Nutritionist Cindy Williams answers your questions on a common post-pregnancy issue.
How much weight is it OK to gain during pregnancy?
The amount of weight gained during pregnancy depends on your pre-pregnancy weight. If you are in the normal weight range, you can expect to gain around 11-16 kilos. Underweight women tend to gain more weight — up to18kg. Overweight women gain less, sometimes as little as five to six kilos for those who are extremely overweight to start with.
It is comforting to know that only a small proportion of the weight gained is actually fat. Your baby accounts for three to four kilos. Then there is the support system to allow your baby to grow: your breasts add 0.5kg, your uterus and placenta another 1.5kg, amniotic fluid one to two kilos, increased blood volume 1.5kg and extra fluid another 1.5kg. That adds up to around another six or seven kilos.
How long does it take to lose what I gained during pregnancy?
You will lose four or five kilos during the birth of your baby and a little more over the next few days from any retained fluid. This weight-loss is not fat loss. The extra pregnancy fat may take from six to more than 12 months to lose. Remember: it took nine months to accumulate so give your body time to lose it.
When can I start dieting/trying to lose weight?
Allow the first six to eight weeks to settle into a routine with your new baby and to recover from the birth. This is not the time to go on a diet. Rather, focus on healthy eating. Once you and your baby are settled you can cut back on the indulgent treats, reduce your serve sizes and eat more nutrient-dense foods such as eggs, nuts, fish, lean meat and chicken, vegetables and fruit, milk and yoghurt.
Is it OK to diet if I’m breastfeeding?
Once breastfeeding is established you can lose up to half a kilo a week without compromising your baby’s growth. Your body needs food to provide the extra energy and nutrients to produce enough good quality breast milk. Some women find that they naturally lose weight while breastfeeding. Breastfeeding burns up around 2000 extra kilojoules a day. This helps some, but not all, women to regain their pre-pregnancy weight.
How do celebrities lose weight so quickly after giving birth? Is it harmful to lose weight so quickly?
Some celebrities may have not gained much fat during their pregnancy and so have little to lose after the birth. Others go on a strict diet and exercise regime. This can be harmful if your body has not fully recovered from the birth. It can cause extreme tiredness at a time when most new mums are already sleep deprived. It may also limit milk production so the baby does not get enough energy for growth. The ideal rate of weight-loss is half to one kilo a week. Any more than that is likely to be muscle and fluid, not fat. Be patient with your body. Slow and steady is the healthy way to go — for you and your baby.
What’s the best plan of attack for losing weight?
- Put your food on a plate, sit down to eat and eat slowly. No eating on the run or at the kitchen bench!
- Eat regular meals. Don’t skip meals or you will end up ravenous later.
- Drink plenty of water, especially if breast-feeding and exercising.
- Keep healthy snacks on hand such as nuts, fruit, low-fat yoghurt, hummus, wholegrain crackers, canned fish.
- Eat only when hungry. If you’re feeling bored, sip a glass of sparkling water or pack up the pram and go for a walk.
- Include nutrient-rich foods at each meal. Try eggs on wholegrain toast, baked beans, muesli and low-fat yoghurt, a banana berry smoothie made with banana, frozen berries, trim milk and low-fat yoghurt, minestrone soup, smoked salmon nibbles.
- Make your dinner plate half vegetables.
- Sleep when baby sleeps. Lack of sleep can increase your appetite and make it even harder to lose weight.
- Do 30-60 minutes of light to moderate exercise each day such as walking with your baby. Avoid heavy weights and strenuous exercise.