How can I regain my prebaby figure?

Weight gain in pregnancy is normal and necessary . At 40 weeks gestation [i.e. ‘term’] 40% of this weight is made up of products of conception, in other words the placenta and amniotic fluid, as well as the baby itself.

What should you gain? [all these figures are approximate]

Up to 16 weeks….  0.36 kg/wk

17-26 weeks…       0.45 kg/wk

27-40 weeks…..   +/-0.4 kg/wk

Or more simply, 12.5kg for the whole pregnancy, of which 9 kg is in the second half.

If you were overweight before conceiving then you can afford to gain less, as follows:

BMI:        Total gain 1st trimester weekly      2nd and 3rd trimesters weekly

25-29        7-11.5kg 0.9kg                                    0.3kg

29+           7kg

So even if you were very overweight, it is necessary to gain at least 7kg; weight gain of less than 7kg in total leads to increased perinatal mortality, and an increased risk of various abnormalities.

After delivery you should automatically lose 5kg, followed by a further 2-4kg of fluid in the next week or 2. This gives you the idea that the body has considerable adjustments to make after carrying and delivering an infant, and this takes time. If you are breast feeding, [which I hope you will try to do!], further changes are happening in your body, and while breastfeeding itself is a wonderful way to help regain that prepregnancy shape, weight loss must be taken slowly, for otherwise your milk will dry up.

As with any physical challenge to the body, be it pregnancy or illness, it is wise to allow at least 6 weeks for things to settle down before attempting serious weight loss. This is because even a normal delivery is a stress on your body, and all stress results in extra cortisol output by the adrenal glands. This cortisol causes the body to ‘hang on’ to its fat in case of emergency, and so attempts at weight loss in this period lead the body to assume that there is famine, slowing the metabolism to save energy, and sabotaging your best efforts. We cannot argue with nature!

Having a new baby has many challenges, and your life will never be quite the same again. For the 1st weeks you will often suffer from lack of sleep, and find that baby takes all your time and energy, so that you have no time to sleep, eat or exercise. Sleep when baby sleeps, and try to make time to eat, don’t skip meals, as this will not help with weight loss, but simply again suggests to the body that it should go into starvation mode. If you are able, take a walk with baby in a pram, or as he grows a little older perhaps in a carrier; it will do you both good. Perhaps you know of other mums in your area with whom you can team up for walks, or simply to enjoy a healthy meal together, and support each other while regaining your figures.

When you do eat, ensure it is healthy! If you are finding that you are eating on the run, stock up with healthy snacks, especially breakfast, and don’t even purchase refined starchy foods such as sweets, biscuits and cakes. Learn to snack healthily, -with cheese or biltong and fruit for example. If you are looking for a safe and successful eating plan, the SureSlim plan has a breast feeding program as well as catering for many other specific needs. There you will see that you are encouraged to eat 3 times a day, and you will have a consultant to help with suggestions of how to cope.

Drink plenty of water. Again if breastfeeding your fluid requirements are increased, and so often we mistake thirst for hunger. Aim for a minimum of 2 l daily, preferably more, and please, please no’ gas cool drinks’ [sodas] or fruit juices. They are laden with sugar and so bad for you! If you want fruit juice please dilute in the way you would Oros. This applies even more so to children whose teeth are severely affected by all the sugar in these unnecessary drinks. Alcohol is unwise when breast feeding, and as in any other situation, will slow your weight loss by not only providing empty energy, but also playing havoc with your blood sugar!

If you find yourself eating because it makes you feel better, or you are feeling in any way depressed, please go and get help from your local clinic, doctor or community centre. Baby blues are very common, and nothing to hide or be ashamed of, and the sooner you are treated the better- for all in the family.

Be realistic in your expectations. Life has changed, hopefully for the better, and your body has also changed. Perhaps you will never have quite such a flat tummy again, but look what you have instead! You can and will look fabulous again, but now there is an extra Very Important Person demanding your attention [apart from Husband, who also plays a part in all this!]

Remember that just because you haven’t yet reached your prepregnancy weight yet doesn't mean you can't look fabulous. Try a new hairstyle, or new makeup, and if your skinny clothes are still too skinny, buy a couple of fun things that you'll enjoy wearing as you make progress towards losing your baby weight after pregnancy.

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