moving include taking your baby on short walks around the neighborhood or at a nearby park, enrolling in a local "mommy-and-me" fitness class or using a workout or yoga DVD/app while your baby is napping. To add resistance to your workouts and help to restore muscle tone, use a light set of hand weights or dumbbells.
It can seem overwhelming and unattainable to stick to a morning run daily or hit a yoga class every evening, but that’s okay — you don’t need to have a strict exercise regimen in order to see results. Instead, you might want to focus on squeezing workouts in throughout the day whenever you can. For example, you can do squats while your baby is in a carrier that’s strapped to you, you can take a walk around the neighborhood with your stroller, or you can do a quick HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) exercise at home using an app while your baby is sleeping.
Any little bit of exercise counts, but it’s also good to do a combination of cardio and strength training. While cardio burns those calories, strength training can help improve your mood, increase your bone mass, and even lower your blood pressure6. It might take some trial and error to find out what workout routines work best for you, but once you find something that is not only effective but enjoyable, find a way to do it whenever you have a free second (and we know, it’s not that often). Exercises that can help fight off that “baby fat” include walking, yoga, pilates and more. These workouts can not only help tone you up, but they can help you fight off any postpartum depression, help with aches and pains, and help fight off fatigue7.
The key is to set simple activity goals, and plan activities that you enjoy so you won't get bored or discouraged. Always include time to warm up and cool down before and after any physical activity. If you can't find time for thirty minutes of consistent activity, break up your activity into three 10-minute bouts.
Mind: Give Yourself a Break, "Super Mom"
In taking care of your new baby, your partner, kids or other family members, keep in mind that you still need to take care of yourself! For new moms, it can be all too easy to fall into a "self-sacrificer" mindset. If you find yourself continually putting your own needs on the backburner to take care of others, you may be in this mindset.
These behaviors can lead to extra stress and fatigue, which in turn may lead to overeating and decreased energy. You don't want to let the stress of a new baby turn food into a comfort or escape. Remember that your family needs you, but you can't take care of others if you don't take care of yourself first.
If you find that you need extra support, enlist the help of friends and family members. Pay attention to what your body is telling you and learn to recognize when you're feeling stressed or pressured. When you start to feel overwhelmed, get some fresh air and breathe deeply, take time to stretch or go for a quick walk.
Set aside a few minutes each day for yourself and make yourself a priority; whether it is to read a book or magazine, take a nap or enjoy a bubble bath. It can also be very helpful to have a regular “stress-relieving” routine or activity that can calm both your body or your mind. This can be anything from a meditation class, a yoga class, or even just seeing a therapist. It doesn't take much to recharge your batteries and remember - you're definitely worth it.
Sleep: Get those ZZZ’s
Gone are the days where you can go to bed and wake up exactly when you feel like it, but this doesn’t mean you can start foregoing sleep altogether. Sleep is important for both your mental health and for postpartum weight loss8. Lack of sleep can make you more prone to stress and anxiety, and it can even alter your hormones so that you end up craving more unhealthy foods and storing more fat9. Although there is no exact number new moms should be sleeping, The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night10. However, the reality is that most newborns wake up every three hours and need to be fed or changed and that means that means less sleep for mom.
Although it’s difficult to fit in the amount of sleep your body needs, there are a number of ways to maximize your number of hours of rest. First, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Switch off taking care of the baby with your partner, and enlist a friend, babysitter, or grandparent on days when everything feels too hard. Try to nap when your baby is napping and do your best to get your child used to a sleeping routine.
Get Help or Do It Alone?
Since everyone is different, the best way to lose weight is to find a program that you will follow.
If you are a new mom and want to learn more about post baby weight loss tips, Jenny Craig can help personalize a plan to meet your needs. We also offer the support and guidance from a dedicated weight loss consultant to help you stay on track. Once you are six weeks postpartum, even if you are breastfeeding, you are eligible to enroll in the Jenny Craig Program