We got the following question from a reader: How can I lose my post pregnancy weight? I gained 50 lbs during pregnancy and gone through a miscarriage. I want to lose my tummy fat but not my girls and need some tips to stay motivated.
Firstly with a pregnancy is natural to put on weight and some of it to be extra fat. Extra fat stored can be up to 2kg in a full term pregnancy (without overeating). The body stores the extra fat to make sure that there is adequate energy for the mother and the fetus. Due to the hormonal changes which take place and all the processes of a pregnancy there would be changes in your breasts and rest of your body such as water retention. Going through a miscarriage can be hard both emotionally and physically. I don’t know how long ago you had the miscarriage but if it was recent you will find that your body is still recuperating and recovering from it.
You mention that you would like to lose weight from your tummy but not from your ‘girls’. In very simple words breasts consist of glands, fibrous tissue and fat. Weight pregnancy and hormonal changes are amongst factors which influence their size. An increase in the size of your ‘girls’ could be a combination of those factors. With losing weight you will lose fat tissue from your girls, unfortunately there is not a way by which you can stop fat from being lost from a specific place. However, as some of the changes may be due to hormonal changes that have taken place in your body due to pregnancy and miscarriage, it may mean that they may keep to a larger size. There are some exercises you can do to condition the ‘chest’ muscles which can slightly give the impression of fuller breasts and also help to keep the ‘girls’ from going south. Moreover, some studies do suggest that the belly area is usually the first place to lose the fat.
Secondly, I would recommend you deal with ‘emotional eating’ as part of your attempt to lose weight. By following just a weight loss diet you may lose weight, but unless you tackle the root of your weight gain or you’re eating behavior, the cycle will keep on happening.
My first suggestion is to allow yourself to heal and recover from the miscarriage both emotionally and physically. Counseling or going in a support group can help to deal with the loss and the emotions of a miscarriage. You may have done this already, or you may have been offered the support you needed to get through the situation. As I am not aware if you have I am including it in my suggestions.
In terms of Weight loss Motivation
This is probably the point in which most people struggle. Regardless to what some diets may promise weight loss does not happen in the speed of light and is not easy. Understandably a lot of people get bored of monotonous diets, may not see radical results fast or lose momentum all together. What can you do?
1. Be realistic and prepared. Even if you starve yourself in the 1st week you may lose some fat but it will mostly be water, glycogen (sugar store) and some protein. Also if you starve yourself your metabolism will slow down and your weight loss will decrease. Set you weight loss goals in a realistic level. In the 1st week you may see some results but they may not be huge and you haven’t lost a great deal of fat. The body takes around 2 weeks to adapt fully to changes. Aim for 0.5 – 1kg max of weight loss per week.
If you start a weight loss plan expecting fast miracles or setting your targets too high you will be setting up yourself to fail.
2. Be positive. Start a weight loss plan thinking that you can do this. If you are starting thinking that I cannot keep my motivation and I will struggle then you will struggle as you have set your mind on that tune already.
3. Do you really want to lose weight and why? Have a long thought and debate with yourself if you really want to lose weight and the reasons why. Right those reasons down in a piece of paper. When in doubt read what you written to remind yourself why you are doing it. It will help you be strict with yourself as well.
4. Keep your diet varied. Don’t deprive yourself or go hungry. You can still have a treat or have interesting meals and lose weight. Some specific diets do offer variability. You could use ideas from such diets in terms of menus or as a basis. Such diets are the 17 day diet and the Dukan diet (see also quick weight loss diets). I would not recommend following a very low carbohydrate diet and very high protein at the level these diets recommend. However, they do consist of different phases and in some ways breaking a weight loss plan in small chunks can help with boredom and luck of motivation. You can take the principles and some menu ideas from the diets and adapt it according to what suits you.
See also: Weight loss motivation
In terms of Diet and Exercise
Aim for a higher protein – lower carb diet. An example of such diet is the zone diet or a modified Mediterranean diet. I find the ‘New high protein diet’ book by Dr Charles Clark and Maureen Clark quite good. It has a number of recipes and lists of foods for meals which you can choose from. If you are not a person to follow an organized diet to the letter the book can be quite useful. I got this book in the UK and it is fairly cheap but you should be able to find it through the internet if in a different country. This is a suggestion, as there are a number of high protein recipe books or recipe sites in the internet from which you can pick up meal ideas.
The principles I usually suggest are:
1. Have a protein breakfast it will make you feel full for longer. If you can delay it as well by 30min can help in increasing fat burning. Examples of protein breakfasts: Scrambled eggs, bacon (not fried grilled) a slice of bread or cheese 2 crackers and avocado. Tuna with a bit of olive oil and lemon (or any seasoning you like but not mayonnaise/ketchup and avoid vegetable oils). It may sound like a lot of food but you will be surprised how much sugar and how many calories are hidden in a bowl of cereal. Plus with having carbs for breakfast you can get craving for sugar mid-day and so have snacks.
2. In general avoid takeaways, junk food, deep fried food and refined carbs (i.e. white bread, pasta, pastries sugars, and sweets), fizzy drinks and sugary hot drinks such as milky coffees and hot chocolates. In addition, avoid ready meals, margarine and hydrogenated oils such as vegetable oils and processed foods as they contain trans fats. Trans fat are not only fattening but also are harmful to health.
3. You can choose healthy snacks such as fruit, vegetable sticks, and dry fruit and nut instead of snack bars, crisps, cakes energy bars etc.
4. Eat loads of vegetables and salads with your meals. Example: instead of having a steak with potatoes/chips, have a steak with a nice sauce and salad + 1 slice of bread. This way you can reduce the calories you are eating, don’t feel hungry and is healthier. In terms of carbohydrate rich meals, if you can avoid them for majority of time do. If not then replace refined carbs with complex such as white pasta with whole meal, reduce the portion you are having and add vegetables or salad. Example: Instead of a big plate of pasta bolognaise with cheese, have 1/3 of a plate of whole meal pasta with bolognaise sauce and a big salad or vegetables with a bit of olive oil and seasoning/vinigraite.
5. Don’t skip meals. I would not recommend too many small meals through the day but also I would not recommend skipping meals either. Having 3 meals a day is a good place to be.
6. Reduce your calorie intake. Is not only what you eat but also how much you eat. In order to lose weight you must have energy deficiency. In simple words you should spend more calories than those you consume. This can happen by either reducing your calorie intake or increasing your calorie expenditure (for example with exercise) or both together. Women in average require around 1500 – 2000 calories. Reducing your calorie to around 1200 – 1500 should be within a healthy range. Calorie requirement and calorie expenditure does depend on physical activity, age, built among other factors, therefore do account for any physical activity etc. you may be doing when lowering your calories.
7. Exercises. Exercise does increase weight loss but also is good for health. As I mentioned earlier you could do a few chest exercises to boost your girls. Having an allover body workout for an hour a day, 5 days a week is always best, but is better to do the amount of exercise you feel happy with and suits your lifestyle. If all you want or can fit in your day is 20 min then that is better than none at all. If you don’t like doing standard exercises then you can do simple things such as walking instead of taking a bus, use the stairs instead of a lift, clean the house vigorously, go for a cycle, a run or a swim.
An idea is to join a class or an activity group. A group may provide you with the motivation to carry on with exercising and weight loss especially if you are achieving something new through the group. For example if you joined a swimming lessons group you could remain motivated in participating in the group by learning how to swim. What has been quite popular in recent years is pole dancing as part of exercising. Pole dancing can be very demanding for the body therefore you should be choosing a class which is appropriate for your own level and also exercise within your own abilities to avoid injuries. A class like that could be fun you can socialize and gain new skills and exercise at the same time. These are just examples as you should choose according to your personal likes and needs.
Before you take on any exercise or diet you should consult a medical professional especially if there are pre-existing health complaints.
The best way to keep the weight off for long term is to make these changes permanently. If you aim to get through the emotional eating pattern and change your whole behavior of eating then making healthy eating choices will be a lot easier. In addition, following a diet should not be just a remedy for a quick fix but making the changes in our lifestyle towards a healthier way. What I am saying is not that you should diet for the rest of your life. All I am suggesting is to change your food choices towards healthier choices, don’t overeat beyond to what your body needs and keep physically active. This way you are less likely to put on the weight again and decrease health risks, Everybody’s weight can fluctuate in their life time for a number of reasons, and we all go through days of junk food, or that bit extra. Having a general healthy diet your body does get conditioned to want a healthy diet and not too much of the junk food.
I hope my answer is helpful to your enquiry.