It can at times feel like weight gain is inevitable after having kids. There are some challenges that make managing weight difficult post childbirth, but it can be mastered.
Here are 5 reasons that may be making managing weight difficult post childbirth:
Plate scraping. Your child has some food left over (kids are great at knowing when they are hungry and full), but there’s only a little left so you eat it. Although a few spoonfuls, this can add up. Two tablespoons of rice contains around 100kcals and consuming this amount daily over a month could amount to 0.5kg (1lb) weight gain. When cleaning up, consider storing food or throwing it away.
Missing meals. As adults we struggle with eating regularly because we don’t feel hungry. Over the years our environment and experiences have led us to lose touch with our hunger signals (even though they are still going off). Figure out why you miss breakfast or lunch or dinner and work out what you need to do, to get you eating regularly. Eating regularly has been found to be an important habit in weight control.
Master chef. Cooking 3 meals is not easy and is time consuming. You don’t intend to make variations, but previous tantrums have made you make adaptions…sound familiar? Don’t worry, you are not alone and there are steps you can take to change things. If certain foods are rejected, they need to be tried around 15-20 times for you to know for certain if they actually like or dislike the food. Your kids should be eating what you eat. Not the opposite way around.
Treats for the kids. You don’t intend to eat them, but you do. You’re not alone, a lot of my mother and grandmother clients complain of picking at the treats they buy solely for their kids/grand kids. Consider the next time you go and grab a treat: do I usually grab a treat at this time? If so, there may be a pattern (boredom, stress, feeling low) which you may wish to work on.
Gym membership. You’re thinking right now ‘what gym membership?! I don’t go to the gym. I have no time’. This is exactly it, before kids you had the luxury of time (and money). In the past you would slog it out doing regular exercise at the gym and local sports in the park. As a mum being more active basically means moving more. Be creative, I have a lot of female clients walking their kids to and from school, extra-curricular activities and events. This is a clever way to fit in incidental exercise. They are also utilising their aerobic classes recorded from TV or DVDs, alongside their kids Wii sport games (with and without their kids).
As noted above, weight control is much more than watching what you eat. It’s about watching the habits you have changed. If you are struggling to manage your weight, I would suggest chatting to your GP who will be able to direct you to your local expert weight loss dietitians for advice.
Perryn Carroll- Registered Dietitian MNutrDiet, BSp&ExSc
Just how long does it take for the baby belly to go down? If we were celebrities? Not long at all! This is the high standard that we have to live with (but shouldn’t compare ourselves too). I for one have not had kids (yet), but work in weight loss and hear countless women express how helpless they felt managing their weight post birth. Understandably you would feel overwhelmed! Eating for weight loss isn’t easy at the best of times, but post baby arrival can make it feel like a lost battle. I wanted to do a bit of research into the anatomy of the ‘baby belly’ just so I could get my head around the challenges that are faced…
Why does your belly still look 6 months pregnant 1 day after birth?
Having a baby belly or ‘pregnancy pouch’ (another name) is quite normal. Throughout the 9 months of pregnancy, the body slowly caters for the little bundle of joy. When I say cater, I mean:
- abdominal muscles stretching
- uterus stretching
- skin stretching
Unfortunately, these don’t just spring back into original position once your child and placenta are out. They take time to tighten.
How long does it take to ‘tighten’?
The baby centre and NHS discuss that going back to normal may take months and sometimes, the body may not return to exactly what it once was. A women’s progress will be dependent on several factors such as: weight gain during pregnancy, exercise level, normal body size/shape and genetics.
Is there anything I can do to speed this up and get back to normal?
Cheer up -it isn’t all doom and gloom. There are things you can do to give your body a hand:
- Breastfeeding – This has a double whammy effect because breastfeeding stimulates the uterus to contact and also burns calories. Regularly breastfeeding is the easiest way to get results for little effort.
- Keep moving – Moving doesn’t mean marathons (Settle down perfectionist). Simply walking about routinely is beneficial.
- Work the floor – Pelvic floor exercises help with not only tightening your core, but also with controlling a leaky bladder (common amongst women post birth). The Chartered Society of
Physiotherapy have some good resources for pelvic floor exercises.
Although there is no particular food you can eat (sorry ladies, there’s no silver bullet), keeping a healthy diet is the key. If you need to get your weight down (your doctor or nurse can let you know this) consider these diet musts:
- Eat regular meals – This doesn’t mean grazing, it means eating a breakfast, lunch and dinner. You’ll find this most challenging in your early weeks post birth. Here are some great suggestions I have come across – keep ready meals in the freezer, get your family to cook for you, chill/ freeze meals and have pre made sandwiches available. Something to eat is better than nothing! Skipping meals can make managing weight difficult.
- Portion control – A well portioned meal (lunches and dinners) should be 1/3 carbohydrate, 1/3 protein and 1/3 vegetables.
- Keep hydrated – Sip on water over the day. Concentration is supported when you are adequately hydrated. You’ll be tired (Captain Obvious statement) so instead of reaching for sugary treats, go for water instead.
Feeling too overwhelmed? Chat to a dietitian who can give you tailored advice to meet your busy lifestyle demands.
Oh and Kate Middleton, if you are reading this, congratulations for your new little family! Don’t feel pressured to lose that bump at ridiculous speeds. You are just like every other women at the end of the day!
Perryn Carroll- Registered Dietitian
- Do not start early.
By 17 weeks or so your little one will start watching your every move, including everything you touch and what you eat. If they are doing this, counts your stars that your baby has good eyesight, but don’t be fooled by thinking that means they want what is in your hand. Babies are physiologically ready to wean between 24-26 weeks; starting earlier then this puts pressure on them to perform a skill their body isn’t ready for – it can put pressure on their stomach, intestines and kidneys to absorb a food they are not ready for (which may lead to long-term complications e.g. leaky gut, allergies etc) and it is more work for you, as you are trying to feed someone that isn’t ready to eat. You have your whole life to shop, cook and clean up after them – don’t rush it!
And if you think your little one is hungry, just remember that that milk contains more calories than any weaning food, so a truly hungry baby is going to be better off with another feed rather then anything solid.
- Learning to chew takes practice
In the same way you didn’t expect your little one to nail rolling over, sitting or crawling day 1, it is the same with chewing. They will gag and even have the odd vomit. They are also likely to try and re-eat what they’ve just vomited or gagged! It can create some less memorable moments, but gagging is normal and will happen more than once as your little one masters the concept of putting food in their mouth and then sorts out chewing. Try not to act overly concerned when they gag or vomit – even though it can be a bit scary. If they know they can get a reaction from you, it can become a way of gaining attention. And most of all, don’t revert back to purees – gagging is a normal part of learning and no reason to take steps backwards.
- Do not buy any fancy equipment
Of course the companies that sell the fancy equipment are going to tell you that you need them, but truly you don’t. The only piece of equipment you really need to have in the kitchen is a potato masher to make mashed food and then lumpy-mashed food. From there you can start cutting the meals into small pieces (ok so a knife is beneficial too). Having lots of little freezer-friendly containers of various sizes is a definite bonus, but save your pennies that you would have spent on a puree-type machine and spend it on a massage for yourself. You’ll enjoy it much more and won’t have to find space in the cupboard for it later on either.
- Finger-foods are your best-friend.
To teach your baby to chew, the best foods are finger-foods and there aren’t many foods that can’t be offered to a baby to hold and chew/suck. In every meal there will always be something your baby can hold to get used to the texture and have that ‘control’ over the meal that they desperately want. Pasta, strips of meat, vegetable sticks, bread ‘soldiers’, sliced fruit, flakes of fish, chunks of potato or sweet potato… And as your little one gets more confident they will probably want to start feeding themselves the rest of the meal too. Within weeks your little one will be able to sit and eat whilst you can do other stuff! Bliss! Check your email, call a friend, start preparing another meal, or even eat your own meal – you will love finger foods and the independence it brings you both.
- It will be messy, messy, messy…
Whilst finger-food and self-feeding are good ways to avoid fussy eating, it is a messy business. For as many things that successfully go in your baby’s mouth, there will be little bits squashed onto fingers, rubbed into eyes and hair, wiped onto highchairs, under table-tops, down table-legs, thrown onto the floor, kicked onto another chair… The list goes on. I swear I have a 1mx1m space in my kitchen that should be the cleanest place in Britain as I’m on my hands and knees wiping it down after every snack and meal. Instead I continue to find bits of rice, smears of yoghurt, breadcrumbs and the odd dehydrated blueberry in places you swear you cleaned earlier. Oh and couscous? I recommend it from a Dietitian’s view on variety, but it is truly the worst thing in the world to clean up. You have been warned.