Losing Weight Healthfully
The formula for weight loss is really pretty simple: to drop pounds, eat fewer calories and move your body more. But particularly during the postpartum months, it's very important that the calories you do eat are providing everything you need to recover and nourish yourself.
How Fast Will Weight Come Off?
When you give birth, you'll immediately drop around twenty pounds — anywhere from six to eight or more pounds for a healthy, full-term newborn, and another ten to fifteen or so when you consider your placenta and the fluids lost during and immediately after delivery. After that, you can expect to gain an extra pound or two when your milk comes in, but since you've still got some retained water to lose, and nursing burns, on average, 200 to 500 calories per day, you'll probably begin to drop more excess weight over the next few weeks. Most women lose the bulk in the first two weeks, and not much more from week two through six, though they notice a lot of changes in their bodies. At some point, that effortless weight loss will probably slow to a crawl, and you'll have to put in some extra effort to get back to your prepregnancy weight.
Don't Start Too Soon
Don't start the weight-loss process until your baby is at least two months old. In the first couple of months, you need to focus on healing your body, and that requires rest and good nutrition. If you're breastfeeding, it's even more important that you don't actively try to diet during this time. You need adequate nutrition to establish a good milk supply. Even if you aren't breastfeeding, you'll need as much energy as you can get to meet the demands of caring for a new baby, so eating enough good food is crucial to your health.
Take It Slow
You shouldn't lose more than 1 to 2 pounds per week, especially if you're breastfeeding. It's theorized that losing weight too quickly could release toxins from your body into your breastmilk, and rapidly dropping pounds can also affect your short- and long-term health, whether you're nursing or not.
And watch out for sudden drops in caloric intake — if you suddenly start eating a lot fewer calories, your milk supply, not to mention energy level, could suffer. Besides, suddenly eating less isn't an effective way to lose weight: your body will go into “starvation” mode, and your metabolism will slow down to hold on to the fat you've got.
Will breastfeeding make me lose weight faster?
Maybe. You'll burn extra calories simply by nursing, and many women find that fat just melts away while they're nursing. But some find that they have a harder time losing weight while nursing. This might be due to the body's desire to hold on to some extra padding for the future.
Even if you gained more weight than you would have liked during your pregnancy, don't rush yourself to take it off. A pound a week may not sound like fast enough weight loss to you, but that equals over twenty pounds in five months. Also, to lose just one pound a week, you need to burn off approximately 3,500 more calories than you take in — that's 500 calories a day, definitely enough to start with.
Avoid fad diets in the postpartum months. Experts agree that the reason most fad diets work is that in eating a specific way, you restrict calories. But when you follow fad diets, you may restrict a lot more than just calories — you may be robbing yourself of necessary nutrients like enough fat, protein, or certain vitamins. And after people go off the fad diet, the weight comes back.
Chances are, you've heard of, or maybe tried, a fad diet or two in the past. And if you're hoping to drop a lot of pregnancy weight quickly, it might seem tempting to try one again. But remember that losing weight too quickly isn't good for you. Also, eliminating entire food groups from your diet is never a healthy way to eat, and is least healthy now that your body really needs good nutrition to heal well and give you the energy you need.
Another option is to try a modified version of the fad diet. For instance, say you tend to pig out on chips, cookies, and crackers and think going on a low-carb diet will help you lose weight. But the problem, in this case, isn't that you're eating carbs; it's that you're eating unhealthy, processed carbs full of sugar and sodium. Instead of shunning certain types of food, find healthy varieties of your favorites and eat them in moderation.
Some diet plans, like Weight Watchers, have created special plans for nursing mothers. As long as you're eating a balanced diet, consuming enough calories, and losing no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week, these plans are fine and may even give you the tools and accountability you need to eat a consistently healthy diet.