Spending nine months watching your waistline expand can be a hard thing to do. And why wouldn’t it be, when we spend our whole lives trying to fit into a Hollywood-created, skinny-jean reinforced ideal? Rest assured, by taking sensible steps with your diet and exercise, you’ll dust those jeans off again. But remember – it took nine months for your baby weight to take up residence, so it probably won’t pack its bags and leave in nine days (unless, of course, your name is Gisele Bundchen). Below, how eight non-supermodel moms did it.
“I Breastfed and Went to the Gym”
Mom: Christen Cooper, MS, RD
Location: Pleasantville, New York
Children: Nathaniel, 7, and Anna Louise, 2
As a nutritionist, I knew about the unbeatable nutritional and emotional values of breastfeeding. I also knew that, at the height of the baby’s breastmilk intake (from birth until she began solid foods around five months), I would burn up to 500 extra calories per day just through breastfeeding. Therefore, during that first two to three months, when I was too tired to take a shower at times (never mind make it to the gym), I knew that I could rest assured that my body was doing some natural slimming on its own due to breastfeeding and the trips up and down the stairs with a laundry basket! Having said that, this natural slimming only works if a mom is eating around the same amount of daily calories she ate pre-pregnancy. If she gets very hungry, as many women do, and eats the extra 500 calories to account for the calories burned by breastfeeding, she will not experience the slimming. That’s okay, too, however. She can lose the weight after she ends breastfeeding. The post-partum period is not a time to deprive oneself. The body is healing on the inside and the mind is susceptible to post-partum depression.
I got through the “hard times” losing baby weight by taking a deep breath and thinking: “Look, take it easy on yourself. You just brought a life into the world. So you don’t feel like walking? Big deal. Healing comes first, and your body has a lot of healing to do on the inside from the jostling and dislocation of things during labor.” [For exercise] I chose a gym with excellent child care, so I felt fine leaving the baby at four months so I could do a spinning class or 45-minute workout. The classes provided me with the time to chat with other adults (key!), and none of them were singing songs about big red cars or baby belugas. The music during spinning or aerobics let my mind wander back to a time when I was without kids, and therefore it allowed me a mental escape, a daydream of sorts. It also allowed me to take a shower sans a crying baby waiting for me, blow dry my hair, put on make-up and feel good about myself and my body.
“I Used My Babies As Barbells”
Mom: Ciaran Bellwoar
Location: Drexel Hill, PA
Children: Gavin, 6, Bobby, 4, and Sabrina, 2
I’ve always used babies as weights. For baby presses, I lie on my back with knees bent and feet on the floor and lift the kids up under their arms so that their bodies are parallel to mine (legs out behind them) and lift them up and down. For the bigger kids, I’ll raise my legs and have their bellies on my knees and lift my legs to the ceiling. Horsey is when they ride on my back like I’m a horse – it’s great for their balance because they need to stay on. Be ready and willing to be active anytime — you don’t have to get into cool workout clothes or put on a special DVD. I’ll also do some modified push-ups – again, they need to stay on when I lower my upper body. For kids two and under, I hold them and do squats or just dance around. Now, the older kids – who weigh more – still want to join in the fun, so I get triple the upper body workout any time I start a game of horsey or any other game that requires me to lift a small person off the ground. We walk to school (1/4 mile away) pretty much every day, and since I have to walk back home after drop-off and walk to school for pick-up, I get twice the exercise. I put the youngest in the stroller and take the long way home. If she wants to walk, I’ll play chase with her on the way home, which gives me a little extra cardio. Be ready and willing to be active anytime – you don’t have to get into cool workout clothes or put on a special DVD. Also, be comfortable with your mommy body and be realistic about what that is for you. I know I’d have to work much too hard to have a flat tummy, but I’m okay with that.
“I Kept a Food Diary”
Mom: Stephanie Wodwaski
Children: a daughter, 1
I started a food diary before I got pregnant so that I could get healthier before we conceived. I’ve struggled with my weight all of my life, but getting pregnant was finally the goal that motivated me to get serious about losing weight. My daughter will be one next month, and I have lost all of my baby weight (30 pounds) and an extra 25 pounds(and counting!) by sticking to a 1500-calorie diet. It was really eye-opening for me to see how many of the decisions I was making were really bad when I thought they were good for me. For example, having a bottle of juice instead of a soda – there’s still a ton of calories and sugar! Fast food was another item that I was in denial about. I feel really confident that I’ll have no trouble keeping that number at a minimum and losing it all again quickly. I knew that it was bad for me, but I never really stopped to see how bad. Realizing that one value meal from McDonalds was pretty much the full 1500 calories was a surprise. When you have to write everything down and hold yourself accountable to those numbers, it really helps to keep things in perspective. My husband has an iPhone and downloaded an App called My Fitness Pal that will count your calories for you, has a search tool for you to look up calories on items and even tells you roughly how many calories you’ve burned if you input exercising. Most days my diary is either a dry erase board that I bought at the dollar store or a post-it note. I wipe it clean or throw it out at the end of the day. It reminds me that every day is a new day, so if I had a really bad day yesterday I can start fresh today or if I had a really good day yesterday I don’t feel tempted to be lax today. We are hoping to conceive again this year, so even though I know that I’ll be gaining some of that weight back, I feel really confident that I’ll have no trouble keeping that number at a minimum and losing it all again quickly. The best thing about the diet is that it’s built better habits for me, which is good not only for losing weight but also for gaining it in a healthy way for me and my baby.
“I Walked It Off”
Mom: Gigi Fernandez (Ed note: Yes, an Olympic gold medalist in tennis!)
Location: Lake Mary, FL
Children: Karson & Madison, 13 months
My advice? Buy a good stroller with a good cover and walk, walk, walk! That is all I did! I started when the babies had their six-week shots. In the Florida summer (no excuses!), I walked at least one hour a day in the morning, right after the morning bottle, usually around 8 a.m. The best time to work out is in the morning because there’s less time to talk yourself out of it. If I knew it was going to be in the 90s, I would make sure I was back by 9 a.m. This was their first nap of the day, so I would bring a phone with an earpiece and would start catching up on work calls. I am an entrepreneur mom (babygoespro.com), so I needed to get my work in when they were sleeping. I have also found throughout my life that the best time to work out was in the morning because there is less hours in the day to talk yourself out of it. When you set a time of working out in the afternoon, and you aren’t particularly motivated that day, you have hours to come up with excuses: and believe me, I have done it. I had the luxury of help (highly recommended with infant twins), and she arrived at 9 a.m., just when I got back from the walk. Another thing that I did early on was walk with ankle and/or wrist weights. I would do some basic arm exercises as I was pushing the stroller. Up and down with the arms or punch like a boxing move. I felt kind of dorky doing it, but it really helped get my heart rate up.
“I Trained for a Marathon – with a Jogging Stroller”
Mom: Micaela Birmingham
Location: New York City
Children: Victoria, 27 month, Marilyn, 9 months
I had two children in 19 months – yes, I am insane – and credit breast-feeding (one year for each) and running for helping me lose the weight. My goals were general: be healthy, stay active, don’t lose your mind in baby land, seek civilized adult conversation. Don’t focus on pound-per-pound weight loss, just immerse yourself into the fun of a sport. I got all of these by running. I bought a jogging stroller, set a goal and ran the NYC marathon eight months after giving birth to my first daughter, pumping at the starting line (in the first aid tent) and finishing in a respectable time! Recently I completed a half marathon eight months after my second daughter was born. Long distances are not for everyone, but I can say the kids love being outside, and I have made great friends in my local running club. I run my own business (www.citymum.com) as do a few other women in my group, so it was a nice escape and place to share ideas. Also, when you know there is a group waiting for you at the park, it is harder to cheat out of workouts. It is necessary to time feedings so that you are not running on a “full tank.” Other than that and having to wear extra support, [running post-baby] was pretty much the same as running before. I would say not to focus on pound-per-pound weight loss, just immerse yourself into the fun of a sport, and your body will do its own thing. There are enough pressures on a new mother; losing weight should not be one of them.
“I Breastfed – and Stressed”
Mom: Samantha Slaven-Bick
Location: Los Angeles, California
Children: Hayden, 9 months
I gained 35 lbs. during my pregnancy. I was [worried] about losing the baby weight, especially considering that I work full time running a PR agency and wasn’t able to take any down time from work. The days of working out with a trainer or even just going to the gym on my own were long over. Nursing has completely burned off all of my extra weight. Miraculously, nursing has completely burned off all of my extra weight, and I’m now back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I’m sure the stress of trying to keep up with work (not to mention having my assistant quit when the baby was 6 months old) contributed, as did lugging around a 20-pound baby who’s not too fond of being put down. No one told me that nursing helps burn all these extra calories, so this has been a blessing in disguise, and I must say I do appreciate my son for providing this unexpected but totally beloved service. At first I just held on to get to the three-month mark, then the six-month mark, and once I achieved that, I decided to go for a full year. I really love nursing him and am sad at the thought of stopping. I might even go longer than that if it still feels natural and my son and I are enjoying it. But I think once the kid can unhook the bra himself and starts asking for the “boobie” – or starts biting down when his top teeth come in – it’s time to stop! But I love the time with sweet little Hayden, and knowing that my body is still working to sustain his life really grounds me and makes me feel like a mother.
“I Ran and Used Weight Watchers”
Mom: Lisa Ferrara
Location: Pearland, Texas
Children: Jessica and Sarah, 20 months old
I was four weeks pregnant when I ran my first marathon and was in training for the Ironman Arizona 2008. I was cycling about 100 miles a week, running twenty-five to thirty miles a week and swimming two to three times a week. I was in the best shape of my life and no one was more surprised than me to get pregnant. I gained fifty-five pounds, was on restricted activity from the time I was seventeen weeks pregnant and ended up on bedrest for ten weeks. My running coach put together a return to run plan for me that started off with walk-run intervals that I started after about two months. There were setbacks along the way, but I slowly built up my running to twenty miles a week with additional strength training, cycling and swimming whenever I could fit it in. I did one sprint triathlon when the girls were nine months old and then I did a half-marathon in January 2010 when they were fifteen months old.To lose the last 16 pounds I had to get serious about my eating and did Weight Watchers.
I had no idea how significant the sleep deprivation and exhaustion would be from nursing twins. Then they’d get sick, and my husband and I would get sick too. For the first time in my adult life (other than being pregnant), I’d have whole weeks where working out just wasn’t possible. I was too freaking tired. I’d just try to pick it back up whenever things started coming back together and make the most of it until the cycle would begin again. But for me, working out is a stress-management technique. It is also one of my main social outlets. I still run on Saturday mornings with the running club. My husband is in charge on Saturday mornings, so I can get out on my own.
It has taken a lot of exercise to get back in shape, but to lose the last 16 pounds I had to get serious about my eating and did Weight Watchers for the last three months. Sarah and Jessica were 18 months old by that point. They could run and talk! I couldn’t blame them for my size anymore. Weight Watchers worked for me after graduate school, and I found out from a friend that the online version would work from my Blackberry. It was obvious why I wasn’t losing weight as soon as I overlaid the points with my current diet. It isn’t that they force you to eat low-carb or anything like that, but if you are going to stay within your points and feel good throughout the day, you have to eat lots of lean protein and veggies – and minimize the dark chocolate binges. [Along with Weight Watchers], I now run about 25 miles a week and do some cross-training. And I’m back in my size 2 petites.
“I Was Active and Ate Well During Pregnancy”
Mom: Lindsey Groepper
Children: James Wade and Riley Elizabeth, 1 year
I had twins last July and gained about 45 pounds during pregnancy. I am happy to say that every pound was gone after two weeks – and it had nothing to do with my actions after pregnancy, rather what I did during pregnancy. I was an active person pre-pregnancy and maintained a healthy and active lifestyle up until the last six weeks, when I was put on bedrest. I certainly took the recommended advice and stopped all contact sports – no more soccer! Other than that, I was able to continue my regular workout five days/week routine for the first three months, including my workout classes and weight training. Instead of pushing myself to the limit, I made sure my heart rate didn’t get too high. Once I hit my second trimester, I avoided any exercises on my back (which was recommended) and began to choose the “low impact” or “beginner” options in the classes (squatting instead of jumping, for example). The key to losing the weight is to be aware of not gaining too much in the process. In my 3rd trimester, I cut back to three to four times per week of moderate cardio for thirty minutes and weight lifting. My big belly got in the way of a lot of weight lifting, but I would still do free weight exercises for my arms and some light squats (though I couldn’t squat very low!).
I had a c-section and felt good enough to start taking the babies for a walk after two weeks of rest. It felt so good to even take a walk, but boy was I weak after bedrest. I slowly increased my walks and began short jogs and am proud to say I was back playing soccer after I got the six week “OK” from the doctor! My twins are approaching a year old, and now I work out an average of three to four days per week versus the five day average/week before they were born. I work full-time, so finding the time is a bit more challenging now. The key to losing the weight is to be aware of not gaining too much in the process. Indulge from time to time and go nuts on a pizza and some ice cream, but get back to healthy eating the next day. What you are eating is what you are feeding your baby! [But also realize after you give birth] you have a beautiful baby and shouldn’t pressure yourself too much to lose the weight. You will focus on you when the time is right, which might not be until the baby is a year old. My body is different now, and I embrace it. It may never completely get back to how toned it once was, but it’s totally worth it every time I look at my twins!
Ed note: check with your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen.