Losing the baby weight

Read on for the facts (and the fiction) when it comes to losing your baby weight.

Breastfeeding helps you lose weight.

Fact(ish). The weight we gain during pregnancy has a purpose (besides driving you crazy): It gives your body some fat to feed your baby with. Theoretically, breastfeeding helps with gradual weight loss because it burns about 500 calories a day (approximately a bagel with cream cheese), says Rosine Bishara, a perinatal dietitian at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. If you eat exactly the way you did when you were pregnant, those excess pounds should slowly melt away. There’s a catch, though: You’ll only lose weight if you consume fewer calories than you burn, and nursing can make you hungry. That, coupled with your newfound exhaustion, can actually lead to weight gain, as you’re more likely to overdo it on easy-to-grab treats such as chocolate and chips, says Bishara.

To lose weight you need to restrict your caloric intake. Period.

Fiction. Not so, says Joey Shulman, a registered nutritionist and founder of the Shulman Weight Loss Clinic in Thornhill, Ont. Shulman emphasizes the role of hormonal imbalance caused by pregnancy and nursing — not to mention our normal monthly cycles — in women’s battles with their bulges. “Choosing the wrong foods can cause your body to produce too much of the hormone insulin, and excess insulin facilitates an increased storage of fat.” Shulman says her patients often stop craving sugary snacks in about a week by limiting carbs, choosing whole grains, and including protein at every snack and meal.

It’s harder to lose weight after you have a baby.

Fiction. The fat itself isn’t technically any different, but life sure is! Life after baby is full of challenges that can make losing weight harder than ever before, says Nur Akalin, Quebec territory manager for Weight Watchers. New moms are sleep deprived, strapped for time, and eat whatever they can grab quickly, whether it’s the crusts of their child’s grilled cheese or a bag of chips. Akalin urges new moms to stock their kitchens with healthy, easy-to-grab food (like frozen fish, pre-washed veggies, and grab-and-go fruits like apples and bananas).

It takes a year to put it on, so give yourself a year to take it off.

Fact. Women who gain the recommended 25 to 35 lbs. will get their pre-baby bodies back a lot faster than women who considered pregnancy an excuse to eat cake for breakfast. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. “One of my biggest complaints is people who assume their post-baby bodies are their destinies,” says Isabel DesRoches, mother of three and a personal trainer in Burlington, Ont. She suggests new moms take exercise slowly at first and urges them not to get discouraged if they’re a little more out of shape than they expected to be. “The bottom line is, I’m a better mom because I work out. I’m happier when I look good and I get to be a role model for my kids,” she says.