By Rosemary Marchese
Editor, B.A. Applied Sci (Physiotherapist)
Why won’t those damn kilos shift? Seriously, having a baby has to be one of the most intense physical experiences that a woman can endure. It’s true what they say about how it can take nine months to put on the weight and so it can take just as long to lose it all again. But why? Why is so hard to shift that stubborn extra weight that piled on during pregnancy? Let’s look a little closer.
What is all that extra weight anyway?
When your weight climbs during pregnancy it’s a total of a combination of factors – the baby, the placenta and fluid make up a lot of this weight. But then yes, there’s some extra fat that you may gain, and some mums gain more than others. But if you gained excess fat during the pregnancy you may be finding that it’s even a little more difficult to shift the kilos. Before you consider losing the excess fat you have to remember that your body won’t bounce right back into shape the minute you give birth, despite what the celebrities say. Even once you have had the baby the reality is that you may still in fact ‘look pregnant’ for quite some time.
Losing the weight
Over the first few weeks your uterus will start to shrink to almost its original size. This tends to be hastened a little if you breastfeed. Your body will start to regain its normal shape but you will have to start moving again to get yourself fit and this can be the real challenge. Who has the time, energy or inclination if you have just been up half or all of the night feeding this little wonder in your life? That’s really tough. Starting light and easy on yourself is important. The other thing to remember is that if you are feeding a lot then although you will be using up some calories to do this, you will also be sitting a lot. So, when you are not feeding or resting then it’s a good idea to start moving around a little more.
To start with, light (not too intense) and short walks can be a great way to get your body moving. If you have someone to stay with the baby you can go alone for some fresh air or you can take the baby in a pram. Pelvic floor exercises are also an important part of a post-delivery recovery, even if you have had a cesarean section. Once you have the okay from your doctor you can get moving and progress your exercise sessions as you slowly get back to your pre-pregnancy physical activity.
But to achieve weight loss you also need to be following a nutritious food plan. You may even need a little extra if you are breastfeeding. Avoid making the mistake that weight loss has to equate to starving yourself. This won’t do you or your baby any good. Rather than watching your calories excessively try following these simple tips:
- Eat two pieces of fruit per day.
- Eat plenty of vegetables
- Include healthy sources of protein, carbohydrates and fats at your meals
- Drink plenty of water
- Ditch the processed food
- Avoid added sugar.
Finally on the exercise front, here are the principles I followed to lose post-baby weight (remember everyone is different so you need to keep in touch with your health care provider for individual advice):
- Start with walking and build up to a faster pace and longer walks over time
- Include resistance training in your post-baby routine. Body weight training is a good place to start. Remember muscle makes you leaner and you will use more energy at rest if you increase your muscle mass.
- Mix it up a bit and use home videos or outdoor sessions to break it up so you are not doing the same thing every day. You could also try a postnatal exercise class.
- Train on your own from time-to-time if you can get someone to watch the baby (rather than always training with the baby nearby). I found that you could completely focus on the training and get more done sooner.
- There’s not need to exercise for hours on end. Focus on building to 30 minutes of exercise every day. Then try to keep moving around during the day so you are not sedentary all day.