The average weight gain during a pregnancy is approximately 12.5 kgs.
However, actual amounts can vary from woman to woman, and many of us end up in a state far heavier than what we were before we grew our children.
In my own pregnancies, I gained 20 kilograms with my first born, then managed to lose it all before becoming pregnant with my second. With my second, I gained 18 kilograms, and have successfully lost that weight again. However, I was already “overweight” before I conceived either child, and at first – the weight-loss was very sluggish.
Friends would cheerfully encourage that “it will all drop off when you’re breastfeeding”. However, certain habits I identified, when I actually took the time to scrutinise where I was going “wrong” were actually contributing factors which impeded or discouraged weight loss. Now that I know what my poor habits are, I can rectify them.
Hence I’ve devised a guide which looks at those factors which inhibit rather than promote weight loss after having a baby – then if those habits can be broken, healthy weight loss can commence. Here are the surefire ways to not lose, or even gain, baby-weight postpartum:
1. “Be a Mummy Hoover”
Child-rearing is a busy time! We tend to neglect developing a healthy, regular eating pattern and some of us fall into the trap of becoming what I call “a hoover” – where we automatically “clean up” our children’s left-overs. Our own parents encouraged our generation to finish what we put on our plates – and thus when our own children neglect to do so, the “mummy hoover” sometimes steps in. She nibbles away the last of the cookies they left behind, eats the piece of toast they shove lovingly into her face or she might as well devour the last of their macaroni rather than see it go to waste.
The counter-action to being a “mummy-hoover” is to “dish out discerningly”. Serve appropriately sized portions to your child to eliminate wastage. Store items like cookies, muesli-bar slices etc. in air-tight storage containers and don’t be afraid to return uneaten portions to the container.
2. Allow too many “can’t-be-bothered-going-out” days
When you first come home with a newborn, the days of getting dressed, grabbing your keys and going out are gone. Suddenly, preparing to go out takes upward of an hour (even with everything running smoothly). Some days, you find yourself saying “I really can’t be bothered getting out the house”. But getting out the house is integral, not only for the physical benefits but also for the happy feelings invoked by getting fresh air and daylight.
Even if it takes several attempts to actually get ready to go due to untimely interruptions, ensure you actually get out the house and walk somewhere each day. Aim to commence the walk after a baby is well-fed, yet not yet asleep, that way, if you manage to get out and back in time, you may be able to enjoy some time to yourself whilst the baby sleeps once you’re home. If you’re like me and need a “purpose” to encourage you to walk anywhere (ie. don’t enjoy walking for the sake of walking), then plan to walk rather than drive to things like Mother’s Groups, medical appointments or even just for a browse around the shops.
3. Put 110% effort into ensuring the children eat well, but neglect yourself
When I first came home with my second child, my spare time for meal preparation seemed to have evaporated, and I fell into this trap. I’d make my toddler something nutritious, but end up making poor eating choices for myself — ready meals, take aways, or snack foods like chips, chocolate and biscuits. The alternative to this is to follow a meal plan which incorporates foods that can serve everyone.
Source recipes which can suit either the entire family, or be made to suit the children and “adultified” later (ie. have spices or rich flavours added once the child’s serve has been taken out). Also ensure you have at least 4-5 homemade “quick meals” in the freezer, for the nights when things are manic – if you have 6 minutes to heat a ready meal, then you have the time to defrost and heat a homemade one also.
4. Be a “park bench Mummy”
Too easy it can be to get to the playground and “release the children”, then plonk yourself down on the park-bench to observe. Make use of this extra opportunity to move around instead. If your child is a soccer enthusiast, park the pram within a few metres and go run about kicking the ball with your child. Don’t be afraid to clamber on the play equipment at playgrounds, or run about playing chasey with your toddler. Not only will you be getting some extra movement happening, your child will enjoy your involvement!
5. Reward yourself with food
You’ve had a long, stressful day and your inner-monologue tells you “Well done for getting through all that! Why don’t you “treat” yourself to some <<insert your own ‘weakness’ here>>!” (For me, it’s cheeses and delinmeats!) This type of habit is very counter-productive to weight loss. The trick is to replace the food reward with either:
- a smaller quantity of the same “reward”
- a healthier option of the same “reward”
or (the best option still)
- replace food rewarding with a non-food “reward”.
Personally, I’ve combined the three. I now replace my “bad” foods with a moderated serving of unsalted cashews (because I consider them to be my “happy food” (did you know just 1 handful of cashews is the endorphic equivalent of taking a prozac?), and my treat once my work for the day is done is to indulge in a hobby (in my case, painting or sewing). I find I eat the snack progressively whilst I work, rather than scoffing them quickly, because I’m too busy concentrating on my efforts.
6. Be a “reclusive loser” (as in a loser of weight!)
Being overweight carries stigma, that’s no secret. And especially after gaining weight during a pregnancy, we sometimes feel like the whole world is watching and waiting for us to spring back into shape. Quite often, we feel embarrassed or don’t want people to witness the process. Sometimes, we find ourselves avoiding social situations until we feel “happy” with our bodies again. Trying to do hide ourselves away until we lose the weight can be a lot harder than if you enlist some friendly support.
To remedy to this, find a like-minded person you are comfortable with (such as another mum) and enlist them as your co-pilot (and you are reciprocally theirs). Arrange to go walking together, meet occasionally for a healthy combined family meal together, or simply discuss your challenges over a cuppa or on the phone. Having someone you feel accountable to can be a great way to maintain motivation. Daunting tasks can always feel significantly less difficult when you feel like you’re a part of a team.
The habits outlined may not apply to everyone; however, I, the majority of new (or repeat) mothers, will resonate with them for the most part. In my personal experience, recognising these types of shortcomings and eliminating them has led to healthy postpartum weight loss, which I am continuing to steadily lose just by making these changes alone. If you are keen, you can accelerate things with trips to the gym, exercise videos at home and the like (which are part of my own next steps in my weight loss journey that I’ll be making you all a part of). However, even just by eliminating these factors alone, budging the baby weight can become simpler.
The first step is recognising and acknowledging your own habits in the first place and working out how you’re going to combat them.