Losing the baby weight: Myths vs reality

Once you get pregnant, not only do people start telling you what is safe and unsafe to eat, they also keep reminding you not to “eat for two”. Well, sod that. If I can’t drink and I can’t eat the best cheese, if I’m sick, tired, hormonal and my boobs hurt, you know what I’m going to do? Eat cake. During both of my pregnancies, I ate cake and ice cream and mountains of curry, pizza and peri-peri chicken. And both times I did gain weight which took a lot of time to lose. Plus, I wasn’t exactly skinny to start with. But I don’t regret a single mouthful of sugary goodness, because pregnancy made me feel awful and the cake helped me cope. If you feel the same as me, then you should cake away. Tell any judgemental friends or family that someone on the internet (clearly an expert) said it was fine.

Once you have the baby, the health police stop banging on about how not to poison your baby and gain loads of weight, and start banging on about how to lose the baby weight. Luckily, these days celebrities are being a little more honest about how bloody difficult it is. But there are still countless articles trying to give you “realistic” tips about how to use the weight-loss tricks of celebrities. I’ll tell you how celebs lose baby weight. Two things:

  1. They have bottomless pits of money to hire personal trainers and diet chefs and nannies to look after their babies all night.
  2. It’s their job to lose the weight.

So I’m here to tell you a real person’s view on losing baby weight. I think there are loads of myths about losing the baby weight that are propagated even by our well-meaning friends and family. These conspire to make new mums feel worse about their shape. And the worse you feel, the harder it is to make the changes you want to make. So here are my biggest baby weight-loss myths and some tips (from my humble experience) to help you actually lose the weight in real life (if you want to).

Biggest baby-weight loss myths

“9 months on and 9 months off”

This one has a good intention behind it, implying that it takes as long to lose the weight as it does to gain it. But in my experience, 9 months is not long enough. It took me the best part of 2 years to lose the baby weight after my first, and I’m still working on the weight gained from my 22-month old. The problem is, raising babies is hard work. It’s physical, emotional, mentally straining and you don’t get much sleep. These factors combine to make you reach for the nearest chocolate-y sugary fatty-fat-food full of energy to help you get through another day. You might not have time to cook proper meals or if you do cook them, you may never eat them. My first son used to cry like clockwork whenever I sat down for a proper meal. As a result I used to eat like I’d been stranded on a desert island living on coconut water for the last year.

“Breastfeeding helps you lose the baby weight”

This is a big one that they like to roll out in those wonderful guilt-trip pamphlets and signs as displayed in hospital and given you by health visitors. Now, as I’ve explained in my breastfeeding story, I was only able to achieve mixed-feeding with both of my children. So perhaps that is why breastfeeding didn’t do jack for helping me lose weight. But whether or not your baby is fully, partially, or not-at-all breastfed, don’t feel bad if it has no correlation to you losing weight. Breastfeeding makes you produce all sorts of hormones that you don’t normally produce. Plus, if you’re on the pill, there are only certain pills you can take when you’re breastfeeding and one of the side effects of progesterone-only pills is weight gain. I have never been able to achieve any significant weight loss until I’ve stopped breastfeeding.

“Just eat a bit less”

Someone actually said this to me when my baby was only 3 months old. I was tucking into a fairly modest plate of pasta and he’s all like, “maybe you should have a smaller portion?”. Pfffft. I had my stomach cut open 3 months ago. I was up all freaking night with a baby hanging off my boob. You try it and see if you want to eat less sodding pasta.

“Try some postnatal fitness classes”

I actually highly recommend these. But not because they will necessarily help you lose weight. They might, or they might not. I did baby yoga with both children, walked miles and miles pushing buggies around, and tried some more difficult mum fit classes too. None of these resulted in weight loss (any calories burned were replaced with sleep-deprived-chocolate-binges). However, the exercise improved my mood and I met other mums for potential friendship/coffee drinking/joint chocolate binges. The baby yoga was also a lovely way to bond with my baby.

“You can get back to jogging 6 months after birth”

Maybe if you are Jessica Ennis-Hill or Paula Radcliffe. My dabbling in running before both of my children was not fortifying enough to get back to it easily. I tried to start jogging again when my youngest was 6 months old. It lasted for about a week before I put my back out and caught the latest virus that was going round Eldest’s preschool. Get back to your usual exercise when you’re ready, but don’t feel bad if it doesn’t work out, because babies are hard work. You will eventually be able to resume (vaguely) normal service.

“You have to lose the baby weight”

You may actually be comfortable in your skin post-baby just the way you are. If you are, then chill. Don’t let anyone tell you what your body should look like. The way you feel is the only thing that matters.

Things that helped me lose baby weight

What works for me might not work for you, but I’m going to tell you anyway in case it does.

Finding the right diet

When you’re ready to watch your diet, that is. Based on my experience, I wouldn’t recommend dieting before baby is at least 9 months old, sleeping well at night, and until you’ve stopped breastfeeding.

There is no magic bullet for dieting, but what I’ve found is that each person can find something that works for them. I’ve had friends who’ve lost the weight and kept it off successfully with Weight Watchers, the South Beach diet and Slimming World. But for me, it was The Fast Diet. Even before I had kids, I could never stick to any sort of diet or even so-called “just eating healthy”. But The Fast Diet, also known as 5:2 or intermittent fasting, has been a miracle for me. You limit your calories to 500/day for just 2 days a week and eat reasonably (i.e. whatever you want without totally bingeing) the rest of the time. After both children I’ve lost around 2 stone (24 lbs) with this diet, after never being successful with any other. It sounds crazy but if you read the book it makes sense, and there are loads of other health benefits from fasting. It’s made me crave healthier foods. I’m currently obsessed with avocado, and that’s a phrase I never thought I’d say.

Finding a realistic exercise programme that fits into mum life

The only thing that has worked for me for getting fit and keeping fit is the Couch to 5K programme. It’s a running programme where you gradually work up, through interval training, from being a “couch potato” to being able to run 5K. It seriously works, no matter how unfit you are. It helped me get over a dislike of running. And it’s a great solution for a mum, because you can do it any time and with no special equipment. However, you may find something else is your thing. The biggest thing is to remember is that any exercise is good. Even if you aren’t consistent, one gym session a month is better than none.

Getting your brain on your side

I’ve found that I’m enjoying my exercise sessions more lately and I think it’s due to things that I’ve changed in my life that keep my mind busy while I’m exercising. In the past, I found exercise so boring! But since I’ve started blogging, I’m coming up with post ideas in my head the whole time I’m running and the time flies by. I forget I’m running. I’ve also subscribed to a music streaming service, and it’s really helped to always have fresh, new music to listen to. It’s also helped me to set a goal/reward to look forward to. For me, I’m hoping to look and feel awesome in time for my 20-year highschool reunion next summer.

Enlist support from your family

If your partner resents the time you spend exercising, or hates the food you cook on your diet, you are not going to succeed. Talk to your partner and explain how important it is to have his/her support. Support your partner’s diet and fitness goals as well, and see where you can cooperate in meal planning and family scheduling. If you have older children, you can also get them to join in on your exercise. My 4yo loves a bit of stretching or calisthenics.

Accept setbacks

Being a mum is a bloody hard job. If your child gets sick, or you get sick, or you have another life emergency, or a bereavement, or you get injured during your exercise efforts (I’ve had a hundred bad back or twisted ankle incidents), you might end up having to take a break from diet and exercise. Try not to let it get you down. It’s real life. As long as you keep trying whenever you realistically can, you’re doing great.

As for me, I’m doing okay. My youngest is not yet two, and I have about 5 more pounds of baby weight to lose. Then I can tackle what I like to call my “beer and burrito” weight.

Are you eager to lose the baby weight or are you happy just how you are? Do you have any weight loss and fitness tips you’d like to share?

Cuddle Fairy
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19 thoughts on “Losing the baby weight: Myths vs reality

  1. I love this post – such a balanced and positive approach to losing baby weight. I have to admit I was guilty of telling mums “nine months on and nine months off” back in my midwifery days – more as a reminder to be realistic about how long it will take to lose baby weight but you’re right in that it often does take longer than nine months. I’ve now accepted I will probably never be the size I was pre-children but nor does it bother me. Glad to hear that you are doing well with losing the baby weight though 🙂

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    1. I’m so glad you liked the post and thought it was a positive approach. I don’t think anyone is ever the same, mentally or physically, after having a baby. Sometimes that’s reflected in your dress size or in other bits. Personally, I miss my pre-baby boobs…they are never coming back! 🙂 Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

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  2. So I have been thriught the preggo ringer! Four girls in under nine years- including twins!

    The first was the worst- I was so naive and sure that I would return right back to a zero. Interestingly I had the easiest time with the twins – who were my last babies…

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    1. Wow that sounds like hard work! I couldn’t imagine having a 2nd until my first was 2, and now I am so done with being pregnant! Sounds like you’re doing great, I bet 4 girls keep you active. Thanks for reading 🙂

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  3. Love your post, I do the 5:2 best diet so far. You’re right about getting you’re brain on side too, and people to support you. You know if you want chocolate, cheese or that last biscuit – have it. It’s worse to worry about every little morsel you can or cannot consume!

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  4. Thank you for this post – I feel like all my mum friends sprung back into shape overnight whereas I am sure I will never shrink back completely. I put about 2.5 stone on with my son and at 21 months old I have only managed to shift 1.5 of that (and most of that was upon my return to work). It really is not easy and I get annoyed when some celebrity with a new fitness DVD to shift makes out that it is. #Sharingthebloglove

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    1. I agree – it is so difficult! People who are lucky enough to lose weight easily / not gain it in the first place don’t understand. It’s hard to lose weight when you don’t have kids and even harder when you do. Thanks for reading.

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  5. I had 3.5 stones to lose. Twice. Aarrgghh. But I used myfitnesspal and just ploughed through the boredom. I did keep the 9 months on, 9 months off in mind though and did it both times. Took a LOT of willpower 🙂
    #bloggerclubuk

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  6. I am a huge fan of the Couch 2 5K – I go back to it time and time again (I have commitment issues with running!) I don’t know where the myth about breastfeeding comes from – I think it’s from the fact that it’s supposed to make the uterus contract more quickly which is surely only a short term thing. For me, breastfeeding made me ravenous – I was constantly hungry. It burns calories sure, but it makes you eat more! It sounds like you’re doing great to be down to the last 5lb – I hope I can get there one day! Thanks so much for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

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    1. I have running commitment issues too! This is the 3rd time I’ve done c25k and it always takes me more than the 9 weeks it’s supposed to. And I agree breastfeeding makes you ravenous! Thanks for reading & hosting.

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  7. Thank you, this is fantastic. It really reflects a lot of what i’ve felt and experienced the past few years. I didn’t bother trying to lose any baby weight at all after my first, then lost 2st in 22weeks starting just 7 weeks after my second, quite a dramatically different approach, let me tell you. I actually had a relative tell me after my first that I ‘shouldn’t put any more weight on, this is enough’ like wtf? #BloggerClubUK

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    1. Relatives can sometimes be the worst about weight loss advice! They think they’re helping… Anyway what an amazing achievement when you lost 2st – maybe it makes sense not to bother in between! Thanks for reading.

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  8. I found the weight came off easier second time around from running after a toddler and not being able to sit in coffee shops eating cake like I did with my first. I’m never going to be the same shape and size before my girls, but I’m ok with that. I know I need to cutback on the snacking in the evenings, but it just tastes too good. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove Laura X

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  9. I think this is really sensible, balanced advice. I have to admit that I was lucky in this respect (don’t hate me). But then, I wasn’t really lucky – I had HG for 8 months of the first & 7 months of the second pregnancy. So I just didn’t put on extra weight during the pregnancies. I didn’t work hard to get into shape again, or even to not put on the weight – it just happened that way through illness. The downside is all the growth scans and concerns. Had I not been really ill during the pregnancies, I would have lived off cake. & had I had extra weight, it would have taken me a considerable time to shift it, as dieting and working out would not have been a priority. I think that is completely normal. Everyone is different. And I do believe that for most people who appear to spring right back into shape, there is probably a very specific, rational reason for that, like with me, that has nothing to do with discipline, working really hard or breastfeeding or any of the other myths. It’s luck of the draw. #BloggerClubUK

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