I can't lose weight after baby, help!

I gave birth to my son 10 weeks ago. Since his birth I began dieting (eating healthy, cutting fat and cutting calories to about 1,200 a day). I drink at least eight glasses of water a day. I began walking 2.5 to 3.0 miles five days a week when my baby was three weeks old and do strength training two days per week. I feel I am doing everything right, but I simply can't lose weight. Is this a normal postpartum condition?

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Cutting back on food intake and regular exercise are a sure way to lose weight after pregnancy. However, you really do not want to cut back any more than you already have on food. If you do, your body will steal from your muscles, bones and tissues in order to make milk for your baby.

With rapid weight loss you may also begin to mobilize toxins stored in fat tissues, which could end up in breast milk. It may actually be that because you have reduced your intake to 1,200 calories, your body is trying to conserve energy by lowering its metabolism -- a common problem with dieters. Back in the days of cave people, it was a good survival mechanism for your body to go into a low idle when food sources were scarce. For dieters in this day and age, it is a curse.

Generally, exercise is a good method for countering that effect, but perhaps your walking is not intense enough to do that. This suggestion may sound counterintuitive, but I recommend you up your calorie intake to 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day (of low-fat, nutrient-dense food) and also increase the intensity of your exercising (try running instead of walking, or walk at a brisker pace for a longer time). Also, add weight lifting two times a week to your routine. Muscles burn more calories than fat, plus a muscular body has a higher metabolism.

The increase in calorie intake along with the exercise will raise your metabolism and therefore help you to lose weight. It is not safe or healthy to lose weight rapidly, especially while nursing. You do not want to risk a reduced milk production or a depletion of your bone and muscle tissue for the sake of getting back to your prepregnancy weight. In the scheme of things nursing your baby, at a less-than-ideal weight, is really best for the health of your baby and for your long-term health. A quick glance at that sleeping babe of yours will reassure you that it is worth it.

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