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7 Healthy Eating Tips for Postpartum Weight Loss

By Susan Zogheib, MHS, RD, LDN

Your new baby has arrived, and you are eager to get back into shape. However, losing weight after pregnancy takes time and patience, especially because your body is still undergoing many hormonal and metabolic changes. Most women will lose half their baby weight by 6-weeks postpartum and return to their pre-pregnancy weight by 6 months after delivery. For long-term results, keep the following tips in mind. Prior to beginning any diet or exercise, please consult with your physician.

1. Dieting too soon is unhealthy. Dieting too soon can delay your recovery time and make you more tired. Your body needs time to heal from labor and delivery. Try not to be so hard on yourself during the first 6 weeks postpartum.

2. Be realistic. Set realistic and attainable goals. It is healthy to lose 1-2 pounds per week. Don\'t go on a strict, restrictive diet. Women need a minimum of 1,200 calories a day to remain healthy, and most women need more than that — between 1,500 and 2,200 calories a day — to keep up their energy and prevent mood swings. And if you\'re nursing, you need a bare minimum of 1,800 calories a day to nourish both yourself and your baby.

3. Move it. There are many benefits to exercise. Exercise can promote weight loss when combined with a reduced calorie diet. Exercise can also restore your muscle strength and tone. Exercise can condition your abdominal muscles, improve your mood, and help prevent and promote recovery from postpartum depression.

4. Breastfeed. In addition to the many benefits of breastfeeding for your baby, it will also help you lose weight faster. Women who gain a reasonable amount of weight and breastfeed exclusively are more likely to lose all weight six months after giving birth. Experts also estimate that women who breastfeed retain 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) less than women who don\'t breastfeed at six months after giving birth.

5. Hydrate. Drink 8 or 9 cups of liquids a day. Drinking water helps your body flush out toxins as you are losing weight. Limit drinks like sodas, juices, and other fluids with sugar and calories. They can add up and keep you from losing weight.

6. Don’t skip meals. Don\'t skip meals in an attempt to lose weight. It won\'t help, because you\'ll be more likely to binge at other meals. Skipping meals will also make you feel tired and grouchy. With a new baby, it can be difficult to find time to eat. Rather than fitting in three big meals, focus on eating five to six small meals a day with healthy snacks in between.

7. Eat the rainbow. Stock up on your whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Consuming more fruits and vegetables along with whole grains and lean meats, nuts, and beans is a safe and healthy diet.

Sources:

  • Center for Disease and Control and Prevention
  • Healthy Weight: it’s not dieting, it’s a lifestyle. Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • The risks of not breastfeeding for mothers and infants. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists
  • Guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

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