Southeast WI Archive
  • Southeast Wisconsin
  • January 2015
Written by  Kamala McCormick

Postpartum fitness and nutrition

We are told that we should take increased care of our bodies during pregnancy, but this level of concern drops off after pregnancy. Postpartum is a new beginning.

The average woman gains a little over 30 pounds during pregnancy: 20 pounds make up the weight of the baby, the placenta and increased maternal tissues and fluids. The additional 10 pounds is fat.

Health problems are more easily prevented than treated — so how do we prevent health problems? The average American woman is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 145 pounds. Approximately 35 million women are considered obese (or 20 percent above their ideal body weight). Our treatment efforts are unsuccessful. Our only solution is prevention.

Good news: If you are pregnant, have just delivered or are thinking about becoming pregnant, the time after delivery is the best time ever for you to lose weight. This is true no matter what you weigh, how old you are, how many children you have or what your weight loss track record has been.

How can this be true?

After delivery, your postpartum body is not only ready to help you, but it leads the way and continues to for approximately six to nine months. The first 90 days are the most effective.

Think of it this way: Postpartum is not the aftermath, it’s a new beginning. Your own body becomes your greatest weight loss ally because spectacular things are happening deep inside: perfect, natural weight loss.

At approximately the fifth postpartum day, sudden changes take place inside you. Each subsequent change is better and more beneficial than the previous one. Together, they work beautifully and effectively to create weight loss.

  1. After delivery, many of your hormones (such as estrogen, progesterone and insulin) interact in a totally new way that suppresses your appetite. These hormones also fight the accumulation of any new fat deposits.
  2. Leptin, a fat-burning hormone, can actually raise your metabolism.
  3. Your metabolism is higher now than it was before you were pregnant.

So, by paying attention to your nutrition and activity, you can lose the weight gained during pregnancy and even additional weight. But should this weight loss really matter?

Of course! Consider the health risk if you don’t lose this weight: heart disease, extra weight around the midsection, back pain and excess body fat equal increased risk of disease and cancer. But the good news is that like a good investment, losing weight after delivery also pays you a huge, lifelong health dividend.

The key is that these hormones are altered immediately after delivery. As your child leaves your body, followed by the expulsion of the placenta, your estrogen and progesterone hormones fall to all-time lows, while your weight loss fortunes rise to all-time highs. With that, your appetite diminishes, as does your ability to accumulate new body fat (around the fifth day).

Here are the important compnents to postpartum weight loss:

Exercise

Note: Always consult your medical care provider first before starting up a new exercise routine.

Ease into it by walking. It supplies fresh oxygen and works many muscles at once, and you can include your baby in this exercise.

Much of your weight loss does not depend on exercise, yet it’s important nonetheless. Focus on areas of your body that underwent the most drastic changes — e.g., the pelvic floor, the internal muscles that surround your sexual organs and bladder. Try Kegels to strengthen these muscles.

Nutrition

Drink half of your bodyweight in ounces of water each day. Drink 8 ounces cold water first thing in the morning.

The key to losing weight: Cut back on your fat content, avoid artificial sweeteners and preservatives, avoid all fad diets, and never starve yourself.

Wake up and eat! Breakfast-eaters have a metabolic rate 5 percent higher than those who don’t eat breakfast. In contrast, go to sleep on an empty stomach. When you eat fatty foods late at night, they linger in your stomach until morning. Plus, your metabolism slows down in the evening.

The perfect postpartum food is complex carbohydrates. These are whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. A few more great things about complex carbs:

  • They’re easy to prepare
  • They provide necessary nutrition and are excellent sources of vitamins
  • They provide energy
  • They fight constipation thanks to being naturally high in fiber
  • They taste great!

As we’ve seen, the time after you give birth presents a great opportunity for you to lose weight and establish good health and nutrition habits that will provide you with a lifetime of benefits.


Kamala McCormick is a birth doula. She is a certified pregnancy and postpartum fitness educator and Dancing For Birth instructor. Kamala holds certified credentials through DONA International, International Childbirth Education Association and Dancing For Birth.

She is the owner of Blossoms Pregnancy Boutique and Wellness Center in Fond du Lac. She instructs, empowers and assists women during their pregnancy and motherhood journeys. Kamala serves clients throughout the metro-Milwaukee and Fox Valley regions. To learn more about Kamala’s practice, visit http://kamaladoula.com, or contact her at 920-979-8336 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.." target="_blank">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Reference: Hello, Baby! Good-bye, Baby Fat! Sheldon Levine, M.D. Harper Perennial. 1999.

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