A mother’s body needs ample time to recover after a pregnancy. When you’re looking to get back to your previous self, slow and steady is the safest path to success.

The birth of a child is an amazing event for a new mother, but along with all the rewards comes a number of fresh challenges. One of the biggest and for many women, most frustrating is losing the baby weight and getting back their pre-pregnancy figure. While shedding those pounds might seem like an impossible task to consider, taking a safe, practical approach to exercise and nutrition can help restore the shape you remember.

Set a fitness goal

As a new mom, you’ll want to consult with your doctor to ensure that you’re ready to enter into a workout routine. Once you’ve been given the go-ahead, the first step you should take before attempting any exercise is to assess your energy level and how open you are physically to do certain things. Your body has gone through significant changes in the nine months leading up to the birth of your baby, so its realistic to say it will take time to lose those unwanted pounds. Consider the following: What was your fitness level pre-baby? During pregnancy? How much weight are you looking to lose? Take into account your pre-baby weight and the time you can make to be active throughout the week.

It’s important to understand that the more sound nutrition choices you make, the more consistent your energy levels will be.

Track your progress

It is essential that you measure your success to keep you moving in the right direction. Make sure you are committed to your journey and have an action plan mapped out before you step on the scale, as the number you see can bring up a series of emotions. Try the following methods:

  1. A typical bathroom scale.
    Set a date to track your progress weekly or bi-weekly. For consistency purposes, do this first thing in the morning before eating or drinking, on the same day of each week.
  2. Take measurements.
    A typical scale wont tell you where you have decreased body fat, so take your own measurements. Use the common measuring areas: mid-thigh, hips, waist, chest and bicep.

Plan your week

Grab a calendar and schedule your fitness sessions with times that are most likely to happen based on your daily energy levels and your baby’s sleeping and feeding schedule. Follow these tips:

  1. Have a backup! If your baby’s schedule varies, have a second option to get your fitness in.
  2. Who is your support system? Ask your family and friends to help support you on your journey. Some days you might not feel like being active ask them to help you stay focused.
  3. Listen to your body. Allow for adequate warm-up, rest between exercises and cool down. Hydration is vital, so make sure you are drinking at least eight glasses of water per day.

Initially, simple body weight movement is a good starting point, with isolated activities performed one at a time. Incorporate basic movements such as body weight squats, lunges, low-level step-ups and push-ups while focusing on adequate rest between exercises. Treat your workouts like a beginner, focused on maintaining proper form while increasing repetitions in a safe, measured progression. Working up to putting stress on the joints through resistance training and weight-bearing exercises is a process that should take several weeks following birth. Track your exercises and the amount of weight you are using so you can work on increasing your strength and endurance.

As your baby begins to settle into a schedule, this may allow you to have a little more time to work out and perhaps establish your own routine at the gym. During those days when you can’t break away or just want to spend time at home with your child, you can mix in body weight exercises such as squats and lunges while holding your baby in a carrier. Share a blanket while performing crunches, leg lifts and push-ups, or just take the stroller out for a brisk walk or run.

Eating smart

It can be easy to fall off track in regards to structured nutrition after you’ve given birth. Energy levels typically run low the Mayo Clinic recommends an additional 400-500 calories per day if you’re breastfeeding so taking in enough calories and carbohydrates is essential. But its important to understand that the more sound nutrition choices you make, the more consistent your energy levels will be. Don’t allow yourself to get so hungry that you eat whatever is in sight; you should plan to eat every 3-4 hours throughout your day. A balanced diet will help to promote satiety (feeling full), sustain your energy levels and reduce cravings. Implement something healthy as a replacement for each negative food choice, such as satisfying sweet tooth cravings for items such as desserts and chocolate with fresh fruit. In particular, look for fruits like oranges, grapefruits, strawberries and papaya that are high in vitamin C, as it plays a vital role in healing and fighting infection.

Taking a smart approach to nutrition for both you and your baby involves understanding how to put together a solid plate containing quality food choices. In addition to vitamin C, two other vital nutrients to make sure you include while planning meals are protein and iron. Protein helps the healing process and is also necessary for the growth of new tissue, while iron aids the immune system and is needed in blood production to make hemoglobin. In order to incorporate the elements into your diet, you’ll need some healthy fats and oils available in whole foods such as avocados and nuts. Grainy complex carbohydrates such as quinoa, barley and buckwheat should be a staple of your plate, along with a clean source of animal protein such as fish or chicken. In between meals, have a nutritious smoothie or post-workout shake or snack consisting of protein and carbohydrates.

Choco-Mint Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp. mint extract
  • Ice cubes
  • 1 scoop chocolate flavor
    whey protein powder

Directions

  • Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Enjoy post-workout.
  • 190 cal; 3g fat;
  • 17g carbs; 25g protein

Starting over

Throughout your workout and nutrition regimen, concentrate on staying consistent and positive. I constantly remind the new mothers I’m training not to be too hard on themselves feeling better and more healthy is whats important. Start with realistic goals, focus on one day, one workout, one meal at a time, and you’ll find your motivation growing as the pounds drop off.

Sarah McCarney, is a Personal Trainer focused on women’s. Also a Nutrition Specialist and Life Coach, she has created a specialized approach to fitness and personal wellness that works on mind, body and spirit in balance. McCarney travels internationally to address audiences on personal development topics, health and wellness.