Ultimate guide to losing weight after pregnancy the healthy way

You recently gave birth to a beautiful new life and now you have so much to think about. Maybe it's not on top of your to-do-list right now, but at some point you might start thinking about how to get rid of those extra pounds you packed on during your pregnancy.

While it totally varies from person to person how long you'll need to take those pounds off, one thing stays the same for all new mums: Any pregnancy weight you don't get rid off, could stick with you for a long time.

Your favourite celebrity might have went straight back to size zero after giving birth, but you should consider that she may not have done it in a way that was healthy for her body. Instead of asking yourself "How did she do it?", let me help you.

What to expect

When it comes to pregnancy, there is no getting around weight gain. After you gave birth, you might slowly lose some weight without much effort. If you still have extra pounds to shed, don't get discouraged though. Many women appear to hold on to at least some pounds postpartum (normally around 5 kg/11 lbs or more).

Aim to lose around 1 lbs/0.5 kg per week. More would be unnecessary and unsustainable. When dieting, you want to eat as many calories as possible while still being in a caloric deficit. Usually 10-20% less than what you actually burn. Keep going until you have a week where you lose less than that. Then and only then, cut your calories by 200 and continue. Rinse and repeat. That's it.

Mind, that everybody sheds body fat at their own pace.

However, with the exception of breast-feeding (I will get to that later), there is not really a big difference in the fat-loss process compared to anyone else.

Plus, if you gained more than 35 pounds (15kg) during your pregnancy, it might take you longer to get back in pre-pregnancy shape.

When you can start with your weight loss

Please, don't try to lose weight straight after you've given birth. Your body needs to recover properly! Therefore, it might be best to wait until you've had your postnatal check with your GP, before you jump right into exercising and dieting.

Usually, this check takes place between 6 and 8 weeks after you've delivered. Starting too early might lead to a bad recovery, more tiredness and it can also affect your milk supply. So, be patient and give your body the time to do it's work.

What's up with exercising?

It's the same as for anyone else: Diet is important, but so is moving! Exercising will not only burn more calories, but it will also help you with depression, sleep issues, relieving stress and gives you some time for yourself.

You don't have to go hard in the gym to get back in shape (but if you want to, get your doctor's approval first, especially if you had a C-section). Taking a brisk 30-minute walk per day is enough to get your heart rate up. You can also use light weights for resistance training. Water bottles or soup cans could serve as your weights, if you can't leave the house. Or think about incorporating your baby in your workout routine, for instance through swimming.

Does breastfeeding affect weight loss?

As mentioned earlier, there are no big differences between women who gave birth and women who didn't, when it comes to weight loss, except breast-feeding. In fact, breast-feeding is a big and unique advantage.

Studies have shown, that the more a woman breast-feeds, the greater the effect on her weight loss effort is. Why's that? Breast-feeding burns calories. And not just a little. The female body needs extra energy to produce milk.

Hence, women who exclusively breast-feed can burn up to 500 extra calories per day extra. Normally, breast-feeding women are advised to increase their caloric intake by 300 calories (you can add slightly more if you have a really hungry new born or twins).

So if you gained a reasonable amount of excess weight during your pregnancy, breast-feeding can be very beneficial (not only for your new born). The mother will lose her pregnancy weight more efficiently (together with a proper diet and a caloric deficit of course) and the baby gets the best nutrition available.

Mind, breast-feeding is no excuse to eat whatever you want and how much you want! What you eat affects your breast milk. Load up on whole foods and fresh greens. Stay clear of very spicy or gas-producing foods. If you're unsure, talk to your GP.

How much should I eat?

Generally speaking, there's no big difference: You have to consume less calories than you burn in order to lose weight. Carbs don't make you fat! Fat does not make you fat! Too many calories make you fat!

The following calculator uses one of the best formulas out there to accurately estimate the calories you need on a daily basis. Activity levels are expressed in a way that better suits most people's daily lives.

Once you entered all necessary facts, it will also give you a pie chart of the macro distribution of your calories, based on your dietary goal, defaulting to a standard high carb, high protein diet. Simply add the 300 extra calories (in form of healthy fats and good carbs) on top of what the calculator spits out.

A diet high in protein will always lead to better results. Even when the consumed calories are equal. This is due to the thermic effect of food. 20-30% of the calories you consume from protein are needed to digest the food. Protein also spares muscle mass, which is crucial to keep your metabolism as high as possible.

So high protein it is. In general, aim for roughly 2g per kg of body weight or 1g per pound of body weight per day. Now, just fat and carbs are left. Depending on your body type, genetics and preferences, you should have one of them high and one low. Don't do high fat AND high carb! Some people do better with high carbs, some better on high fat.

Try this calorie goal for 2 weeks and then adapt if necessary. Again, if you have not lost any weight in the second week, cut back on 200 kcal, if you lost weight, keep the calories the same until you plateau.

Don't mind the weight loss in the first week. You'll lose a lot of water and some glycogen. Unfortunately only a small portion of the weight is actual fat. That's why you need to do it for at least 2 weeks, because the second week will give you usable data.

Conclusion

See, the only difference is the breast-feeding aspect and to find time for yourself with a new born. Other than that, it's simple: calories are king. Don't get fooled by some media articles and "diet gurus". Deficit means fat loss! You can't lose fat without a deficit.

Are you trying to lose weight and struggle with it? We're here to help! If you have a question, let me know in the comment section below!

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