Writing about weight loss on the Internet is tricky, at best. When it’s baby weight you’re talking about getting rid of, you can pretty much bet you’re going to piss off someone.
Either you’re trying too hard to lose weight because you should love your body as it is, stretch marks and all, or somebody doesn’t like what you’re doing to lose weight, or you’re lying about how you lost weight, or you’ve lost so much weight you shouldn’t lose anymore and you’re fat-shaming anyone bigger than you — it’s a veritable minefield of controversy ripe for the Internet masses to detonate.
Here’s the thing. This is my story. That’s all it can be. I’m just throwing it to the Internet winds and maybe some of it resonates with somebody and that’s great.
We’ve reached this weird place on the Internet where folks are just looking to be offended, so I wanted to preface this with the fact that I’m not looking to offend, but to just share what’s happening with me in this first postpartum month. I want to share because it’s been my best recovery from giving birth ever. With my first two children I fell down a well — no energy, no showering, barely getting dressed, hardly combing my hair, never wearing makeup, never leaving the house … But this time around I feel like I jumped back into life with hardly a day passing. And hey, maybe that’s not for you. Maybe you want to lounge around in your pajamas and cuddle your baby for the next few months. That’s a beautiful time and I get that. I’ve been there and done that but I wanted to do it differently this time.
First, the numbers. I’m 37 years old. I have three children, ages 5 years, 3 years, and 1 month. I’m 5-foot-3. Before children I weighed around 125 pounds. After my first the lowest I got down to was 133. Admittedly I didn’t try super hard to get back into shape because I knew I was going to turn around and have another baby. After my second baby I stayed around 135. That’s what I weighed when I became pregnant this last time. I delivered at around 184. Yup. Fifty-pound weight gain. That’s 10 pounds better than the 60 pounds I gained with my second. Mama gets big, yo.
So I delivered at 185, and within the first week dropped 20 pounds. That seems to be par for the pregnancy course. Get rid of all the stuff in your body, including baby, and you’re bound to lose somewhere between 15 and 20 pounds. But the day after giving birth I was ready to go. I had a plan in place to maximize weight loss without being unhealthy.
Here are the 5 things I did to lose weight after giving birth:
Here’s the deal: Ask any celeb how they lost the baby weight and they’ll inevitably answer one of two ways. Either they lost it from “chasing around their toddler” or “breastfeeding.” I’m not buying either. I’ve chased around two toddlers, which includes eating half the French fries from their happy meals and hoovering all their leftover fish sticks when clearing the kitchen table after dinner. Ain’t nobody losing weight hanging out with toddlers. For me, at least, the jury is still out on breastfeeding. Experts say your body burns as many as 300 to 500 extra calories when you’re nursing. That may be so but generally you’re so damn hungry when nursing that you consume extra food and justify it to yourself because you’re breastfeeding. I’ll go ahead and get that 1,000-calorie burrito bowl at Chipotle because I’m breastfeeding. Nursing or no, you’re still consuming too many calories. However, take advantage of those calories burned by breastfeeding and follow the next four steps, and you’ll maximize weight loss, especially in that first month when the most pounds seem to be shed.
This one may be controversial to some of you, but numbers don’t lie. I carefully monitored my calories while nursing. As kellymom.com notes, “Since the recommended added calories during the last two trimesters of pregnancy is 300 calories/day, an exclusively breastfeeding mother will typically need either the same amount of calories she was getting at the end of pregnancy, or up to 200 additional calories per day. That’s the equivalent of adding 1-2 healthy snacks per day.”
That’s not very much! Yet a lot of women, including myself, maintain this idea that we need to eat a buttload of extra calories while breastfeeding and it will all burn right off because breastfeeding is this magic weight loss scenario. It’s just not true. Every body is different. So I carefully monitored calories just as I would at any other time in life when I’m trying to eat in a healthy way.
No Carbs or Empty Calories
The best way to eat fewer calories is by decreasing the amount of “empty calories” you are eating. “Empty calories” are the calories from added sugars and solid fats, in foods like soft drinks, desserts, fried foods, cheese, whole milk, and fatty meats. Look for choices that are low-fat, fat-free, unsweetened, or with no added sugars. They have fewer “empty calories.” For me a no carb or dairy diet works best. The day after my son was born I started eating lots of fish and vegetables and haven’t had a carb since. Not only that, but I fought my desire for having wine in the evenings after nine months of alcohol deprivation (although I did indulge on my 37th birthday.) I feel like healthy food choices burned off another 10 pounds or so within three weeks of giving birth.
Once my mid-wife gave the okay, I started walking around the neighborhood and also started some light leg lifts while lying flat on my back to help jumpstart some stomach muscle action. At the one month mark I returned to the gym for some low impact elliptical work. 30 minutes at a mellow pace, just to get my body active again after months of sitting on my butt watching TV because I felt too fat to move.
Look at Yourself in the Mirror
This is going to sound slightly mental but whatever. I’ve noticed that in the past I have a tendency to deceive myself about what I actually look like. I’ll buy clothes in a larger size and, because they fit, I don’t feel fat. In reality I’m wearing bigger clothes but I kind of trick myself into thinking I’m healthier or thinner than I am. After I had my second son you could find me still lounging in maternity pants when he was 6 months old. Throw out all your maternity clothes! Get rid of them. Be aware of where you are and what you actually look like. It will inspire you to eat cleanly and slowly get back to working out.
Here’s me today at 149 pounds, one month after giving birth:
Fourteen more pounds to get to 135, the weight I was before this baby. Still, I’d like to get back to the 125 of my twenties. But, at some point I’ll stop using weight and start using my jeans as a guide. Weight ain’t nothing but a number, it’s my jeans that don’t lie, and I have my eye on a pair of skinny jeans from when I was 28 that I’d really like to get into.
Again, these tips aren’t for everyone. I absolutely understand the new mom who wants to lounge and not worry about baby weight and that’s totally great. But, with this being my third and last child, I know that if I don’t get active now I’ll find myself complaining about losing the baby weight when this kid is sporting a size 6 in Huggies. I wanted to leap back into my life as soon as possible and it’s been amazing. I feel a million times better after this birth than I did after my first birth, and I was 32 years old then. At 37, I’m no spring chicken as far as motherhood goes, but I feel good, have way more energy than I did the first two times, and am well on my way to a June bikini body. That makes me happy. And hey, if mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.
What’s the one thing you did for you that helped you most in those first few months after giving birth?