By Kate Horney
One of the most frequently asked questions I get from moms is about how to lose baby weight. Whether it’s a pregnant mama who is worried about how to lose baby weight when the time comes, or it’s a postpartum mom who is wondering how to get rid of those extra pounds packed on during pregnancy now that her bundle of joy is here. (The snuggles are great, but the scale isn’t moving).
It’s a question that almost all moms ask at some time or another, so it’s worth addressing.
There is a TON of conflicting information out there about how to lose baby weight. I’ll be completely honest when I tell you that the fitness industry is NOT where it should be when it comes to rescues for moms. It frustrates me that so many trainers fail to give moms the REAL LIFE tools they need to look good and feel great after having a baby.
There is so much that can be said when it comes to how to lose baby weight, and I could easily write an entire book on the topic. (Hey! There’s an idea!) But if I had to narrow it down to the BASICS (Because let’s face it, if you’re a busy mom, you don’t have time to spend hours reading this blog) it would be this: HEALING first. Then Training & Nutrition. And then…the missing piece of the “how to lose baby weight” puzzle: fixing your fat fighting hormones.
How to Lose Baby Weight: 4 Keys to Get your body Back
1. HEAL & REBUILD- (Diastasis Recti)
A lot happens to your body when you become pregnant. Things move, stretch and expand to make room for that precious little bundle of joy. SO MANY “experts” in the fitness industry are so concerned with making money that they ignore the fact that moms-especially pregnant or newly postpartum moms-need more than a “hardcore” boot camp to “get their bodies back.”
In fact, much of this “hardcore” training actually does MORE harm than good for many moms.
If you want to lose baby weight proper postpartum training is a must! But before you can make the most of your “fat loss” or “how to lose baby weight” training, you must take time to heal and rebuild. Specifically, I’m thinking about regaining strength, correcting any pelvic floor issues, and addressing abdominal separation. The most overlooked issue is that of diastasis recti. Some degree of abdominal separation will always occur during pregnancy. This is because everyone’s core muscles have to expand to give room for the baby to grow! In many cases the separation will not be severe and if you take proper precautions it will heal naturally post birth with no medical intervention.
In about 60% of pregnancies the abdominal separation will be wider than 2 – 2.5 finger widths apart and you will be considered to have diastasis recti during your pregnancy. (Click here get a FREE guide on Diastasis Recti)
The good news is that in most cases, diastasis recti in pregnancy will heal naturally post birth…IF you take the right steps and do the correct exercises!
The bad news is that many trainers aren’t aware of the correct exercises and don’t teach the diastasis recti moms the work with the importance of these right steps.
When I had Jackson (aka BeyondFit Kid #1) I had NO idea how to figure out if I had diastasis recti, and nobody told me that there were everyday exercises and things in life that I should be avoiding (both while pregnant and then immediately postpartum).
Thankfully I was able to figure out how to test myself (and now I test all of my clients) after Warren (aka BeyondFit Kid #2) was born, and I now know what I should and shouldn’t be doing in terms of getting my body back.
2. PROPER POSTPARTUM TRAINING
When the time comes to start introducing training, cardio alone won’t cut it. If you’re wondering how to lose baby weight, you have to look past the cardio and on to the weights. The most successful postpartum training plan incorporates a balance of activities including leisurely walks, some HIIT, plenty of stretching, proper core training, and also weight training.
I realize that carrying a baby around all day is a workout in and of itself, but if you really want to take your fat loss to the next level, adding some strength training will be key. Cardiovascular exercise may get you bigger or smaller, but you will stay the same shape– weight training is the #1 way to change the shape of your body.
Do strength training 3 times a week for 30 minutes to increase fat fighting hormones (we’ll talk more about that in a minute) that help burn fat long after your workout is over. This will go a long way toward speeding up your metabolism, tightening and toning. This is the most often missed secret in postpartum fat loss.
3. PROPER POSTPARTUM NUTRITION
Proper postpartum training must always be fueled by proper postpartum nutrition. I see far too many moms trying low calorie, low fat diets as they try to figure out how to lose baby weight. Diets don’t work. In fact, many times these types of diets make you fatter. As a new mom, your body needs maximum nutrition to recover from pregnancy, refuel after your workouts, and if you’re breastfeeding, to provide fuel for your baby, so immediately dropping your caloric intake to an unreasonable level isn’t healthy, and may actually cause you to gain weight or do some long term damage to your metabolism. You certainly don’t have to count calories (in fact, I prefer to focus on quality over quantity).
To give you an idea of what you need to sustain your baby while you are breastfeeding and safely lose fat, the National Women’s Health Information Center advises consuming at least 1,800 calories per day. (Click here to learn how to adjust your macronutrient/nutrition and calorie intake if you’re breastfeeding.)
For a healthy baby AND momma, concentrate on well-balanced, healthy food choices that include foods rich in calcium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6 and folate. Remember to focus on foods that keep your hunger, energy and cravings balanced. If you do that, the caloric intake will take care of itself.
4. BALANCING POSTPARTUM HORMONES
Calories in vs. calories out is NOT the whole picture when it comes to fat loss – especially postpartum. If you’re wondering how to lose baby weight and have your training and nutrition in place, but still aren’t making progress, consider fixing your fat fighting hormones. The key to sustainable fat loss comes in both a caloric deficit (that is, burning more calories than you consume) AND balanced metabolic hormones. But for new moms who are breastfeeding and can’t sustain a significant caloric deficit, the hormonal balance becomes even more important.
In part 2 of this series (next week) we’ll talk in depth about postpartum hormones, but here’s the deal in a nut shell… prolactin, the master hormone responsible for lactation, affects a large number of systems throughout the body. It stimulates the production and secretion of milk, depresses fat production in the liver and stimulates the delivery of glucose and lactate to the mammary gland for enhanced fat production.
Research shows that there is also a suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis at this point, which is responsible for the release of the stress hormones. This may dampen the responses to exercise in terms of having increased energy and fat burning, and many women experience a slight lowering of their basal metabolic rate (the calories you burn at rest), as well as an increase in water and weight retention.
How to lose baby weight: Realistic Expectations
As you work through figuring out how to lose baby weight, remember to focus on these 4 keys first. Don’t get caught up in silly wraps or “magic” pills. It’s tempting to set unrealistic goals and then be frustrated when we aren’t where we “should” be. Although every new mom is eager to look like our old selves again, one of the most important things to remember is to be patient with yourself.
Give yourself some grace and remember, it CAN be done…but it’s going to take time to get your body back.
How much time?
The National Women’s Health Information Center advises that about one pound per week is a safe amount of weight to lose postpartum, and will not affect your milk supply or the baby’s growth. If you take the time to heal and rebuild and then focus on proper postpartum training + nutrition and address the balance of your postpartum hormones, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you CAN get your body back!