Losing Weight After Pregnancy
The messages start almost as soon as you announce you are pregnant. The warnings and advice about how to manage how much weight you gain and how to lose weight quickly after the birth are a wide concern. Losing weight following pregnancy can seem insurmountable but there are things you can do throughout pregnancy and afterwards to make it easier.
A Healthy Pregnancy
It all starts with a healthy pregnancy. You shouldn’t spend your pregnancy worrying more about your figure than about your baby, and it is important to realize you will need to gain weight for your baby to grow. Women of an average weight should plan to gain 25-35 pounds during pregnancy.
Begin healthy habits during your pregnancy or maintain the healthy habits you already had pre-pregnancy. Adhering to a healthy diet and activity level are essential. Good habits benefit you and your baby, can make giving birth easier and will make losing weight later easier.
Some Things You Should Know
Before we get too deeply into the how to of losing pregnancy weight we should probably dispel a few myths and explain a few facts.
- You may not lose a significant amount just by giving birth. A common story is you will lose at least 20 lbs just giving birth. This is often not true. Many women lose only the weight of the baby at birth and nothing more. Optimally you should lose the weight of your baby plus the water weight from the amniotic fluid, but at most that might total 12 lbs.
- Some of the pregnancy weight is in your breast tissue and elsewhere, so you may not lose your pregnancy belly right away.
- It takes about four weeks for the uterus to completely shrink or contract back to its original size. This will make your abdomen appear big until the process is complete. Remember your skin has also stretched to make space for your baby, so you should not be surprised to find you have a significant belly initially after birth.
- You may hear the myth that it is okay to gain weight with no concerns during your pregnancy because it will all come off with breastfeeding. There are recommendations for how much you should gain, and while breastfeeding can help you burn more calories it does not magically make weight permanently disappear with no other effort.
- Every body is different so don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Be patient with yourself also.
- It will take work to lose the weight, but it can be achieved through diet and exercise.
The Early Post-Partum Days
Belly binding techniques are commonly used in several cultures. There is the Bengkung from Malaysia, Rebozo from Mexico and Zulu Belly Binding from South Africa. Each cultural technique is unique but they all provide the same basic benefits.
In addition to supporting the abdominal area, belly binding also provides support for your pelvic area. During childbirth, a woman’s body produces something called Relaxin, which helps her body physically become looser and more flexible in order to birth her baby.
When binding postpartum, we take advantage of the Relaxin in the body by putting pressure on the hips and pelvis to go back to its pre pregnancy state more easily. This also helps to firm and support the areas that are still loose from pregnancy as the Relaxin reduces in the body.
Lower back support
The Bengkung method of binding is also helpful in supporting the lower back. It is well known that the abdominal muscles have a direct relationship to the back muscles. According to www.spine-health.com“…The abdominal muscles and back muscles are key components of [a] muscular network, and provide the strength to keep the body upright and for movement.
When these core muscles are in poor condition, additional stress is applied to the spine as it supports the body, and back injury or back pain is more likely”. With the abdominal support, the back is supported as well. Having lower back support helps to reduce strain and improves posture.
Many women enjoy the modesty of being able to breastfeed without the worry of their belly being exposed. Women also enjoy the process of taking care of their bodies and being able to focus on their recovery and the healing process.
They are able to really take that time out each day for self-care and get in touch with their new self and their new role as a mother. Many women use binding as a spiritual or symbolic closure of their pregnancy; especially if they didn’t receive the birth they envisioned.
Here is a summary of benefits of belly binding:
- Supports the abdomen and organs during healing
- Can shorten recovery time
- Provides comfort and may help you feel reconnected to your body as your own
- Includes massage to help encourage the uterus to shrink and stretch the muscles
A Word on C-Sections
Losing weight after a c-section requires some additional care. Belly binding is one technique that is even more beneficial after a c-section as it helps to support your abdomen and encourages the organs to move back into place. This can be exceptionally comforting for the c-section healing process.
You should consult with your doctor to aid in creating an appropriate plan for weight loss if you have a c-section. You may need additional recovery time or be restricted from certain types of exercise.
You can still lose weight after a c-section but should follow instructions and recommendations from your doctor to ensure proper healing as well.
Breastfeeding can aid in losing pregnancy weight. Breastfeeding burns calories, so although you will need to continue to eat appropriately to ensure milk production you will find you begin to lose weight while bonding with your baby.
Breastfeeding can help burn up to 500 calories per day, but this can vary depending on milk production. Breastfeeding also supports the uterus shrinkage necessary to complete healing and contributing to weight loss in the abdomen.
Creating A Strategy
Plan ahead for how you will work to lose the weight after pregnancy. You should consult with your doctor for feedback on your plan and to ensure all steps are approved for your unique situation. Your strategy should include:
- A weekly weight loss goal
- Meal planning and menus
- Healthy snacks
- An exercise schedule and routine
Your weight loss goal should be realistic. Understand it will take time and dedication to lose the weight.
Meal planning can help you in your weight loss goal while also making it easier to stay organized with the new baby. Finding time to do the things you need to do is one of the most difficult adjustments to life with a new baby for many parents.
Meal planning allows you to save time by planning ahead, purchasing in larger quantities, freezing portions and making the healthiest choices when purchasing. Part of planning should include keeping healthy snacks on hand and making the most of super foods that aid in weight loss.
Some super foods that can help you are :
- Lentils – can reduce insulin spikes and provide protein
- Cucumber and Watermelon – helps with dispelling water retention
- Apples – eaten before a meal can reduce your portions
- High fiber foods like kale and steel cut oats
- Blueberries – high in fiber and antioxidants
- Chilis – spice can help your metabolism move faster
Ongoing Healthy Habits
A healthy diet is a balanced and varied diet. Limiting processed sugars, excessive carbohydrates and salt are all good habits to get into for overall sustainable health and will help with losing pregnancy weight. An equally important often neglected aspect is hydration.
Make sure you are drinking sufficient water. The standard 8 glasses a day is no longer true. When trying to lose weight 1/2 oz per pound is the recommended daily water intake. This means if you weigh 145 lbs you should drink 72 oz of water each day.
Barring any risks during pregnancy you can engage in mild to moderate exercise during pregnancy and shortly after the birth of your baby. Clarify with your doctor when you can exercise and what types of exercises are appropriate or should be avoided.
Once you have the go-ahead from your doctor, make physical activity a daily habit. This takes planning in order to make time for exercising when you are busy with your new baby. Consistency is the key to ensuring you keep and build up the habit of staying active.
There is a point where you realize it seems your weight loss has slowed or you are unable to lose more. If this is the case, persevere. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise efforts are good for your cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive systems.
They also help you stay mentally alert, energetic and flexible. If you feel you have reached a plateau where you are no longer able to lose weight do not give up on the excellent habits you have begun.
Teaming up with others, attending exercise classes and finding “me time” for stress reduction can all help you in maintaining your goals and habits.