Find a Fun Way to Exercise
Annie R., 28
Before Pregnancy: 130 lbs. Gained: 37 lbs. Total Lost: 27 lbs.
Time: 5 months (with 10 lbs. to go)
How I did it: This was my third pregnancy, so I knew what I was in for, and it was easier for me to lose the weight than it was after my older children. This time, I started exercising more and eating better before I even got pregnant again and throughout pregnancy, so I felt prepared and confident to lose the weight after I gave birth to my son Trey. Taking classes at the gym probably had the biggest impact on my slimming down; I try to work out there about three times a week. I love my Turbo Kick class -- the music is great, and it's so much fun -- it's like being out with your friends and not at the gym. I also take a core strengthening class and do cardio on the elliptical once a week.
My biggest challenge: I was so afraid I wouldn't have time for the gym, but I found ways to make it work. My girlfriends and I took turns watching each others' babies, and my husband came home from work early twice a week. For me, it wasn't just about exercise -- I wasn't working and I needed this time to get out of the house and talk to other adults.
What kept me motivated: My friends/fellow moms at the gym -- if I skipped a day, they asked where I was. Plus, I found that exercise helped me sleep better and have more patience with my kids. It's better than a hot shower!
My best advice: You're in your own little world after baby arrives, and it's important to try to keep busy and get out there. Go to moms' groups, take a walk -- don't sit home all day, because that's when you'll start snacking.
Easy Exercises For New Moms
Choose Little Ways to Be More Active
Cora M., 36
Before Pregnancy: 185 lbs. Gained: 35 lbs. Total Lost: 70 lbs.
Time: 6 months
How I did it: I had a weight problem before pregnancy and have dealt with high blood pressure since I was 15. I figured this was the time to do everything I could to control it and be a good role model to my new daughter. I was really inactive before pregnancy but that changed drastically after having my baby. For the first three months, Allie was really colicky, so I was up every two hours, constantly bouncing her around, moving all day and night. It's not so much that I was trying to be active, but my life was forcing me to be. I also decided to "de-convenience" my house, which forced me to move around more. I got rid of the first-floor diaper changing station, so I was always making lots of trips up and down the stairs.
My diet tricks: I had problems breastfeeding, so my only alternative was to pump -- and I worked hard to increase my milk supply without eating too much or the wrong kinds of foods. I didn't want to count calories, so I paid attention to portions. If a piece of meat looked too big, I cut it in half.
I started eating a lot more protein, like veggie burgers, turkey, and chicken. Having more high-fiber foods -- like cereal, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta in soups -- made a huge difference; I stopped having hunger spikes during the day. I kept a bottle of water with me at all times and drank at least eight to 10 glasses a day -- this helped both my weight and milk supply!
What kept me motivated: I looked at pictures of myself on the computer from before I had Allie, and thought about how unhappy I was and how I didn't want to lose the sense of confidence I have now.
My best advice: When you come home from the hospital, it's easy to feel really overwhelmed. But it's really a matter of thinking positively as much as you can. And do whatever you need to do to get the weight off. I tried to eliminate negative thoughts; I watched I Lost It! on the Discovery Channel for inspiration.
Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time
Sadie K., 33
Before Pregnancy: 121 lbs. Gained: 19 lbs. Total Lost: 16 lbs.
Time: 3 1/2 months
How I did it: After the birth of my son Richard, my life was nonstop -- multitasking took on a totally new meaning. In the beginning, I was eating more fast food than ever before because I was just too wiped to cook. But then I started preparing meals at night so I could just pop them in the microwave while the baby was sleeping or playing. I learned that you need to have easy access to healthy food -- or else you'll just grab that chocolate muffin or bag of chips because they're right there. Plus, I breastfed exclusively for five months. They say that melts off the weight, and I am now a believer!
I wish I knew that: You still look pregnant after your child is born. I think I had unrealistic expectations about how long it would take to look like myself again.
My easy exercise trick: When I was out shopping, I carried Richard in a BabyBjorn, and I am sure that helped me lose weight. (He was 15.5 pounds by 4 months!) I didn't have time to formally exercise, but I also hardly ever sat still. I was always on the go.
My best advice: Watch what you eat during pregnancy -- the more weight you put on, the more you have to lose. I only ate fast food about 10 times when I was pregnant. Don't get me wrong, I indulged in pie, cake, and ice cream sometimes, but I mainly snacked on baby carrots, dried fruit, nuts, granola bars, and bananas. I cut out soda and stuck to water, tea, and some fruit juice. I went for a walk almost every day.
Do Something Regularly
Ann D., 30
Before Pregnancy: 185 lbs. Gained: 23 lbs. Total Lost: 48 lbs.
Time: 12 months
How I did it: At first, losing weight wasn't really on my mind -- I was more interested in taking care of my newborn daughter, Jaqui, and getting sleep. I knew breastfeeding was definitely helping, but after two months, I wanted to do more to get back into shape. At the same time, my younger sister was recovering from back surgery and also needed to lose some weight, so we decided that we'd do the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer (a walking marathon over two days) together. Setting this goal -- and knowing I'd have to do something regularly to work up to it -- gave me a routine that helped me stay motivated. I took my baby for walks with me -- one- to two-hour walks up to four times a week. She got fresh air and I got exercise. My husband and I also like biking, so we got a bike trailer for the baby. She loves being in there with a toy or two, and we go riding a couple of times a month on weekends. I didn't go to the gym and sweat it out by myself -- it was important to me that I found activities I could do with my family.
My diet tricks: I wasn't one of those people who couldn't keep any bad food in the house. I'd buy a bag of Oreos, but the bag lasted a month because I ate only one or two cookies at a time. Keeping them at the bottom of the pantry -- out of sight, out of mind -- helped. I started watching my portions during pregnancy and continued after Jaqui was born. And now that she eats what my husband and I eat, I'm even more conscious of preparing healthy food. Every meal has protein and some vegetables -- I aim for a colorful-looking plate.
I wish I knew that: Just because you want to do something doesn't mean the baby will too. There were days I'd put Jaqui in the stroller and she had no interest, so we'd walk home (with me carrying her and pushing the empty stroller), then I'd put her in the BabyBjorn, go back outside and she'd be fine. As with all parenting, I needed to be flexible.
My best advice: Just do some form of exercise, no matter how small. On days where we didn't have time to walk for a whole hour, I made sure to take a 10-minute walk after dinner. Any form of activity is better than sitting on the couch, and it helps keep you refreshed.
Exercise With Baby: Triceps and Shoulders
Ask for Help
Patti T., 36
Orland Park, Illinois
Before Pregnancy: 140 lbs. Gained: 55 lbs. Total Lost: 65 lbs.
Time: 1 month (for 55 lbs.); 11 months (for remaining 10 lbs.)
How I did it: It took me a year to lose the weight I gained with my first baby, and I was determined to do it more quickly with my second. I decided to follow the diet in the book Body After Baby, a 30-day plan of recipes from nutrition expert Jackie Keller. You eat six small meals a day, and they're all balanced with fruits/vegetables, carbs, and protein, but they do take a lot of effort to prepare. So I asked my mother-in-law, Joy Polito, to help with the cooking. This allowed me to focus on caring for my new baby (I was breastfeeding) and my toddler.
How I kept it off: Following this diet totally changed my eating habits -- I had never snacked on fruit or eaten salads before. Once I lost most of my pregnancy weight, I felt so good that I wanted to keep it up, so I joined a gym. I took step or aerobics classes during my lunch break at work a few times a week.
What kept me motivated: I taped a picture of a model from a magazine on the wall next to my bed. Seeing her flat belly every day reminded me how happy I would feel to look that way. I also started seeing that I had more energy and was doing better at work.
My best advice: It's absolutely important to take care of yourself. When I felt great, I knew I was taking better care of my kids. And now that my daughters are a little older, I can see my new eating habits are influencing them. My 6-year-old notices that I eat a lot of salads, and now she's always trying new vegetables.
Set a Big Goal
Julie Anna J., 33
Before Pregnancy: 145 lbs. Gained: 54 lbs. Total Lost: 54 lbs.
Time: 2 years (with 10 lbs. to go after 12 months)
How I did it: I'd always been active before pregnancy, but I was really overwhelmed in those first few weeks after the baby and didn't even think about it. I hoped nursing would help with the calorie burn, but after a month, I still couldn't tug my jeans up over my hips. Running had helped me stay fit in the past; I'd done a few half-marathons and had a goal since high school to do a full marathon. So I started a training program, and worked my way up to a 10K and then ultimately a full marathon by my daughter Anna's second birthday. After a couple of months of running, the weight started falling off and I started to see my muscle tone again.
How I found the time: My baby was with me in the jogging stroller a lot! She eventually realized the runs were part of our daily schedule, and got used to napping in the stroller. I'd try to work with her temperament -- most of the time we'd run during naptime and she'd sleep through it. But sometimes she'd start crying and I'd have to stop, go back to the car, breastfeed her, and start running again. Or just call it quits and try to run by myself after my husband got home in the evening.
What kept me motivated: I told people about my plans to run the marathon; I blogged about it. Running is 5 percent physical and 95 percent mental. I really tried to surround myself with positive people. Seeing some of the weight come off was important too -- it encouraged me to want to lose more.
My best advice: Look at yourself differently. Instead of thinking, "I'm so huge," I tried to remember that my body gave birth to this beautiful girl, my body could run a marathon, etc. Don't be discouraged if the weight doesn't fall off immediately. Think of it instead as getting healthy -- it takes some of the pressure off.
Courtesy of Lorri Christou
Lorri C., 36
Before Pregnancy: 185 lbs. Gained: 60 lbs. Total Lost: 101 lbs.
Time: 3.5 years
How I did it: I lost the first 80 pounds over the first year and a half after my second child was born, strictly by changing my eating habits. I didn't follow a specific diet program, but I tried to be smart about my portions. Instead of a huge bowl of pasta, I made penne the side dish to a dinner of chicken and veggies, for example. I stopped drinking my calories -- I only drank water and milk. I also stopped eating after dinner, which prevented me from snacking out of boredom. Eventually I gained some of this weight back, and I knew I needed to start exercising as well. I started working out five days a week; after my kids (now 4 and 6 years old) go to bed, I'll walk on the treadmill at home, do a strength routine or an exercise DVD. We also walk and ride bikes as a family.
My smartest diet trick: Sitting down to eat real meals with my family. I realized I was constantly picking at my kids' leftovers, in addition to eating my own meals separately. Or I'd skip meals because I was running around and wound up overeating later.
What kept me motivated: My kids, specifically my daughter. I struggled with weight issues my whole life, and I didn't want her to grow up feeling self-conscious about it. When I was heavier, I lost my self-confidence, and threw myself into my kids' lives to avoid calling attention to me and my appearance. Now I love to go shopping, do my hair, wear nice clothes. I want my kids to be proud of me and think I'm beautiful inside and out.
My best advice: Don't be afraid to put yourself first. Because I worked full-time, I felt like I needed to be there for my children every second I was home -- I felt guilty going out for a walk for 30 minutes. Eventually, it hit me that they wouldn't love me any less and I wouldn't be any worse of a mom. If you're healthy and happy, it's better for your kids in the long run.
Make Walking a Must
Liliana S., 32
Before Pregnancy: 108 lbs. Gained: 29 lbs. Total Lost: 25 lbs.
Time: 1 month
How I did it: I knew I shouldn't formally exercise for six weeks after having my son Sasha, but I couldn't just sit on the couch either. My doctor said easy walking was fine, so I got a fully reclining stroller, and from the time my baby was five days old, I just put him in and off we went, walking slowly as he mostly slept. I didn't feel like I was "working out," but then the weight started to fall off, and I figured it must have been from all the walking. After six weeks, I also started doing Pilates DVDs a few times a week, which helped my stomach muscles get stronger.
My diet tricks: I was breastfeeding and hungry all the time, so I made sure to eat healthy meals and snacks. Breakfast was always my biggest meal and dinner my smallest. We almost never ate out and I cooked a lot of soups, which filled me up and provided extra fluid for breastfeeding. My favorite snack was trail mix; I kept a big bag at my desk after I went back to work. I also loved cheese with whole-grain crackers and fresh fruit.
When I felt too tired: Some nights the baby would wake up every hour. Those following mornings, I just walked very slowly. I knew sitting inside wouldn't make me feel any better.
My best advice: Don't treat walking like something you have to do -- view it as a way to spend time with your baby, and you'll enjoy it a lot more.
Exercise With Baby: Lower Abs and Obliques
Give Yourself Time
Maral S., 28
San Mateo, California
Before Pregnancy: 133 lbs. Gained: 25 lbs. Total Lost: 25 lbs.
Time: 7-8 months
How I did it: I didn't lose the weight right away. As a first-time mom, I was so sleep-deprived and my health was not my main priority. I got home from a long day and didn't want to take lean chicken out of the freezer and grill it -- it was so much easier to eat whatever junk was in the pantry. I started snacking in the middle of the night from being up with the baby. If I did manage to work out, I came home and ate twice as many calories as I had just burned off. After four months, I felt miserable about how I looked and I knew I needed to make a change. At the same time, a good friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy and lost all her hair. Many of my girlfriends were already in training groups to run races for cancer, but with a young baby, I couldn't make the time commitment. So I bought a jogging stroller and created my own running club of me and Ava. We started walking/jogging, working our way up in half-mile increments, and after a couple of months, I was able to finish a half-marathon.
My diet tricks: I'm not a dieter. If something's in front of me, I'll eat it. So one day, I gathered up all the food in my kitchen I knew I shouldn't be eating and donated it. I re-stocked with healthy stuff, like lean meat, whole wheat everything, tuna, veggies, salad. After I started running, I learned that carbs are not the enemy -- they give you energy as long as you eat the right ones.
What kept me motivated: Running for a cause, for my friends who couldn't, kept me going when I wanted to give up. Ava also loved being outdoors in the fresh air. Eventually it became such a part of her routine, she knew something was off if we didn't go.
My best advice: Be realistic. After pregnancy, you have new problem areas. Losing the weight takes a lot of hard work and discipline, and even after you do, you won't look exactly the same as you did before, especially in the lower belly. The elasticity of the skin changes, and there may not be a lot you can do about it.
Follow a Program: Weight Watchers
Amy D., 39
Before Pregnancy: 145 lbs. Gained: 50 lbs. Total Lost: 42 lbs.
Time: 2 years
How I did it: I dropped 25 pounds soon after my baby Abby was born, but I gained it all back over the next year or so. I had terrible morning sickness during pregnancy and was used to eating all the time, so I stopped watching how much I ate. I started noticing how bad I felt -- I couldn't keep up in my weekly soccer games anymore. My husband, who runs Ironman competitions, saw I was getting bigger, and encouraged the three of us to start going for walks a few times a week after work. That, combined with joining Weight Watchers, really helped my weight start to melt off. I was able to eat whatever I wanted, but I had to make trade-offs. I can't say I was good about eating salads every time, but I tracked my "points" and ate healthy at other meals.
My biggest challenge: The lack of sleep in the first year was really grueling on my emotions. It was hard to feel good about myself when I was tired all the time. Food became an escape from everyday life, something extra to enjoy. Also, my baby was my whole world, and I didn't make time to take care of myself.
What kept me motivated: My husband was my strong arm. He was always working out and bettering himself, which eventually guilted me into being more active and eating better. If he could do, why couldn't I?
My best advice: If you can't eat healthy on your own, stick to a diet program. And have a good support system or it won't work. If your husband's eating cookies and gummy bears every night, it's hard for you to be good.
Follow a Program: NutriSystem
Kacey D., 29
Londonderry, New Hampshire
Before Pregnancy: 150 lbs. Gained: 41 lbs. Total Lost: 71 lbs.
Time: 2 years
How I did it: Breastfeeding my twin babies Dylan and Kelsey quickly melted all of my pregnancy weight right off away (that's what happens when you're burning hundreds of extra calories a day, I guess!). I managed to keep the weight off the whole 15 months I nursed, but it came back as soon as I weaned. Within a couple of months, I gained about 30 pounds. I'd been a dieter all my life, and the last thing I wanted was to start counting calories again, so I chose NutriSystem, which delivers pre-packaged meals to your house. As a busy mom of twins, I loved that I could open my cabinets and have healthy food already there -- I didn't need to think about what to eat or finding time to make it.
I was always a gym person, but I stopped once I started staying home with the kids. I walked (either on the treadmill, using a walking DVD or outside) about a half-hour to an hour a day and did strength-training exercises like push-ups and crunches 20 minutes a day. After a few months, I lost 43 pounds -- the lowest I've weighed since before I got married!
My diet tricks: NutriSystem taught me portion control. When I was breastfeeding I could eat whatever I wanted, and it was hard for me to adjust my eating habits after I stopped. I learned how to fill up on healthy stuff, like adding fruit to breakfast or a salad to lunch, and cut back on less-filling stuff like bread and pastas. I still got to splurge on things like NutriSystem's chocolate and pizza, but because it was controlled, I didn't need to eat a ton to feel satisfied.
My biggest challenge: Getting motivated to lose the weight -- all over again. I didn't want this process to become my whole life or take away from focusing on my kids. Having pop-in-the-microwave meals made the whole thing a no-brainer, and let me spend more time with my children.
My best advice: We're so used to eating super-sized everything. If you don't follow a specific diet program, at least try cutting more of what you eat in half. Then wait 20 minutes and if you're still hungry, eat more.
Breastfeed If You Can!
Jessica S., 32
Before Pregnancy: 175 lbs. Gained: 25 lbs. Total Lost: 45 lbs.
Time: 9 months
How I did it: I knew breastfeeding Maria would help. She was born in April, so I walked with her a few times a week. These two things seemed to be the trick for me. I'd always worked, so this was my first time home all day and I found myself getting very bored. Walking around the neighborhood helped keep me focused. We lived in a community where everything was accessible by foot, so I took Maria to the grocery store, library, and on other errands.
My diet tricks: I was always a pretty healthy eater, but snacks were my downfall (my big weaknesses were brownies or cookies I baked). I made a point to snack more on fruit, like apples, bananas, and grapes. But when I was really hungry I went for something with protein, like yogurt or a handful of nuts.
My other magic bullet: Sleep! I could never nap when the baby napped, so I worked at getting her to sleep longer stretches. At first I would also go to sleep at 8 or 9 p.m. because I knew that would be my longest stretch of sleep before she woke up. This definitely kept my energy levels up. But even on days when I was exhausted, I knew taking a walk would make me feel more alert.
My best advice: Breastfeed if you can, even if it's just until you go back to work. Besides being so healthy for your baby, it kick-starts your metabolism and you can eat more without gaining.
Take After Your Kid
Meghna P., 29
Before Pregnancy: 120 lbs. Gained: 30 lbs. Total Lost: 35 lbs.
Time: 12 months
How I did it: I breastfed and ate healthy, but I didn't finish losing the weight (and then some!) until after my daughter Aashi got a little older and more active. It was harder for me to eat regularly because I was always running around after her! I started eating a lot less, but more often -- that's better than having two or three big meals a day. My baby loves to play outside; we would go out to the backyard a few times a day. She also loves music, and we were always dancing and bouncing around with her.
A surprising perk: I live with my in-laws and my mom stayed with me for the first two weeks after I had the baby. Having homemade meals and not worrying about cooking was a huge help. I didn't really exercise, but I was always on my feet. There were always family and friends around the house, and I felt like I was constantly on the go.
What kept me motivated: My mom and my culture. In India, where I was born, they embrace body image differently. There's not as much pressure to lose baby weight because it's accepted that your body will change over time. It's not the main thing women think about after giving birth.
My best advice: Try not to base your life around losing the weight. Focus on caring for and loving your baby. Don't put yourself last, but realize that stressing about it won't help.
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