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Battle of the (Baby) Bulge
By Alexis Webster
Having a baby changes everything. Literally. From your swollen fingers to your expanded feet, pregnancy leaves its mark. And while it’s nice to think that what took nine months to pack on should take nine months to come off, some of us can’t bear wearing elastic pants any longer than we have to. But how fast can you really hope to shed the weight?
Real Housewife Bethenny Frankel donned a bathing suit a mere three weeks after her baby was born. Heidi Klum strutted down a runway in a thong (!) two months after having one of her babies. It’s enough pressure to drive the happiest of new moms straight for the cookie aisle. But since few of us were likely baring our derrieres in public before we got pregnant, we should start by eliminating the comparisons and setting more reasonable standards.
No matter how well intentioned you are (“I’ll be back on the treadmill in a week”), be prepared to instead become that sweatpants-wearing, hygiene-challenged cliché of a new mom you used to scorn. This won’t bother you during the bleary-eyed early days, but when you come out of the fog and catch sight of yourself, you’ll know it’s time to tackle that baby bulge.
Unless you really do have to get ready for a runway show, set a gradual goal for yourself. (And breastfeeding women shouldn’t even think about trying to lose weight for at least two months.) If you gained the average 30 pounds during your pregnancy, you can lose it safely in four to five months. Here’s how:
- Start Early—You shouldn’t hit the road running right after delivery, but most women don’t need to wait until the first postpartum checkup to take a walk. Start out small (and slow), and add 10-15 minutes of exercise a day. Even walking to the changing table counts as exercise in the beginning!
- Breastfeed with Caution—Women who breastfeed just naturally lose weight, but don’t rely on breastfeeding alone to get you back in your skinny jeans. It’s easy to consume more calories than your body needs for the job. According to Mary Hartley, RD, “women are always advised to add 500 calories to their non-pregnancy needs, but research now shows that 500 calories could be too much for some women and not enough for others.” Listen to your body, and to fuel your milk supply and energy level, eat lots of smaller meals and healthy snacks throughout the day.
- Make Your Calories Count—Breastfeeding moms need to consume at least 1500-1800 calories a day from a variety of healthy foods. Eating lean meats, low-fat dairy, whole grains and veggies will help you slim down faster than, say, donuts, so choose your calories wisely. Don’t eliminate any food groups, but focus on protein-rich foods and those with calcium (think dark, leafy greens in addition to dairy).
- Exercise, Exercise, Exercise—You may need to break up your daily exercise into smaller chunks of time, especially in the beginning. Pop in a yoga video for 15 minutes here; lift weights for 10 minutes there. If you are dying for a longer workout but don’t have a home gym or childcare, join a gym that offers babysitting. For free workouts, stroll with other moms (Meetup.com can help you connect) in your neighborhood.
- Get Creative—Some moms portion out their snacks for the day or stop eating at 7PM each night, but there’s no one method that will work for everyone. Devise your own motivation or reward system; having a plan will help you stick to it.
Lastly, remember to go easy on yourself—the weight will come off eventually. In the meantime, be glad you don’t have to wear thongs in public!
How did you deal with baby weight?