Meet Victoria, Deb, Melinda, Jenny
Victoria Pericon, 33
Children: Natalie, 2 1/2; Luke, 10 months
Lost: 45 pounds in 9 months
How Victoria did it: "I squeezed exercise into my daily life by doing errands -- like going to the grocery store and post office -- on foot. I walked everywhere I possibly could with Luke in a front carrier or both kids in a stroller. Not only did these short walks make me feel better, but they seemed to calm my children down and help Luke nap."
Why it works: Fitting in smaller bursts of physical activity can be just as effective as regular, longer workouts. Researchers have found that when combined with cutting calories, this type of "lifestyle activity" can lead to weight loss. In fact, one study showed that dieters who incorporated several short spurts of moderate activity, such as brisk walking, into their day lost about a pound a week.
Take-home tip: Head for the stairs instead of the elevator, break out your bike, and park farther away from the entrances at work, the mall, and the grocery store. And whenever you can, do errands on foot. Not only will your baby love riding in the front carrier or the stroller, but you'll burn even more calories from carrying or pushing his extra weight.
Deb Olsen, 33
Children: Dillon, 4; Samantha, 2
Lost: 30 pounds in 20 months
How Deb did it: "After struggling to lose the baby weight after my second child, I made a major diet change: I stopped eating refined carbs made from enriched flour, like French toast and garlic bread, and I switched to whole-grain bread and whole wheat pasta and tortillas. I also reduced my portion sizes. Now, instead of having a big bowl of pasta, I eat a smaller amount with some protein -- like chicken or fish -- thrown in."
Why it works: Research shows that hearty, fiber-rich whole grains help you eat less because the fiber fills you up with fewer calories than products made from enriched flour. Pairing protein with whole grains also keeps you feeling fuller longer, while an all-carb meal will just leave you wanting more food.
Take-home tip: Aim for half of the carbs you eat to be whole grain. In one day, that's about three to four servings, such as one slice of whole-grain bread, one cup of whole-grain cereal, and a half cup of brown rice. When you're buying prepackaged foods, always choose those that have the words "whole grain" as the first ingredient.
Melinda Low, 25
Daughter: Juliet, 8 months
Lost: 33 pounds in 2 months
How Melinda did it: "I breastfed my daughter (and still do). Not only does nursing burn lots of calories, but it also makes you thirsty, so I was drinking tons of water throughout the day. That kept me feeling full, so I didn't have any interest in snacking on junk food."
Why it works: Your body uses about 500 extra calories per day to produce milk, so busy new moms are likely to burn them faster than they can replace them. Breastfeeding may even have long-term weight-loss perks: A study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found that women who nursed their child for at least three months gained less weight over the next 10 years compared with those who never breastfed.
Take-home tip: You should never try to diet when you're breastfeeding. Not only can it affect your milk supply, but it's vital that you fulfill your extra calorie needs with healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Instead, try to stay away from high-fat foods with little nutritional value.
Jenny Davis, 34
Daughters: Eleanor, 2; Charlotte, 10 months
Lost: 30 pounds in 6 months
How Jenny did it: "I joined WeightWatchers.com because, as a mom of two young kids, I knew I wouldn't be able to make it to the group meetings in person. Keeping an online food diary, searching the site for tasty, low-fat recipes, and using the interactive tools to chart my progress gave me tons of motivation to reach my goal."
Why it works: Research has shown that online dieting can be just as effective as a face-to-face program. It's especially convenient for moms, thanks to 24-7 access to tips and information and group message boards where women can swap their stories and support each other.
Take-home tip: Compare several weight-loss programs before you join one, and think about which best fits your lifestyle and budget. Most important, make sure the plan you choose teaches you how to eyeball portion sizes and suggests ways to incorporate your new, healthier eating habits into your lifestyle.