In the first few exhausting days after giving birth, many new moms aren’t yet ready to face the thought of losing the baby weight. But as we’re bombarded with images of Hollywood moms who hit the red carpet looking svelte and stunning just days after giving birth, it’s hard not to get jealous – and think we have to lose the weight just as quickly.
“Sometimes new moms put too much pressure on themselves to get back to their pre-baby body,” says Krista Leck Merner, a registered member of both the Nova Scotia Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada. But that can be very damaging to both your health and your self-esteem, she adds.
“You want to wait for the six week post-partum checkup before you even start considering weight loss,” she says. Wait until your doctor or midwife gives you the go-ahead before actively trying to lose weight, whether that’s by exercising or changing your eating habits.
Once you’ve gotten the all-clear, Leck Merner recommends taking a slow and steady approach to manage your weight loss. “It took nine months for your body to change and produce a baby,” she says. “Give yourself nine months to get your weight back down to where you feel comfortable.”
Leck Merner recommends you aim for a weight loss of one pound a week, which can be achieved easily through healthy eating habits. Of course, for new moms, that can be easier said than done when you’re busy trying to tend to a newborn. Here are some of her tips to help make healthy eating and weight loss as easy as possible when you’re a new mom.
Healthy eating isn’t rocket science; it’s really following a few simple nutrition principles (and these principles are good for everyone, not just new moms). A diet of vegetables, fruit, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy products is always the way to go. And be sure to cut back on processed, packaged foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar.
Instead of counting calories at meal time, Leck Merner recommends simply filling half of your plate with vegetables, a quarter with lean protein and a quarter with whole grains. Be sure to eat every few hours as well, even if it’s just grabbing a handful of baby carrots and a small yogurt. Eating frequently will help keep your metabolism revved up and burn through the excess weight.
If anyone is pressed for time, it’s a new mom. The first few months after baby’s birth, in particular, are often the worst. The baby doesn’t have a regular schedule, seems to eat around the clock, and sleep deprivation is the norm.
That’s why Leck Merner recommends you stock up on easy-to-grab healthy foods. Buy pre-cut veggies, low-fat yogurt in individual containers, whole grain crackers and whole fruit (like apples, pears and bananas) that you can grab and eat with one hand. “The more easy-to-grab, healthy food options you have, the more likely you are to eat healthy foods,” she says.
Too many new moms don’t ask for help, but Leck Merner says if you can enlist some help from your partner, mom, friend or family member once a week, you can make some meals ahead of time for when you’re busy (and possibly alone) during the week. Make soups, stews, lasagna or casseroles that you can pop in the freezer and bring out when you’ve been busy with the baby all day.
Leck Merner says you can also take advantage of some downtime to prepare meals, even if it means making dinner in the morning while baby has a good nap. Throw ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning, let it simmer all day, and dinner is ready to go no matter how hectic your afternoon.
When you’re tired and sleep-deprived, the temptation is great to grab comfort foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat. But if those foods aren’t in the house, you can’t turn to them. That’s why Leck Merner recommends using your willpower at the grocery store, rather than in your kitchen.
“If you’re strong at the grocery store, you only have to be strong once,” she says. “If you only bring home the good stuff, it will help your weight loss, whereas if you bring home the bad foods, you have to be strong every time you open the cupboards.”
A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.