Get Your Body Back After Pregnancy
Dedication and patience are key to losing postpartum baby weight and looking like your pre-baby self again.
By Colette Bouchez
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
If all those images of svelte and shapely celebrity new moms have left you feeling like you never want to look in a mirror again, take heart! Here's some real-world advice on how to get your body back after pregnancy.
It sometimes seems as if they're jumping right from the labor bed to the treadmill with many high-profile celebrity new moms snapping back from pregnancy with a model-perfect shape in almost no time!
Indeed, take a look at Katie Holmes, Angelina Jolie, Melania Trump, Heidi Klum, and former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham -- whose record-time baby-fat weight loss has set the bar high for new moms the world over.
But is it realistic -- or for that matter even healthy -- to slim down after pregnancy with such lightening speed?
Experts offer up a resounding "No!"
"We don't have the kind of lifestyle that would allow for that kind of quick loss -- and the sooner women recognize that, the better they will feel about themselves, " says Laura Riley, MD, a high-risk-pregnancy expert from Massachusetts General Hospital and spokeswoman for the American Collage of Obstetricians and Gynecologists,
Riley says celebrities don't generally gain as much weight during their pregnancy as the average woman, and she says "they have resources that the rest of us don't have after baby is born." This, she reminds us, includes personal trainers, chefs, and nannies, all of whom allow the celebrity new mom to devote serious time to getting in shape, a luxury few other women have.
"And, many of them also do their share of crazy diets -- which is not an example anyone should follow," says Riley, author of You and Your Baby: Pregnancy.
Experts warn that when it comes to getting that post-pregnancy body back in shape, neither crash dieting or a stringent exercise program is the way to go -- particularly if you've had a difficult pregnancy, a C-section delivery, or if you're breastfeeding.
"The worst thing a woman can do is try too hard to do too much too soon -- if you do you're likely to find yourself exhausted and discouraged, and less likely to continue, and you'll wind up carrying that baby weight a lot longer, " says fitness trainer Sue Fleming, creator of the Buff line of workout DVDs including Buff New Moms.
When to Begin
Although most women say that diet is the quickest way to lose weight after giving birth, experts say a dramatic cut in calories is not the best way to begin - particularly if you are breastfeeding.
"You should be eating at least 1,800-2,000 calories a day while breastfeeding, and if you eat less you will not only be shortchanging yourself, you'll be shortchanging your baby. You can't produce quality milk if you are not eating enough," says nutritionist Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of ">Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy.
Riley says she frequently advises patients to not even think about dieting until after their first six-week visit.
"If you can lose a couple of pounds before then, that's OK, but you really don't want to cut your food intake dramatically during these early weeks -- you need the energy, and you need the calories for breastfeeding," she says.
Good news: Breastfeeding burns calories. It can help mothers lose extra weight gained during pregnancy.
But what if you're not breastfeeding? Somer says it's OK to watch your caloric intake, but never aim to lose more than a pound a week.
"Pregnancy is not unlike running a marathon every day for nine months. You have really put your body through the ringer, so even if you ate well, several nutrients are still likely to be compromised. You need this postpartum time to restore your nutritional status and your energy," she says.
After Pregnancy: Working Off the Pounds
While postpartum dieting may be off-limits for awhile, exercise is highly recommended. Experts say it can not only help you get your body back, but also increase energy and may even reduce risks of postpartum depression.
In a paper published in the Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health, experts reported mounting evidence suggesting that exercise not only benefits depressive symptoms in general but pointed to two studies indicating it may offer benefits specifically for women with postpartum depression.