You did it! You brought a beautiful soul into this world and that is a feat to be commended. But after the celebration winds down and you start to settle into a routine with baby, it’s only natural that you’ll notice a few areas aren’t quite as svelte as they were prepregnancy. But fear not! With a smart and steady start, a healthy diet and a whole lot of determination, you can get back to your old self in no time. Follow these sure-to-work steps to regain reign over your body.
Face the facts
“Weight gain during pregnancy is a completely unique experience for every woman,” says Tracy Anderson, fitness expert and creator of the Metamorphosis body plan. The same goes for each separate pregnancy. “I gained 60 pounds with my son 13 years ago, but gained just 27 pounds more recently with my daughter,” shares Anderson. Experts typically recommend the average mom-to-be gain between 25 and 30 pounds, which means even those of us who follow doctor’s orders could end up with a bit of weight to shed after baby debuts.
Don’t even think about packing your running shoes in your labor bag. The truth is: Your body needs time to recover from the amazing task it just completed. You’ll want to wait at least six weeks (or longer if you underwent a C-section) and will need clearance from your healthcare provider before jumping into the workout ring. Once you’ve got the green light, start your engine. Although sleep deprivation and exhaustion can be a huge roadblock for weight loss in the first few months postpartum, Anderson encourages moms to hop to it. “You need to start [exercising] … you can’t use anything as an excuse,” she says.
Ease into it
There’s no magic button to make the pounds melt away, but there is a switch you can flip to get started. Everything in moderation is a good mantra to embrace. What took nine months to pack on is going to take some time to lose, so cut yourself a generous dose of slack. Anderson suggests starting with a walk or an at-home postpartum workout DVD, both of which will ensure you’re setting out at the right pace. After a few weeks, you should be able to resume your normal level of workout intensity.
Work with what you’ve got
It’s hard to find the time to exercise, but squeeze it in wherever you can. Try starting to move and groove when your baby wakes at 5 a.m.—you might find the early exercise helps keep your energy level up all day. Have a lunch break at work? Walk around the building for 30 minutes or up and down the stairs for 15 (which can burn nearly 200 calories!).
Mother nature knows a thing or two about helping moms get their bods back, and one of the greatest tools she gives us is the ability to nurse. According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, breastfeeding can eliminate weight retention by six months postpartum in many women. The reason: A nursing mom burns an extra 600 to 800 calories a day.
It’s hard to give up those root beer floats for platefuls of broccoli, but the best way to shed the pounds and to feel better all around is to adopt a healthy diet. Look for lean protein, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.
Get your Zs
Though there’s no way you’ll be able to get the recommended eight hours a night (at least not at first), you will still want to take every opportunity you can to catch your forty winks. Try to nap when your baby naps and ask your partner to take the Saturday morning shift so you can sleep in.
Bring your baby
Who needs the gym? You’ve just given birth to your own personal workout buddy. Use your little monkey as a weight while doing your lunges. Grab a pedometer and go on a stroll through the neighborhood. (Wear baby in a carrier to up the calorie-burning ante!) You might also consider enrolling in a mommy-and-me yoga class or joining a workout group with other moms. It doesn’t have to be a big to-do—even an at-home dance party with your baby to the beat of your favorite tunes will melt the pounds away. Whatever method you choose, know both you and baby will benefit from the primo bonding time.
“Don’t set expectations … every person is different and there are too many factors involved, such as nursing, type of delivery, stress levels and more,” says Anderson. “Be patient, consistent and make [fitness] a priority in your postpartum plan.” It can take anywhere from 10 months to a year to lose the weight accumulated during pregnancy, so go easy on yourself. Don’t give up if it takes time. You will get there and you can do it.