In this article I’m going to give you an easy way to lose your post-baby weight without any silly crash diets, slimming pills or ridiculous exercise regimes. I’m a 37 year old mum-of-four and when I’m not pregnant, I’m a size 10. I had my last child 11 weeks ago so I’m using this routine again to regain my pre-pregnancy figure and I can tell you it works. I’ve had 3 natural births and a C-section for my fourth delivery.
Don’t do too much, too soon
If you’ve just had a baby, DON’T get disheartened by your flabby tummy and be tempted to jump in too quickly. Your little one is probably keeping you up half the night so you’ll already feel exhausted and your body will still be mending itself from carrying a child and giving birth. For the first few weeks, try to switch to healthier food choices if you’ve been a bit indulgent during your pregnancy, and start walking every day. Take gentle walks to the shops or round the park at first, increasing in length as you feel more confident.
When you’ve had your six week checkup and get the all-clear to exercise, you can get started with losing your baby weight. If you’ve had a C section, be guided by your body and don’t overdo the exercise – if you feel twinges and pains around your scar area, you need to take it more steady. I’m now 11 weeks after my C section and I’m exercising without any discomfort but I know this is not the case for everyone.
Forget faddy diets and follow this simple plan
You don’t need to crash diet to lose weight. Fad diets do more harm than good and will not help your body to heal after giving birth. In the long run, you’re unlikely to keep the weight off. To lose your post-pregnancy weight, you need to do three things:
- Create a calorie deficit.
- Eat little and often.
- Exercise regularly.
Creating a calorie deficit
If your body needs 1,500 calories and you eat 1,500 calories, you will not lose weight. To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than your body needs. To find out how many calories your body needs, go to the NHS weight loss page (click here) and use the BMI calculator on the right hand side of the page. Put in your normal weight before pregnancy, not your current weight. Most women need to eat between 1,500 and 2,000 calories a day.
Each pound of fat on your body is equivalent to 3,500 calories. If therefore you eat 3,500 calories LESS than you need each week, you’ll lose about a pound of fat a week (if you exercise as well, you’ll lose even more).
I recommend you create a calorie deficit of about 300 calories a day. So if you ordinarily need 1,500 calories, you should aim to eat about 1,200 calories. If you ordinarily need 2,000 calories, you should aim to eat 1,700 calories. If you think this sounds like a very small amount of food, bear with me – I’m going to explain to you how to make really good sized portions that have hardly any calories in them so you’ll always feel full.
Eating 300 calories less a day is a deficit of 2,100 calories a week. That’s not quite a pound of fat, but don’t worry – you’ll be super charging your metabolism and exercising too, so you’ll lose plenty.
A word of warning: don’t starve yourself! Eating only a tiny amount of calories is the best way to GAIN weight! Your body thinks you’re starving and starts to store your food as fat.
Eating little and often
Most of us aim to eat about 3 meals a day and as a new mum, there’s a good chance you’ll skip at least one of these. What you probably didn’t know is that if you skip a meal, you’re actually more likely to gain weight. The best way to lose weight is to eat little and often. Instead of 3 meals a day, split your calories up across 6 smaller meals.
I break my meals up like this:
Breakfast = 300 calories
Snack = 70 calories
Lunch = 300 calories
Snack = 70 calories
Tea = 400 calories
Snack = 70 calories
Total = 1,210 calories
Sometimes, I have fewer calories at breakfast and a slightly bigger snack or lunch. It doesn’t matter. The idea is to eat 6 times in the day and never eat a large meal. Your metabolism will be in overdrive.
A warning: the first week you combine dropping your calories with eating little and often, you might feel a little hungrier. Your stomach is used to having larger meals and it will take a little time to adjust. After the first week, it will have shrunk and you won’t feel hungry at all. In fact, sometimes I have to make myself eat! And that’s crucial to this working – don’t skip meals if you’re not hungry. You want to trick your metabolism into working a lot harder and to do that, you need the 6 meals instead of 3. If you’re feeling hungry, have a glass of water – it really helps.
You might be wondering what snacks you can have for 70 calories. My favourites are Alpen light cereal bars. They have exactly 70 calories in and they taste really nice. A small apple has about 78 calories in, or you could have just over 100g of grapes. If you’re a fan of salads, create a salad from half a bag of baby spinach, a handful of cherry tomatoes, 100g of honeydew melon (30 cals), a chopped up slice of honey roast ham (27g) and a splash of balsamic.
I exercise 6 times a week but before you roll your eyes and stop reading, hear me out. I DON’T exercise 6 times a week in the gym. In fact, as a new mum, I really recommend you don’t join a gym. You won’t have the time to go and if you’re tired, it will feel like too much effort. The only way you’ll stick to this is if you make it easy.
First, it’s important not to do the same thing every day. You’ll burn out and could end up with chronic fatigue syndrome. You need to design your own exercise routine that has plenty of variety and is both realistic and enjoyable. You also need to be careful not to exercise the same muscle groups two days in a row. Your muscles need time to rest and repair. That’s why mixing it up is really important. Mine goes like this:
- Monday: 25 mins HITT
- Tuesday: Weights
- Wednesday: Swimming
- Thursday: 30 mins exercise bike/cross trainer
- Friday: Weights
- Saturday: 30 mins exercise bike/cross trainer
On Monday, my husband and I do Shaun T’s Focus T25 workout in our living room while our baby boy watches with wide eyes, probably wondering if his parents are actually quite mad. The great thing about this work out is that there’s a moderator – Tania – and if you’re not very fit or feeling exhausted, you can copy her movements which are much less intense than following the main group.
On Tuesday and Friday, I lift a few weights, focusing mainly on my arms, shoulders and chest. For this, you’ll need some dumbells. Follow a simple routine like this 18 minute workout using weights that feel slightly challenging but not painful to lift.
On Wednesday, we take our son swimming. One of us stays with the baby while the other does 2 – 4 lengths of the 25 metre pool and we keep swapping. Find a pool where the water temperature is at least 31-32 degrees as new babies get cold quickly (most pools have a warmer baby pool, of course). We have him in a wetsuit which allows him to stay in the water longer – if you get one, buy big as they’re tricky to get on and very fitting. If you’ve had a C section, make sure your scar has healed well before you try swimming. If you’ve given birth naturally, wait until the lochia has stopped. In both cases, don’t go until you’ve had your six week checkup and the doctor has said it’s okay for you to exercise. If you’re lucky enough to be able to go alone, try and do about 25-30 minutes of lengths, taking plenty of breaks as you need to.
On Thursday and Saturday, we each do 30 minutes on our exercise bike/cross trainer which we’ve got set up in the bedroom to make things really easy. Put some music on – it’ll make the time fly. The exact model we have is the JTX 2-in-1 and it’s fantastic. I recommend when you’re on the bike, you sit up rather than lean forward onto the handles. Put your hands on your tummy and try to hold in the muscles as you cycle.
Of the above activities, you’ll burn about 200 calories doing the HITT (Shaun T) and the exercise bike/cross trainer, and you’ll burn at least 100 calories doing the weights. Muscle burns fat so as you tone up, you’ll actually burn more. You’ll burn another 100 or so doing the swimming, unless you’re doing the laps on your own, in which case, it’ll be more like 200.
If there’s other sports you like doing – tennis, squash, badminton – swap them into the routine. 25-30 mins of anything that gets your heart pumping will burn around 200 calories.
“How much weight will I lose?”
As a minimum, you’ll lose a little over a pound a week on the above routine. This is a safe and sensible amount of weight to lose following pregnancy. Most women will gain about 28lbs in their pregnancy and if that’s about right for you, you’ll lose your baby weight within about 6 months following the above routine. HOWEVER! Because you’re eating little and often, your metabolism should begin to work far more efficiently than it used to, and the HITT and weight training will not only tone you up but help you build a little muscle (don’t worry, you won’t look like a body builder – it’s not possible to go that far following the above routine). Muscle burns fat. So with a supercharged metabolism and muscle working to burn off the flab round the clock, you’re likely to find your weight loss is far more than 1lb a week.
What to eat
If you’ve only got a budget of 1,200 or so calories a day like I do, you need to get pretty smart with your food. Start paying attention to how many calories are in things that you eat and drink daily. There are a lot of hidden calories – for example, a tablespoon of olive oil has a shocking 119 calories! Fruit juice can also be loaded with calories too, so switch for water and drink plenty. Switch your spreads and table sauces for low fat alternatives – weight watchers salad cream, flora light and so on. Try using Worcester Sauce or Balsamic Vinegar to flavour things – you only need a splash and they are about 1 calorie per 1ml. Watch out for cheese too – it is LOADED with calories, even the low fat versions. Swap for low fat cheese spread or get low fat grated and use just a sprinkling over your food.
My next recommendation is to cut out meat altogether and substitute it with quorn. 100g of quorn mince is about 100 calories. By contrast, 100g of LEAN mince beef is a whopping 332 calories. If you swap meat for quorn, you’ll find you can eat a lot more and stay within your calorie budget. Fish is also much lower in calories than meat – 100g of salmon for example is only 208 calories.
I also recommend you bulk out all of your meals with veggies. It makes the portions bigger because veggies are pretty low in calories. If you don’t like them, chop them up and put them in a sauce. My hubby won’t eat any veg unless it’s chopped up beyond recognition but he loves my ratatouille and that is LOADED with veggies (I peel the courgettes so nothing green is showing!). If you love salad, you’re in luck as it’s virtually calorie free so you can have HUGE salads without eating too much into your allowance. There’s about a calorie per slice of cucumber, 2 per cherry tomato and about 20 in a bag of whole baby leaf spinach.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can eat as much fruit and veg as you like and you’ll never put weight on. Fruit and veg has a calorie content, just like any other food. If you pick fruit and veg rather than pizza and cake, you certainly get a lot more for your calories, but you can’t eat as much as you want.
You’ll get bored of calorie counting at first but don’t give up. You’ll soon remember how many calories are in the things you like eating and you won’t have to weigh things out any more. Start a spreadsheet where you can total up your favourite meals and it’ll mean you don’t have to keep counting forever.
Don’t deprive yourself of treats – do a couple of minutes extra on the exercise bike and have that glass of white wine. White wine is pretty low in calories compared to beer or red wine so it’s a good choice.
And that’s it! Three simple secrets to post-baby weight loss: creating a calorie deficit, eating little and often, and exercising. I promise you that if you take on board my ‘what to eat’ tips, cut out the meat and bulk out your food with veggies and salad, you’ll find losing your post-baby weight easy-peasy.