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Say no to empty-calorie foods like sodas and chips, as well as fad diets that eliminate entire food groups. Instead, fill your diet with a variety of nutrient-rich meals containing lean protein, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and plenty of low-fat dairy products, says Tammy Baker, M.S., R.D., a Phoenix-based dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
Experts advise against going on a diet right after giving birth. “To get your body back, you have to think health first,” Baker says. “Your body is working to repair itself.”
And try to spread out all those fresh vittles. Eating small, frequent meals throughout the day will keep your blood- sugar levels steady and help prevent you from overeating, Baker says. Keep in mind that if your calories are distributed throughout the day, they’re metabolized more efficiently and are less likely to be stored as fat.
And watch the juices. All the vitamin C you need for one day is in a small glass of orange juice. Any more than that and you’ll be drinking unnecessary calories.
“Getting plenty of sleep has been shown to help with weight loss because you’re not compelled to binge on high-calorie, high-sugar foods for energy,” says Sheah Rarback, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition at the Mailman Center for Child Development at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Strange sleep cycles like those forced on you by a newborn can upset your metabolism and make it harder for you to lose your pregnancy weight, Rarback says. Take a nap anytime the baby does, housework be damned. That way, you won’t end up with a long-term sleep deficit, and you’ll keep your energy levels and your potentially naughty cravings in check.
Whatever you do, don’t sacrifice sleep for exercise time in those early weeks. If you don’t sleep enough, you won’t have enough energy for satisfying workouts, anyway.
Eating too much sugar can send your blood-sugar levels on a roller-coaster ride. And when your blood sugar drops, you’re more likely to eat the first thing you can get your hands on. So skip the sugary treats. To avoid temptation, keep only nutritious foods at your fingertips. And stock up on low-fat milk and yogurt for snacks, as studies have shown that calcium from milk and yogurt actually can aid weight loss by blocking a hormone that allows the body to store fat.
Also, eat high-fiber snacks like figs and raisins or whole-wheat crackers with veggies, suggests Rarback. They can fill you up and help with digestion and regularity.
It can be helpful to connect with other moms for regular exercise. Carolyn Pione of Baton Rouge, La., just didn’t feel she had the energy or the time to exercise after she had her baby in 1999. Then, some pals who had formed an early-morning running group showed up on her doorstep urging her to join.
At first Pione, who had gained 38 pounds during her pregnancy, couldn’t keep up. But before long she felt compelled to catch up, and besides, she didn’t want to miss out on the friendly conversation. She lost all of her baby weight and now runs in 5k’s, something she never would have worked up to without the help of the group. “Alone, it would have been impossible,” she says.