I often hesitate to discuss weight loss with new moms because it shouldn’t be your first priority. Your recovery and caring for baby are. However, often times hanging on to the excess weight can make you feel more tired, make physical activity less desirable, and you may hear a nagging voice every time you get dressed. So although not a priority, weight loss is worth addressing.
It’s important to point out that weight loss requires caloric deficit, meaning more calories out than in. Ideally this is accomplished through a combination of what and how much you’re eating, and how much you’re moving each day. Most dietitians don’t recommend restricting calories while still healing and/or establishing breastfeeding. I agree that trying to lose weight too soon can do more harm than good. So before you embark on weight loss efforts, check out my guide on when you should begin to think about weight loss.
OK….now to the good stuff. There are thousands of articles, books, and methods when it comes to nutrition. I reached out to two fellow mamas and registered dietitians/nutritionists (Beth Auguste of Be Well with Beth and Jennifer of Jennifer Weis Nutrition Consulting) to help you with your approach. Here is a simplified version of their top nutrition strategies for weight loss:
No cleanses or elimination diets. This includes carbs! Jennifer believes that unless there is a medical reason, elimination diets typically don’t work, “this tends to backfire or, at best, works for a while and once normal eating habits resume, the weight returns.” Instead she says, “when making meals, include a healthful carbohydrate, a protein source and some fat to help you feel full longer and slow the rate of digestion.” This combination also helps regulate your blood sugar which plays a role in energy for exercise, mood and cravings. Beth Auguste, registered dietician/nutritionist, is on the same page and goes a step further to suggest, “instead of an elimination diet, focus on adding more fruit and vegetables. The vitamins, minerals and micronutrients will help your liver do its job better [than a cleanse].” She says to aim for 11 servings per day as suggested by the DASH diet.
Hydrate! I love that Beth recommends using water as a “pause button” when you feel snacking getting out of control. “I've seen so many clients achieve fantastic results once they begin to hydrate. Benefits of hydration include, better energy, clear mind, less headaches, better mood, better body temperature control, better appetite control, and clear skin,” explains Beth.
Keep healthy snacks and easy meals on hand. Jennifer knows time is precious for new moms and suggests keeping easy snacks handy so that you’re not reaching for high calorie convenience snacks. Her suggestions include keeping things like greek yogurt and fruit, bowl of ingredients for quesadillas, smoothie bags (in the freezer), or premade nut butter sandwiches in the refrigerator ready to go.
Lastly, I asked them how they felt about “eating in moderation” as it relates to weight loss. I tend to follow the rule that everything can be a part of a healthy diet as long as the majority of the foods you eat are good for you. I don’t like to feel guilty when I eat something not so healthy, so this approach works well for me to maintain a healthy weight without feeling deprived. But my question to the experts was: does moderation work for weight loss? Here’s what they said...
Jennifer is a big fan of moderation as she thinks strict diets are not a long term solution. She shares, “ looking at a food plan through the lens of what you CAN eat rather than what you can’t eat is better overall. Morale during planning and meal times is higher, foods don’t get a good vs bad distinction and, more importantly, all foods can fit into a healthful eating plan anyway. Unless certain foods are avoided due to a medical reason or personal preference, an inclusive eating pattern decreases chances of excessive intake of a “forbidden” food at some point and associated feelings of shame.”
Beth also believes, “To successfully maintain weight loss you must do all of the things that you did while you were losing the weight. So if you ever plan to have alcohol again or be a little bit loose with your diet, you should incorporate these things in to your weight loss plan. I like the 80/20 rule because it allows you to eat "perfectly" 80% of the time, and this will get you results!”
So for those of you ready to incorporate nutrition strategies into your weight loss plan: begin with hydration, 80/20 rule applies to weight loss and maintenance, keep healthy snacks available, and avoid elimination diets. If you need some additional support, reach out to Beth or Jennifer for guidance. I’ll provide you with some exercise strategies in my next post. Stay tuned!