Published on July 28, 2015
You’ve just had a baby.
You’re happy to be back home.
But then . . . you look in the mirror.
Uh oh . . . you’re not so happy anymore.
Weight control is a widespread concern for many women after pregnancy and is difficult for many to handle emotionally. Unfortunately, most women are already overweight when they conceive, and the eating habits that got them overweight or obese are hard to break during pregnancy.
Then, there are those women who are at a healthy weight prior to pregnancy, but for some reason think pregnancy is “their time” to “live a little” and get off the good-eating regimen that was their norm. So, they spend 8 or 9 months living large, and all of a sudden find themselves unable to get back to the good eating habits they had prior to becoming pregnant.
So, ladies, let’s talk.
First of all, you need to understand that a gain of 15-30 pounds is the wide range of what is considered reasonable during pregnancy. Of course, this may vary according to how heavy a woman is before she becomes pregnant. A heavier woman may be advised to try to stay within the lower end of the weight gain range during pregnancy. Weight gains of 50, 60, 70 pounds or more are absolutely not necessary, and is absolutely within a woman’s control to avoid.
If you are currently very overweight and are contemplating a pregnancy, it’s in your best interest to start focusing on losing weight now. As I wrote in Fat Moms, Fat Babies, it’s a fact that there are so many potentially harmful changes to a fetus of an overweight or obese mother as well as, of course, potential serious medical issues for the mother. The more fit you are, the easier, in most cases, to conceive; the easier to carry to term; the lower the risk of gestational diabetes; the healthier the baby; the easier the delivery.
Additionally, the better shape you’re in going into a pregnancy, the less difficult it is to stay focused on a healthy eating lifestyle all throughout your pregnancy. Overweight women are more apt to throw caution to the wind when pregnant: They’re already overweight, they’re pregnant, they may as well indulge and enjoy it and they promise themselves they’ll go on a diet after they give birth! Not!
Second, it’s a myth that weight loss after pregnancy can only be successful if it occurs rapidly. When you give birth, you lose around 10-13 pounds immediately. When you return home again, you continue to lose water, and once your uterus returns to its original size, you will lose another 4-7 pounds. If you’re nursing, you will get back to your normal weight more quickly; nursing “costs” about 1,000 calories per day and is one of the most efficient ways to make sure that the extra fat and water added during pregnancy are transferred to the rightful owner.
The rate of weight loss after pregnancy depends on several factors, such as whether there were complications with the pregnancy or delivery. Pregnancy complications can make a woman feel weak and/or interfere with her mobility, and less mobility means less calories burned. Certain diseases like postpartum inflammation of the thyroid gland, which is a common complication that shows itself soon after delivery, can cause weight struggles if they are severe. Other factors include whether the woman has other medical illnesses or takes medications that make weight loss difficult in the first place.
Ladies, have realistic expectations about how long it takes to lose weight. Just as for anyone else, about 1-2 pounds per week is healthy. Rapid weight loss won’t stay off. Rational weight loss can stay off. Although there are vastly different approaches to weight control, your weight loss and maintenance will be most successful if a program is individualized for you. Individualized plans are the only way to get around the specific food preferences or limitations, eating triggers, and time constraints that each woman will have. Your body needs some additional energy and nutrients to meet the extra requirements of feeding and generally looking after your baby, and a healthy program will ask you to:
Radical diets may get quicker results but you then run the risk of feeling ill from depriving yourself of certain nutrients on these fad diets. In addition, if you’re nursing, I should hope you don’t want to risk harming your baby’s nutrition by a potentially dangerous or severely restrictive diet. If you’re a woman who was in good shape before pregnancy, all of the above factors, combined with a guided, structured eating-right program will give you the best chance to get your figure back 6-8 months after delivery.
Remember: Post-pregnancy weight loss is not a contest or a race. Get into shape at a healthy pace for your sake . . . and for your child.