Weight loss: Postpartum weight loss

I was underweight when I became pregnant and gained almost 80 pounds. Since my baby's birth nine months ago I've lost only three pounds. I eat well, measure my portions and take in about 1,000 calories a day. I have been exercising faithfully every day for the past two months. I've never been overweight before, and I have never had a problem losing my "winter 10" whenever I needed to. Could something be physically wrong with me? Should I see a doctor about this? I'm miserable!

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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

Postpregnancy weight loss is such a tough one! Many women encounter the same problems as you have. Not only do they have extra weight to deal with, it is not so easy to get exercise or to eat right because of the additional demands on them. That just seems to compound the problem.

The first thing you need to do is to try to deal with this positively. You have every right to be proud of that extra weight, it was there for a reason. Losing it will take time. In fact, the slower the weight loss, the healthier you will be -- and the more apt the weight is to stay off. So, think positive! And, decide that you may have to adapt to a different body image, even when your weight does come back down.

The main battle you are fighting right now is one of metabolism. The human body is amazingly adaptable to many conditions in order to survive. In times of calorie deprivation, it will slow down its metabolic rate in order to conserve energy. By reducing your calories to as low as 1,000, you have sent your body into this mode. Exercise should help counter that effect to a certain extent. You did not mention how much, or what type of exercise you are doing, but it is my guess that it is not intensive enough to offset the "starvation mode" you have gone into.

It sounds a little counterintuitive, but what you need to do is increase your calorie consumption (to at least 1,500 calories, if not more) while simultaneously increasing the intensity and duration of your exercise. You also need to add some weight training to your program in order to build muscle. Muscle operates at a much higher metabolic rate than fat and so burns calories all day long. Not only that, it makes you feel terrific and helps to firm up those body parts that may have become a little lax during the past few months. Your exercise should consist of 30 to 60 minutes of sweat-producing, heart-pounding, deep-breathing aerobic activity as many days a week as possible (but at least four) and should include weight-lifting exercises for all major muscle groups at least three times a week.

I recognize that finding that kind of time can be very difficult. Perhaps you can have a neighborhood teen come into your home after school for an hour to keep an eye on the baby while you go out for a run or work out on a stationary bike. If your budget isn't too tight, one of those baby strollers that you can push while running may be a good way for you to get out with your baby. Perhaps there are other moms who you can do some baby-sitting trades with. Of course, if you are at work full-time, you are even under more constraints. Perhaps you can get out at lunch hour? Whatever efforts you make, you will be well-rewarded for. Expect change to be gradual, but it will probably be permanent. I'll bet that after a few months of an invigorating exercise program you will wonder how you ever did without it, both physically and mentally.

Increasing your calories will not only help to lift your metabolism, it will better ensure that you are getting all the nutrients you need. If you are just starting your family, and this is baby number one, and you are planning on having another, it is important that you keep your nutritional health in top-notch shape.

Although vitamin supplements should never be an excuse for not eating properly, they are a good idea to augment the diet of a women who is in her active, childbearing years. A one-per-day multiple vitamin supplement that meets 100 percent of your daily requirements would be a good addition to your weight-loss program.

Thank you for writing and best of luck with your efforts.

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