How do Hollywood moms get so thin -- so quickly -- after pregnancy? With a lot of help from the experts. It may not be realistic or healthy for real women to lose weight that fast, but you can steal some of their moves once you have your doctor's okay to get started. We talked to top celebrity trainers and nutritionists for dozens of doable tips to help you get your body back.
Gained: 35 pounds with baby girl Nahla
Celeb Strategy: Berry worked out up until she was 7 1/2 months pregnant. A few weeks after the baby, "she was ready to show up, ready to lose the weight," says her trainer Ramona Braganza, who helped the star reclaim her red-carpet figure within three and a half months. "We started out conservatively, with just some cardio and stretching, five days a week," says Braganza. "After a week, we changed it up." This helped keep Berry motivated and energized. "No one wants to do the same routine all the time," she says. "We'd go for hikes, a jog on the beach, or do kickboxing or yoga." Braganza mixed the calorie-burning cardio with free weights, planks, and other core exercises and combinations of squats, lunges, and jumps that tone trouble spots and get the heart pumping. The workouts ultimately evolved into a plan Braganza calls 321 Baby Bulge Be Gone, a DVD system she's since used to train Jessica Alba and countless other new moms.
As for her diet, Berry's always followed helpful habits for slimming down -- eating small meals every few hours and avoiding sodium-rich and fried food -- because they keep her blood-sugar levels steady, which is crucial for managing her diabetes. Some of her favorite go-to meals: homemade soups or fish with leafy greens like kale or spinach and brown rice. "Her soup isn't just soup -- there's probably lots of vegetables and beans, so it's filling," says Braganza.
Real-Mom Workaround: Treat exercise like a standing appointment. If you really want to see progress, "you have to schedule exercise in your day, or it probably won't happen," says Braganza. When you're back at work, set up regular dates in your e-mail calendar to hit the gym or take a walk during lunch, or make a point to stroll with your baby for 20 minutes every night. For most moms, it may not be realistic to follow a strict, regimented program -- what's more important is to do any kind of exercise regularly, says Braganza. "Many new moms just need to get in the habit of exercising again."
Gained: 50 pounds with twins Max and Emme
Celeb Strategy: Nothing mega-star J. Lo ever does is ordinary, and losing the baby weight proved to be no exception. Though she took it easy for the first four to five months -- dropping some weight with light walking workouts -- the star eventually decided to start training for a triathlon, completing the 4-mile run, half-mile swim, and 18-mile bike race just about seven months after giving birth. Lopez's workouts, anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours a day, four to six days a week, with longtime trainer Gunnar Peterson, were intense. "But it's not like she dropped everything," says Peterson, author of The Workout. "She was very hands-on with the babies and needed to fit this in around them." He had J. Lo train for the specific events of the triathlon with some basic strength sessions in between, including moves like squats and lunges to tone her famous derriere. "The important thing is to keep mixing it up, so your body has to adapt -- and that's when the results happen." Running was Lopez's strong suit and swimming her weakest, according to Peterson.
Lopez was eating healthfully but not following a specific diet plan. Peterson advocates five to seven small meals a day, eating a big breakfast, medium lunch, and smaller dinner. He's not a fan of cutting carbs -- especially when training for endurance events -- but does recommend eating foods that are as natural and close to their original source as possible. (Choose a baked potato over French fries, say, or an apple instead of apple juice.) Lopez stuck to healthy whole grains, like brown rice and protein from egg whites and lean cuts of chicken, turkey, and beef.
Real-Mom Workaround: Set a firm goal like J. Lo -- and the small steps you'll take to achieve it -- to help you stay focused on getting in shape. "Deadlines have a way of making people get stuff done," says Peterson. Say you vow to zip up your favorite pre-baby jeans by your birthday. Brainstorm a few specific strategies to get there: Squeeze in an extra workout a week, for example, or swap your daily soda habit for water with lime. Want to steal from J. Lo's workout? Peterson recommends The Complete Idiot's Guide book series, whether it's triathlons, weights, yoga, etc. "They're great references for baseline moves, and they have sample programs you can do."
Gained: About 40 pounds with baby Liam
Celeb Strategy: After the always-skinny Spelling delivered her first child Liam, she found herself in unfamiliar territory: She needed to go on a diet. Spelling turned to NutriSystem, which delivers prepackaged meals -- breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert -- to your home; you add your own fruits, veggies, and dairy. "Meals are nutritionally balanced to keep your blood sugar levels steady, and you're eating five times a day, so you're not feeling hungry," says spokeswoman Delphine Carroll.
Spelling also got active through daily walking workouts (at least a half-hour a day, five to seven days a week), which helped her zap extra calories. "You can do a DVD in your home," says Carroll. Or you can take it outside. "Tori loved to go for walks with her baby in the stroller."
Real-Mom Workaround: Get help with food prep and portion control. A pre-packaged food program like NutriSystem (or Jenny Craig) takes the guesswork out of planning meals and can help you avoid bingeing on whatever's around. Though it costs around $10 a day, you can lose up to two pounds a week and won't need to stay on the plan forever. Or consider buying pre-packaged meals on sale from the grocery store to help keep an eye on your portions -- we love those from Healthy Choice and Amy's Kitchen.
Gained: 35 pounds with daughter Honor
Celeb Strategy: Alba was willing to work hard to shed her pregnancy pounds, says her trainer Ramona Braganza, who, like Halle, had the star follow her 321 Baby Bulge Be Gone plan, a three-phase, three-month system that's designed to ease new moms back into exercise after pregnancy. "After nine months of being less active, your abs and back are weak and your cardio's not so good," Braganza says. During the first phase, Alba did 20-minute workouts that strengthened those core muscles, working her way up over the next few months to 40-minute sessions that included longer bouts of fat-burning cardio (like kickboxing and dance aerobics) and strength training with light dumbbells (chest presses, triceps extensions, and squats, lunges, and jumps).
When it came to healthy eating, Braganza had Alba follow her 321 nutrition tips: three meals, two snacks, and at least one liter of water a day. "Jessica always had water around, she drank about two liters a day," says Braganza. Guzzling enough H20 helped the breastfeeding actress keep up her milk supply and stay full between meals and snacks. Alba was eating roughly 1,700 calories a day, filling up on fiber-rich whole grains, salads, and lean meats, and snacking on healthy protein, like low-fat string cheese.
Real-Mom Workaround: Utilize your living room -- you can get a surprisingly complete workout there. (Even better, you can have your baby nearby in a swing or squeeze it in while she's napping in her crib.) "These moves require hardly any equipment," says Braganza. Buy some dumbbells, and use your furniture for the rest: Stack pillows to make an incline bench or use the couch or a chair for triceps dips, for example. "For cardio, you can walk up and down the stairs, or go walking or strolling 20 to 25 minutes a day to burn calories," she says.
Gained: 35 pounds with son Henry
Celeb Strategy: Klum famously strutted the Victoria's Secret catwalk just two months after delivering her son Henry in 2005 -- with nary a sign of any pregnancy bumps or bulges. Trainer David Kirsch whipped her into runway-ready shape, but it wasn't without a ton of hard work, time, and discipline on Klum's part. "Heidi knew what she wanted to accomplish," says Kirsch. "She was going to be in a bra and panties in front of millions of people!" Klum followed an extended version of the two-week program in Kirsch's The Ultimate New York Body Plan, working out for 90 minutes to two hours a day. They focused on sculpting her belly, thighs, and butt. "Heidi is pear-shaped, so we really zoned in on those areas using low weights and lots of repetitions, doing moves like lunges, squats, and exercises with stability balls." For zapping calories, Klum used a rowing machine, which Kirsch says is more challenging and provides better results than the treadmill. "It uses the arms, shoulders, back, core, butt, thighs, calves, heart -- nothing's left untouched."
Klum also followed the strict diet spelled out in Kirsch's The Ultimate New York Diet, which calls for cutting out alcohol, white bread and other starchy carbs, coffee, dairy (though it's important for new moms to take calcium supplements), certain fruits, and unhealthy saturated and trans fats. What she did eat: five small meals a day filled with Kirsch's "staples" -- low-starch veggies like broccoli and cauliflower, salmon, chicken, nuts, mushrooms, egg whites, beans and lentils, berries, and more.
Real-Mom Workaround: Exercise is cumulative -- you don't have to manage a complete 45-minute workout at once to burn calories and see results. "It's not all or nothing -- work out for two hours and if you can't, forget it, you're wasting your time," Kirsch says. Sure, the payoff will take longer, but even doing a 10-minute circuit of moves (wear your baby in a carrier for extra resistance and bonding) once or twice a day will shift the numbers on the scale over time.
Gained: About 21 pounds with daughter Josselyn
Celeb Strategy: Harris was diligent about working out and eating healthy during pregnancy, so the E! News correspondent and Dancing with the Stars host had a head start on recovering her trim and toned pre-baby shape, according to her nutritionist Christine Avanti. Harris followed Avanti's Healthy Eating for the Expecting Mommy-to-Be nutrition program during and after pregnancy, which calls for balancing carbs and protein at every meal. "I don't let my clients eat just one nutrient at a time," says Avanti. "When you combine the two, you stabilize blood sugar and that helps your body burn fat and save muscle." Typical meals for Harris include a cup of nonfat Greek yogurt with granola and honey for breakfast, a turkey sandwich or fresh fruit with cottage cheese for lunch, and shrimp with brown rice for dinner. Avanti also had Harris eating within one hour of waking up and then every four hours -- a change that helped her feel energized all day long.
Harris hit the gym about four times a week, using the elliptical or treadmill for cardio and taking body sculpting classes. "She and her husband also do a lot of hikes and outdoor walks," says Avanti. Harris will even wear baby Josselyn and run and up and down stairs with her.
Real-Mom Workaround: Come up with some go-to healthy meals and keep your kitchen stocked with those foods and ingredients. "Samantha works two jobs and she doesn't have a chef at home cooking for her," says Avanti. "But she knows to combine lean protein with healthy carbs, like fruit or whole grains, at every meal." If you typically eat a bagel for breakfast, make it whole wheat and spread on a thin layer of peanut butter for protein, or swap your regular cereal for a high-protein version like Kashi. When you eat both carbs and protein at one time, you reduce cravings and stave off mood swings, says Avanti, so you'll be less likely to overdo it later.
Gained: About 30 pounds with son Alexander
Celeb Strategy: Without any immediate movies or projects to get ready for, Watts had a "relaxed, healthy approach to losing her pregnancy pounds -- there wasn't any pressure," says her trainer Rob Parr, author of Star Quality. "Exercise was part of her daily routine, and the consistency helped her have faster results." Parr and Watts took to the water to beat the bulge: Pool workouts were one of her favorite ways to stay active during and after pregnancy. Combining basic swimming circuits of crawl strokes, sidestrokes, and backstrokes with resistance moves like underwater scissor kicks, Watts logged time 30 to 60 minutes of pool time a few days a week. On non-swimming days, she did up to an hour of strength exercises, like different types of squats for leg muscles and push-ups, triceps dips, and modified pull-ups for upper-body strength. Over time, Watts also started adding free weights to these moves to boost resistance. Sometimes she'd swap the pool for the solid ground, going for three- to five-mile runs.
Parr had the Aussie actress eating "clean food" -- fresh meals without saturated fat, sauces, or butter. Try drizzling steamed veggies with lemon juice and a teaspoon of olive oil, or using mustards and salsas to add flavor to grilled chicken, fish, or lean beef.
Real-Mom Workaround: Don't overlook the pool as a primo spot for a total-body workout. Many YMCAs or other community organizations offer reasonable memberships (compared with pricey private gyms) and on-site childcare to watch your baby while you hit the lap lanes. Swimming works many different muscle systems at once and it's gentle on the body, which is ideal for adjusting to exercise after pregnancy. To ease into a pool workout, Parr suggests trying an inner tube. "Rest your arms over the side of the tube, and then mimic bicycle movements, running-in-place movements, scissor movements, and knee-ups. It's good for someone who needs to lose a little bit more weight or is just starting an exercise program because the water's resistance starts to get those muscles to engage and to work harder," Parr says.
Gained: About 35 pounds with Henry
Celeb Strategy: Roberts wasn't too anxious about losing the weight after her second pregnancy. "She was so active already after having the two kids [twins Phinnaeus and Hazel, now 4]," says trainer Kathy Kaehler. "It was more about getting back into her old routine." Roberts stayed in shape during pregnancy with regular yoga sessions, and then hit the pool with Kaehler for hourlong workouts to slim down postpartum. Roberts did a lot of deep-water running (wearing a buoyancy belt) and leg kicks at the side of the pool. "Swimming is a way to do vigorous, large-motion exercise in the water without any impact, so it's much better for your joints," says Kaehler. On dry land, Roberts also did step workouts to burn calories while toning. A favorite move: the Squat with Cards, which has Roberts hold a few playing cards and squat as she deals them down to the ground and picks them up.
Kaehler, who insists that moms shouldn't "diet" right after giving birth, suggested that Julia eat "real foods" -- things that are not sold in a box or bucket or passed through the drive-thru. Though she did not supervise Roberts' diet, the trainer recommended that Roberts eat small meals throughout the day.
Real-Mom Workaround: Use DVDs at home, when your child's sleeping or playing with someone else. "Having something where you can be guided, but still be at home, is very helpful for new moms," says Kaehler, especially those like Roberts who have to juggle a new baby and older siblings. One to try: A New Dimension, a three-workout DVD Kaehler made with Cindy Crawford when she had her first son. Another tip: "If you're going to a park with older children, utilize the equipment there," says Kaehler. The slides, the swings, the monkey bars -- they can all be a great way to work out different parts of your body while you're having a blast with your kids.
Gained: About 65 pounds with twin daughters Savannah and Eden
Celeb Strategy: There was nothing desperate about Cross's calculated approach to slimming down after having twins. In order to get in shape within five months -- when she was due back on the Desperate Housewives set -- she turned to trainer Michelle Lovitt at L.A.'s Burn 60 gym. Cross worked out there three to five days a week, taking their signature hourlong class. For the quickest way to get her back in shape, they focused on interval training -- where you walk for 30 seconds, then jog for a minute, for a half-hour. "It's the most effective way to burn fat, because you can work out and keep your heart rate in the fat-burning zone for longer periods of time than just running at the same pace the whole time," says Lovitt. The class also includes 30 minutes of strength and resistance training, using Bosu balls and resistance bands. "We incorporate the whole body, so it's not like you're just standing there doing biceps curls," says Lovitt.
In addition to Cross's near daily workouts with Lovitt, the actress reportedly logged additional workouts at home, using different exercise DVDs. She also has said she cut out sugary snacks: "I'm not eating cookies and candy and all of that. Just protein and vegetables."
Real-Mom Workaround: If you belong to a gym, take advantage of the classes. They're more likely to keep you motivated and engaged than just showing up and hitting the treadmill. "Just going to the gym and not really having a plan is wasting your time," says Peterson. "But if you show up knowing exactly how you're going to spend your time, you'll have a greater sense of achievement. That boosts your confidence and gives you a natural training rhythm to keep going."
Gained: 62 pounds with baby Ever
Celeb Strategy: Jovovich saw her weight balloon from caving into pregnancy cravings like peanut butter-and-jelly-slathered bagels and steak. To get her body back, she worked with trainer Harley Pasternak, following his 5-Factor Diet and 5-Factor Fitness plans, which call for eating five balanced meals a day and working out five times a week for as little as 25 minutes at a time. Jovovich's workouts included five phases, including a cardio warm-up on the treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike, upper-body moves, lower-body moves, abs, and some more cardio to cool down. "Exercises that use multiple muscles and joints are most efficient, like walking lunges, which work your quads, glutes, and hamstrings all at once."
Changing her eating habits also packed a big punch for Jovovich. Each meal includes healthy carbs for energy; fiber to feel full and keep your heart healthy; low-fat protein to boost metabolism and regenerate muscle tissue; healthy, unsaturated fat for everything from healthy skin to balancing hormones; and a calorie-free drink. "Your beverage can be a Trojan horse for smuggling all kinds of excess, unwanted calories into your body," Pasternak says. Typical meals included an oatmeal frittata (a pancake made of egg whites, oats, and cinnamon) for breakfast, a berry smoothie snack, chef's salad for lunch, and grilled salmon with brown rice or quinoa and a side salad for dinner.
Real-Mom Workaround: Even if your ob-gyn hasn't green-lighted you for exercise yet, every new mom can start eating healthy from the beginning, says Pasternak. "You just have to follow guidelines of things you can and can't eat if you're breastfeeding," he says. "Then once your doctor gives you the go-ahead to proceed with exercise, you only really need a pair of dumbbells and an exercise ball to begin a program. You don't necessarily have to go to the gym all the time." Pasternak also urged Jovovich to be more active throughout the day, advice all new moms could follow. "Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car in the furthest sport of the parking lot," he says. "Find ways to make your day a little less efficient so that you can burn extra calories without spending extra time in the gym."
Gained: 80 pounds with son Evan
Celeb Strategy: About three weeks after giving birth, McCarthy started feeling really "pissed off" -- her words -- that she'd gained so much weigh during pregnancy. After another month of working out with a trainer and restricting her diet -- and still having nearly 50 pounds to lose, McCarthy decided to try Weight Watchers, encouraged by her mother's 40-pound weight loss on the plan. "Weight Watchers assigns point values to food based on their calories, fat, and fiber," says Maria Kinirons, RD, a nutritionist for the program. Members aim to eat a certain amount of points based on things like their age, height, how active they are, etc. "It's a simple way to control calorie intake without having to think about it too much." The program also allows you a few extra points for small splurges each week -- McCarthy loved that she could eat pizza and still lose weight. Some recommended meals for new moms include oatmeal with skim milk, unsweetened applesauce, and chopped almonds for breakfast, breadless turkey sandwiches with tomatoes and low-fat cheese for lunch, and salmon with mashed potatoes and asparagus for dinner.
For exercise, McCarthy says she strollered Evan everywhere. "By my son's first birthday, I was 10 pounds away from my old weight," she told Weight Watchers.
Real-Mom Workaround: Get help from friends who are also in weight-loss mode. Joining support groups (Weight Watchers has regular meetings, or you can use their online message boards or search for weight-loss communities on other sites) can help you stick to your diet and keep you motivated. But if a formal program or diet plan isn't your thing, even teaming up with another new-mom pal can help keep you both on track -- sharing tips, pushing each other to get to the gym, and providing encouragement to keep the weight off.
Gained: About 54 pounds with son August
Celeb Strategy: Much like her tough-as-nails character on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Hargitay was completely focused and willing to put in the time to slim down. She worked with trainer Jay Wright at New York City's Peak Performance gym, working out three days a week for about an hour, with a combination of toning moves like lunges, squats, and push-ups, and even pushing and pulling a weighted sled around the gym. Hargitay also did cardio -- including jogging and jumping rope -- on her own another two to three days a week.
For diet, Hargitay ate lots of fresh, organic fruits and veggies, and cut out sugar and bread, which Wright says have high sugar content, causing sudden spikes and dips in blood sugar that can trigger cravings.
Real-Mom Workaround: The more you blend cardio and strength moves together, the more efficient your workout will be, says Wright. Do lunges when you're strolling with your baby, for example. Or try this power routine that Wright recommends: One set (8-15 reps) of push-ups, one set of walking lunges, and one set of what he calls "prone row," where you're in a push-up position holding on to dumbbells; then you alternate pulling them back toward your hip, one at a time." Wright also recommends trying the workout moves in Core Performance by Mark Verstegen.
Copyright © 2008 Meredith Corporation.
All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. 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.