As a trainer and PT I am asked this all the time! And I want to start by saying there is no rule for everyone, as we are all different, gained different amounts during pregnancy and have very different tendencies to hold on to weight or lose weight in the months/years that follow the birth of your baby.
Will I ever be the same? I’m going to start with the bad news! Due to the changes in hormones, and stress on the body during pregnancy it is unlikely that you will ever have the body you had prior to conceiving. During pregnancy you unfortunately lose muscle tone in particular areas of your body (arms, glutes, core and back – to name a few!) Even if you quickly lose the weight that you gained during pregnancy, your body is unlikely to have the muscle tone (or strength) you previously did. Over the months and years following the birth of your baby, it can take a lot of time to rebuild the muscles mass and strength that you had previously built up over life. These changes in muscle mass, combined with the changes to your hips and breasts (due to hormones) can result in your body never being exactly the same as prior to conceiving. A small price to pay, for the miracle you give birth to!
But when can I expect to be at my pre-baby weight? This varies for all women. I like to encourage mums to have a balanced view when trying to regain their pre-baby body, and achieving a healthy weight. The ultimate goal is for your weight to come back to a healthy weight range. What does this mean? Most health professionals will use the crude tool of BMI to determine your range. It is really important to remember that this tool DOES NOT take into account that muscle is denser than fat. So for individuals that naturally carry a lot of muscle, they can have a higher BMI (anyway, I’m getting off the topic!!). The healthy BMI range for adults is 18.5 to 24.9. To determine you’re BMI:
Weight in kg = BMI 62kg
(Height in metres )2 (1.7m2) = 21.4
The Heart Foundation have an online tool you can use at http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/healthy-eating/Pages/bmi-calculator.aspx
My general advice to mums is to aim to be at their pre-baby weight (or ideal body weight) at their babies first birthday. This allows mums to ensure that their providing adequate nutrition whilst breastfeeding, and allow the weight to come off through healthy eating and regular exercise. Some mums find it difficult to achieve this goal in the first twelve months, however my reasoning behind this goal is that women are at increased health risks if they do not resume their ideal body weight prior to falling pregnant in subsequent pregnancies. Women who are not at their ideal body weight (or pre-pregnancy weight) when conceiving are at increased risk of gestational diabetes. An addition, women who do not reach a healthy weight following the birth of their children are at increased risk of diabetes, cancers and heart disease in the years to follow. Additional associations have been made between women who do not lose their baby weight and post-natal depression, due to poor self-esteem and body image. With all of these in mind, it is important to prioritise your health and wellbeing, which includes resuming a healthy weight following the birth of your baby.
How to achieve a healthy body weight? There is no secret recipe for achieving your healthy body weight following the birth of your baby. It definitely does not include fad diets, crash diets or shakes (but I will save that for another day!!) Here are my tips:
- Patience! Don’t be in a hurry to drop the weight. Despite the pressure females feel from the media (family, friends and themselves) due to high profile celebrities dropping the baby-weight within days and weeks. This IS NOT NORMAL. They have chefs, nanny’s, personal trainer and personal assistants to help them with everything they do! Plus some of the techniques used are very questionable (in my opinion).
- Don’t crash diet. The first reaction of your body if it receives reduced calorie intake is the shutdown of additional bodily functions. The first to be compromised will be your milk production for your baby.
- Increase exercise slowly It is important to increase the intensity and duration of exercise slowly. Don’t head out for a 10km run when your baby is only 6 weeks old! Your body initially needs to recover, and then you need to rebuild your fitness and strength.
- Balance Ensure you balance the numerous demands on your body. From breastfeeding, sleep, nutrition, exercise and ‘me time’. For many, time exercising is also ‘me time’ which is a great way to do two of these things at the same time.
- Smart snacking When you are breastfeeding many mums find that they are constantly hungry, and looking for snacks. It is really important to surround yourself with lots of easy healthy snack foods so that you aren’t tempted by empty calories (junk food). Make sure you have plenty of fruits and vegetables on hand (cut these up and seal them in an airtight container, so they are even easier to snack on), dried fruit and nuts, and low-fat dairy.
- Drink plenty of fluids The body often mistakes thirst for hunger. Whilst you are breastfeeding you fluid requirements at very high, particularly if you are also exercising. It is important to drink plenty of water.
- Set realistic goals Aiming for a milestone at a point in time is a great way to keep you on track. It is really important that it is realistic, or it will become an added STRESS point. Rather than having a number on the scales, I always suggest having an outfit that you’d like to feel good in by a point in time.
- Stop to smell the roses! Don’t let weight loss control your life. Having a baby is a very special time in your life, and it is important to cherish this time. Don’t let weight loss become more important than enjoying life!
For more personal details on an approach to losing the extra baby weight, contact Vicky to organise a time to discuss further mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org – Vicky Anderson