As a Mum to 3 kids I understand that post-pregnancy there is a tonne of confusing advice about fat loss, how to eat and where and how to exercise. As a postnatal trainer I constantly hear things such as….
“Have you tried the Dukan diet….I only eat Paleo style, Do I need to quit sugar…What ! why are you eating wheat !…You had better try running as walking will do nothing, Bikram hot yoga is the only yoga that gets results, I just did a 12 week boot camp, Zumba gave me the best butt….etc etc etc”
There are SOoooo soo many topics in this field, it is hard to know what really works. It is also very overwhelming especially if you are juggling the challenges of a new bub or motherhood in general.
What you need to remember is there is no magic prescription or single way that will work to get your body back. Just because your friend is a vegetarian and loves how she feels, doesn’t mean you should get rid of all meat as well. Why would you take something out of your diet without knowing what is best for your body? You could actually be hindering fat loss.
If you had a baby 8 weeks ago or 10 years ago – I am sure you have a goal to get your body back as close to its “pre baby” state. There are many MANY misconceptions when it comes to fat loss, weight loss, fitness, food, exercise etc etc. The tricky thing about all of this information that you read and hear daily is that everyone’s body responds differently.
My biggest concern, is that I see so many women post birth, launch back into exercise with the mentality that they must “punish” themselves to get results. Please don’t do this – your body needs to heal from the inside when you are postpartum. Seek the advice of a certifed Pre / Postnatal Trainer or Women’s Health Physio for safe and effective exercises.
So what works for me…
As a trainer I am often asked what exercises I do and what I eat. In truth, I can only say what has worked for me and the guidelines I follow to keep my healthy lifestyle. I never like to “prescribe” tips or workouts and say “this is the be all and end all”.
I am not an extremist when it comes to my food and I don’t do diets. I enjoy everything in moderation 80/20 style. I cook with food my family and I love to eat and that makes me feel energized. I enjoy what you may call a JERF (just.eat.real.food) eating plan and I also avoid refined sugars whenever I can. This is a balanced form of nutrition which focuses mainly on plant based and protein food sources that make me feel healthy and work for my body.
Please remember ….
Different exercise and eating tactics will work differently for every individual, however there are certainly some tips that can help you to accelerate fat loss significantly. Oh, and if you are one of those people who is still very focused about a number on a scale, you need to understand weight loss and fat loss are two very different things, and for that reason I personally don’t own a scale. What I am about to provide are…
10 Tips for Postpartum Fat Loss
Tip 1) Start Exercising
- The earliest you should return to exercise is 6 weeks post natural birth and 8 weeks post caesarean section and episiotomy – once your doctor has cleared you and provided you are feeling up to it.
- Please read about Returning to Exercise Post Natally. It is very important you allow yourself time to heal and commence exercise safely.
- Always begin very slowly but consistently at least 2-4 times a week .”Whaaat !” I hear you say – “I hardly have time to wash my hair twice a week” I totally understand.
- Remember consistency is the key to improvement in fitness and re-conditioning so you need to try to commit to this. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t happen when you want to – baby steps. It will get easier as you get stronger, less tired and your baby gets older.
- Exercise is also a great opportunity to have some “me time”, that is rare time just for you without the bub. Trust me you will feel more energised afterwards – try to squeeze 15 – 20 mins when you can.
- Remember fat loss is not the only benefit you will gain from exercise there are many others click here to find out.
Tip 2) Lift Something
You WILL NOT look like Arnold Schwarzenegger if you lift weights – trust me !
- Firstly please consult a Certifed Pre/Postnatal Trainer when returning to exercise post birth.
- Smart women lift weights. I cannot stress enough how important it is to LIFT WEIGHTS if you want to accelerate fat loss. YOU WILL NOT GET BULKY, please move away from this myth.
- The only thing that will happen if you add weights to your workout is a faster metabolism, tighter physique and more defined body. Sound good ?
- Weight training boosts metabolic rate both over the short term as well as over the long term. In the hours after a weightlifting workout you will experience an increase in metabolic rate. What’s more, weight lifting will help you maintain your total amount of lean muscle mass, creating a permanent increase in metabolism
- Yes, I am a woman and I lift weights…and I did this before during and after my 3 pregnancies. I am also a woman who does NOT have a huge amount of muscle mass and I definitely don’t have arms like Arnie !
- Women who look like this would have had a minimum of 10 -15 years of vigorous daily weight training and dieting (plus used other supplements) – unless you want to strive to make that same commitment you have nothing to worry about. Adding weights to your workout 2-3 times a week is only going to make you look lean.
- Many women need to move away from the cardio “overdose” which can cause a decrease in muscle mass if done too often, but also causes decrease in metabolic rate…and increase in exhaustion especially if you are a new mother.
- Aim for a weekly combination of 1 session of Cardio (preferably HIIT Cardio), 2 sessions of Weights or start with some resistance classes including Boxing or TRX, if the thought of entering the free weight zone in the gym scares you try a personal training session.
Tip 3) Eat Protein at Every Meal
- Why ? Protein helps to satisfy hunger and eating protein helps preserve muscle mass and encourages fat burning while making you feel satiated.
- Protein also helps you get lean by boosting your metabolic rate, which ultimately leads to burning more fat.
- Women require 15 % more protein during Pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
- Protein after a workout has also been proven to be the best way to boost muscle protein synthesis at the most critical time of your training day, optimizing the muscle-building and growth process. There is something called the post workout “window” which is about 45 minutes. Be sure to feed your muscles in this time or else you become at risk of breaking down the muscle fibers rather than helping to rebuild them; thus slowing metabolism. The best way to do this is with a “natural” “no nasties” protein shake or smoothie. Click here for a special offer.
My favourite sources of protein include:
- Chicken Breast, Turkey, Pork (lean white meats)
- Fish – tuna, salmon
- Kangaroo (very low in fat and high in iron)
- Eggs, Egg whites.
- Whey Protein Powder (pure WPI with no additives)
- Fibre and Protein combinations – Quinoa (keen-wah).
- Healthy Protein Smoothie
Tip 4) Eat Fruits and Vegetables with every meal
We all know that fruits and veggies are healthy, but when it comes to fat loss, fruits and vegetables are absolutely necessary!
- Vegetables are so effective when it comes to fat loss because they provide ‘bulk’ to the diet with very few calories. Your metabolism is able to stay elevated because your body has to process the large volume of food and fiber that vegetables provide.
- Vegetables keep blood sugar levels steady so muscle building and fat burning is not affected.
- Vegetables are extremely nutrient dense (packed with macronutrients) and very low in calories.
- Good news you can eat as many green leafy vegetables as you like EVERY MEAL– especially, kale, rocket, lettuce, spinach.
- Try to buy organic vegetables, if not, be sure to wash them in a vegetable rinse to get rid of any chemical pesticide residue (especially if pregnant).
- Get creative – start your day and include some veggies with breakfast ! Try a veggie packed omelet. Or Roast some veggies and add them to your favourite salad…roasted sweet potato is amazing.
I pre-wash all my fruit and veggies with a Veggie wash each Sunday so they are ready for the week.
- When it comes to fat loss, fruit can get a bad reputation. Many of my clients tell me I have cut out fruit from their diet, my response is “Noooooo- Fruits are healthy! In fact they are top shelf healthy”.
- They are rich in vitamins and minerals, photo-chemicals and antioxidants that all have positive properties when eaten. Also very important for growing babies if you are breastfeeding.
- Fruits are fiber filled and water dense – so fill you up and keep you satisfied.
- Now fruit does get tricky when trying to shed fat. Its all about choosing the right types of fruits. I personally try to always enjoy fruit together with protein because the protein slows the release of the sugars. Instead of getting a large spike in blood sugar from eating a cup of watermelon, try eating watermelon with ½ cup natural Greek Yogurt or blend a banana into your delicious whey protein smoothie with almond milk !
- You can also avoid sugar spikes by choosing low GI fruits such as berries, kiwifruits, cherries, peaches, grapefruits and apples
- Best of all how convenient is fruit ? VERY ! It is so easy to grab an apple if you are busy. Plus it is fun to eat a little fruit platter with your toddler.
Tip 5) Eat Fat to Lose Fat
- Yes, you MUST eat fat to lose fat. Sounds like an oxymoron right? The health benefits of good fats which are found in fish, nuts, seeds, flaxseed oil, olive oil and coconut oil are astounding!
- Omega-3 fats in particular are super important when trying to shed fat. Benefits such as less risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, brain food for you and your babies–are great on their own. But omega-3 fats contribute to a better physique and beautiful skin as well.
- Omega-3s reduce inflammation throughout your body. That not only prevents heart attacks (inflammation in the tissues surrounding blood vessels is a major cause) but also helps your muscles recover faster from workouts.
- I take fish oil tablets everyday and also incorporate healthy fats such as salmon, olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, sunflower seeds, avocado, macadamias and natural almond butter into my diet every single day.
- Healthy fats provide you with a source of energy that will help you feel alive all day long. Muscle burns calories 24 hours a day and if you eat a low fat or no fat diet you will have a hard time building and maintaining muscle. And with no muscle you won’t burn fat ! Simple as that – eat your fats my friends !
- There is a BIG difference between the natural, wholesome, ‘good’ carbs we are designed to eat and the unnatural, highly-processed, ‘refined’ white carbs so many of us consume on a daily basis.
- Bad carbs or the “white devils” are refined, processed carbohydrate foods that have had all or most of their natural nutrients and fiber removed in order to make them easier to transport and more ‘consumer friendly.’ Most baked goods, white breads, pastas, snack foods and sweets fit into this category.
- Why avoid them ? Our hormonal and digestive systems developed over the course of millions of years. Yet only in the past 100 years or so have humans had access to these highly-processed carbohydrates in abundance. Our bodies simply have not had time to evolve to handle the rapid changes in food processing.
- Because of this, most of the processed carbs we eat wreak havoc on our natural hormone levels. Insulin production, especially, is ‘thrown out of wack’ as the body attempts to process the huge amounts of starches and simple sugars contained in a typical ‘bad carb’-based meal. This leads to dramatic fluctuations in blood glucose levels – a big reason why you often feel lethargic after eating these unhealthy meals.
- Also, it’s important to realize that most processed carb foods provide only ’empty’ calories – calories with little or no nutritional-value. Eat enough of these empty calories and your body will quickly turn them into extra body-fat.
- Regular consumption of large amounts of high-sugar, low-fiber, nutritionally-poor ‘bad carbs’ eventually leads to a much higher risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and fertility problems.
- These refined white foods are contributing to a health crisis or “globesity” in all parts of the world in the forms of child obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Millions of people are simply unaware of what they are doing to their bodies or kids bodies every time they eat processed carbs.
* So if you feel like white rice why not try Quinoa…or even better make some Cauliflower rice.
* Try to quit sugar. Or if you can’t go for less processed varieties Stevia, agave syrup or rapadura sugar or honey.
* Try swapping white potatoes for sweet potatoes.
**Remember that this tip also pertains to anything that is “crumbed” or has been labelled “battered” as this contains white flour.
Tip 7 ) Slow down:
Think slow and steady when its comes to eating your food. Don’t be a multi tasking eater !
- I have been known to “inhale my food” and not even think about what is on my plate. This especially occurs if you are trying to juggle eating your meal together with feeding babies and children at the same time.
- I try to consciously take my time and savour the moment, enjoy the flavours, take pride in the food you cooked or if you are dining out, the flavours used in your dish.
- Yes there are some distractions that can’t be avoided. But some you can – don’t use your phone while eating, turn off the TV and instead try starting up a conversation about the food on your plate. It is also a great way for children to also get involved and learn about what they are eating.
- You need to get in touch with your hunger in order to better understand your body. Learn when you ‘feel full’ and notice hunger signals. You certainly won’t even know if you are still hungry or full if you just simply finish your food in 3 minutes flat then log onto Facebook. Think about how long you chew your food and make an effort to chew your food completely to help with the digestive process within your body.
- One of my favourite “me time” moments are “Food. Myself and Silence”….especially when the kids are asleep.
Tip 8 ) Variety
- Eat different foods. Eat those foods at different times of the day.
- Do not get into a food rut and boredom by eating the same exact things every single day at the same time. Your body will get used to the foods and the times you eat those foods, just like exercise. You must change it up and shock your body.
- As busy women and mums it is often too easy just to grab packed food at the supermarket. Instead take advantage of all of the delicious fruits and vegetables that are in season around you – make a trip to a local markets with the kids in tow. Trust me it can actually be easier and more fun than the weekly supermarket challenge.
- Cook your foods in different ways. Roast, steam, sauté, poach, stir-fry !
- Also try pairing foods together you would never think about. One of my favourites that always get the “Ohhh really??” from people when I tell them that is delicious is Avocado Chocolate Mousse. Its weird, but it works and its so delicious….and the kiddies love it. Just try branching out and see where it goes! Your body will thank you.
Tip 9 ) Don’t drink away your calories.
- This means put down the 500-calorie fruit juice and swap it for water.
- Calories from alcohol and diet soft drinks are ’empty calories’ – they have no nutritional value.
- If you really can’t get rid of your soda/soft drink addiction try sparkling waters with freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice.
Tip 10 ) Be kind to yourself.
- Think progress- not perfection.
- Early to bed – trust me it has been scientifically proven that the more sleep you get the more fat you will burn.
- DITCH THE DIET Recent research has found that the average Australian woman will go on at least 60 diets in their lifetime. Life is not about dieting. Life is about living but along the way you can make sensible choices which will be sustainable, benefit your body and your general health forever. A healthy happy Mum, means a healthy happy baby.
Start your journey and join a session with me today.
Dahlas Fletcher is one of Australia’s most respected and successful certified and experienced Pregnancy and Female Fitness Trainers. Her goal is to help you be the happiest, most fabulous version of yourself, inside and out.