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Get Fit After Baby

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.

Tonya Jackson, 31

Daughter: Abby, 18 months
Lost: 54 pounds in 10 months

How Tonya did it: "When it comes to sweets, I have no willpower. I know I can't stop at just one cookie-I'll end up eating the whole box. So I got rid of all the fattening treats in the house and replaced them with nutritious ones like fruit and yogurt."

Why it works: Trigger foods (the ones you consistently overeat) can sabotage your healthy eating plan, so keeping them out of the house completely -- or at least out of reach -- may help you lose weight. In fact, a recent Cornell University study found that working women who kept chocolate candies in plain sight on their desks consistently ate twice as many as those who hid them away in a drawer.

Take-home tip: Keep healthy foods that you love front and center in your kitchen. And if you're really craving a trigger food, buy a single-serving size of it, such as one scoop of ice cream, a slice of pizza, or a snack-pack?size bag of chips.

Erika Gebhart, 26

Children: Tiger and Rory, 2 1/2; Allegra, 7 months
Lost: 60 pounds in 7 months

How Erika did it: "With twins and a new baby, I knew there was no way I could lose weight without the support and help of my husband. He watches the kids three nights a week so I can go running, and he eats healthier, lower-fat meals with me. We also regularly go for long walks as a family."

Why it works: According to research, the more supportive your spouse is of your weight-loss efforts, the greater your chances of successfully dropping the pounds. That's because your husband gives you invaluable day-to-day encouragement and motivation (not to mention the free childcare).

Take-home tip: If you don't ask for your husband's help, he probably won't figure out on his own that you want it. So sit down together, and come up with a list of the ways he can make your weight-loss efforts easier, including scheduling workout sessions on a calendar. Finally, don't forget to return the favor by giving him time to exercise as well.

Kristin Partenza, 28

Daughter: Ava, 9 months
Lost: 38 pounds in 8 months

How Kristin did it: "I joined a group exercise class called Stroller Strides that combines power walking with body-sculpting moves. Not only did it help me lose weight quickly, but it was a great way to meet other new moms."

Why it works: While cardio workouts are an excellent place to start, it's vital to incorporate strength training if you really want to lose weight and keep it off. That's because building muscle boosts your metabolism, which helps you burn more calories throughout the day. You also get group support in a structured exercise program, which improves your chances of sticking with it.

Take-home tip: Group classes like Stroller Strides, Baby Boot Camp, and StrollerFit are offered around the country, so check the Internet or the Yellow Pages to find one near you. Or start your own walking group with a few of your friends. Meet three or four times a week; plan to walk for 30 minutes to an hour, and spend 10 to 15 minutes doing strengthening exercises using hand weights or resistance bands.

Want other suggestions that'll help you shed pounds? Try these three.

  1. Get enough sleep. We know shut-eye is at a serious premium when you have a baby, but squeezing in a little more may actually help you avoid overeating. According to research, short-term sleep deprivation can cause hormone imbalances that increase your appetite.
  2. Downsize your portions. You piled your plate a little higher when you were expecting, but now it's time to scale back. Research from Pennsylvania State University shows that when you're given a bigger portion, you automatically eat more -- instead of stopping when you're full. An easy way to keep meals small is to always use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate.
  3. Eat breakfast. Having a bowl of whole-grain cereal and a yogurt first thing in the morning revs up your metabolism and helps prevent overeating the rest of the day. In fact, according to studies from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, almost 80 percent of people who have successfully lost weight -- and kept it off -- eat breakfast every day.

Copyright ? 2006. Reprinted with permission from the June 2006 issue of Parents magazine.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.