Dietitians Dish: Get back to prepregnancy weight
Pregnancy is undoubtedly one of the most unique and beautiful gifts of life that a woman can experience. For nine months, your body goes through many physical changes, adapting itself in a perfect way to protect and nurture your baby until he or she is ready to greet the family and the world.
Typically during this time, you may gain between 25 to 35 pounds or more or less. Some of this counts as your baby's weight, and the rest will be distributed to your breast tissue, amniotic fluids, placenta, muscle tissue and body fat.
Therefore, once you have your bundle of joy, it is important to make a plan to return to your prepregnancy weight by six months after delivery. Maintaining a healthy weight decreases your risk of developing health complications such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
First, you should wait until the six-week checkup and discuss with your doctor if you are ready to resume your typical prepregnancy activities. At this visit, you need to discuss recommendations on diet and exercise that will help you shed all those extra pounds gained during pregnancy. You may also want to meet with a registered dietitian, as he or she can guide you to achieve your weight-loss goals.
Research confirms that a healthy diet with daily physical activity promotes weight loss and improves emotional well-being. It is recommended to aim for a weight loss of one to two pounds per week.
To achieve this, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, you may decrease the caloric intake but to no less than 1,800 calories a day; and, increase physical activity such as aerobic exercise to 30-60 minutes a day most days of the week.
Skipping meals or not eating enough are bad strategies as you will feel more tired with less energy and you will end up consuming high-calorie foods. Instead, you should eat five to six small meals a day that are healthy and well balanced.
That means that you need to consume foods from all five groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, milk and protein. Eat foods high in fiber such as vegetables and whole grain cereals. Fiber makes you feel full and helps with weight management.
Choose lean meats such as poultry, fish, sirloin and pork chops with the fat trimmed. Watch your meal portion size and limit simple carbohydrates such bakery products, sweets and juices. Choose foods that are steamed or baked and avoid fried or fast foods. Make sure you drink eight cups of liquids a day, most being water as it helps flush out the extra body fat you are losing.
If you are a breast-feeding mother, know that a gradual and moderate weight reduction is safe and does not compromise breast milk production. Research shows that women who choose to breast-feed for at least six months tend to lose weight much easier when combined with a healthy diet and exercise. However, consider feeding your baby before exercising to avoid the discomfort of engorged breasts.
Following these basic but essential nutrition recommendations will set you on the right path to reclaim your pre-pregnancy body weight. However, do not forget to set realistic goals as pregnancy may cause changes in the body that stay even after having your baby such as wider hips or a larger waistline.
Nonetheless, losing the pregnancy pounds will benefit your physical and emotional health, allowing you to be the best mother that you can be for your family.
Iustina Iznaola recently graduated from University of Texas-San Antonio, Health Science Center with her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and completed her dietetic internship.