Creating a Winning Strategy to Lose Your Baby Weight
“Oh Beth! It looks like you’re carrying one baby up front and one BEHIND!” exclaimed the receptionist at work when I was seven months pregnant with my twins. Not exactly a helpful comment (aren’t people supposed say how beautiful you look when you’re pregnant?)
Granted, I did use this pregnancy as an excuse to enjoy big portions of all my favourite foods. I tried to stay active by walking and swimming. But, I was stressed and as an emotional eater I used food as a coping mechanism and gave in to every little craving.
I ended up gaining 90 pounds. As my weight crept up, my heart sank at the thought of trying to lose it after the babies were born. How was I ever going get in shape again?
There is so much pressure to lose our baby weight quickly after giving birth. Celebrity moms of multiples are in the media, showing off their toned bodies just months after delivering. We may feel a sense of urgency to get the weight off right away, but it isn’t safe to crash diet and go into an exercise frenzy. Mothers of multiples have enough going on with the transition to parenthood, dealing with sleep deprivation and juggling the needs of our babies.
The trick with sustainable weight loss is taking your time and implementing small changes to your routine that you can stick to. Over time, the extra weight will come off, but it is best to take “baby steps” so that your healthy habits become part of your lifestyle. Christina Clark, a holistic nutritionist based in Toronto says, “A new mom should not be worried so much about counting calories but should make the calories she is consuming really count. Meaning, choose nutrient dense whole foods.”
Convenience really counts for a mom of multiples, so stocking your kitchen with easy to grab meals and snacks will help reduce the amount of calorie-laden take-out you may be resorting to. Replacing the sugary granola bars I was eating with pre-packed mini-bags of nuts, seeds and dried fruit helped me avoid a sugar crash and keep my energy levels up. We used Grocery Gateway to deliver our weekly supply of produce, lean sources of protein, whole grains and dairy. The extra cost outweighed the money we were spending on ordering in. Other strategies for convenient healthy eating include asking family and friends to save a little extra of their home-cooked meals or half a dozen muffins for your freezer. If you have time, cook up big batches of nutritious food and freeze in meal-sized portions.
Clark recommends keeping your metabolism stoked by eating smaller meals on a regular basis throughout the day. “You can also front load your day,” she says. “This means that you eat your whole grain meals in the morning and at lunch and then decrease carbohydrates in the evening.” Yet, Clark’s suggestion comes with a strong warning about carbs – “please, please, please do not eliminate good carbs in an attempt to lose weight quickly. You risk damaging your metabolism in the long run and compromise your precious and much needed energy.”
Energy that you can use to exercise! Working out is important to Julia Cowie, mom of twin boys Oliver and Sebastian. It took Julia about 10 months to lose the 55 pounds she gained during her pregnancy. “During the summer I went for long daily walks with my twin boys and the way home included a very long hill. It was quite a workout in itself!” she says. “The boys loved the walk, too.” Joining a mom’s group that featured a fitness class and a babysitting service also helped Cowie fit in her workouts.
Tara Gordon Flint had weight to lose before she got pregnant with her twins, so it took her a year to get down to what she felt was a “nice size” – losing 40 pounds of baby weight plus a little extra. “It took three years in total to get to a super fit figure that I really like,” says Gordon Flint. Her eating strategy didn’t include calorie restriction, though. “I never diet,” she says. “I always eat as much healthy food as I want. I treat myself often but limit amounts.” It is important to avoid feeling deprived as food is pleasure, celebration and fuel. “I lost all of the baby weight and more by exercising,” says Gordon Flint. “It is not difficult when you don’t drive and have to push a double stroller everywhere. That would be my advice – ditch the car and force yourself to walk!”
When the dust settles (a bit!) and you have medical clearance to exercise again, walking with the stroller is good for both parents and babies. As Cowie says, “Get your babies out everyday. It makes you feel good about yourself. Honestly, you’ll feel pooped but invigorated, and feel more positive about all your other challenges.” Once you’ve built up some stamina, walking at a quick pace and hitting some hills will definitely increase your calorie burn.
Doing exercise videos at home while my girls were napping helped me shed my pregnancy weight. I chose ones that featured a few 20 minute routines so I could do just one, quick workout if I had other things to do (like take a nap, myself!). Sometimes I did two of the routines back-to-back for a longer workout. Gordon Flint hired an in-home personal trainer for the added convenience and customized exercise plan. You can also take advantage of the daycare within your gym. Setting up time to exercise becomes easier once you and your babies have established some routine, so cut yourself some slack in the meantime.
Certainly, your every good intention to workout can go by the wayside if you don’t get a wink of sleep at night. Still, moving a bit every day will still help you see results if you don’t get to do a full workout. A set of jumping jacks, push-ups or even rocking a baby while standing will get your blood flowing. I used our infant car seats to gently swing my girls at home. It calmed them down when they were fussy and toned my biceps at the same time!
If you are breastfeeding you may get a bit of a boost with your weight loss. “There is no evidence that a [breastfeeding] woman who eats normally needs extra calories,” says Dr. Jack Newman, a breastfeeding specialist in Toronto. Breastfeeding can help new mothers lose weight, “that’s one of the reasons that extra calories are not needed,” says Newman. Clark also notes that breastfeeding can burn 300-400 calories a day, so dieting is definitely not recommended.
It is the little bit of effort you put towards better health, through eating well and exercising, that will help you drop pounds and improve your body confidence, too. Self-care is incredibly important for moms and often gets put behind everyone else’s needs. Once I started making myself more of a priority, I felt happy that I was doing something productive for my health. I walked a little taller and felt surer of myself. The momentum on my weight loss ramped up and the pounds started coming off.
Weight loss and developing your body confidence is definitely a journey after having multiple children. Many of us have to accept that our bodies will always be different. “I still have about 10 pounds to lose, and this is 2 years later,” says Amanda Babich, mom of twin girls and a singleton boy. “My breasts and feet are bigger and my stomach is a little softer, but we need to stop putting so much emphasis on our bodies and accept ourselves as we are. There is too much pressure to be the perfect size!” For Gordon Flint, the changes in her body are “a reminder of my pregnancy and badges of honour for our elite club.” Her advice for new moms of multiples: “Stay active, have lots of laugh lots and no matter what, buy a bikini and show off your awesomeness!”
The Best Exercise Videos for When Time Is Tight
• “30 Day Shred” featuring Jillian Michaels
• “Timesaver” series featuring Kathy Smith – “Lift Weights to Lose Weight” and “Cardio Fat Burner” are awesome
Christina Clark’s Top Healthy Snacks for Parents on the Go
• Trail mix – full of omega 3 fats needed for weight loss and they also satiate the appetite
• Fresh fruit combined with protein such as chopped apple and peanut butter
• Edamame peas
• Smoothies with added protein and green supplement for nutrient density
• “Mary’s” flax crackers and hummus.
These are all great choices because they are full of nutrients, but require little to no prep.