Whatever size you were before getting pregnant, chances are, you’ll inevitably worry about your post-baby body and yearn to reclaim your pre-baby figure after the initial excitement of being a new mum has died down.
Unfortunately, motherhood and everything that comes with it can conspire against you. Personal trainer Matt Roberts agrees that it’s normal to face several stumbling blocks when you first decide to get back in shape. “The first few months after childbirth are very demanding and it’s hard to find time to exercise.”
Sleep deprivation will also make you crave sugary foods and refined carbohydrates to prop up your energy levels. If you’re determined to drop the pounds, you must first be honest about your eating patterns and tipping points before you can find the right solution, and get into the right mindset.
First, identify what your diet demons are, match them to the right solutions and turn your flab to fab. And bring out those slim-cut jeans — nothing like keeping your eye on the prize to spur you!
The constant grazer
When you’re exhausted, your resolve flies out of the window. You give your munchkin a nutritious bowl of baby cereal with fresh berries, while you reach for a bar of chocolate to keep your energy levels up. And you squeeze in quick meals when bubba is napping. Sound familiar? Nutritionist Amanda Ursell notes that many women become “people pleasers” — choosing to put everyone else first — in an attempt to be the perfect mum, wife or employee. So from now, when you make breakfast for your little one, make some for yourself and eat it with her.
Your weight-loss solution: Eat 5 meals a day
✔ Do it right: “Eat little and often, but not in the way you have been doing,” suggests personal trainer James Duigan. Just because you don’t have time to prepare meals doesn’t mean the meals you do eat have to be pre-packed. Have five smaller, healthier meals, including smoothies. “It hardly takes any time to whip up two handfuls of berries with 100ml natural yoghurt, 100ml rice milk and cinnamon,” Duigan adds.
✔ Secret success tip: Nutritionist Amanda Ursell advises, “Keep healthy snacks with you at all times.” Nuts, bananas and apples are good options.
The comfort seeker
Many new mums feel exhausted and even a bit depressed, so they turn to sugar-laden foods for physical and emotional comfort. “But the feel-good factor doesn’t last long,” says Psychologist Dr Sandra Wheatley. “Sugary foods send your blood-sugar levels sky-high and when you crash, you feel more tired than before and reach for sugar again — and the dreaded cycle continues.” So, the next time you reach for a biscuit, think about whether you’re hungry or just tired.
Your weight-loss solution: Pick the correct carbs
✔ Do it right: You tend to like carbohydrates because they give you an emotional boost. To avoid the energy spikes and crashes, pick slow-release carbs such as whole-grain bread and sweet potatoes. Duigan notes that if you do have something sweet, eat it with a handful of nuts. “It will slow the rate at which the sugar hits your bloodstream and keep your energy levels consistent.”
✔ Secret success tip: When you feel like comfort eating, do something else to distract yourself, like painting your nails. You’ll look and feel good, and soon forget about food.
The excuse maker
It may seem impossible to find time for yourself now that you’ve had a baby. Set small, realistic goals, instead of daunting ones like exercising three times a week and then beating yourself up when you can’t fulfil them. It can be as simple as walking to the shops, instead of driving. “It’s easier to say you don’t have time to exercise and lose weight than it is to try and fail. Make a few changes and you will see a difference,” says personal trainer Matt Roberts.
Your weight-loss solution: Have fitness 'snacks'
✔ Do it right: Fitness “snacking” is highly beneficial, reckons Roberts. “Forget about lengthy workouts, instead, do small bouts of exercises whenever you can.” Studies show that this way of working out is just as effective at boosting your metabolism, increasing your fitness levels and burning fat comfort.”
✔ Secret success tip: Download circuit-training apps such as the Sworkit Pro (free on iTunes and Google Play) to stay on track. You can select how much time you have and what you want to do — whether it’s working your abs or stretching — and get a personalised workout that’s different every time.
The body disowner
It’s tempting to slip into denial and ignore your body. Dr Wheatley urges, “If you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see, do something about it.” Eating properly and regaining your fitness will really boost your self-esteem. It’s also important to remember that you’re not “just a mum”, you are still the person you were before having a child — there’s no reason why you shouldn’t look and feel healthy after becoming a parent.
Your weight-loss solution: Join a weight management/fitness programme
✔ Do it right: Get a doctor’s referral letter to attend the one at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (6294-4050). After an assessment, you’ll get a personalised fitness training plan in either individual or group sessions under the supervision of an exercise specialist, plus get lifestyle management counselling. Or start a support group with friends to keep motivated. Just remember to be honest and tell your family and friends you’re aiming to lose weight, so that they can offer the right support.
✔ Secret success tip: Avoid the “diet” or “light” version of food and drink products as they’ll lull you into a false sense of security and cause you to overeat. They’re also full of sugar, which accelerates hunger and sugar cravings. Stick to small portions of full-fat, full-flavoured foods instead.
The yo-yo dieter
Chances are this is down to you being a perfectionist and seeing a slip-up as a disaster. “This only leads to misery,” warns personal trainer James Duigan. “It’s stressful for your body to endure a low-calorie diet, followed by a sugar binge.” When you drastically reduce your calorie intake, your body thinks you’re starving it and goes into survival mode by holding onto the calories, so your metabolism also slows down. If you fall off the bandwagon, see it for what it is — a tiny blip — and go back to being good the next day. The best diet is the one you can stick to.
Your weight-loss solution: Don't diet
✔ Do it right: “It’s tempting to get wrapped up in the latest weight-loss fad, but these don’t work well for time-strapped mums,” notes Duigan. Instead, follow a few simple rules: Eat lean protein with every meal (such as scrambled eggs, chicken or fish), include something green every day (such as broccoli, a garden salad or kai lan), add a little healthy fat (such as nuts, olive oil and goat cheese), drink plenty of water and no more than two cups of coffee per day.
✔ Secret success tip: Follow a balanced and healthy diet the rest of the time, but treat yourself to a small “naughty” treat every day, like a single square of dark chocolate. This little indulgence will keep you on track.