Best Baby Weight Busters
Try these four proven activities plus simple weight-loss tips to get your body back.
After giving birth to her second son just 17 months after her first one, Sarah Gifford of Portland, Ore., topped the scales at 165 pounds—far too much weight for her 5-foot frame. Gifford, 35, hadn’t lost the baby weight after her first pregnancy, but this time she was serious about slimming down. Seven weeks after her baby was born, clad in maternity shorts and her husband’s T-shirt, Gifford slowly ran a mile around the local track. Six months later, she could run up to nine miles—and she was 40 pounds lighter.
Move it to lose it
Many new moms find exercise the key to losing the baby weight, and studies support their experience. A 2007 Harvard University study of new moms found that women who walked 30 minutes each day had a 34 percent lower chance of retaining a significant amount of weight (defined as 11 pounds or more) at their baby’s first birthday. Research also shows that exercise helps new moms preserve muscle mass—and thus appear more toned—than moms who drop weight just by dieting.
Combine nutrition with exercise
Weight loss also hinges on smart food choices. In a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, Cheryl A. Lovelady, Ph.D., R.D., a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, followed 40 overweight breastfeeding moms starting at one-month postpartum. One group achieved a 500-calorie-a-day deficit by following a nutritious diet and doing moderate exercise, primarily walking. The other moms didn’t modify their eating habits or exercise. After four months, the diet-and-exercise group had lost 10 pounds; the other group had lost only 1 pound on average, and some had actually gained weight.
“The first six months are critical,” says Lovelady, who notes that while you can lose the baby weight after six months, your risk for obesity is higher the longer you wait. Lovelady also notes that exercise has other advantages, such as strengthening the heart and helping prevent type II diabetes. Not to mention the mental benefits: While Gifford is pleased with her weight loss, she says she now runs “as much for my sanity as for weight loss.”
Work the weight off
Losing those post-pregnancy pounds starts with simple baby steps. To get started, choose your favorite activity from the four below, or combine the four how-to moves shown—one from each activity—for a complete full-body workout. You can begin exercising six weeks after delivery (wait longer if you had a Cesarean section), but be sure to check with your doctor first.
Get Started: Try a Stroller Fit or Stroller Strides class. These outdoor classes mix toning exercises with walking or jogging, and moms exercise with their bambinos. Ready to run? Check out fitness writer (and mom) Sarah Bowen Shea’s blog, marathonmoms.blogspot.com.
How-To: Stand tall, keeping your abs in and shoulders back. Walk straight ahead as you strike the ground with your heel and roll through your foot. After a few weeks of regular walking (and with your doctor’s approval) incorporate running into your routine. Alternate between 1 minute each of fast-paced walking and light jogging. Cool down with a slow walk for 5 minutes, then stretch your legs and lower back for 5 minutes, breathing slowly.