Many of us struggle with losing weight, especially in the first months after pregnancy. When you are a new mum, one of the most important things is keeping yourself happy and healthy. But feeling overweight or low on energy can take a real toll on your mental wellbeing. If you want to lose weight after the birth of your baby, it is important to ensure you can do it in a sensible, structured way. One of the things to focus on is making sure your nutrition is at its maximum, so you can work at your best. So how does a Mum reduce her calorie intake?
As mentioned in my last blog, reducing energy intake from food around 250 kcal per day is realistic and quite easy to do. Coupled with an increase in activity levels, this will in turn lead to a safe and steady weight loss of around 1lb (0.5kg) per week.
What steps can a Mum take in order to achieve this?
1. Fill up on fruit and vegetables
These are generally low in calories. In the first few months after birth, everything is new. Being a first-time mum is a big change in lifestyle. If Mum is breastfeeding and time is short, or she is feeling drained or tired – she will often reach for the quick fix foods that are high in carbs or sugar. Instead of crisps or chocolate, treat yourself to fruit. At dinner time, make sure that your dinner plate is at least half-filled with vegetables. These small, manageable changes will mean fewer calories will be eaten.
Speaking of which, using a smaller plate will also make a surprising difference. By switching to a smaller plate, you can reduce your portion size, but you still feel like you’ve eaten a full meal. Another easy way to reduce calorie intake.
2. Food selections
When it comes to carbs, choose wholegrain or brown versions of cereal, bread, pasta and rice. These have a higher satiety rating, which just means they will make you feel fuller for longer.
Consider choosing low-fat versions of some foods, such as mayonnaise, cheese, dressings and spreads. But be mindful to check the labels. Sometimes, those claiming claim to be ‘lower in fats’ or ‘fewer calories’ are not significantly lower than their original counterparts. Plus there can be a whole heap full of additives, which Mums can avoid simply by having the original. I always think that when reading a label, if you can’t pronounce it then should we really be eating it… but that’s another blog for later!
Think about changing up your recipes, swapping ingredients that are high in fat and sugar for healthy ingredients. For example, if you have a sweet tooth which is proving difficult to say no too, then how about replacing cream in a meringue for yogurt? A fish or meat pie that is normally topped with mashed potato, can be topped with a mixture of mashed potato, carrot and swede or replaced entirely with sweet potato!
4. Check Labels and Menus in Restaurants
First off, I want to say please don’t become obsessive about counting calories. In fact you will often hear me say “we weren’t born to count calories.”
But it is important to be mindful that when eating 250 kcal less per day, it is always a lot easier if you understand what 250 kcal looks like. So checking your food labels can really open your eyes. Also when you are out and about with other Mummies, or you get a chance to finally have a date night (do you remember those??) many restaurants and coffee chains are mindful of their dishes and will often include calorie intake next to the menu choices. So before you venture out, check to see if you local cafe, restaurant, coffee chain has a menu online. This will help you plan in advance and make healthy choices (though once in a while it has to be done!)
5. Exercise & Activity
In the weeks and months after birth, each Mum should aim to increase her activity levels, which in turn will burn more calories. Here are a few wonderful suggestions to help get you started:
- Going for a invigorating walk in the fresh air with your pram or buggy
- Join a postnatal exercise class. This is also a great way to meet other new mums!
- Go swimming. Why not check whether your local pool has a Mother+Baby class?
- Find an exercise DVD that is specifically tailored for women wanting to lose weight after giving birth… look out for my Youtube channel, which will be coming soon!
- Enlist the help of someone like me, a personal trainer qualified and specialising in postnatal exercise.
There are so many benefits for getting active as soon as Mum is cleared by her doctor to exercise (remember this is usually 6-8 weeks after the birth). A newborn can be physically and mentally exhausting, and exercise often falls well at the bottom of the to-do list. Especially if you have other demands upon your time such as older children or work.
The benefits of getting involved with physical activity are endless. It will help weight loss and also help the body recover from childbirth. Exercise can be a good way to relax your mind and body. It also aids sleep (which is always a very welcome relief when little one has nodded off). Finally it helps to improve overall energy levels.
Nothing is Impossible
Some Mums find it easy to lose weight after the birth, whilst others may find it harder. Let’s take a look at what some of these obstacles can be, and more importantly how they can be overcome.
As I mentioned, in order to lose weight a Mum needs to create an energy deficit. This means calories in need to be less than calories out. However, in reality some Mums may find it difficult to do this because of the following reasons or factors.
Some Mums simply feel they don’t have enough time during the day because most of it is looking after their baby and doing household chores. Sometimes it’s hard enough just getting a shower! You may have a baby that doesn’t sleep well at night (I know that feeling). So all you want to do when they sleep is to take nap. The last thing on your mind is cooking a balanced meal, let alone finding time to exercise!
Let’s be honest, your partner is also busy, and probably working full time. Whoever is doing the cooking, its pretty normal to choose convenience when you are both so busy. When my eldest was born, my other half just cooked what was the most convenient. He was working during the day and I didn’t fuss because I was just grateful I didn’t have to cook. And let’s be honest, sometimes comfort food is most appealing. However, often those wonderful, tasty meals were carb based or high in fats and sugars, which obviously hindered my resolve to lose weight.
During the first few weeks or months a lot of Mums will have visitors or join Mother/baby coffee groups. While this is a great way to socialise and get yourself out of the house, it also brings lots of temptations. Why? CAKE! I found this happening to me when my first son was born. We were aboard at the time, and all my lovely friends brought round various wonderful tasting food. Now, there is nothing wrong with a sweet treat now and then. But all these treats, coupled with a lack of exercise, left me feeling lethargic and negative about my body.
Strategy: so what strategies can we put in place to help with the above?
This can be limited for many Mums, especially if they have no childcare or their partner are at work. However, if your partner does shift work or a Monday-to-Friday job, you can work together to find those pockets of time. For example if your free time is at the weekends, then ask your other half to take baby out so that you have time to prepare meals for the week ahead. They don’t have to be gourmet; just nutritious and tasty. Split them up and freeze. When you are busy with baby, you only have to take a meal out the night before and you are good to go. If you share the cooking, sit down with your partner and plan meals in advance. Then the first reaction isn’t to reach for the pizza or takeaway.
On those days you do decide to treat yourselves, make sure to include a healthy vegetable side dish or salad. An important point I want to make – salad doesn’t just mean lettuce or a bit of cucumber. There are so many delicious and exciting salads you can make as a tasty alternative to boring rabbit food. If you are not sure what to choose, why not drop me a message. I can give you some great recipe tips!
When it comes to exercise, time can again be an issue. I cannot stress how important exercise is once the 6-8 weeks after brith have passed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your partner, your Mum or Dad, sister, brother, friends, so that you can take that important time for yourself. Your body and mind will thank you later, as will your newborn and family. A stressed out Mum is no good to anyone, especially herself! Mums are not super humans, thought sometimes we like to think we are.
Exercise releases happy hormones and to get this you don’t need to spend hours at a gym. 20 minutes at home or in the park can get you going. Once you have taken the first step (which is often the hardest) you won’t be looking back.
Check out my previous blogs on the 6 Stages of Change – our journey through exercising which I hope you find very informative. If you are not sure how to get yourself started then contact your nearest postnatal personal trainer, who will design an exercise programme and provide advice on basic nutrition as well – oh yes that would be me!
This is a tough one but easily remedied. Ensure that you have a healthy breakfast and lunch that includes wholegrain foods. These foods will help you feel fuller and less tempted to eat unhealthy foods later during the day. Another suggestion is when family, friends come to visit you politely ask them not to bring sweet treats but instead you serve something more healthy. However, if visitors do bring cake, then ensure you have a small slice. But if you do lose your resolve remember not to be hard on yourself, enjoy it and then get back on track.
My next blog is going to be about Coping with Morning Sickness. Some Mums are affected more than others but there are a few top tips I want to share that may just help you through!
Happy Body, Happy Mind, Happy You!