Today I am going to look at the best way to approach excess weight loss after birth.

First up I want to let every Mum know that it is completely NORMAL for her fat stores to increase during pregnancy…. yes NORMAL!  

Once the joy of your new arrival has subsided and a normal routine is evolving, often one of the first things on a woman’s mind is loosing that weight she put on during the 9 months.  If Mum chooses to breastfeed then this will help shed some fat but in order to get back to her pre-pregnancy weight most women will definitely need to watch what they consume and ensure a return to some form of scheduled exercise.

Also, remember ladies that it took 9 months to create this magical, bundle of joy, so it is going to take time to help your body recover in the correct way so that there are no problems later down the road.

So let’s get started with some questions that are always top of the list:

How quickly can Mums start to think about losing weight after birth?

The simple answer is 6-8 weeks, when Mum has had her postnatal check-up with her doctor. This gives Mum time to recover after birth, whilst ensuring that she will have enough energy to look after her newborn baby and the demands that come with motherhood – whether she is a first timer or she is taking another ‘dance around the baby block’. Many women will find that they will lose weight naturally after birth even though they aren’t actively doing anything and especially if they are breastfeeding. One good reason to do if Mum is able or wanting too.

Can or should I diet?

Simple answer is no.  Mums should resist the temptation to ‘go on a diet’ as she doesn’t want to cut out very important nutrients and instead she should concentrate on eating as healthily as she can and getting active where possible.

How long will it take me to get my normal weight back?

So we have all see the magazines with celebrity Mums bouncing back in no time after the delivery of their baby.  I wish the media would be more responsible here because this places unnecessary pressure on new Mums. Remember these celebrities have a whole team working behind them to make them look and feel good, some even have their own chefs (now wouldn’t that be a thing for all us other Mums!)  However, in reality this is very different in the ‘real world’.

There isn’t an exact length of time as each Mum will be different depending on the amount of weight she gained during pregnancy. However, as a general guideline women can aim to return to their normal weight 6 months to a year after the birth of their baby.  Now that may seem like a long time but again I will reiterate IT TOOK 9 MONTHS TO CREATE YOUR BUNDLE OF JOY. So don’t be hard on yourself, take your time, ensure you lose your weight correctly because in the end you will VERY glad you did.

Am I allowed to diet whilst breastfeeding?

Very common question and the answer is yes – but only as long as Mum aims to lose weight gradually and definitely avoids crash dieting.  A safe gauge for this is 1lb or 0.5kg per week. This also has a psychological effect because this is so manageable rather than Mum thinking I’ve got to lose more, which is also unrealistic and piles on the pressure.  Instead this is a very realistic goal.

If I don’t return to my normal weight, does this really matter?

Definitely! Excess weight gain during pregnancy, and failure to lose it after, are key predictors of long-term obesity.  Especially if Mum is thinking about having another baby. Regaining a normal BMI prior to conception (if you are having a second baby) is important because being obese will increase the risk of so many complications during pregnancy. Let’s face it, it is hard enough growing a baby let alone dealing with being overweight and all the extra stresses and strains that will place on a pregnant Mum and baby.

So what are the key factors to consider when losing excessive weight gain after giving birth?

Energy balance is the key whether losing or gaining weight. Therefore, it is very important to have an understanding of this process so that an effective post-pregnancy weight-loss plan can be designed.  This may seem overwhelming for some Mums particularly as they are learning to cope with a newborn.

That’s why Pre & Postnatal Personal Trainers like myself exist because we can help you with the basic steps of nutrition to get a sensible, easy plan in place!

Energy intake vs Energy Expenditure

The food we consume is the way we provide our bodies with energy.  This energy value, we all know, is measured in Calories. The energy we receive from food goes to fuel our physiological processes e.g. our beating heart, functioning of our digestive system, the production of breast milk and so on.  It also helps to fuel any physical activity we do, from making a cup of coffee to going to a pump class!

Gaining vs Losing Fat

The old adage is ‘calories in vs calories out’. Or to put it another way, if we consume more energy from food than our bodies are burning off, it stands to reason we will put on more weight.  So if we eat less energy than is required by our body, our bodies will be forced to take from its fat stores thus enabling us to lose weight… win, win!

How to achieve an Energy Deficit (shortfall)

So the math is simple:

Reduce energy intake from our food and increase energy expenditure through exercise.

For example, if energy intake can be reduced by 250 kcal per day and energy expenditure is increased by 250 kcal per day this will be equal to an energy deficit of 500 kcal per day.  Doesn’t that sound reasonable and achievable?

Over the course of a week this deficit will mean a loss of roughly 1lb (0.5kg) of body fat.  Remember I mentioned this earlier as the ideal rate of weight loss post-pregnancy? Now you may be tempted to say to yourself “I could increase this easily”. But remember, if you do increase your kcal deficit this may impair your nutrient intake, which could leave you feeling tired and at a higher risk of illness.  Something you most definitely want to avoid.

My next blog will be focusing on reducing calorie intake, exercise and activity and how to overcome any obstacles to weight loss and some ideas as to how to overcome them.

If this has been useful to you, check out some of our recent blogs on more topics to do with motherhood, pregnancy and fitness:

Happy Body, Happy Mind, Happy You!