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Expert Q&A: Losing the Baby Weight

An interview with Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD.

How long should it take to lose the baby weight?

Forget about dieting for at least six weeks postpartum and focus on eating a healthy diet.  Most women are sleep-deprived, tired, and lack the energy to exercise, prepare healthy meals, and do what it takes to lose weight.  

Losing the baby weight can take upwards of a year. Ideally, you should take the weight off gradually, aiming for 1-2 pounds per week.

What’s wrong with getting in shape right away like the celebrities?

I am not sure how they are losing the weight so quickly, and it may not be the safest way. More than likely, the financial resources of the celebrities enable them to hire help with the baby and personal trainers to get them back into shape quickly because looking good is their business. 

Restricting calories and going on a crash diet to fit into your jeans is not going to help.  Good nutrition is essential, as are sleep and physical activity -- but those issues are harder to control than diet when you have a newborn.  A healthy diet can help you overcome some of the fatigue associated with newborns.

Going on a low-calorie diet may help you get the weight off quickly, but it can lead to the loss of lean muscle tissue and zap your energy level.  Losing muscle mass lowers your calorie needs and can make it even harder to lose weight. New moms need diets that give them energy to cope with the demands of a newborn and any other children at home.

And, if you are a nursing mom, you can’t restrict calories - otherwise, it will affect the quality of your breast milk.

What is the best diet plan for losing the baby weight if you are not breastfeeding?

Calories count throughout pregnancy until the fourth trimester (or 3 months after giving birth), because your body needs good nutrition for the growth of the baby. Six weeks after the baby is born, you can start curbing a few hundred calories a day. Consult [the U.S. Department of Agriculture's web site] to determine the right number of calories for you, and shave up to 500 calories, making sure to get a minimum of 1,600 calories per day. Keep in mind: When you trim calories, it is important to make sure every calorie counts by eating a nutrient-rich diet. 

You need balanced meals at least 3-4 times a day for your stamina and energy.  Stock your kitchen with healthy foods so junk food, sweet temptations, and your trigger foods won’t derail your healthy diet.  Cut back on extra fats and oils, where calories can creep up.  Snack on fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and high-fiber foods that will help fill you up without filling you out. Drink plenty of water and nutritious beverages, but be careful of alcohol calories that can add up quickly.

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