After a holiday season full of delicious and plentiful food, the task of working on getting back your pre-pregnancy body may seem daunting. But with the momentum of the new year, now is the best time to get yourself healthy and in shape. Since your metabolism slows down after pregnancy, a combination of some simple exercises (cardiovascular and muscle strengthening) along with smart food and portioning choices will help you can get fit and stay healthy. Below are simple changes you can make, and safe, easy ways to get your body moving.
Before you start any new workouts or meal plans, please keep a few things in mind:
Begin no earlier than six weeks postpartum. If you just had your baby, don't even think or stress about losing weight for at least six weeks. I know you may feel great and ready to "get back" but it's critical that you keep your body rested and well fed so you have the energy you need to care for yourself and your newborn. When in doubt about when you should start, check with your health care provider.
Achieving healthy weight goals is not about dieting. In fact, your postpartum recovery depends on your body getting enough calories. And if you are breastfeeding, you'll need to keep up your calories to support both you and your baby. Instead of cutting calories, think about what you are eating every day (or even write it down). You will see results and be healthier if you eat frequent, nutrient-packed, small meals throughout the day.
Don't place unrealistic expectations on yourself - think long-term health and fitness. You've probably read and heard this a hundred times, but remember, you were pregnant for the better part of a year and it will take just as long for your body to return to its pre-pregnant state. Don't compare yourselves to friends or colleagues who seem like they just "naturally" slimmed down after giving birth. That is not the norm! Instead, think about the changes you want to make in the coming year, whether that involves toning up your body, dropping pounds, becoming more active, or feeling healthier and more energized. All of these things take dedication and time.
Now, let's begin with a few basic diet changes you can make, not only to make your body feel healthier but also to help you shed a few pounds.
Healthy foods to add to your diet:
Food to limit or avoid:
In addition to making these healthier food choices, you'll want to start getting fit through exercise -- starting out at very low impact and gradually increasing activity and intensity. Here are some easy ways to get your body moving initially:
Walk. Whether it's just staying on your feet around the house for five minutes, a ten-minute walk around the block, or a half hour mini hike in the woods, walking is the best way to break your body back into exercise. Try and do this at least once a day (the fresh air will also give you a boost of energy!) and gradually increase your time and pace. Just place your little one in the baby carrier or stroller and get moving!
Dance. I realize we're not all born with moves and that's OK! Even if you don't quite feel comfortable dancing, I wouldn't dismiss it completely before trying it out as a source of postpartum exercise. You can even dance with your baby; put on your favorite songs and start out slowly by holding your baby and swaying, or bending your knees to the beat. As you begin to feel stronger each day, add new movements. Although it may seem silly, you'll get your heart pumping and both you and your baby will enjoy the bonding.
Yoga/Stretch. Stretching out your body throughout the day can help with circulation and strengthen your body, getting it prepared for more vigorous exercise. And doing a few simple yoga poses can really work wonders. Many of the moms I've worked with swear by using postnatal yoga DVDs to get their bodies back into shape and feel more energetic. It's a really great, affordable way to re-engage your body and calm your mind while you're at it!
Whatever your goals or plans are for getting fit in the new year, stay positive and know that the healthier you make your lifestyle, the better you will look and feel.
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