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Weight Loss after Pregnancy - The Ultimate Weight Loss Guide

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

All pregnant women gain a considerable amount of body weight. However, there are significant individual differences, with some gaining just about 11-12 pounds, while others more than 40 pounds. What is worrisome is that women some women with higher BMI tend to gain much weight during pregnancy. It means that those living with obesity have a significant problem in reducing body weight post-pregnancy.

This weight gain occurs due to increased calorie intake, reduced physical activity, and also due to hormonal changes in the body.

How much do women lose weight after childbirth?

One of the good things is that women naturally lose considerable weight after pregnancy. For example, the normal weight of a baby is about 7 pounds. Thus, most women can expect to lose 10-11 pounds immediately after childbirth. This weight loss also occurs due to amniotic fluid, placenta, some blood, and other tissues. After childbirth, the body also reduces some of its fat stores, as they are not needed anymore. Further, sudden hormonal changes mean reduced water retention and thus weight loss. Additionally, breastfeeding is also an excellent way of promoting weight loss. It is because breastfeeding women lose 200-300 extra calories a day.

However, there are some challenges, too. Studies show that most women these days gain more body weight than recommended. It means that despite post-partum weight loss, they end up having greater body weight than before pregnancy. Not only that, there are other challenges involved in managing body weight in post-partum periods. For example, breastfeeding women cannot practice a restrictive diet as it may reduce milk production and even harm women's health. Thus, dieting is not an option for many women, and they need to consider other ways of weight loss. All this means that post-partum obesity is a significant issue. Moreover, a study in the US shows that it is a severe problem. For example, one of the most extensive studies to date shows that 75% of pregnant women remain 10 pounds or heavier after childbirth. Furthermore, a considerable number of them have 20 pounds or higher weight even after one year of childbirth, compared to their body weight before pregnancy. Studies show that although breastfeeding for six months or more may help reduce body weight, it may not help in many cases. Similarly, moderate exercise is another healthy way, but it is not as helpful as many believe.

How to lose body weight after pregnancy or when breastfeeding

There are many things that one can do, and there are a few things that one should not do for weight loss in the post-partum period. Knowing these things would help lose body weight in a safer way. Using wrong weight loss methods may even harm a child's health.

Avoid highly restrictive diets

It is rule number one. Do not experiment with various diets during this phase. One should avoid strict dieting, reducing calorie intake, or using less-safe diets like the keto diet. Following some severe restrictive diet may be bad for maternal and child health. It is vital to understand that although being overweight is not good, weight loss should not put one at risk. During the post-partum period, there is a need for many nutrients to boost healing and promote recovery. A restrictive diet may weaken the body and may even hurt emotional health. A low-calorie diet is generally low in vital nutrients, which would leave a person tired, and thus increase the risk of various emotional disorders. Moreover, it may also alter sleep patterns.

Breastfeeding is a good way of weight loss

Most global bodies like WHO, UNICEF, and other organizations strongly recommend breastfeeding a child for at least the first six months, and even for up to 2 years. Breastfeeding is the most effective and healthiest way of weight loss in post-partum periods. Additionally, one needs to understand that breast milk is the best source of nutrition. It supports immune health and helps lower the risk of various diseases. What is interesting is that breastfeeding is also highly beneficial for maternal health. It not only helps in weight loss but also reduces the risk of blood pressure, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and much more. As the experts say, women should understand that breastfeeding is an investment in health, and hence it should not be regarded as something optional.

Start counting calories

That may contradict the early statement about not practicing a restrictive diet, but it is not the case. It is vital to understand that calorie counting merely means eating healthy food and avoiding excessive calorie intake. One of the issues that women face in the post-partum phase is that they continue to consume higher calories, even when such an increase in calorie intake is not needed. There could be many ways of calorie counting like maintaining a diary, using a mobile app, taking personal pictures, and more. In addition, one can learn about the calorie content of various foods. The ultimate goal is to start eating foods low in calories and yet high in micronutrients.

Pay significant attention to higher dietary fiber consumption

Eating food high in dietary fiber could be one of the most effective and healthy ways of weight loss. Studies show that one does not need to increase dietary fiber consumption considerably. Even a little increase in dietary fiber intake may help greatly. For example, studies show that 4-5 grams of increase in dietary fiber may help lose a few kg of extra body weight in about six months. It is good to use dietary fiber for weight loss because it has no ill effect on women's health. Moreover, foods high in dietary fiber are naturally rich in micronutrients. Thus, eat more beans, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, berries, avocadoes, whole grains, dry fruits, and much more for weight loss. Some women have a problem with chronic constipation in post-partum periods. Such women are especially likely to benefit from increased dietary fiber intake in the post-partum period.

Eat more proteins

One of the healthiest weight loss ways is to moderately reduce the intake of carbs and consume fats as usual. However, considerably increase the intake of proteins. Proteins are building blocks of the body. Proteins are suitable for both maternal and child health. Thus, eat more lean meat like chicken, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds, dairy, and much more. Studies show that there are many ways in which high protein intake may help. For example, proteins are known to have a thermogenic effect, as they boost basal metabolic rate. It means that person can lose body weight even without exercise. Another way in which proteins help is due to their effect on satiety. This effect occurs in many ways. For example, proteins seem to alter hunger hormone levels; this hunger hormone is called ghrelin. It appears that proteins also have an impact on intestinal function and thus help control appetite.

Switch to healthy snacks

Dieting is never the right way of weight loss in the post-partum period. There are hundreds of foods that are high in nutrients and yet low in calories. So it is all about selecting the right kind of food and snacks. The only issue is that many high-calorie foods are also addictive. That is why people find it hard to reduce intake of high carb, high sugar, and high-fat foods from the diet. However, with some planning, one can make significant gains. Thus, choose foods like hummus, fruits, mixed nuts, and dried fruits, popcorn, string cheese, and similar other healthy snacks. Studies show that even the simplest measure of keeping fruits on the dining table or at a visible place may help reduce body weight.

Added sugars and refined carbs are a significant cause of obesity

There is no doubt that one of the most significant causes of weight gain is the high consumption of sugars and refined carbs. That is why diets that lower the intake of carbs work even without reducing total calorie intake. Refined carbs seem to lower metabolic rate. Additionally, they are readily stored in a white fat cell known to cause inflammation and metabolic disorders. It means that there is a complex underlying mechanism in which refined carbs contribute to the greater risk of obesity. It is worth understanding that refined carbs are not just about obesity. They increase the risk of heart disease, cancers, diabetes, and even dementia. One should make an effort to identify the sources of refined carbs in diet like sugary drinks, packed fruit juices, white flour, sweet spreads, cakes, biscuits, pastries, and so on. Here significant role is in changing buying habits. If such ultra-processed foods are brought home, they would be consumed by someone. Thus, the best way to eliminate from a regular diet is just to stop buying such foods.

Give up ultra-processed foods

Some researchers think that ultra-processed foods are perhaps the single most vital cause of obesity and metabolic disorders. If we look at the statistics, they are truly frightening. In Australia, adults are getting as many as 40% of their daily calories from ultra-processed foods. Here it is vital to understand that 40% is the national average for most of the western world. However, obese or overweight individuals get most of their calories from such foods. People prefer these foods as they are comfort foods. In addition, they are really easy to cook, or many of them do not require any preparation at all. Thus, chips, cookies, baked products, ready meals, processed cheese, prepacked foods, many frozen foods, sugary cereals are all examples of ultra-processed foods.

Start moving

Dietary measures are good, but exercise is essential to any weight loss program. Moreover, pregnancy and childbirth result in the weakening of certain muscle groups. One should start with cardiorespiratory workouts like cycling, brisk walking, jogging, and even running. All these methods help burn calories efficiently. Moreover, aerobic training considerably reduced the risk of metabolic disorders, heart disease, and even respiratory disorders. Diet is quite an effective way of weight loss, but when breastfeeding, cutting down calories significantly is not an option, and thus exercise can almost double the weight loss in any given time. Additionally, women need to strengthen low back muscles, lower abdomen, and pelvic muscles after childbirth. However, women who had cesarean delivery should only start exercising after consulting a doctor. It is vital to understand after how long women can start exercising depending on the mode of childbirth. If it was a normal and healthy delivery, one might start exercising safely after a month. However, in cesarian, one cannot exercise for at least three or more months.

Train to gain muscle mass Women often tend to neglect resistance training in the post-partum phase. However, it is worth understanding the benefit of aerobic training is much higher when combined with resistance training. There are many ways in which resistance training help. For example, resistance training can considerably increase resting metabolic rate. However, the more important factor is that greater muscle mass means higher energy expenditure during aerobic training. As a result, many obese individuals fail to lose body weight even on extensive training, as their muscle mass is just too low, and they burn very few calories in an exercise session.

Drink more water

One should stay hydrated for weight loss. Most adults require about one and a half liters of water a day. However, increasing this to two liters a day may considerably help the weight loss journey. Drinking water helps increase the feeling of fullness and also boost metabolic rate.

Get enough sleep

Weight loss is important, but mental wellbeing is even more important. Moreover, sleeping adequately also helps prevent binge eating. Sleep is also good for reducing stress, boosting regenerative processes in the body, and normalizing various hormones' levels. For example, both exercise and adequate sleep help boost growth hormone levels.

To conclude,

Women need to pay particular attention to weight loss in the post-partum period, as studies show that most women struggle to lose extra pounds gained during pregnancy. In the post-partum period and while breastfeeding, a highly restrictive diet is not an option. Thus one should use other measures that are healthier and yet help lose body weight.



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