Seems like everywhere I go, people are asking me about how I got back into shape so quickly after having twins! This is especially true of my folks at Pacific Athletic Club and Zuora who have seen watched me in racing shape in 2010-2011, pregnant with twins in 2012 and now getting back in shape in 2013. I want to share my top 10 tips for all moms and future-moms. This is an add-on written verison to my Better Body After Baby series that I ran back in 2009 a year after my first child.
*****DISCLAIMER: These are my opinions as a certified personal trainer and triathlon coach. I am not a licensed dietitian, lactation consultant, nor medical professional. Always seek professional advice to assess your own situation. ***********
1) Before getting pregnant: Be in good shape at or around your target weight, not overweight nor underweight. If you are thinking "easier said then done" because you are already pregnant or post-partum, obviously you can't go back in time at this point. If you are planning on getting pregnant (again), I recommend this because it is much easy to return to a previous level of fitness/weight than to achieve a new level for the first time. Muscles have memory and your whole body also has a memory of its "normal" state. The longer you are overweight or obese, the more likely your body will try to return to that place - which is why it requires a lifelong commitment to maintain healthy weight.
2) Before getting pregnant: Know your resting metabolic rate (RMR). The resting metabolic rate (RMR) is the number of calories the body requires at rest for 24 hours. A really simple formula to calculate your RMR is 10 x Your weight (in pounds). A more accurate way to obtain this number is to get tested. I got mine tested back in March 2009 at Physically Focused. Once you know this number, it is easier to plan for what your calorie range will need to be in order to lose weight post-pregnancy.
3) While pregnant: Eat relatively healthy and light to moderate exercise if allowable and reasonable. With my first singleton pregnancy, I was teaching cardio kickboxing until the week before my due date. A twin pregnancy is a whole different ballgame. I was fortunate that I was able to exercise throughout my twin pregnancy. In the first and second trimesters, I alternating between swimming, spinning and elliptical. I did some light weights in the first trimester. Walking with a singleton pregnancy is usually encouraged until the end. With twin pregnancy, walking in the 3rd trimester was very uncomfortable. My goal ended up being trying to minimize any walking towards the end. I barely made it around the block for Halloween trick or treating at 36 weeks. I continued swimming until the day before I gave birth to the twins.
4) While pregnant: Gain within the range of recommended amount of weight by your doctor. With twin pregnancy, I had a very specific weight gain goal - gain 20 pounds by week 20 and total gain between 45-55 pounds. I met my 20 pounds by 20 weeks by knowing my RMR and the number of calories I need to maintain or lose weight. To gain the weight, I just reversed the equation. My total gain was 55 pounds.
5) Post pregnancy: Set reasonable and realistic goals. The first goal should be to return to the weight you were right when you found out you were pregnant, not your wedding weight or some other weight that you were trying to achieve when you got pregnant. Give yourself plenty of time. You shouldn't even worry about weight loss until 6 weeks post-partum after being cleared by your doc. It takes 9 months to have a baby - it may take just as long if not longer to return to the pre-baby state.
6) Breastfeed: Most informational sources state that breastfeeding requires an extra 300 calories per day. Since I was almost exclusively dual breastfeeding twins, I figured I needed an additional 800 calories per day. Without breastfeeding, I knew the calorie range would need to be around 1600 to lose around .5 to 1 pound per week. When I started tracking my food and calories at 6 weeks out, I was able to eat around 2400 and still lose weight. As you start to decrease the amount of breastfeeding, you need to account for the decreased caloric requirement. If you have any question/concerns regarding diet and breastfeeding, consult a lacation consultant.
7) Weight yourself everyday. Some popular conventions hold that you shouldn't weigh yourself every day because weight will flunctate. This is true but weighing yourself only once a week doesn't provide a daily quantitative feedback mechanism to assess your progress. You do need to know that weight will vary up and down on a day-by-day basis - sometimes as much as 1-2 pounds. This is normal. What you want to see by daily weighting is that the weekly trend is aiming down. Don't weight yourself right after giving birth. I waited 7 days and lost 35 pounds in that first week.
8) Log your food and activities! I'm a big fan of Fitbit. I had one of their first generation tracker which I bought back in Jan 2012 and now have the Fitbit flex band. We also have their Aria Wifi Scale. The scale automatically syncs your weight to your profile (you can keep it private). Tracking food is essential to your awareness of your total calories and your metabolic rate. By logging your exercises, you will get more daily burn calories and a total picture of your intake-outtake. Walking is a great form of exercise which incorporate your new baby(ies). You can slowly start to add back your other fitness activities. I would avoid anything brand new until at least 6 months out. During the first 6 months post-partum, your body is still adjusting and balancing your hormones.
9) Avoid extreme approaches such as "master cleanses, " "no-carbs," "dangerously low caloric intake (<1200 calories per day)". If you want to follow a cleanse diet for spiritual reasons and are not breastfeeding, then go for it. Cleanse diets for the purposes of losing weight can be destructive to the body and your metabolism in my opinion. "No carb" diets are restricting your body of the preferred form of energy - as a new mom, you need energy!
10) Don't drink alcohol! Lots of reasons for this but the main ones are 1) empty calories 2) lower resistance to 'bad' food and 3) weakens immune system. Everyone probably knows about 1) and 2) but I feel that 3) is overlooked. As a new mom, you are sleep deprived and exposed to new illnesses and bugs that children get. Even one drink a day affects your immune system - as soon as alcohol is consumed, your body treats it as a toxin and tries to get rid of it. This effort weaks your overall ability to fight off sickness.
Hope you enjoy these tips and above all, enjoy your children and your life!
8 Month Weight Loss Tracking