How to lose weight post-pregnancy in a safe and healthy way

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October 22, 2019

By Kimberly Langdon, M.D., OB/GYN

In addition to pain during labor, losing weight is often one of the top concerns after pregnancy. Talking about weight loss can set off some pretty powerful negative associations for a lot of women, so it’s not a topic we bring up lightly. However, it can have a substantial influence on your health so we want to make sure you have the resources you need to be healthy.

First and foremost, our hope is for you to be healthy and happy. What constitutes a healthy weight? Usually, Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to determine a healthy weight for your height. The goal range is 18.5–24.9 and you can calculate yours on the NIH website. If you, at your current weight, are in the “normal” range, then HOORAY! Keep doing what you’re doing.

In addition to being healthy, we also want you to be happy. Different people are happier at different sizes. If you’re happy where you’re at, GO YOU! If you’d be happier a few pounds heavier, we support you. And if you’d like to lose some weight, we want to help you accomplish your goals in a safe and healthy way.

Even if you started with a healthy weight before you got pregnant, you’ll probably have at least some weight to lose to get back into a healthy range. If you had to eat frequently to keep nausea and vomiting at bay during the first trimester, you might have some extra, and that’s okay. It’s common to lose as many as 20 pounds in the month after delivery, which includes the weight of the baby, placenta, and extra fluid. After that, it’ll depend on what you eat and how much you move.

One specific worry is the distribution of the fat gained seems odd and that’s due to your body making sure the extra calories stored as fat are near the baby—abdomen, hips, and thighs. You might be tempted to focus your exercise on those areas, but that doesn’t work. You simply must expend more energy than you take in—in the form of food—or eat less food or exercise more. When you are postpartum, both suggestions are a challenge.

Here are 19 tips to help you lose weight postpartum in a healthy way:

  1. Don’t severely restrict calories as that tricks your body into ‘preservation mode’ or into thinking it is starving which triggers the body to hold onto fat reserves.

  2. Limit your portion sizes, focus on vegetables, fruits, and protein.

  3. Stick with the healthy foods that you like, not those you think you should start liking.

  4. Meal preparation should be easy. Make simple recipes. If you’re too ambitious, it’ll be harder to stick with it.

  5. Limit meals outside of the home. If that is not possible, take home half of it for the next day.

  6. Eat healthy fats and wild fish.

  7. Read the label. Dry and canned goods have the most preservatives and hydrogenated fats and sugars like fructose, which should be avoided.

  8. Drink enough water to make your urine clear.

  9. Postpartum sleep deprivation leads to stress so try to get enough sleep. Stress raises the adrenal hormone, cortisol which makes people put on more weight especially over the abdomen.

  10. Since there is less ability to get out of the house to go to the gym, walk with the baby in the neighborhood.

  11. Prepare food in advance and freeze the single portions.

  12. Use smaller plates, and don’t stack the plate.

  13. Eat slowly and put the fork down in between bites.

  14. Read while eating and don’t eat in front of the TV or in bed.

  15. Eat only when you’re hungry (called intuitive eating), and stop before you feel full.

  16. Pair carbohydrates with lean protein to keep glucose from dipping which triggers both hunger and fatigue.

  17. Treat depression as it can be the cause of overeating.

  18. Consider an app to help encourage healthy eating and exercise. There are apps that tell you the number of calories in fast food and other restaurants. They keep track and warn you when you are getting over your limit.

  19. Be patient. It took nine months to gain it. Expect a good year for it to be gone.

Sources:

Leahy K; Berlin KS; Banks GG; Bachman J The Relationship Between Intuitive Eating and Postpartum Weight Loss.Matern Child Health J. 2017; 21(8):1591-1597 (ISSN: 1573-6628)

Herring SJ; Cruice JF; Bennett GG; Davey A; Foster GD Using technology to promote postpartum weight loss in urban, low-income mothers: a pilot randomized controlled trial.J Nutr Educ Behav. 2014; 46(6):610-5 (ISSN: 1878-2620)

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Your Pregnancy and Childbirth: Month to Month, 6th edition. 2016.

Mayo Clinic. Weight Loss After Pregnancy: Reclaiming Your Body, July 2018. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/weight-loss-after-pregnancy/art-20047813

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