The holidays are almost upon us—which may make some new moms working on getting back their pre pregnancy bodies feel a bit troubled. Although the allure of plentiful, delicious and sometimes not so healthy food is around the corner, now is a great time to try to get yourself healthy and in shape. Since your metabolism slows down after pregnancy, a combination of some simple exercises (cardiovascular and muscle strengthening) along with smart food and portioning choices will help rev it up so you can get fit and stay healthy right on into the new year. This post is just one in a series I will be sharing about “Postpartum Health and Fitness,” so I’ll begin by focusing on just a few simple changes you can make to your diet as well as safe, easy ways to get your body moving.
But before you start any new workouts or meal plans, please keep a few things in mind:
Begin no earlier than six weeks postpartum. If you just had your baby, don’t even think or stress about losing weight for at least six weeks. I know you may feel great and ready to “get back” but it’s critical that you keep your body rested and well-fed so you have the energy you need to care for yourself and your newborn. When in doubt about when you should start, always ask your health care provider first.
Achieving healthy weight goals is not about dieting. In fact, your postpartum recovery depends on your body getting enough calories. And remember if you are breastfeeding you’ll need to keep up your calories to support both you and your baby. Instead of cutting them, think about what you are eating every day (or even write it down). You will see results and be healthier if you frequently eat nutrient-packed, small meals throughout the day.
Don’t place unrealistic expectations on yourself–think long-term health and fitness. You’ve probably read and heard this a hundred times, but remember, you were pregnant for nine months and it will take just as long for your body to return to it’s pre pregnant state. Don’t compare yourselves to friends or colleagues who seem like they just “naturally” slimmed down after giving birth. That is not the norm! Instead, think about the changes you want to make in the coming year, whether that be toning up your body, dropping pounds, becoming more active, or feeling healthier and more energized. All of these things take dedication and most of all, time.
Having said that, let’s begin with a few basic diet changes you can make, not only to make your body feel healthier but also to help you shed a few pounds.
Healthy Foods to Add to Your Diet:
- lean protein (high percentage lean beef, poultry, fish, beans, eggs)
- whole grain pasta and rice
- lowfat or non fat dairy
- nuts, beans, legumes
- fruits and vegetables high in fiber
Food to limit or avoid:
- white bread
- white pasta and rice
- refined processed carbohydrates (cookies, muffins, cakes, donuts, packaged snacks, and sugary cereals)
- fast foods
In addition to making these healthier food choices, you’ll want to start getting fit through exercise–starting out at very low impact and gradually increasing activity and intensity. Here are some easy ways to get your body moving initially:
Walk: Whether it’s just staying on your feet around the house for five minutes, a ten minute walk around the block or a half hour mini hike in the woods, walking is the best way to break your body back into exercise. Try and do this at least once a day (the fresh air will also give you a boost of energy!) and gradually increase your time and pace. Just place your little one in the baby carrier or stroller and get moving!
Dance: I realize we’re not all born with moves and that’s ok! But even if you don’t quite feel comfortable dancing, I wouldn’t dismiss it completely before trying it out as a source of postpartum exercise. When it’s just you and your baby put on your favorite songs–fast and slow–and move to them. Start out slowly by holding your baby and swaying, or bending your knees to the beat and as you begin to feel stronger each day add new movements. Although it may seem silly, you’ll get your heart pumping and both you and your baby will enjoy the bonding.
Yoga/Stretch: Stretching out your body throughout the day can help with circulation and strengthen your body, getting it prepared for more vigorous exercise. And doing a few simple yoga poses can really work wonders. Many of the moms I’ve worked with swear by this DVD to get their bodies back into shape and feel more energetic: Shiva Rea: Postnatal Yoga. It’s a really great, affordable way to re-engage your body and calm you mind while you’re at it!
Stay tuned for some of my favorite healthy recipes and more fitness tips!
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