Ten Tips To Get That Post Baby Body Back!
Dietitian Member of the DAA
How often do you read about celebrities getting their 'post baby body back' within 6 weeks to make it back on the catwalk or star in a new blockbuster film?! How did they do it? Well you don't need too much motivation when you are being paid millions to go back to work and have the support of a personal trainer, chef and nanny!
For the rest of us there are still realistic ways to get your post baby body back without all the extra luxuries. Firstly, your body didn’t go anywhere but went through an extraordinary transformation over 9 months and produced a human being. No doubt it is definitely one of those proud moments in life and only something that us women can achieve! That is not to say that losing the weight gained during pregnancy is not important. We know from research that not losing your baby weight between the first and second pregnancy increases your risk of Gestational Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes in the future.
If you try and google 'weight loss' or 'post baby body', you might encounter a few problems. There are so many confusing and often contradictory messages online, promising instant results but usually at a price. Going on an official 'diet' could actually sabotage your attempts of trying to lose your pregnancy weight. We know from research that a large majority of dieters regain more weight than they had originally lost. The moral of the story here is that strict diets can actually make us fatter.
If we want to lose weight and keep it off, a safe, post baby weight loss target is 0.5kg per week. To achieve this, the focus should be on adopting healthy habits that are sustainable for the long term. By doing this you will also set your children up with healthy habits (ever noticed that they copy everything that you do!). Ever woman's weight loss journey is different too. Some may lose their baby weight within 3 months whilst others may take 12 months.
Interestingly enough, the dietary recommendations after having a baby does not differ too much from your pregnancy diet. The good news is that the rules are a little more relaxed which means that some of your healthy favourites are back on the menu such as sushi. The amount of food you eat will vary depending on where you are on your post baby journey. If you are still breastfeeding for example, you will need to eat more as making breastmilk requires extra energy (around 400-500 calories).
Not only are vegetables and salad packed with essential vitamins and minerals, they are low in calories and help you to feel full. Incorporate cooked vegetables or salad into each meal. One portion size would be two large handfuls.
We need protein for cell growth and repair and building strong muscles. Protein will also keep you feeling fuller for longer and may help with weight loss. The secret is to choose protein sources that are lower in saturated fat. Choose lean cuts of meat, take the skin off chicken and include fish, eggs, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds and legumes for protein variety. A portion of protein is about the size of your palm.
Cutting out carbs is not the answer to losing weight. In fact, carbs are an important fuel source and make up a large part of our daily energy needs. The key with carbs is choosing ones that have a low glycemic index (GI). Low GI carbs are higher in fibre, vitamins, minerals, keep you feeling fuller for longer and they have the added bonus of providing you with sustained energy. Good,low GI carbohydrate choices include basmati and Doongara low GI clever rice, pasta, GiLICIOUS™ potatoes, noodles, quinoa, bulghur, buckwheat, pearl barley, whole wheat pearl couscous, semolina, teff, oats, natural muesli, wholegrain bread/crispbread, fruit, milk and yoghurt. Aim to include carbohydrates with each meal and snack. Every woman is different but aiming for a fist-size portion of starchy carbohydrates with main meals is a good general rule.
Just as there are better carb choices, there are also healthier fat options. Minimise fats that are high in saturated fat such as butter and ghee and go for good fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds and oily fish. Adding avocado on your wholegrain toast, olive oil in your cooking and some almonds as a snack are all easy ways to include good fats in your day. An average portion of good fats is the size of your thumb.
There are so many calorie dense, 'grab and go' snacks in supermarkets and cafés providing little nutritional value. Stock your pantry and fridge with healthier options that are nutritious, naturally lower in calories and cheaper. Snacking is a great way to top up your energy levels between meals and will keep you satisfied until the next meal. Nutrient dense 'grab and go' snacks include fresh fruit, natural/Greek style yoghurt, wholegrain crackers with hummus, 100% nut spread or reduced fat cheese, nuts and seeds.
A healthy balanced diet also includes indulgences now and again. Think of it as the 80/20 rule i.e., 80% of your diet based on healthy foods from the five food groups and 20% from occasional treat foods. Treat foods or 'discretionary' foods include: soft drinks, cordial, cakes, sweets, chocolate, chips and biscuits. Apart from tasting good, these foods are high in saturated fat and sugar and provide no real nutritional benefit. Limiting these foods to a social outing or event means you can enjoy a treat without feeling guilty. A good rule of thumb is limiting treats to once a week. Don't forget 'portion caution' too - choose a small chocolate bar rather than a block for example or a small piece of cake from a café instead of buying a packet of biscuits (and trying hard not to polish the whole packet off!).
Our bodies are programmed to survive. If we skip a meal and get too hungry, we will eat like food is scarce at the next meal! Being without food for long periods of time also depletes our energy so we are more likely to opt for unhealthy choices. Studies have shown that people who skip breakfast for example are more at risk of carrying extra weight. Aim for 3 meals and 2-3 snacks spread over the day.
How often does your thinking get in the way of trying to eat healthy or exercise? Have you ever planned to exercise in the morning only to find yourself hitting the snooze button or doing something else 'important' with your time? What about intending to eat lunch yet you seem to convince yourself that you're "too busy” and end up snacking on anything you can find all afternoon? How we think influences what we do so it's a good idea to be aware of the times when our thinking gets in the way of our best intentions. We can't get rid of unhelpful thoughts but we can replace them with ones that are more helpful and support your health goals. For example "You can do this", "Eating lunch is part of my weight loss strategy", "The more I look after myself, the more I am looking after the family", "I want to get into my old jeans". The options are endless!
Apart from our thinking, another common thing that gets in the way of being healthy is lack of planning. Have you ever wanted to start the week eating healthy but didn't get to the supermarket to stock up?! We all plan in some way or another in our lives and it is no different with changing healhy habits. A fool-proof plan includes knowing what we want and how we are going to achieve it, keeping in mind what might get in the way e.g., kids, work deadlines, bad weather. For example, your new healthy habit might be to eat a healthy breakfast daily. To make this happen you may need to prepare it the night before so there is no excuse in the morning when you are pressed for time. For inspiration, you might find placing a photo on the fridge of yourself looking happy and healthy. This will remind yourself of why you are doing this and what you want to achieve.
We all know the benefits of regular physical activity; the trick is trying to find time to incorporate it into our busy day. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day however you can break it up into 2 x 15 minute blocks to make it easier. Different types of exercise works for different people so think about what you like and how you can add it into your day. Not only will your body thank you but being more active also helps with your mood and sleep.
- Strict dieting is not the answer for losing weight long term
- Set a realistic weight loss target of no more than 0.5kg per week
- Focus on getting your macronutrients right at meals - carbs, protein, fat and a good amount of veg or salad
- Avoid skipping meals and include 2-3 healthy snacks
- Remember the 80/20 rule to eating. You can still have your cake and eat it too, 20% of the time!
- Consider a thinking and planning strategy to help you reach your goals.
- Incorporate at least 30 minutes of physical activity into your day for a healthy body and mind
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