"While this may not result in fast weight loss, you are more likely to be able to keep the weight off and maintain a healthier lifestyle."
You know you should lose some weight. In fact, you want to lose all that weight you gained when you were pregnant. But how do you do that when you've got a baby to feed, a house to clean and precious, precious sleep to eventually catch up on?
Turns out you're not alone.
A study by the University of South Australia has discovered that it's not that we don't know what we have to do, it's just that we find it incredibly difficult to prioritise weight loss over everything else we need to do. This is especially poignant for those of us who were diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
“This research shows that despite women being well informed about the right foods to eat and the need to exercise (including the range of diet and exercise programs and trackers), women identify their primary barrier to weight loss as ‘family responsibilities’, with 62 per cent prioritising this over their personal health,” says UniSA lead researcher and PhD candidate Kristy Gray.
“Women who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes have seven times the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, making them one of the most at-risk groups. Weight loss and healthy eating can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but losing weight after pregnancy can be challenging, especially with the demands of motherhood."
What a dietitian says about postpartum weight loss
According to Kristy, her research highlights the need for women with previous gestational diabetes and a high risk of type 2 diabetes to be able to access more individualised support services and professional guidance to lose weight.
“Two-thirds of the women interviewed said that individual appointments with a dietitian or nutritionist would help them to lose weight, but unfortunately, these appointments are not affordable for everyone,” she says.
As a busy mum of three children, Amanda Muhl, Mums At The Table's resident accredited practising dietitian, understands the struggle extremely well. And she has some simple ways to help you lose your pregnancy weight:
- If you are able to, breastfeed your baby for as long as possible.
- Aim for two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables each day.
- Choose wholegrain breads, cereals and grains.
- Choose reduced-fat dairy products. This is an easy way to reduce kilojoules.
- Reach for a healthy snack such as a piece of fruit, a small tub of low-fat yoghurt, a glass of low-fat milk, a small handful of nuts or veggie sticks and hummus.
- Fill up on veggies. Aim to fill half your plate with salad or vegetables at lunch and dinner.
- Try to include plant sources of protein in your diet daily. These include legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds.
- Drink lots of water.
- Be mindful of your portion sizes and stop eating when you are full.
- Fill your fridge and cupboard with healthy and fresh foods. It is much easier to avoid foods high in fat, sugar and salt when they are not easily available.
While professionals tell us to aim to exercise for 30 minutes, five days a week (after you've been cleared by your doctor), that number can sound unattainable with everything else that we have to do.
Amanda has some solutions, starting with breaking it down into 10 minutes of physical activity three times per day. You could join a gym that has childminding services or try an exercise DVD at home. Best of all, you don't even need to be "exercising" in the traditional sense of the word:
- Take your baby for a walk in the pram or baby carrier outside or the shops
- Vacuum the house
- Put on some music and dance
A warning about losing weight after baby
While it's important that mums, especially those who have had gestational diabetes, return to their pre-pregnancy weight after giving birth, Amanda warns that we shouldn't be too hasty as well.
"Diets that promise fast weight loss can be very tempting but are usually unable to be maintained in the long run," says Amanda. "While you may see results quickly, they tend to be very restrictive, and as soon as you return to normal eating, it is very easy to regain all the weight that was lost, and in many cases even gain additional weight. It is more beneficial to make long-lasting and sustainable lifestyle changes that will assist you in losing weight. While this may not result in fast weight loss you are more likely to be able to keep the weight off and maintain a healthier lifestyle.
For those who have had gestational diabetes, a return to pre-pregnancy weight within six to 12 months after birth has been shown to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In addition, if you are still carrying some extra weight since your baby turned one, losing 5–10 per cent of your body weight will also help reduce your risk.