Postpartum weight loss: How to lose your baby weight effortlessly

Whether you're thinking about becoming pregnant, currently have a bun in the oven or, are already gazing into your new baby's eyes, the topic of postpartum weight loss can instil feelings of anxiety, stress and fear in many (if not all) women.

It's natural and necessary to put on weight during pregnancy. During this magical time, there are a myriad of hormonal changes that happen within your body. You produce human placental lactogen (HPL) which  promotes insulin resistance. This state of insulin resistance does two things, first it helps you increase your blood glucose to feed your growing baby and second, it increases visceral fat stores that will be utilized during breastfeeding. Both totally necessary and vital functions.

I get letters from new mom's frequently who are putting oodles or pressure on themselves to shed the baby pounds within weeks of giving birth. While there is no quick fix, magic pill or underground liposuction network, there are a few things you can do to help the baby weight fall off effortlessly. 

Breastfeed

As demonstrated by Gisele...breastfeeding, the new celebrity weight loss plan....sorry, cheesy but I couldn't resist.

As demonstrated by Gisele...breastfeeding, the new celebrity weight loss plan....sorry, cheesy but I couldn't resist.

By far, the easiest way to lose your baby weight is to breastfeed. Remember that hormone HPL that helps you hang on to weight during pregnancy? When you breastfeed, HPL is replaced by Prolactin. Prolactin's job is to support lactation, reduce estrogen levels (causing freedom from menstrual periods) and mobilize nutrient stores to feed your growing baby. Prolactin produced during breastfeeding is an easy way to essentially 'reset' your postpartum metabolism. 

It's not just about the hormones either, your body requires an additional 500 calories per day to produce milk to feed your baby. It's kind of like natures built in weight loss system. Most weight loss experts recommend a caloric deficit of about 500 calories/day in order to lose a healthy and sustainable pound per week. In essence, breastfeeding is kind of like natures built in weight loss system. That being said, please DON'T starve yourself. Ensure you are getting adequate calories to support your body's recovery and activity levels. If you drop calories too low your milk supply will suffer. 

Balance your hormones

Ensuring your hormonal levels are balanced and stabilizing post baby is a critical part of weight loss.

Thyroid:

One of the most common and under-diagnosed postpartum conditions is postpartum thyroiditis. This form of hypothyroidism (aka not enough thyroid hormone) is often diagnosed between 4-9 months after baby arrives and can cause symptoms that include weight loss plateaus, weight gain, fatigue, constipation, depression and irritability. Since these symptoms are rather general and may be applicable to ALL postpartum women, it's often missed. You're at greatest risk if you've been diagnosed with a thyroid condition before, have suffered from adrenal fatigue, have an autoimmune disorder or are under-eating. A simple blood test is all you need to check your levels. 

Estrogen:

If you have suffered from PCOS in the past, aren't able to breastfeed or you're baby has weened early you may suffer from a condition called estrogen dominance. In hormonally healthy women, estrogen levels should be balanced by progesterone levels in ratios of roughly 1:5 on day 21 of their cycle. Having too much estrogen or too little progesterone can create this state of estrogen dominance which can cause weight gain, fatigue, cravings for sweets, trouble sleeping and thyroid dysfunction. See your functional medicine specialist if you think this may be happening to you. There are a number of supplements and lifestyle changes that can support a healthy estrogen/progesterone balance. 

Even if you don't have a diagnosed condition like thyroiditis, you still do need to take good care to support your natural hormone function to be able to effortlessly lose the baby weight. Here are some other things you can do to help get things back in check:

My fav CARB...the purple potato 

My fav CARB...the purple potato 

  • Eat Carbs: Low carb or ketogenic diets are in vogue right now in the weight loss world. For most women, the childbearing years are not the time to experiment with ultra low carb diets. Limiting carbs in your diet (below 100g/day) can cause a host of issues for postpartum women. It can stress your adrenals, tax your thyroid, decrease your milk supply and cause insomnia or other sleep disturbances.  We'll be sure to dive into the carb-conundrum and get into specific levels in the upcoming Baby Making and Beyond program, but for now, just be sure to add healthy paleo friendly carbs like purple potatoes, yams, squashes and even some rice into your diet.

 

Spend some time enjoying the small things in life.....stress reduction is a key part of a postpartum weight loss plan

Spend some time enjoying the small things in life.....stress reduction is a key part of a postpartum weight loss plan

  • Stress-less: Stress can increase cortisol levels (produced by your adrenal glands) making weight loss very difficult. Support your adrenal glands by following the recommendations in this previous post of mine. Limiting caffeine, practicing regular meditation and SLEEPING will all make the journey so much easier. 


Spending time exercising outdoors is a BONUS. Outdoor movement increases endorphins and dopamine levels helping you stay happy and balanced.

Spending time exercising outdoors is a BONUS. Outdoor movement increases endorphins and dopamine levels helping you stay happy and balanced.

  • Exercise: A little intelligent movement will support muscle growth and help sustain fat loss. Please, don't go crazy and don't start too soon. Start walking around 2-4 wks. After 6 wks, you can introduce some light weight bearing exercise. The best combination of exercise for postpartum women is lots of walking, a little yoga and some form of weight lifting, trx or body weight movement. 

 

Remember, it takes 9 months to gain the baby weight and it will take 9-18 months to lose it. Practice gentle loving kindness for yourself and don't sweat the small stuff. In the grand scheme of life, 10 extra pounds is a first world problem, focus on the things that really matter like family, friendships and being an active and informed citizen of your community and planet. 

Take a chill pill....The importance of stress reduction for fertility

Squeaky clean paleo diet- check

Engage in daily gentle movement- check

Take all your supplements- check

Are a healthy weight- check

Why on earth are you still struggling to get pregnant? Well, the answer may be the one thing that is the hardest to truly change.....stress and how we manage it.  

Stress can be a good thing in moderation. A little burst of cortisol (stress hormone) helps to fire up our engines so we can run away from a lion or wildebeest (my personal fav). But, when this sort of stress and resulting cortisol release becomes chronic, unrelenting, day in and day out stress, our bodies don't cope quite so well. When this happens we start producing a hormone called alpha- amylase. Alpha-amylase has recently be discovered as a bio-marker for chronic sympathetic nervous system activation. AKA a signal that you're mind and/or body are chronically stressed out. AA has been formerly used as a way to diagnose pancreatitis or pancreatic inflammation. The geek in me finds this fascinating because when we are stressed and living in a chronic sympathetic dominant state our pancreas has to work overtime producing insulin in response to elevated blood glucose levels. When we are stressed and exerting a high level of cortisol our bodies naturally increase our blood sugars in order to mobilize energy in our skeletal muscles so we can make that mad dash away from the wildebeest. 

Recent studies have confirmed the link between stress and infertility. A few different studies measured these two hormones, cortisol and alpha-amylase. They demonstrated that while cortisol has no effect on infertility, women with high alpha-amylase had nearly double the risk of infertility. This makes perfect sense if you think about it from an ancestral perspective. Fertile women need to be able to run away from possible dangers every once in a while. A healthy cortisol response signals a fit and thriving individual. What we DON'T want is a woman who is chronically stressed. Chronic stress sends signals to our body that our world is a really dangerous place out there and isn't a safe space to raise a new little baby. The body is smart and wants to survive....so, it shuts down your ability to conceive. 

What can you do if you're feeling chronically stressed out? Here are a few tips:

Erin Urton...practicing what she preaches...and looking simply beautiful in the process   

Erin Urton...practicing what she preaches...and looking simply beautiful in the process

 

  1. Try to sleep or rest more. Sleep is how we tell our bodies it's safe to recover. Try to get more.
  2. Practice yoga or meditation. Even 5 mins a day will make a difference in terms of your response to stress. Need a launching pad? These short guided meditations will help you on your way and feature the beautiful Erin Urton who is an expert in fertility, pregnancy and postpartum meditation and yoga practice. 
  3. Lighten up on the caffeine. Did you know that just 200 mg of caffeine (one 12 oz mug of coffee) increases blood cortisol levels by 30% in one hour! Switch to herbal tea or decaf while your body resets and recharges.
  4. Move gently everyday. I don't mean hard stress inducing crossfit WODS. I mean walking outdoors, cross country skiing, hiking and gentle weight lifting. These things are all proven to lower your body's stress response and help you chill out. 
  5. LAUGH. Surround yourself with people who love and support you and lighten up. Have a good time
  6. Give. The process of giving back helps to elevate your mood and support the body's natural ability to heal. The holiday season is a perfect time to get started on this one! 
Gently moving in nature has remarkably restorative properties. 

Gently moving in nature has remarkably restorative properties.