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Celeb Post-Baby Weight Debate

Maybe Hollywood is a far more magical place than anyone thought. How else to explain the way celebrity moms seem to bounce back to their pre-baby weight overnight? Unfortunately, the intense pressure to look camera-ready just weeks after giving birth isn't an issue only for the stars -- the scrutiny has trickled down to us mere-mortal moms too. Even if you don't make your living off your looks, it's easy to get caught up in the new postpartum weight-loss obsession. But should any new mother subject herself to these extreme diet-and-exercise plans? (Never mind that virtually none of us get a Hollywood-size paycheck to afford the necessary trainer/personal chef/nutritionist trifecta.) How safe is it to lose multiple dress sizes in just a month or two? We took a look at what some stars did to lose their baby weight -- then asked an expert for a reality check.

All eyes were already on Holmes before she delivered daughter Suri in April 2006 -- the TomKat phenomenon was dominating the press. Gossips had to know: How much pregnancy weight would she drop before her ultra-high-profile wedding to Tom Cruise? All of it and then some, as it turned out. She was back in her skinny jeans by the fall and looked more slender than ever when they married in November.

How she did it: Holmes reportedly lost two dress sizes in less than two months by working with Sue Fleming, creator of the Buff Brides Fitness program. Tabloids claimed that she also asked her waifish new BFF, Victoria Beckham, for diet tips. However, Holmes supposedly couldn't handle Beckham's meager diet of edamame, pretzels, sushi, and Diet Coke.

Just two months after having son Henry, a lingerie-clad Klum was strutting down the runway in a Victoria's Secret fashion show. She had quite an incentive to get her bod back: Klum confessed she was under contract to lose her post-pregnancy weight in just one month! Reportedly, her $25 million deal with Victoria's Secret bans her from "altering her image."

How she did it: Klum turned to trainer David Kirsch, whose weight-loss regimen is anything but relaxed. Kirsch recommends 90 minutes of exercise every day(!) that includes strength training and cardio. Her diet? "Lean, clean, and green. No dairy, lots of greens, grains, egg whites, and protein shakes," he says.

Despite the fact that Hudson gained 60 pounds when she was pregnant with son Ryder, she was back to her slight 112 pounds in what seemed like a nanosecond. She told reporters that she ate a pint of ice cream every day while pregnant and was "big and fat and jolly" -- then had to drop the weight fast in order to star in The Skeleton Key, which began filming three months after Ryder's birth.

How she did it: Under the supervision of trainer Joe Horrigan (who was hired by the movie studio), Hudson worked out two to three hours a day, six to seven days a week. The grueling regimen: walking, lifting weights, yoga, and Pilates. Her workouts, combined with a 1,500-calorie-per-day diet, melted off the pounds in about two and a half months.

Jolie's model-slim figure was a hot topic even while she was pregnant. Tabloids printed close-ups of her skinny arms and claimed that doctors told her she wasn't gaining enough weight. (She allegedly had put on just 12 pounds by her sixth month.) It wasn't so surprising, then, that she was back to her slender self in record time after the birth of daughter Shiloh in May 2006.

How she did it: She reportedly took a lot of prenatal yoga classes to stay fit (son Maddox even tagged along), so she may not have had much weight to lose from the start. Jolie stuck to her yoga routine after Shiloh was born; rumors floated that she relied on African gingerroot-and-garlic tea and nursing to get slim.

No mom would want to be photographed nude (or nearly so) right after giving birth. But Denise Richards did just that barely months after the arrival of both of her daughters, Sam, 3, and Lola, 2. After Sam's birth, she stripped off her maternity sweats for Playboy, telling the interviewer, "[This shoot] pushed me to get my ass in shape!" (We'll say.) Richards wore a little bit more (a bikini) for the cover of Shape less than a year after she had Lola.

How she did it: Trainer Garrett Warren coached her through kickboxing and ab-toning routines four to six days a week to blast off the 30 pounds she gained with each baby. Richards also indulged in another celeb luxury: the Zone Diet delivery service. But she also ended up following what she called "The Stress Diet": "I was going through a divorce, chasing around a 1-year-old, and filming a TV pilot," she told Shape. "There's no way I wasn't going to lose weight."

How realistic -- and healthy -- are stars' postpartum slim-down strategies? We asked Parents advisor Hilda Hutcherson, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, for her take on this trend.

Is it safe to lose weight so quickly after giving birth?

Extreme dieting isn't healthy for a mom or her baby. If you're nursing, you need to take in a certain amount of vitamins, minerals, fat, and other nutrients to maintain the quality of your breast milk. So when you deprive yourself of nutrients, you're also depriving your baby. Plus, you have to remember that giving birth, while natural, is very traumatic for your body -- you need time to heal. You shouldn't be pushing yourself to lose weight.

Are stars being 100 percent honest when they talk about how they lost the baby weight?

That's the big question! I've taken care of thousands of women, and there were maybe two moms who bounced back immediately. It's just not typical, so you have to wonder whether some get lipo or whether they ask for a tummy tuck when they have their c-section (called a "c-tuck"). Others claim they lost the weight by breastfeeding, but that burns only 300 calories a day -- it certainly helps, but it's not enough to make you magically skinny.

What's a healthier approach for the rest of us?

Realize that it's going to take time to get back your pre-baby body. No one leaves the hospital in her skinny jeans. The first week after you give birth, you can expect to lose four or five pounds of water your body retained to support your baby. After that, the rate drops down to more like one to two pounds per week. You don't have to do anything special. Eat all of your fruits, veggies, and whole grains, exercise moderately with your doctor's approval, and try to avoid overeating -- don't reach for ice cream when you're up at midnight with your baby! If you gained the recommended 25 to 35 pounds when you were pregnant, you need to give yourself two to three months to see a difference. Try not to worry about it. You're a mom now, so focus on enjoying your new baby!

As coanchor of Access Hollywood, Nancy O'Dell knows all too well the intense pressure celeb moms face to lose the pregnancy weight. It really hit home after she had her first baby -- a daughter, Ashby Grace -- this past June and had to be camera-ready in just a few months. But O'Dell refused to take the ultrarestrictive route. She told us about her healthy approach:

My industry is very critical about appearances. But Ashby is my priority right now, not my weight. I need to eat enough calories to breastfeed her and to keep up my stamina.

I didn't know I'd still look pregnant when I left the hospital! My 8-year-old stepson, Carson [O'Dell's husband, Keith Zubchevich, has two kids from a previous marriage], asked me, "Are you sure you're not having twins? Did they leave a baby in there?" Just what every new mom wants to hear! I know I'll lose the weight eventually. Still, I have those days when I look in the mirror and think, "Whose body is this?" I was so proud to be pregnant, though. I was on camera every day for almost all of those nine months, so it's not like I could hide anything -- and I didn't want to.

Finding time for exercise is the hardest part. I work with an amazing trainer, Jeff Deperon, for an hour three times a week. (I called up my friend Lisa Rinna after I gave birth to ask who she trains with.) We do ballet-style moves that work every muscle, so you accomplish a lot in each workout. Otherwise, I try to find 20-minute breaks in the day to exercise. I'll even clench my butt muscles while I'm rocking Ashby to do some toning!

Eating healthy is easier. I don't want to eat anything that will affect my breast milk and make Ashby gassy. I'm not perfect: I'm a Southern gal who loves Coke, so I do sneak sips here and there. But if the boys bring home junk food, I tell them to hide it!

My priorities are so different now. People tell you to enjoy every minute of being a mom because kids grow up so fast, and it's true. Some of Ashby's newborn clothes are already small. I cried when I put them away! I don't like leaving her for even a little while right now -- I don't want to miss a thing.

Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the October 2007 issue of Parents magazine.