Published August 19, 2012

New Moms' Weight Loss Survival Guide

by Helen M. Ryan

It’s never too late to get your health back on track and fit into your jeans again—even if your “baby” is no longer a baby. (My youngest was in pre-kindergarten and my oldest was in 2nd grade when I finally fit into mine.) The important thing is that you start now, whatever way you can. Here’s how to get going:

Don’t reach for the “s.” When you’re tired (as moms often are), it’s easy to reach for quick foods that contain a lot of sugar (the “s-word”) and fat. Sugar makes us feel temporarily more energized, so it’s often our first choice (sugar, come whisper sweet nothings to me). 

Better snack ideas are ones that have protein or good fats, which help you feel full longer:

  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Cottage cheese
  • String cheese
  • Lean lunch meats
  • Spoonful of nut butter
  • Fruit/berries with nut butter
  • One square of dark-ish chocolate with a dab of peanut butter

Eat before the kids do. If your children are small, don’t wait to eat until you’ve fed them. Sometimes by the time our kids are fed and everything’s cleaned up, we are so famished that we will eat whatever is within our reach. And sometimes…we eat our kids’ leftovers and then our own dinners on top of that. Eat first. Then feed the monsters kids. Family dinner time will come as they grow older. Hunger leads to desperation, and desperation leads to a snack-a-thon.

Arrange trade-offs with other moms. Finding the time to exercise or getting to the gym can be really hard, especially if you’re frequently pulled off the treadmill to change a diaper or referee a fight. Try to “trade” time with a mom friend—she’ll watch yours while you exercise, then you’ll watch hers while she exercises. The best part of getting some uninterrupted exercise time is not only the physical benefits but the mental rewards. 30 minutes of cardio will:

  • Boost your mood
  • Empower you
  • Help you connect with the woman you were before you had kids. (Are you still there, person I was before?)
  • Make you less likely to run away

Playtime. Put your baby in a front or back carrier or stroller and hit your ‘hood. Walk as many hills as you can find, vary your pace, and pump your arms. Or exercise with the front carrier on, holding onto something sturdy as you squat and lunge, forward, back and side-to-side. You can also hold your baby on your chest as you do crunches, or for an older child, play a game of airplane and lift them up into the air, strengthening your legs and abs. Sometimes, the only time you have available to exercise is with your kid. While it’s not always the most intense of workouts, it’s moving you in a positive direction—and giving you some “face time” with your wee one. 

After my daughter started crawling, I was on the floor once, trying to do crunches. She crawled over, pulled my shirt up, and started nursing while I was exercising. Crunch up (child on boob). Crunch down (child still on boob). Such is mommy life.

Get some sleep. Make sure you get enough rest and nap as often as you need to. When you’re sleep-deprived, the levels of the hormones responsible for hunger increase, and you know what that means. The Rolling Stones said it best, “I can’t get no… satisfaction.”

Sprinkle exercise into your life, and try to make the healthiest food choices possible. You will make mistakes and that’s OK. Don’t beat yourself up over it (other people do that for us so well). 

Just do the best you can and remember that you are doing the most important (and demanding) job known to man: Raising good humans.