I am ten days past the scream-n-push Bodily Fluids Festival of ’09 (Marilyn Manson should take notes) which means, of course, that it’s time to talk about losing the baby weight. No, not because I’m feeling overly anxious about it – I’m too busy being anxious about being anxious! – but because I’ve gotten a ton of e-mails about it. Being officially The Nicest People on the Internet, none of you readers have been pressuring me but rather just wondering if I’ve found anything that works. Weight loss being the crapshoot that it is once you mix in genetics, socioeconomic status, general health, age and a host of other factors, nonetheless I have found a few tips that genuinely seem to make a difference. So far. (Please note I am only 10 days post partum and will not even come within five feet of my box of “normal” clothes yet.)
1. Have the baby. Okay, so that was a liiiiitle tongue-in-cheek but seriously when else in your life can you say, “I just lost 15 pounds in ONE DAY. Take THAT Jillian!”? Word.
2. Wear a belly wrap. I have a Taut (holla to also-momma-of-4 Brooke Burke!) but there is also the Belly Bandit, a host of medical compression bands and the low-tech-but-cheap Ace bandage method. At first blush, this seems like a bunch of hooey: Wear a big elastic belt and get a flatter stomach!! Except that many cultures have been doing exactly that for centuries. Women who have just given birth are in a special (read: anatomically freakish) place with their core. Your organs get all squished to weird places, your abdominal muscles detach from each other, all your ligaments get loose and your hips act as if they can’t stand to be in the same room with each other. Using a compression belt helps bring everything back to its proper place and hold it there. My delivery nurse, a lovely woman from Trinidad, told me that the fact that Americans don’t typically belly wrap after birth was a huge shock to her as everyone in her country did it and felt that not only was it more comfortable but it was medically advantageous. She was very impressed that I was doing it and even showed me a few tricks to use it properly (lay down when you put it on, start at the top and fasten it downward).
I’ll admit I first bought the Taut hoping to flatten my abs faster after birth but when I first put it on in the hospital, I gotta tell you it felt good. Really good. It supported my back and my stomach and put just the right amount of pressure on my hips. The website also claims it helps the skin reattach and tighten up faster. Who cares if my stomach still looked 6-months pregnant? It felt awesome! And, yes, I honestly do think it has made my stomach flatter faster than it would have been otherwise. After having 5 children I feel like I’m in a position to compare. This is my first time using a compression band and I feel like this is the fastest my stomach has ever deflated. Besides – have I mentioned this already? – it feels so nice!
Downsides: it does make you sweaty, the velcro sticks to your underwear and can rip it, and they can be pricey. Also, just to manage your expectations, a belly wrap is not a corset or Spanx – it isn’t meant to give you a smooth, flat silhouette. In fact, it looks a bit bulky under tight clothing but who’s wearing tight clothing at this point, anyhow?
3. Eat your probiotics. This one works not just for preggos and post-preggos but for everyone. I first found this tip in Fit Pregnancy magazine in a blurb summarizing a research study that found that pregnant women who ate (or took via pill) probiotics every day had 47% less belly fat 6 months post-partum than women who didn’t. You know I love my homemade yogurt so I figured this one wouldn’t be hard to try. While the results are less easily observed in myself as a) I’m not 6-months post-partum yet and b) I’m a study of one, the original research was quite convincing and probiotics have been shown to help with not only weight loss but stomach health and even gum and dental health! Not to mention that yogurt – especially Greek yogurt – is a good source of protein and calcium. So unless you are lactose intolerant or allergic then this is probably one of those things that wouldn’t hurt to try.
4. Lay off the intense exercise. At least at first. I’ve talked about this study before but research has found that initially for post-partum women, returning to intense exercise right away does not speed weight loss. Mostly I’m reiterating this here for my benefit, especially after Gym Buddy Krista threatened to roundhouse my butt if I returned to Turbokick too quickly. (And girlfriend kicks hard.)
5. Breastfeed? Pregnant women hear this advice ad nauseum (and really isn’t there enough nausea already going on?): Breastfeed and the baby weight will melt away like magic! While breastfeeding does have a host of benefits for both mom and baby (my fave: it’s free! I’m nothing if not cheap), the jury is still out on weight loss. For me in the past, I find that the weight comes off pretty easily in the first six months. That is until I get to the last 10 pounds. At which point my body decides it had better keep my thighs really well padded, you know, in case of famine or the need to double as Kim Kardashian. There is nothing I can do within the realms of good health to get those last 10 pounds off until I wean the little sucker. My goal this time around is to learn to enjoy my hips and boobs for the short time I actually have them rather than trying to fight those last ten pounds. That’s what I have the rest of my life for, right?
For other women it is different though. I have one friend who actually complains that she gets too thin while nursing. Either way, they say nursing burns about 500 calories a day. Like a calorie deficit from exercise, your body strives to maintain equilibrium and will make you hungrier to compensate. (Seriously, you have not seen starving until you’ve seen me eat when my milk comes in. Small animals hide in fear.)
I am not not not telling anyone, no matter how pre- or post- or even non- partum you are, to worry about your weight. If you must worry, worry about being healthy. However, I know many of you girls think about this. I think about this! It’s practically unavoidable in our culture. So I share these sensible tips less like a lose-weight cudgel to the head and more like a help-a-sister-out hug. Pregorexia is never a good idea.
Did I miss anything? Any of you have a great weight-loss tip?