Women retain up to 6.6lb (3kg) of weight past a year postpartum (1). There are also high chances for the gained weight to be carried forward to subsequent pregnancies, irrespective of pregnancy interval.
According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, approximately 65% of reproductive-aged women are overweight or obese at the time of pregnancy and are at risk of postpartum weight retention and chronic obesity (2).
In this MomJunction post, we tell you about the importance of losing weight after pregnancy, the right time to start, and tips to achieve your weight loss goal.
Importance Of Losing Excess Weight After Delivery
- Postpartum weight retention might be a major contributor to obesity. Obesity, in the long run, can increase the risk of other illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes.
- There might even be a higher risk of lifestyle-related health complications such as cardiovascular diseases.
- Excessive weight places undue pressure on joints, thus increasing the risk of joint problems such as arthritis.
- Some studies indicate that gestational weight gain might increase the risk of postpartum depression (6).
- Losing weight after pregnancy is good, but you need to know when to start.
What Is The Right Time To Lose Weight After Pregnancy?
The US National Institutes of Health suggests new mothers to wait until the baby is at least two months old and breast milk supply is normalized, before cutting down calories for weight loss (7). It is okay to take a year or even more to return to your pre-pregnancy weight. Therefore, there is no need to rush with the weight loss process.
Most postpartum women naturally lose 50% of their pregnancy weight by six weeks after delivery. If you want to add to the weight loss with your efforts, then consult a doctor before beginning any exercise or diet regimen. Weight loss can be unique to each woman and depends on factors like the health of the mother and the baby.
Useful Tips To Lose Weight Postpartum
Weight loss postpartum is a sum of healthy eating, an active lifestyle, and continued breastfeeding (if you are a breastfeeding mother) (7). The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also suggests that weight loss should be gradual and steady rather than quick (8). It means, it is okay to take time to lose weight slowly rather than focussing on rapid weight loss.
The following tips and suggestions might help you shed weight after your pregnancy.
1. Pick food from various groups
Nutritional adequacy is achieved by adding foods from all the five food groups (fruits, grains, vegetables, protein, and dairy). This healthy variety helps attain nourishment along with weight loss (9) (10).
2. Have a mix of nutrients
Two food items may be the same in terms of calorific value but vastly have a different set of nutrients. Focussing on one food group to lose weight could cause you to miss out nutrients you need from other food groups (11). So, do not obsess about calories alone, instead, choose healthy foods (9).
3. Take healthy snacks
Studies suggest that spreading energy intake into four to five small meals a day could have a favorable effect on health (12). Therefore, you may consider having healthy snacks such as unsalted nuts, fresh fruit, yogurt, hummus, or a protein bar.
4. Check portion sizes
Regulate the portion sizes. You can start maintaining a food diary or a food journal app to track your portion sizes. It will help you keep a check on the intake of food in a day (13).
5. Manage cravings
Whenever you crave high-calorie foods, such as chocolate or ice cream, look for their healthy alternatives. For example, you may have dark chocolate with less quantity of sugar than standard milk chocolate. You may pick naturally sweet fruits and vegetables like banana or sweet potato, which can be healthier alternatives.
6. Practice mindful eating
Mindful eating is often referred to as the art of presence while you eat. This approach makes an individual focus all the senses on the food while eating and thus chew the food slow and well (14). Chewing the food well could potentially reduce the total calorie intake, thus supporting weight loss (15).
7. Do not skip meals nor follow a fad diet
Skipping meals or following a fad diet should not be a way for weight loss. It can cause changes in the way your body processes calories, and thus might slow down the weight loss process (16). This is even more important for a breastfeeding mother, as skipping meals can impact your overall postpartum recovery process (9).
8. Stay hydrated
Hydration is essential during lactation and is directly associated with breast milk production (17). Adequate hydration can help in breast milk production, which helps in burning calories.
9. Avoid high-fat, high sugar, and processed foods
Avoid sweetened juices, sugary drinks, and high-fat processed foods. Various studies have observed that too much sugar, fat, and sodium can contribute to weight gain, sabotaging your efforts to lose pregnancy weight (18).
10. Avoid alcohol consumption
A study has concluded that regardless of the type of alcohol consumed, alcohol intake of ≥ 30g/day might contribute directly to weight gain and obesity (19). Since you are likely to breastfeed the baby, it is good to quit alcohol for the benefit of the baby as well.
11. Value homemade food
Homemade food is hygienic and also made from good-quality ingredients. You can also customize the food as per your preference. Eating homemade food could help provide optimum nutrition while also making it easy to eat on time.
12. Eat smart in a restaurant
Some studies show that frequent eating out could lead to possible weight gain (20). It does not mean you should not eat at a restaurant. Instead, follow the same precautions that you would follow at home. Check for the ingredients in a particular dish and avoid foods that are fried, have high sugar or salt, and contain processed ingredients like refined flour. Instead, opt for fresh soups without cornstarch, fresh salads, grilled, baked, and roasted food items.
13. Have an active lifestyle
An active lifestyle is important for sustainable weight loss. It is often confused with exercise; however, both are different. Staying active does not mean exercising, but it means reducing the overall time that you spend sitting or lying.
To stay active, you could try the following things:
- Move around as much as possible and do your work yourself
- Involve yourself in household chores
- Take a walk while talking on the phone instead of sitting
- Whenever allowed, especially after C-section, take stairs instead of the lift
- Take your baby to a quick walk in the stroller
- Go to nearby supermarket on foot
14. Exercise smart
Physical activity accounts for 15-30% of energy expenditure a day (21) Thus, a moderate-intensity exercise session of 30-40 minutes a day for at least five days a week helps you stay healthy. Exercise does not always have to be rigorous and complex. Something as simple as a brisk walk or jogging may suffice (22). You may consider weight training, as well. However, it is best to consult a doctor before beginning any exercises.
Breastfeeding has been shown to help in postpartum weight loss if the feeding continues for at least six months (23).
16. Sleep and stress
You are bound to have disturbed sleep patterns while looking after a baby. Sleep is essential since chronic partial sleep loss is associated with an increase in the risk of weight gain (24). Inadequate sleep may also affect your eating habits, thus affecting your weight loss goals (25). Try magnesium at night or lavender essential oil at bedtime to improve quality of sleep and restfulness.
Weight loss after childbirth is essential, but it is something that you should achieve gradually. In the next section, we answer a few questions about losing weight after pregnancy.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Will my body be back to normal after delivery?
Getting back to your pre-pregnancy weight is possible with persistent and patient efforts. Do not follow fad diets but develop a well-balanced meal plan with an active lifestyle.
2. How long does it take to lose weight after having a baby?
It may take six to 12 months (7). But it could differ for each woman and depend on several factors. Do not worry if you take longer than a year to attain your pre-pregnancy weight. Continue to eat healthily and live an active lifestyle.
3. Is it hard to lose weight after C-section?
There is no evidence to prove that C-section could make it difficult for a woman to lose weight. A study found no correlation between C-section delivery and retention of maternal weight (26).
Weight loss after pregnancy is achievable through persistent efforts. Set realistic short-term goals and take it slow but steady. Remember, it is okay to take time to lose weight after pregnancy because you have other priorities too. Maintain your efforts and enjoy the tender moments with your little one.
Have something to share about losing weight after pregnancy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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17. Goun Jeong et al., Maternal food restrictions during breastfeeding; National Center of Biotechnology Information
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26. Kandice A. Kapinos et al., Cesarean deliveries and maternal weight retention; National Center of Biotechnology Information
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