The journey of pregnancy is a beautiful one. It is an experience that brings much joy and fulfilment to many women.
It is a time to be cherished and enjoyed. But it comes at a price… Being pregnant is hard on the body. Essentially, a woman’s body must take care of itself as well as nurture and grow another human being.
During a healthy pregnancy, women should gain an average of 12-15 extra kilograms
This weight includes the placenta (which keeps the baby nourished), the amniotic fluid, an increase in the muscle layer of your uterus, an increase in blood volume, an increase in breast weight and around four kilograms of stored fat which gives you energy for breast feeding. And don’t forget the actual weight of the baby which can be anything up to around 3.3 kilograms.
Once the baby is born, women often struggle with losing the excess weight that they have gained over the previous nine months.
Here are five healthy ways to get rid of the ‘post-baby belly':
1. Start eating “for one” again
During pregnancy, women only need between 350 and 450 extra (healthy!) calories per day to provide the nutritional and energy needs for their growing foetus.
Pregnant women sometimes overeat during pregnancy because they believe that they are ‘eating for two’. While this is technically true, they often don’t acknowledge that the second of the ‘two’ is much, much smaller than they are – and requires far fewer calories. You are not eating for two, you are actually eating for about 1.2.
Once the baby is born, your portion sizes must return to normal. Don’t keep ‘eating for two’ out of habit.
An average woman who is moderately active needs around 2 000 calories per day. Ask your doctor what a healthy calorie intake is for a person of your height, weight and age.
Remember, if you are breastfeeding, you will need to take in extra calories to sustain healthy milk production.
2. Curb the cravings
Pregnancy cravings are powerful – and they are often your body’s way of telling you what nutrition you need. But correctly interpreting your cravings before and after pregnancy is important.
We all have days where we just crave certain foods – like when we desperately want a taste of chocolate. Craving chocolate is usually your body’s way of telling you it needs sugar. But a Bar One is not the best place to get it – rather try a juicy apple or ripe banana.
While you are pregnant, submitting to your cravings may be okay once in a while. However, once your baby is born you need to go back to dealing with your cravings as you did before your pregnancy.
The danger here is that in the previous nine months, giving-in to cravings has become a habit and now post-baby when you ‘feel-like’ eating something you continue to treat it as a pregnancy craving. You have to consciously learn to break this habit.
3. Have an eating routine
You will find that you and your baby settle into a regular routine fairly quickly in terms of their sleep cycle and feeding times. Take advantage of this cycle to develop your own eating routine to help you monitor your calorie intake. You need to sustain yourself and have energy to tackle the task of being the world’s best mommy.
There are no rules about how many meals you have to eat per day. You DO NOT have to eat six meals per day. You don’t even need to eat three. Try to divide up your total meals over the day into regular snacks that you can fit into your routine with your baby. Eat something when the baby is not the primary focus of your attention – like during nap time.
Having a routine for meal times helps ensure you get regular energy boosts throughout the day so that you don’t end up having to cram in some fast-food calories when you have an energy dip because you forgot to eat.
4. Eat a baby-friendly balanced diet
It’s all about balance. Make sure that your diet contains all of the major food groups, but avoid these specific foods which might irritate your baby and affect your breast-milk supply and taste: coffee (try decaf or chicory as alternatives), chocolate, citrus fruits, broccoli, spicy foods, fish. Try to moderate alcohol consumption – a glass of wine with dinner is fine though.
You may also have to experiment with things like wheat, corn and dairy as some babies are intolerant of these from birth. If your diet contains one of these and your baby has an upset tummy or comes out in a rash, try eliminating one or all of these and then add them back one at a time.
Apart from the above, try to eat a healthy balanced diet. This means veggies, fruits, meat, and starch. Stay well hydrated. And above all, follow the Golden Rule: If something makes you feel bad, don’t eat it.
You can lose the baby-weight with nutrition alone, but exercise can help tone those areas that need a little extra lift. Exercises doesn’t need to be intense to be beneficial.
If you’re on maternity leave, getting outdoors will rejuvenate you and can help you avoid getting ‘cabin-fever’ from being at home all the time.
Take your baby out for a brisk walk in the fresh air. Start with twenty minutes three to five times per week, and increase the time by five minutes each week. Once you get to forty minutes, start at twenty minutes again but jog for half the total time.
For extra tone in your thighs, do some air squats and try some women’s push ups to tone the arms before you leave for the walk. Take note of the number of squats and push ups you do, and try to beat your best effort every week.
What can you do right now?
Whether it’s been a few days, weeks, months or years since you had your baby ATW Nutrition Coaching can help you get back to your pre-baby body. Head over to www.atwnutrition.com and sign up for a coaching package and let us help you achieve your best body and health.