The Four Fundamentals of Weight Loss after Pregnancy
By Sonia Jhas
I get tons of questions online about postpartum weight loss: How to lose belly fat after having a baby? What kind of post-pregnancy diet will help with extreme weight loss? How to reduce weight after delivery? and How to achieve rapid muscle definition? are questions a lot of mothers shout-out with. While my answers to all of these questions vary, at the core of it, I always say the same thing:
You can’t quick-fix your way to a “fit” body – not pre-baby and not post-baby!
Sure, there are some things you can do to speed up your weight-loss progress, but if you’re not getting the fundamentals right, it doesn’t really matter what else you do! So, let me break down these basics of weight loss after pregnancy (or any weight loss) into two do’s and two don’ts.
The four fundamentals to losing weight after pregnancy
Know your daily caloric requirement
Calories provide your body with energy, and depending on your height and weight, you either need more or less of them to give your body the right amount of fuel. Eat too many, and your body will store the extra calories as fat. (Yikes!) Eat less than you need, and your body will rely on it’s own energy stores to make up the difference. The net? You lose weight. (Hooray!)
Now while it isn’t exactly this black and white, let’s be clear: Calories play a huge role in determining if you’re going to gain or lose weight, and playing the “guessing game” to track whether you’re eating more or less than you need will not only drive you nuts, but it will also ensure you fail to achieve the long-term results you’re after.
So, here’s step 1: Use an online calorie calculator to determine your daily caloric requirement. Step 2? Stop guessing, and start actually tracking your data. There are tons of calorie calculators online and in apps. It may seem daunting to have to crunch some numbers, but it becomes second nature pretty quickly to track your intake on a daily basis until you get good at eyeballing how many calories are in your meals. Again, it doesn’t have to be an exact calculation, you just want to know if you’re within the appropriate range.
Drink 2-3 litres of water a day
I have a love / hate relationship with this principle because, on one hand, I know just how important and valuable water is to the body. (Yes! Drink up!) But on the other hand, I actually don’t like drinking water because of this one, sad reality: Water will never taste like Coke Zero.
But this is also the reality: Water really is integral to any kind of “get fit” journey. We all know that roughly 70% of the body is made up of water. But did you know that…
- Bone consists of 22% water
- Muscle consists of 75% water
- Blood consists of 83% water
- The brain consists of 85% water
It’s no wonder that water helps with metabolic function, nutrient digestion, the removal of toxins, and — best of all — helps you feel satiated. We’re literally made up of it!
So, if you’re feeling sluggish despite getting good sleep, if you’re not seeing the fat loss you’d expect despite paying close attention to your diet, or if you’re simply finding that your mouth is dry more often than not, toss out your Coke Zero and drink some water! Make a commitment to drink an extra 500 mL a day and take it from there. Yes, the peeing will drive you nuts for a while but stay strong, it will pass! (Pun intended.)
Don’t rely on cardio
Have you ever thought or uttered the phrase, “I’ll shed the fat first and then I’ll focus on building muscle”? There’s no polite way to say this, so I’ll just say it: You’re doing it wrong!
Muscle directly effects your metabolism, and your metabolism directly effects how rapidly you can lose weight. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism will be, which means that you will lose weight must faster than someone with a slower metabolism! So, while I know all of the other articles out there advise cardio for fat loss, I’m clearing up that myth here: Cardio is, in fact, less effective than resistance training at weight loss, postpartum or otherwise.
Look around you, and you’ll see it play out clearly: Have you ever noticed how men seem to be able to drop weight faster than you? (Unfair!) Even when you are doing the same workouts as them, eating less and doing more cardio? The reason is men carry more muscle naturally, thanks to testosterone, which gives them a leg up in the weight loss department.
Bottom line: If you want to become strong, see your body change and still be able to eat while dropping fat, then resistance training should be your major priority! It will increase your metabolism, shape your body, reduce insulin sensitivity, and burn more total calories over time. Lift. Those. Weights.
Don’t expect 100% compliance – treat yo’self!
This is one of my favourite rules for weight loss, because I love vanilla cake, and stale gummy candy, and Chinese food, and Italian food, and muffins. (Oh god, I love muffins, and you better believe I eat them!) Look, unless you’re going to be competing as a bikini model in the next few weeks, you really don’t need to take the all-or-nothing approach with your diet. I made this mistake for years, and let me tell you, I was miserable. I also failed to achieve the results I was after.
Here’s what I now recommend: Organize your week around designated treat meals so that you don’t go insane and fall off the wagon. For 80% of the week, strive to eat clean, manage your calories, and eat for sustenance rather than for pleasure. For the other 20% of the week, indulge (in moderation)! And when you indulge, enjoy it to the fullest. No mind-chatter, no guilt, no overthinking, no buyers’ remorse. Why? Because you know it’s part of your plan and that you’re not somehow sabotaging your efforts or getting ‘carried away.’ Trust me, it’s this 20% that will keep you on track long enough to see your weight loss efforts pay off.
These rules might seem pretty elementary, but that’s really the point. Until you get a handle on the basics, you aren’t going to see the fat loss you’re looking for! You’ll just be swimming upstream. But once you reorient around these fundamentals, all of your effort really will be going toward achieving your weight loss goals.