At some point postpartum, every new mum begins to put losing the baby weight high up in their list of priorities. During the early stages of adjusting to motherhood, the thought of exercising or eating healthily may have seemed far too out of reach given all the demands of a newborn. Many women report finding it extremely trying when they embark on weight loss attempts post pregnancy.
There are a whole range of reasons why weight loss can become much harder than previous attempts before baby – you may be feeling tired, have limited time, experiencing health issues, be facing challenges with breastfeeding, balancing being a mum and work (for some women), and/or struggling to find the motivation. Don’t dismay – you’re not alone here - losing weight is one of the common struggles experienced by new mums.
The good news is, it shouldn’t take longer than a few months to return to your weight pre-baby, if you started your pregnancy within a normal weight range and gained the weight recommended by your health professional. The majority of women lose half of their baby weight within 6 weeks post childbirth, and the remainder over the next several months. You can aim to return to your original weight by 6 to 12 months postpartum.
However, you’ll need to be proactive and follow certain health recommendations when it comes to nutrition and exercise. There are several key factors which will determine your success – such as the obvious ones like making healthy food choices, getting active, and cutting out the late night snacks. Breastfeeding also will help your weight loss along.
However, there are some less commonly known reasons for not being able to lose weight postpartum which could very well be holding you back from reaching your desired weight. Read up on these reasons below and the following tips to help you lose the weight. Looking good means feeling good – so it’s not only important for your health, but also for your happiness!
8 Consuming Too Many Calories
Your weight is a balancing act, but the equation is simple: If you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight. This is why you need to read up on calories and know how they relate to weight loss. You need to consider the energy content of the food you consume (i.e. how many calories the food contains) when it comes to losing weight.
Calories are the energy in food. Your body has a constant demand for energy and uses the calories from food to keep functioning. Energy from calories fuels your every action. You need to work on the principle that some foods provide more joules to volume than others. By concentrating on energy density you need to consider what foods you eat as well as the amount you are eating. This is where calories and calorie intake are an important consideration in weight loss.
Portion control is an essential element of any effective dietary plan, especially when considering calorie intake. Various studies have shown that our portions have increased over the years and also that when we are presented with more foods on our plates than we require, most people will eat more without thinking of it.
General tips to help you reduce portion size and calories
- Be mindful of the amount or size of your food portions.
- Watch your plate size. As our portion sizes have increased over the years, so has our dinner plate size! Tip: use a smaller plate or bowl.
- Save your leftovers and keep them out of sight (and grasp!). If you have cooked too much for a main meal, avoid the temptation to overeat by snacking on remnants.
- Try eating a salad or vegetables before a main meal or making it a significant part of the meal (about half of the plate size). This will help you to feel full sooner as vegetables are low in calories and are also a good source of fibre which helps to fill us up.
- Snack foods can be high in calories and can also come in large portion sizes. Hint: avoid high calorie snack foods and prepare full sized packages into smaller individual portion bags and containers.
7 Your Macronutrient Balance
Our bodies need the right balance of macronutrients in order to function effectively and this is the case for weight loss also. If you consume too much or too little of one or more macronutrient, and do not have the right balance, your weight loss attempts can be hindered. This is where some women fall short – they don’t pay attention to the types of foods they’re eating as well as the calories.
Simply counting calories may not help you lose the weight if the macronutrient content is out of whack. Macronutrients relate to chemicals in foods which the body uses for growth, maintenance, and energy. They are broken down into three sub-groups: carbohydrates, proteins (including essential amino acids), and fats (including essential fatty acids). So why is each of these types of macros so important to weight loss?
Firstly, carbohydrates are essential to weight loss as they provide a source of energy and can help prevent tiredness when eating lower calorie diets. Without the energy provided by carbohydrates, people attempting to lose weight are less likely to be motivated to exercise and/or will experience less energy whilst doing so. Therefore, a weight loss diet high in carbohydrate (45-50%) is recommended to maintain energy levels.
You're eating too much of high calorie foods
Secondly, consuming adequate protein is necessary for building and maintaining muscle during weight loss efforts. It’s very important to weight loss, as the more muscle you have when you have achieved your weight loss goal, the better you will look (and feel). Protein also increases metabolism, which is crucial to weight loss. It produces a feeling of satiety, meaning you will feel fuller and for longer.
A diet with moderate amounts of protein is therefore recommended (25-30%, and this varies for males and females), to ensure muscle building/maintenance and high metabolism.
Thirdly, fats are an essential part of our diet, with some types of fats being healthier than others. A diet that is low in unhealthy fats, with small amounts of healthy fats (unsaturated fats), will help you keep healthy.
However, if eaten in large amounts all fats can result in weight gain. This is because fat is higher in energy (kilojoules) than any other nutrient. This is why low fat diets are generally recommended to help with weight loss (recommended around 20-25% for weight loss, and not below 20%).
6 Your Metabolism is Off Kilter
For some women, issues with their metabolism can slow weight loss efforts. Factors that impact on metabolism (such as stress, illness, and hormonal imbalances) can affect how quickly (or slowly) you burn fat. If we consume more kilojoules than we need for our metabolism and exercise, we store it as fat. The majority of the energy you expend daily is used to keep the systems in your body functioning.
While this is out of your control, you can make metabolism work for you when you exercise and by paying attention to the foods you eat.
You can control your weight loss by being aware of some of the factors which influence metabolism factors. Specifically, you can take the following recommended steps to encourage healthy functioning of your metabolism:
- Lower your amount of body fat – the less fat cells you have the better as they burn far fewer kilojoules than most other tissues and organs of the body
- Increase your lean muscle tissue – the more lean muscle you have, the more kilojoules you will burn
- Increase your physical activity – exercise increases muscle mass and trains the body to burn kilojoules at a faster rate, even when at rest. Get active!
- Avoid crash dieting, starving or fasting – eating too few kilojoules encourages the body to slow the metabolism to conserve energy, so avoid such diets
- Avoid stress - hormonal imbalances can influence how quickly or slowly the body burns kilojoules
- Avoid infection or illness – BMR increases because the body has to work harder to build new tissues and to create an immune response
- Avoid drugs – some drugs, like caffeine or nicotine, can increase the BMR
- Ensure you eat a balanced diet with good variety to avoid dietary deficiencies – for example, a diet low in iodine reduces thyroid function and slows the metabolism.
5 Your Motivation Needs a Boost
Finding it difficult to stick to healthy eating or exercise? If you answered yes, then perhaps your motivation is holding you back from losing weight. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to lose weight without tapping into your inner motivation. Motivation is like an energy source to keep you committed and dedicated to your goals.
Motivation relates to the desire to achieve something. It can mean the difference between waking up early to go for a walk in the sunshine or sleeping in and skipping the exercise. This example may seem insignificant, however when goals are achieved by repeated actions, motivation can be the critical element in losing weight.
Research shows that you can influence your own levels of motivation, which is really important when it comes to losing weight. It really is a matter of figuring out what you want; knowing what will and won’t motivate you; and starting to make positive change. With a strong sense of motivation to lose your baby weight postbirth, you are guaranteed a much higher rate of success. So, how can we fuel our motivation in day to day living?
6 key ways to develop and maintain motivation:
1. Set realistic and achievable goals. Setting achievable goals is key to success. One of the strongest predictors of long-term weight loss success is linked to setting the right goal/s at the start.
2. Don’t rush the process. Ever heard of the saying “Slow and steady wins the race?” If you want to stay motivated, rather than plateau when the excitement wears off (which it can, given weight loss is tough!), you need to remain consistently motivated.
3. Be prepared for set-backs. Any efforts to create change always come with difficulty and challenges. This is a normal part of the process and you need to be prepared for the “tough times” in your journey.
4. Don’t have unrealistic expectations of yourself. If you are too hard on yourself, you will feel like a failure and it won’t help you at all. In fact, it will create setbacks or the desire to give up. Be kind to yourself, and be accepting. You are not perfect, you are only human.
5. Have a strong support network. Having support through any change in life is crucial, especially when it comes to lifestyle changes. Know who you can turn to when the times are tough or when you’ve just experienced a setback.
6. Reward yourself! Weight loss is not easy. Small rewards can provide a needed incentive to keep you going. Reward yourself with doing something loving for your body or mind (go for a massage, get your hair done, or do something that is good for the soul such as meditation or yoga, etc.)
4 Binge Eating Slows Your Results
For many women, especially new mums, binge eating and emotional eating can be a common reason for weight issues. You may be feeling tired, more emotional, finding it difficult to cope, or eating late at night – a whole range of reasons for why new mums (and people in general) can become subjected to binge eating.
There are often other reasons we eat rather than simply to satisfy hunger. We also seek food for comfort, stress relief, or as a reward. Unfortunately, comfort eating does not fix emotional problems and it only makes weight loss harder and slower.
Actually, it usually results in making us feel worse. After comfort eating, the original emotional issue for the eating persists, and we also feel guilty. Learning to recognize your triggers for emotional eating is the first step to managing food cravings and overeating, and changing the habits that have prevented you from losing weight in the past.
So take charge of your eating today and get losing that post-baby weight with the below tips!
Tips to curb binge eating
3 Is Your Exercise Level Enough to Lose the Baby Weight
To help you lose weight it is crucial that you balance your energy intake from food with your energy output expended through exercise. Losing weight depends on the balance of calories taken in to the amount of calories expended through activity. Exercising will not only use energy during the activity, but it will also boost your BMR (basal metabolic rate) helping you to use energy even long after exercising.
Exercising to lose weight will not only help you physically, it will also promote positive mood, self esteem and well being. Exercise will help you feel good about yourself and your body. Aside from promoting weight loss, being active and exercising will assist you to:
- Feel better psychologically
- Moderate mood
- Keep post-pregnancy niggles, such as aches and pains and fatigue at bay
- Sleep better
- Help to reduce or prevent postpartum depression
- Improve your self-esteem
- Aid in recovery after your baby is born
How can I exercise to maximise weight loss?
- Firstly, consult with your health professional for guidance and advice before undertaking any exercise post partum. Remember, your body has just recently undergone major surgery (whether it be from a natural birth or C section), so you need to be careful, follow recommended guidelines, and do not push yourself beyond your advised physical capabilities. Once you have the go ahead and have been medically cleared, you can implement the following guidelines
- If you are new to exercise or are not sure which types of exercise is best for you, or how often you should be exercising, you can consult a Personal Trainer. Why do all the hard work of planning and researching, when you can have a PT do up a plan for you and push you for an extra motivation booster?
- Aim for a minimum of four workouts a week during which you burn 400 to 800 calories. If you can, build your exercise up to 6 days a week with one allocated rest day for recovery.
- The important thing is to get active – if you’ve never exercised before start with exercise that you can manage and will be able to maintain. Once your fitness level increases, you can always increase the intensity of your exercise.
- A combination of resistance training and aerobic activity (“cardio”) has been shown to lead to the most impressive and longest lasting improvements in both weight loss and body composition.
- When training cardio, try to target high intensity levels of your heart rate where possible, if your fitness level allows you to do so. The higher your heart rate, the more calories you will burn at a quicker pace.
- No matter what type of exercise you are training, the harder you work the more calories you will burn and the quicker you will burn fat.
- The important thing is to give each workout your 100% effort and walk away knowing you pushed your hardest.
2 Negative Thinking Holds You Back
Did you know that positive thinking has a big role in achieving weight loss goals? That’s right - positive thoughts are extremely empowering and result in positive behaviours, mood, and actions. This, in turn, is linked to an increase in motivation and energy. On the other hand, negative thoughts can lead to setbacks in weight loss and unhealthy behaviours such as overeating, wanting to give up, and skipping exercise.
A negative mindset can set in motion negative mood, behaviours, and actions; which makes losing weight difficult. Focusing on dislikes, challenges, and/or difficulties from negative thought patterns that can sabotage your weight loss efforts. When you’re focused on negative self-thoughts, it drains your energy. Feeling helpless, unhappy, powerless, depressed or unmotivated, makes it easier to slip into bad behaviours such as comfort eating.
However, gaining awareness and insight into how you feel and acknowledging those feelings gives you the ability to transform those thoughts into something more positive. By transforming negative thoughts into positive ones, you will feel more in control, happier, energized, and motivated. There are various strategies to increase positive thinking, which can be powerful tools to combat negative thoughts and help you achieve your weight loss goals.
Tips: positive self-talk
Self-statements are a tool used to create positive thinking and can boost your mood and self-esteem. Below are some tips on how to generate positive self-talk daily in your life:
1. Develop a set of self-talk statements to help you on your weight loss journey.
2. Spend as much time as you can each day reading these statements out loud to yourself. Also practice them silently in your head.
3. The goal is to really tap into the positive feelings of each statement as you read them out loud.
4. Read the positive statements first thing in the morning and last thing before you go to sleep. Wake up with motivation and go to be with determination and satisfaction!
5. Place the self-talk statements this in as many places as possible that you will notice them and read them out loud every time you see them.
1 You Need Support to Help You Lose Weight
Are you finding it difficult to stay committed to your goals on your own? If so, you may benefit from involving others in your weight loss. Trying to work up self-motivation each day and remain focused on goals can be a tough battle. Without support, often people find that they achieve their goals and then revert back to old behaviours as their motivation starts to fade.
Support can help to renew your self-motivation and stay focused on your goals long-term. Even just one friend with similar goals can make you more accountable to both yourself and to them. Involve others in your weight loss to pull you through the tough times, help you deal with setbacks, and celebrate the small wins along the way.
- Team up with a weight loss buddy
A weight loss buddy is great to share in your weight loss success, each step of the way, and to share in your goals. A buddy can create support and a strong accountability system and it can also be a lot of fun. You can set new goals together and try out different types of exercise! Go for walks together, enlist in a new exercise program; whatever you do - get moving and active as a team!
- If needed, seek professional support
If you are finding that you are struggling to lose weight and you are not sure why, perhaps you will benefit from seeking the professional advice of a Dietician, Nutritionist, Weight Loss Coach, and/or a Personal Trainer. You may also wish to join a support group, as surrounding yourself with others who are working towards weight loss may provide a source of comfort and motivation.