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8 Tips for Losing Weight After Pregnancy

Load Up on 'Super Foods', Find Time to Exercise, Consider Breastfeeding to Help Shed Excess Pounds

Load up on "super foods."

When you're a new mother, your body needs maximum nutrition, especially if you're nursing. Choose foods that are heavy in the nutrients you need and light in calories and fat.

Fish is one of these "super foods" because it's packed with DHA, an essential omega-3 fatty acid that helps your newborn develop a healthy brain and nervous system. The best sources of DHA are cold-water fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna (stick to canned light tuna because albacore tends to be high in mercury).

Milk and yogurt are also super foods because they're high in the calcium you need to keep your bones strong. And don't forget the protein. Lean meat, chicken, and beans are low in fat and high in protein and fiber. They're good for you, and they'll keep you feeling full for longer.

Breastfeed.

Whether breastfeeding can actually help you lose weight is still up in the air -- some studies find that breastfeeding exclusively can help you return to your pre-baby weight faster, while others find no difference in weight loss between women who breastfeed and those who bottle feed.

What is for sure is that breastfeeding is good for your baby, boosting immunity and providing a number of other important health benefits. And nursing exclusively lets you add about an extra 300 calories a day to your diet (you can add slightly more calories if you have a really big eater or twins). Just make sure that if you do breastfeed, you don't use it as an excuse to eat whatever you want.

Drink up.

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day prevents you from getting dehydrated. It also fills you up so that you don't eat as much, and some research has found that it may speed up your metabolism.

Whether you need the often-recommended eight glasses a day isn't certain, so Johnson recommends using the color of your urine and how often you need to go to the bathroom as guides. If you're drinking enough fluids, your urine should be relatively clear, and you should be going to the bathroom about every three to four hours.

Move it!

Diet is important, but it's only one part of your post-pregnancy weight loss plan. You also need to incorporate aerobic and strength training exercises after pregnancy to burn calories and keep your muscles and bones strong. "Exercise, beyond helping you lose weight, provides so many benefits to a new mom," Johnson says. "It helps with depression, it helps with the sleep issue ... it helps in relieving stress -- and having a new baby in the house can definitely be stressful."

You don't have to hit the gym to get back in shape after pregnancy -- taking a brisk walk with your baby in the stroller is enough to get your heart pumping and muscles working. "You want to shoot for at least 150 minutes a week," says James M. Pivarnik, PhD, FACSM, professor of kinesiology and epidemiology at Michigan State University and president-elect of the American College of Sports Medicine. With a new baby, finding 30 minutes in a row might be impossible, so Pivarnik suggests breaking up the time into 10-minute increments. Then try to work your way up to 20- or 30-minute sessions.

Lugging around a baby all day is itself a workout, but you still need to add some strength training. Use light weights -- or even a couple of soup cans -- as resistance. Many health clubs and community centers offer "mommy and me" classes that will let you incorporate your baby into your workout routine. But before you start any exercise program, get your doctor's approval, especially if you had a C-section.

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