Health

15 Ways to Get Back To YourSelf After Pregnancy

Pregnancy is arguably one of the most amazing experiences a woman can have. The idea of creating and sustaining a new life is exciting and exhilarating… Simi - May 6, 2018

Pregnancy is arguably one of the most amazing experiences a woman can have. The idea of creating and sustaining a new life is exciting and exhilarating although also daunting. From the moment you find out you’re pregnant until the delivery, your main priority is your baby. Protecting and providing for your baby has been your sole focus during the nine months of your pregnancy.

However, pregnancy takes its toll on the mother’s body.  Once the delivery is complete, the new mother will already have lost about 10lbs. (4.5kg) of weight from the baby, the placenta and the amniotic fluid. In the first week after the delivery additional fluids that have built up in the body during pregnancy will also drain causing additional weight loss.

It may sound as if losing your pregnancy weight is easy given the two aforementioned factors. However, the residual fat that has accumulated in the body during the pregnancy may not be so easy to get rid of. New mothers can expect it to take up to a year to lose the weight gained during pregnancy and get their bodies back to normal.

New mothers have so many demands made on their time. Between feeding, bathing and changing their babies, they must fulfill to all the responsibilities they had before giving birth. Many new mothers are also faced with the reality of returning to work. Consequently, new mothers tend to neglect themselves which leads to weight loss struggles. Here are 15 tips for losing postpartum weight.

1. Breast is best

Breastfeeding is one of the most widely used weight loss methods used by new mothers. In addition to its weight busting properties, it is also regarded as being best for the baby. Breastfeeding builds an intimate bond between the mother and baby. It also provides a balanced diet for the infant and breastmilk has immune boosting properties which will help the baby fight off opportunistic infections and gain weight.

A mother’s metabolism will change during the time of her pregnancy as everything she eats is also nourishing her baby. Studies indicate that by breastfeeding a mother can get her metabolic pattern back to what it was before the pregnancy. Breastfeeding is regarded as being an activity that can burn calories. In burning calories, the body can decrease the amount of stored fat.  This in turn leads to weight loss.

Some lucky breastfeeding mothers report being able to get to their pre-pregnancy weight (or even below it) simply by breastfeeding even though they have been eating more than usual. It is normal to eat more than usual during breastfeeding although overeating should be avoided. Mothers need to be careful that when the stop breastfeeding they change their eating patterns otherwise soon all the weight they lost will pile back on.

There are mothers who report little if no weight loss during breastfeeding. Additionally, the reality is that breastfeeding is not possible for all women. So is the fact that breastfeeding is not the be all and end all for postpartum weight loss. New mothers are advised not to rely on breastfeeding exclusively as a weight loss mechanism. They should use it as part of a multi-disciplined approach to weight loss.

2. A good night’s sleep

For many new mothers, the idea of a good night’s sleep is a distant and fond memory of days long past. The birth of a baby disrupts the household’s sleep patterns as most newborn babies wake every few hours for feeding, winding and changing. Most mothers report feeling sleep deprived during the first few weeks or months after giving birth while they adjust to not getting an uninterrupted night’s sleep.

Not getting sufficient sleep is detrimental to postpartum weight loss efforts. This is because a lack of sleep can slow your metabolism down. It also depletes energy levels.  A lack of energy will result in avoiding workouts and exercise. Sleep deprivation will also change the mother’s eating habits. Sugar and starchy foods will be on the mother’s mind as they temporarily give a boost of short-term energy and repress exhaustion.

A lack of sleep also raises the stress levels of the mother. She will become irritated and angered by the smallest of things. This can have a negative effect on the bond she shares with her child. It can also result in poor decision making and impaired impulse control. Increased stress levels will result in the body secreting greater volumes of the hormone cortisol which in turn causes weight gain.

To get enough sleep, new mothers are advised to sleep whenever their baby is sleeping. Most mothers will want to get on with the housework whilst their baby is sleeping, but should at times avoid this desire and focus on catching up on some much-needed sleep instead. Where possible, get help with housework chores from family members or friends and nighttime wake ups should be shared with the mother’s partner.

3. Managing stress levels

Increased stress levels can have a dramatic effect on a mother’s ability to lose weight after giving birth. Feeling stressed out by the magnitude of the responsibilities of motherhood is common although most mothers are often reluctant to speak about it for fear of harsh judgment or ‘mom shaming’. Financial pressures, family drama or trouble in her relationship with her partner will only make matters worse for the new mother.

When the body experiences stress, the endocrine (hormone) system reacts by releasing hormones to help with stress management. One of these hormones is cortisol. While cortisol helps with the stress being experienced, it also has weight gaining properties. Increased stress because of weight gain due to stress becomes a vicious cycle as cortisol levels rise to deal with the stress but at the same time simply cause further weight gain.

A lot of mothers will be tempted to ‘comfort eat’ their stress away.  Most have their ‘go-to’ food when they are experiencing stress. Usually, it is a starchy, fatty or sugary food such as bread, potato chips, French fries, candy or cake. Indulging in such foods may make the mother feel less stressed but will cause weight gain which will cause the stress and ‘comfort eating’ cycle to perpetuate itself.

For stress management, mothers are urged to take a ‘time out’ to do the things they love. Asking their partner or a trusted family member or friend to watch their baby while they take a relaxing bath or go for a walk reduces stress levels. However, where a new mother is facing stress in her relationship with her partner, she should seek help from family or a professional without delay.

4. Healthy eating

Like an engine, the body responds to the fuel that is put in it. Dieting is not recommended straight after giving birth especially if the mother is breastfeeding. Diets can deprive the body of essential nutrients and minerals. Additionally, diets can lead to intense cravings. During a time of stress such as becoming the mother of a newborn, it is easy to give into cravings and binge on unhealthy foods.

However, making healthy food choices is recommended for the new mother.  Your body needs foods that provide nutritional value to sustain it and give you additional energy. Such foods should be eaten on a regular basis, and foods high in calorie and fat content should be avoided. Fast foods have little nutritional value and cannot satisfy the appetite. As a result, a while after eating them, one is hungry again.

Foods that are rich in fiber create a sense of fullness and help to regulate the bowel. Calcium and protein are essential to the diet, especially for a breastfeeding mother. Fish (sardines and salmon) and dairy products (milk and yogurt) are a healthy option to obtain protein as they are rich in omega-3 components. Omega-3 is good for brain development and can be passed from mother to child by breastfeeding.

The importance of fresh fruit and vegetables cannot be emphasized enough as a source of essential vitamins and minerals needed to sustain a healthy body and mind. As far as possible, make a variety of fruit and vegetables available to the new mother. Each one has its own nutritional value in terms of the vitamins and minerals it contains. It is preferable to supplement any meal with fruit or vegetables.

5. Small, regular meals

One of the easiest ways for a new mother to avoid overeating at mealtimes is to have more frequent meals in a day. On the face of it, that doesn’t make too much sense. However, a larger number of smaller than usual meals eaten through the course of the day is a healthier alternative to 3 large meals. Cutting down on or skipping meals will not lead to weight loss.

To eat smaller meals on a more regular basis and lose weight, a food plan can be drawn up showing what will be eaten at each small meal. Look at the routine of the day to determine when foods that drive energy should be eaten. Fruits and vegetables can be eaten as separate small meals on their own during the day. This greatly increases the intake of vitamins and minerals.

Food that is ingested is metabolized, processed and used by the body more quickly if it is eaten in smaller quantities on a regular basis. This allows for more calories to be added to the diet. If you eat larger meals fewer times in a day, much of the food will be metabolized and then stored as fat. This will just add to the weight that needs to be lost.

Eating smaller, more regular meals also has the advantage of keeping your blood sugar levels regular. It also prevents overeating and bingeing because eating smaller more regular meals means feeling quite full at the beginning of a meal instead of ravenously hungry. Depriving yourself of food and waiting to eat a big meal will lead you to eat much more than you usually would when you finally get to eat.

6. The most important meal of the day

It is essential to start each day off with a healthy, nutritious breakfast. This is the meal that most mothers will tend to skip. The morning is often a very busy time for most mothers especially if they have other children to care for. Between getting everyone up and ready for the day and looking after a newborn baby, mothers often forget that they need breakfast too and neglect themselves.

Having established that breakfast is an important meal, it must be emphasized that the choice of breakfast is equally as important. What you choose to eat for breakfast daily is vital. Foods rich in roughage and fiber are recommended for breakfast. They create a feeling of fullness for a longer time and do not lead to drastic changes in blood sugar levels. Oatmeal is, therefore, a great idea for breakfast.

However, the true value of eating oatmeal for breakfast can be negatively affected by an unhealthy add-in. Smothering a bowl of oatmeal with sugar will ruin its nutritious benefit. Oatmeal on its own is not the most pleasant-tasting meal to eat, so add-ins are a necessity. The choice of add-in should be evaluated. A natural sweetener such as honey or fruit such as berries is a healthier alternative to sugar.

The fiber found in foods such as oatmeal is soluble fiber which helps to reduce belly fat. Fiber is also beneficial to bowel regulation as it helps waste move through the digestive system more effectively. The good bacteria in the bowel thrive on fiber. These good bacteria boost the immune system and can reduce inflammation. This results in a healthier, more active mother who sheds her postpartum weight more easily.

7. Avoid excessive caffeine intake

Caffeine is generally ingested in the form of coffee. Coffee can actually help with weight loss over the short-term. It can act as an effective appetite suppressant. Many people report that drinking a cup of coffee shortly before eating prevents them from overindulging in a meal. Caffeine can also stimulate the body’s metabolism. Many people swear by a cup of coffee after a large meal to kickstart the metabolic process.

Coffee provides the drinker with an energy boost and a feeling of wakefulness. To most exhausted mothers, this will sound like a great idea, especially after a difficult night. All the weight loss benefits of coffee can be attributed to energy drinks as well as they tend to be caffeine based. They should be consumed with caution, however, as they contain other ingredients which could prove harmful in the long-term.

However, it is critical to understand that caffeine has these effects only over a short-term period.  If the same weight loss and energy effect is desired, more and more caffeine will have to be consumed to achieve it.  This is because the body can build up a resistance to caffeine quite quickly.  Caffeine will be present in the breastmilk of a breastfeeding mother, so it should be consumed in moderation.

Caffeine is not necessarily as good for weight loss as one might think because too much caffeine can make the drinker jittery and anxious. This causes the body to release cortisol into the bloodstream. Cortisol can lead to weight gain. Another disadvantage is that due to the bitter taste of coffee, many people tend to add sugar to it. Drinking many cups of coffee will then increase the sugar intake.

8. Watch yourself at snack time

The saying ‘you are what you eat’ couldn’t be truer than it is when it comes to snack time. Being a new mother is stressful, so it’s easy to reach for some ice cream or candy when a hunger pang strikes. It’s also easy to promise that it’s for today only and won’t become an everyday occurrence. Bad snacking habits are hard to break, especially if they persist over time.

Snacks can be great weight loss tools as part of an eating plan that includes several smaller meals a day. However, healthy snacks need to be on hand at all times. Sugary snacks can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels. Snacks such as fruit and vegetables, high-fiber crackers, low-fat yogurt and dry-roasted nuts are good examples of healthy snacks. They are nutritious, relatively inexpensive, easy to prepare and filling.

To avoid the temptation of unhealthy snacks, it is recommended that only healthy snacks are kept in the house. The occasional ‘naughty’ snack should be indulged in from time to time. Buying a candy bar and eating it then and there is better than buying a box of 10, eating one now and taking the rest home. It is inevitable that they will be eaten within a matter of days.

Bad snacking habits can be broken with self-discipline and determination. Having a weight loss goal set out will help with the temptation to indulge in unhealthy snacks. The knowledge that each unhealthy snack is a setback in the weight loss plan can be a great motivator to stick to healthy snacks. It is also advisable to schedule a snack as a part of the small regular meal daily eating plan.

9. Drink plenty of water

Drinking sufficient water is critical to any weight loss program. Breastfeeding mothers especially need to drink enough water as it aids milk production. Water is essential to the body as it cleanses the bowel and the kidneys, flushing toxins from the body. Studies have shown that drinking water stimulates a process called thermogenesis. This process speeds the metabolism up and helps to burn calories. Water is integral to weight loss.

Water can also act as an appetite suppressant. People who are trying to lose weight are advised to drink a glass of water about 20 minutes before they eat.  The water will create a sense of fullness which allows them to eat less at mealtimes. Water can even be used as a substitute for snacking. Drinking a glass of water every time the urge to snack occurs can reduce snacking.

Many people do not like the taste of water and avoid it. Calorie-free flavor packets added to water can make drinking it easier. Water drinking can also be scheduled with an alarm to make it a regular habit. Keeping a water bottle handy helps to get into the habit. Water can be infused with fruits and vegetables such as cucumber, strawberries, mint, citrus fruits, etc. to give it some flavor.

It is recommended that 8-10 glasses of water are consumed daily. Drinking all that water at one time won’t aid weight loss. Water consumption needs to be spread out over a whole day. Studies have shown that drinking 2 glasses of water just before bedtime greatly improves weight loss. You can tell if you’re drinking enough water by checking that your urine is the color of light straw or lighter.

10. Regular exercise

For the first while after the birth of the baby, vigorous, regular exercise is not really a viable option. The body needs some time to heal itself.  This is especially true if the mother had to have a C-Section. Mothers should always seek the advice of their doctor or a medical professional before embarking on an exercise program. Once you have been cleared to start exercising, the process can begin.

The key to developing a good exercise program is to start off slowly and work gradually up towards longer, more strenuous sessions. In the beginning, focus on simple exercises, stopping immediately if you feel any internal pain. It is vital to remember to warm up before starting with any exercises to avoid injury. Swimming, jogging, hiking, cycling, and aerobics are just a few of the exercises suitable for new mothers.

Exercise need not always be scheduled.  It can be done while doing household tasks. For example, try jogging to and from the mailbox, cycling to the shop instead of driving, etc. New mothers have many demands made on their time so if you can integrate exercise into your other responsibilities you should do so wherever possible. It is advisable to schedule some time each day for formalized exercise if possible.

A new mother should try to exercise for 30 minutes every day. Using a variety of strategies (i.e. different types of exercises each day) will keep exercising interesting and prevent it from becoming monotonous and repetitive. Cardio activities such as jogging, and cycling get the heart rate up which can speed up the metabolism thereby assisting with weight loss. A lot of excess fat is burned during such vigorous exercises.

11. Taking long walks

Cardio activities need to be combined with endurance exercises as well. This is where walking exercise fits in perfectly. A walk will get your heartbeat up which stimulates the metabolism. To sustain this increased heartbeat and burn unwanted fat, it is advisable to walk as far and as fast as possible. Each day, the mother should aim to walk a little faster and a little further than the day before.

In addition to the exercise benefits of walking, there are maternal benefits too. New mothers often complain about feeling cooped up inside with their babies. Going out once a day for a walk with your baby is the perfect way to alleviate this. It is a great time to bond with your baby. The sights, smells and sounds they experience while out on a walk contribute to their brain’s development.

Walking is also a good way of relieving stress. Getting out into the fresh air is extremely beneficial to one’s state of mind. Walking gives you the opportunity to think about a multitude of things and work things out. Good exercise such as walking can be a great cure if you’re feeling a bit down. You can combine your daily walk with a trip to the store instead of driving.

Another benefit of taking your baby out for a walk is that the motion of the stroller on the road is bound to put even the crankiest baby to sleep as it loosens winds that cause your baby pain. Weather permitting, the walk is vital to any mother who has had difficulty getting their baby to take a nap. With a relaxed, sleeping baby, you can return from your walk.

12. Weight training and stretching

To tone up muscles once you start exercising, adding some weight training and stretching to your exercise routine is recommended. These specific types of exercises are designed to strengthen the muscles and tone them so that you can get back into your pre-pregnancy shape and regain your flexibility and agility. There are several options available for new mothers to explore to help them do such exercises and lose postpartum weight.

Do some research and see if there is a postpartum yoga class in your area. These classes are baby-friendly so you can take your little one with you. Yoga is a great way to strengthen your core muscles which may have been weakened during pregnancy and the lack of exercise after giving birth. It is also a great stress reliever. Yoga can bring about a meaningful sense of inner peace.

Weight training speeds the metabolism up drastically. This is essential to weight loss. It is not necessary to go to a gym or buy a set of weights. Many experts suggest incorporating your baby into a weight training routine. For example, you can lie on your back, hold your baby above your chest and press up towards the ceiling. This is a great bonding experience for you and your baby.

Because new mothers have many important responsibilities and limited time resources, combining weight training and stretching exercises such as yoga with quality bonding time with your baby is a great time saver and gives you a chance to fit more tasks into your day. At the same time, the benefits of these exercises will soon become apparent when you step onto the scale and start trying on your pre-pregnancy clothes.

13. Try a belly wrap

A postpartum belly wrap is a belt or girdle worn around the belly area after giving birth.  The compression offered by the belly wrap is instrumental in getting the uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy size and shape at a faster rate. It helps in the recovery process and can speed up weight loss. Purchase a postpartum belly wrap at any maternity store. There is a variety to choose from.

The postpartum belly wrap is not an instant fix and will not result in weight loss if used in isolation. It is worn over an extended period and combined with exercise and healthy eating to be effective. Don’t expect it to work a miracle on its own. If it did, no one would have postpartum weight problems. View it as a part of the process of getting your body back.

Follow the instructions that accompany your postpartum belly wrap to maximize its use.  They will tell you how to use it, how long you should wear it for each day and how soon after delivery you should start using it. Following the instructions should garner you more success. Because it compresses the body, the postpartum belly wrap will help you to look slimmer which can be a big confidence booster.

The postpartum belly wrap is useful for supporting abdominal and back muscles that may have been weakened or strained during your pregnancy or the delivery of the baby. The spine can also be straightened after the strain of carrying the excess weight of your pregnancy around. Those mothers experiencing postpartum abdominal separation can use the belly wrap as binding may well close the gap thereby allowing you to avoid surgery.

14. Home remedies

There are a good number of natural weight loss remedies that new mothers can use to help them lose their excess pregnancy weight. It is advisable to discuss any home remedies you plan to use with a medical professional such as a doctor or nurse in advance. This holds true especially if you are breastfeeding since whatever you ingest may be passed on to your baby and affect them negatively.

Some home remedies for weight loss include drinking apple cider vinegar diluted with water. Apple cider vinegar speeds up the metabolism and burns calories and flushes the kidneys. The mixture should be sipped at frequent intervals during the day. Lemon squeezed into a cup of warm water can also be drunk to stimulate weight loss. It is most effective if drunk first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

Regular drinking of green tea is also useful for weight loss. It is advised that green tea is drunk 3 times a day, 30 minutes prior to eating the main meal. Ginger tea has very similar effects in that, like green tea, it speeds up the metabolism and aids digestion. Olive oil, whole grains, green vegetables, avocados, berries and legumes are fat-burning foods that can be incorporated into the diet.

Most of the home remedies discussed here are foodstuffs and beverages that can be incorporated into your daily diet without too much effort or difficulty. You can ask at your local health and supplement shop if they have any other, new natural weight loss remedies for you to try out. If you are advised to try something, make sure it is 100% natural and won’t have any nasty side effects.

15. Stay motivated

One of the hardest things about losing postpartum pregnancy weight is staying with your program and keeping up with healthy eating and exercise routines. When you have a baby and you’re tired or stressed out, it is very easy to give up and give in. You’ll promise yourself that you’ll get back on the wagon the next day, and the next day and the next day. But you never do.

Set yourself a realistic weight loss goal and create milestones that you need to achieve along the way. Chart these and put them up in your kitchen and at your scale to keep you focused on the task at hand. Reward yourself with something small but meaningful every time you reach a milestone. Let your reward be some sort of activity motivates you to stay on the straight and narrow.

Get your partner, family and friends involved so that they can keep you motivated. If you have someone eating the same things you do or going out to exercise with you it will motivate you to keep going. Tell them to be strict with you and not to take no for an answer from you. Share your goals with them so that they can keep your eye on the prize.

See if there is a postpartum mothers’ group that meets in your area. Here you will meet new mothers who are in the same situation as you. Being able to speak to people who understand what you’re going through as a new mother is very helpful. Set up a support group to motivate each other to get through the struggle of losing your postpartum weight. Share your successes with them.

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