Q: How soon can I start dieting after having my baby?

A: After spending the last nine months watching your waistline grow, you may be eager to start shedding the weight. But before you start religiously counting calories or stocking up on the latest dieting tomes, know that you'll probably lose a lot of your pregnancy pounds pretty quickly. Much of your weight gain comes from things like your baby, amniotic fluid, and water retention, which means you can drop as many as 20 pounds within the first month postpartum without really trying.

To lose the rest, most doctors say it's fine to begin dieting sensibly (meaning no crash diets) right away, but if you're breastfeeding you probably won't need to. Even after getting the extra 500 calories a day recommended for nursing moms, you'll likely find that you're losing weight anyway, because breastfeeding and all that round-the-clock caring for a newborn burns tons of calories. While you're breastfeeding, you should eat balanced meals with plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein -- because your breast milk transmits the flavors and nutrients from your diet to your baby. It's also important to drink plenty of water and fluids while you're nursing so you don't get dehydrated. If you want to start working out again, talk to your doctor before heading back to the gym, especially if you've had a c-section. You'll need ample time (about six to eight weeks) for your incision to heal. But after your doctor gives you the go-ahead, you can usually enjoy any type of exercise you did before getting pregnant.

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