I have given birth to and breastfed four babies now, and up until the last baby, thought I could not lose a pound while nursing. And although it was definitely still a struggle and a lot of trial and error, I did manage to figure out how to do it. What I thought was impossible was just a matter of tweaking a few things.
6 months ago I opened up my Fit After Pregnancy Coaching Program to women who have had their babies. As I’ve written about, it can be extra challenging to drop the weight of pregnancy while breastfeeding. Here are the four most common problems my clients were having before coming to me for help, and how we have worked together to overcome them.
Cutting massive calories will not work during this time. Your breastfeeding body loves fat, and if it thinks there is no fuel coming in, it won’t let go of the fat reserves. You must eat enough calories to let your body relax and let go of the additional fat stores, but also eat less than your maintenance or weight gain range. With my coaching clients, I call this the “sweet spot”. And while every single one of my clients initially came to me saying “I can’t lose fat while breastfeeding”, they are all now in that range and losing 1-2 pounds a week. Take a look at the progress of one of my clients below, currently on my meal plan program and eating close to 2000 calories a day:
Many of my clients have ended up needing an INCREASE in calories before they began to drop the weight.
Along the lines of not eating enough calories, another reason women fail to make any progress while nursing is they become too restrictive. They cut carbs out, or give up all sweets, or force feed themselves bland, boring foods that they think they have to eat to lose weight. This is just simply unnecessary. I make sure that my clients’ meal plans are also full of delicious foods that they enjoy. In fact, I give them each 200-300 calories per day to eat whatever they want. Why does this work? Because it eliminates the number one obstacle to long-term adherence: the restrict/binge cycle. There is no willpower being worn down on a day to day basis. They are eating 80-90% whole, healthy foods, but it’s recipes they love (and they often tell me their spouse and kids end up loving them too!). They never have to eat an entire bag of chocolate because they don’t feel like it’s going to be the last time they ever get to eat chocolate.
Don’t listen to all the BS out there about certain foods being the devil. That’s not real life. Just find the right balance of whole foods and fun foods, eat within that sweet spot, and you’ll make progress towards your goals.
Forget long, grueling workouts. It won’t happen in the first year, especially if you’re working around your baby’s sometimes non-existent schedule. I give my clients short, intense 20-30 minute workouts that are efficient and put the body into a fat-burning mode day and night. Not only does this help with their breastfeeding hormones situation, but it’s much easier to fit in to the life of a new mom.
Exercising with a new baby is not easy. Exercising with a new baby, older siblings, and maybe even a full-time job can feel impossible. Exercising to lose weight with all of the above pressures sitting on your shoulders? It’s just not gonna happen.
You cannot go into an exercise program postpartum with the mentality that you’re going to exercise the extra weight off. You’ll lose patience before you see any results because it takes time, longer than your willpower will last.
Exercise for the enjoyment, for the endorphins, for the energy. Associate those good feelings with the choice to exercise each day. Endorphins are instant gratification, and that will keep you going.
None of the above matters if you don’t get your mind right. Your thoughts are incredibly powerful, and your choices will reflect what your mind believes. If your thoughts are negative, self-abusive, and berating, you will make subtle choices that reflect those thoughts. Adversely, if your thoughts are positive, accepting, and patient, your choices and behaviors will also begin to reflect this. What most women think is that they will diet and exercise down to a body they like, and THEN self-acceptance will come. But this is backwards! This is why my coaching program includes weekly mindset lessons where we work on body image, self-talk, and belief systems. You won’t want to take care of yourself if you don’t like yourself. You might temporarily be able to out-exercise and under-eat your way to a body you’re happier with, but it won’t last and you’ll be miserable along the way. I teach my clients to eat not only for pleasure but for health, to exercise not only for joy but for stress relief, and to learn to listen to their bodies. The bonus to learning and practicing this self-care and self-acceptance? A quiet, peaceful mind AND your best body.