The first thing I want to say about losing weight after having your baby is you need to give your body time to recover after pregnancy and labor. As women we feel pressure to snap back quickly, the way we see celebrities instantly looking slim and fabulous after giving birth. But most of us don't have an entire crew of people helping us take care of our babies, preparing our meals and a trainer pushing us to exercise.
So many mothers are like me, with no childcare help and so incredibly sleep deprived from both long days and long nights. There are days when I barely get to eat anything at all. And when I do get the chance to eat, my instinct is to just grab snacks and quick to prepare foods which aren't necessarily the healthiest.
Before my pregnancy my weight would fluctuate between 145 - 155 lbs and I comfortably wore a size 8/10. The first time I weighed myself postpartum I weighed 173 lbs and fit into a size 12/14. The extra 20+ extra pounds was something I expected, but what I didn’t expect is how much the weight would stick. My daughter Scout is 10 month olds and in that time I've had multiple set backs with my return to my pre-pregnancy weight. I re-gained weight because of travel, stress eating, and hectic schedules. But the important part is that you circle back you're ready and keep working towards your healthy goals.
Even with our busy motherhood schedules, we can still find creative ways to fit healthy habits into our routine. The key to lasting weight loss is small but effective changes in your lifestyle, which is actually perfect for new moms but we probably couldn't even make dramatic changes if we tried. Below I've outlined healthy routines I incorporated plus some mom hacks that have helped me return to my pre-baby weight. If your baby is fresh from the womb, be sure to get the go ahead from your doctor before you begin exercising.
My Top Creative Ways to Exercise and Eat Healthy When You’re a Full-Time Mom
Use Your Baby Gear to Exercise - For many of us moms, going to the gym is not an option because we have to be home with baby. Using your stroller to exercise is a genius way to bring baby along on your workouts. Not only can you push baby while you’re walking, but you can use it to do squats and stretches. On days when the weather is nice, I take Scout to the park and do some stroller workouts. It also really helps to get some fresh air and often Scout takes her nap in the stroller.
Don't Obsess Over Calorie Counting - You’ve got a tiny human to care for and as moms we just don't have time for that. Focus on eating whole, unprocessed and fresh foods that are packed with nutrients. It’s important to avoid any kind of extreme dieting and stick to a healthy sensible approach. You want a balance of protein, greens, healthy fats and unprocessed grains. An easy way to get fresh healthy meals made is by meal-prepping in advance. Scroll down to see my guide to building the perfect quick and freezable meals.
Keep it Fresh - As mentioned earlier, focus on whole, unprocessed and fresh foods. This means food with usually less than five ingredients on the label, or most likely no label at all. Prepackaged food is filled with hidden salts and additives. Even foods that claim to be natural and healthy require preservatives and often are not actually healthy. If your baby is starting solids and you’re making homemade baby food, use your grocery shopping trips as an excuse to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and ingredients for both you and baby.
Keep Food Prep Simple - As moms with babies, we don’t have time to cook fancy gourmet meals three times a day. Simplified food prep strategies can still give you yummy and fresh meals. You can make large batches and divide it out for the week, see my food planner guide below. You can also try sheet pan meals and foil meals to make a quick batch of food and store leftovers. A crockpot, Air Fryer and Insta-Pot are also great ways to whip up healthy meals. Lastly, another pro tips is always keep bags of frozen veggies in the freezer, because it can be hard to keep vegetables fresh in the house. Too many times I’ve had to toss out greens because they spoiled before I could eat them.
Nutrient Dense Foods - Half the battle of weight loss is managing cravings for salty and sugary processed foods. When your body is deficient in nutrients and minerals, it can cause cravings which will derail your efforts. Opt for fruits and vegetables that have a lot of color and dark greens. An example is skip the iceberg lettuce and use baby kale or spinach instead.
Cut the Sugar - The easiest, most effective and healthiest way to cut calories is reduce how much sugar is in your diet. Sugary foods will spike your blood sugar, making you susceptible to extreme food cravings when your blood sugar level drops. It’s much too easy to get into an addicting cycle of sugar, leaving you craving sweets pretty much after every meal. When you’re looking at your diet, sugars also come from fresh fruits. While they are natural sugars, they will still spike your blood sugar and give you future cravings.
Drink Water - During our pregnancy we are constantly being told to drink water, and hopefully this healthy habit carried over to postpartum life. Be sure to skip soda, diet soda, juices, and anything with artificial sweeteners. Water will help flush out your body and keep you hydrated.
Focus on Small Goals - For me, just getting out of my maternity pants and into regular clothes was a big accomplishment. The shape of my body changed after pregnancy, my hips are wider and I have a "mommy belly" that I never had before. Consider each goal a stepping stone towards bigger goals.
Sleep - I know getting enough sleep is a constant struggle for new moms, but making it a priority is important. Not only will it help with weight loss, but it will help with your overall physically and mental health. Taking sleep shifts with your partner may be the only way to squeeze a few more hours in. I recommend a sleep mask and ear plugs so you can really get quality shut-eye. I know for myself, the second I hear my daughter crying, my body immediately goes into "mommy mode" and I wake up.
Breast Feeding - If you're willing and able to extend your period of breastfeeding, it's not only beneficial for your baby but also a great calorie burner. Just make sure you aren't using it as an excuse to eat recklessly, breastfeeding moms only need an extra 500 calories.
Don't Get Hung Up on Scale Numbers - You may never get back to the exact pre-pregnancy number on the scale, and that's okay. I recommend only weighing yourself about twice a month just get an overall gauge of how you’re doing. Focus on progress and determiners such as how your clothes fit, your energy levels and overall feeling of well-being.
Probiotics and Vitamins - During pregnancy we are already in the habit of taking prenatal vitamins, and you should continue taking them well into your first year postpartum. Adding probiotics helps with your digestion and even helps boost your metabolism by aid in regular bowel movements.
Baby Nap Schedules - When I was a brand new mom, I didn’t fully understand the value of training your baby to sleep on a schedule. The first 4 months, her nap times were random and too short, making getting things done nearly impossible. Now that she sleeps on a schedule, she sleeps at more predictable times and she has longer and more restful sleep. It finally gave me time to cook meals, get housework done, exercise, etc. Moms really need those moments during the day to unwind from constantly watching the baby to re-gain some energy.
Rock Out - One easy way to stay motivated is with new music playlists. Make sure to discover new music and keep updating your list of songs. Jamming out to high energy tunes can really give you a boost of energy and motivate you to move my body.
Stretch It Out - If your baby is on the move and likes exploring around the house, use crawling time for stretching. My daughter loves it when I get on the floor and play with her.
Dance Party - My daughter loves music and she especially loves it when mommy gets down dancing. Find some songs that your child loves and get dancing!
Take It Easy - When you’re able to start exercising after baby is born, be sure to give your body rest periods between working out. Our bodies are not the same from before pregnancy and we need to give them time to heal. I know it’s hard when you finally get motivated to take forced breaks, but it’s important for the long haul. The last thing you want is an injury that keeps you on the bench for long periods of time.
Looking Lovely - Beauty routines may seem unrelated but for me personally, keeping up on grooming helps keep me motivated. Make an effort every once in a while to ditch our beloved leggings and dress up. I spend half my day on the floor crawling around with Scout, so believe me I understand that leggings are practical for easy movement. Take a baby-free day and get your nails done, a haircut, or even just keeping up on shaving and/or waxing. It can also be as simple as keeping up on skincare routines and wearing makeup. Taking pride in your overall appearance is something that gets lost in the shuffle when you're so exhausted taking care of a baby.
Self Care - Your weight is just a piece of the whole puzzle. You can't have a healthy body if you don't have an overall healthy wellbeing. Practice self-kindness and be mindful of how we talk and think about ourselves. Make sure you’re eating healthy and exercising for the right reasons, to nourish your body and not only be focused on weight-loss. Mix in some yoga, meditation and journaling into your regimen to exercise your mind too.
Fresh Air - Use the weekends (or days with your partner) to be outside and soak up fresh air and sun rays. It really helps your disposition and gives you a positive outlook. Being cooped up in the house with a baby can make you a little stir crazy and sometimes we turn to junk food for comfort to break up the boredom.
Acknowledge Postpartum Depression - Almost all of us experience certain levels of postpartum depression, but in our society it’s not something we like to talk about, or even admit. I remember when my friends were having babies, they would confess their postpartum depression feelings to me like it was a dirty secret they didn’t want anyone to know. We feel like we’re supposed to be so happy all the time with our little bundle of joy, but the reality is that you often have this feeling of unexplained sadness. Motherhood can be isolating because you’re home alone with a baby all day, spending time with your friends and family can help lift your mood. If you feel like you need to talk to a professional, tell your doctor.
Reward yourself - It can't be all work and no play. I advise against cheat days were you binge eat, it’s not healthy and it’s hard to get back on track afterwards. My favorite kinds of rewards are things along the lines of buying yourself a new outfit, a spa day or even just a day to yourself.
Writing this blog post really helped me practice what I preach and stay on track. Enjoy these precious early moments with your baby and don't let a little extra wight take away from your experience. The first year comes and goes in a flash. Somedays are tough with babies and you won't get hardly anything accomplished. On days when you can't be productive it's easy to lose motivation. Think of every morning as a new start and do your best to set yourself for success.
Everything You Need to Know About Meal Prepping
The concept of meal prepping is based on making large batches of food and then dividing it up into individual sizes meals that are ready to eat. They can either be frozen to eat a later time, or it could be for the week. Here are my top tips to successful healthy meal planning.
Refrigerator Cleanse - Start with a fridge clean out to make a fresh and efficient space. Remove the junk that is not contributing to your goals and will reduce temptation.
Glass is Best for Freezer Meals - It’s best to opt for glass containers with silicone lids for strong freezer meals. Avoid plastic containers for the freezer because the extreme temperatures break down the plastic and tiny particles will get into your food. And in my opinion, food always taste better served in glass and ceramics.
Using glass is also a time saver. When you pull your meals out of the freezer to defrost, once it’s thawed you can put tin foil over it and stick it directly into the oven to warm up.
Prep and Freeze in Small Batches - Each prepped meal should be in exactly one portion size for a lunch or dinner. That way you can eat different foods throughout the week. If you freeze in a large batch, when you defrost you’ll be forced to eat the same food repeatedly for multiple meals. Which leads to food boredom… which ultimately leads to cravings and unhealthy food choices.
Label Your Food - Trust me on this one. You think you'll remember what’s inside the container, but then 3 months later you have no idea what it is and the only way to find out is to thaw it out. Be sure to put a date as well.
Morning Defrost - If you are freezing large batches of ready prepped meals, first thing in the morning remove your lunch and dinner from the freezer to defrost. Once it defrosts to the point where it’s no longer frozen solid, you can cover it with tin foil and heat in the oven. You don’t want to put freezing cold food and containers into heat, it can crack or even explode (I actually saw a roommate’s glass bowl explode!). For good food safety, once you defrost you can't put it back in the freezer.
Low Sodium - Be sure not to add too much salt and flavorings containing sodium. You can make a perfectly healthy meal very unhealthy by adding too much salt. If you are eating fresh and whole foods, it’s easy to control the sodium in your diet. Eating pre-packaged foods makes it much harder because they’re often packed full of sodium, even if the label claims that it’s healthy.
Shop in Bulk - Health food stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts offer bulk food options for grocery items such as pasta, dry beans, grains, nuts and rice. You’ll save some money and reduce waste shopping bulk foods.
Keep Your Tastebuds Guessing - Switch up your meals before they gets stale and you feel unmotivated to eat your prepped meals. Make multiple batches of different meals and alternate between different entrees. Keep your taste buds on their toes!
Healthy Fat - Don't be afraid of healthy fats, your body needs them and they'll keep you feeling full. As a general rule, good fats come from plants and nuts. Healthy fats to add to your diet include avocado, nuts and nut spreads, olive oil, coconut oil and tahini. The fats you should avoid come from animals products and dairy. Limit the amount of fatty meats and dairy based food such as salami, bacon, ice cream, sour cream, butter, cheese and whole milk.
Seasonal Selections - Soups are perfect in the fall and winter, salads are ideal for warm weather months. To prep salads, have all your veggies and salad toppings pre-cut and ready to go. You can freeze the soups up, but don’t try and freeze any salads. In this blog post I included my infographic with my favorite 65 healthy salad toppings. Make sure you’re always mixing it up and keeping it new and fresh, it’s the best way to beat food boredom.
Food Prep Portion Sizes - An easy rule of thumb for a healthy plate balance is to keep your starch (base) portions small, protein portions medium (unless it's higher in fat, in which case make it small) and veggie portions big. In the below pink infographic I’ve outlined the best food options for all these categories. Use the two infographics I created as shopping guides for your trips to the grocery store (scroll down to find them).
To get you started, some of my favorite combos are:
Brown rice with garbanzo beans, sautéed eggplant, grilled onions, grilled bell peppers and lemon tahini sauce.
Whole wheat pasta with ground bison, sautéed mushrooms, roasted garlic, grilled onions and pasta sauce.
Half quinoa and half brown rice with asparagus, broccoli, grilled salmon and an olive oil drizzle.
Whole wheat tortilla filled with cubed grilled chicken, fresh spinach, onions, feta cheese and tzatziki sauce.
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