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Name a movie star, model or neighbor who looks fantastic and who is also a new mom. Got someone in mind? Well, there you have it: proof-positive that getting back in shape after having a baby is possible. With a little healthy know-how, there’s no physical reason why you can’t have a great postpartum body — even a flat belly. In this special section, we’ll give you a progressive workout to get your body, especially your abdominal muscles, looking better than ever. We’ll also provide tips on changing your eating habits to meet your postpartum weight goals. And we’ll answer your most pressing questions about sex, exercise and weight loss, and whether breastfeeding really helps those pounds come off.
(Q) What should I do food-wise to lose my postpregnancy pounds?
(A) The “secret” formula is decidedly un-sexy, but it works: Eat well-balanced meals of protein, carbohydrates and little saturated fat. Aim to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products. Cut back on sweets, salty snacks and large amounts of cheeses and fat-marbled meats. Instead of high-calorie dressings, try vinaigrette made with a little olive oil; for creamy pasta sauces, substitute tomato-based sauces.
This sensible approach is the best way to permanently shed pounds and helps you to have optimal energy for taking care of your new baby, notes Megan A. McCrory, Ph.D., research scientist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.
(Q)Does breastfeeding help melt away pregnancy pounds?
(A) Not necessarily. In a recent study of 236 women, those who breastfed exclusively or partially for approximately nine months lost weight at the same rate as those who bottle-fed. However, don’t let this news discourage you from nursing, which has many medically proven benefits for mother and baby. “Instead, it should help you have realistic expectations about what breastfeeding can do for weight loss,” says the study’s lead researcher, Laura N. Haiek, M.D., M.Sc., assistant professor of family medicine at McGill University in Montreal.
(Q)Can I diet if I’m nursing?
(A) Yes — as long as you stick to a balanced diet and wait at least a month after you deliver to alter your eating habits. But don’t reduce your calorie intake to below 1,800 calories a day, says McCrory, adding that combining dieting and exercise is recommended over dieting alone.