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Healthy Weight Center

How Can I Lose Weight After Having Kids?

09/02/2009

Question:

I have four kids, all under the age of 8. Each time I had a baby I kept on 5 to 10 pounds. I have tried different kinds of diets and have not found something that I can stick to. As you can imagine I don’t have much time to work out, and don’t really have the extra money to go to the gym. I am only 4’9” and I am 140 pounds. I really want to take off at least 30 pounds. What should I do?

Answer:

I'm glad that you are concerned about your weight. To figure out how many calories you should be eating, go to ChooseMyPlate.gov and plug in your age, gender, height, weight, and activity level. You will be asked if you want to get a plan for maintaining your weight or to achieve a healthier weight. Choose 'to achieve a healthier weight.' The number of calories will be given to you to gradually achieve a better weight. Since you want to lose weight this calorie level is set to reduce your calorie intake 500-700 calories per day compared to what you would be eating to maintain your weight. When you have reduced your intake by 3500 calories, you will lose a pound. The ChooseMyPlate.gov site will also break down the calories into food groups and amounts from those food groups that you should eat.

A diet to achieve a healthier weight provides for a slow weight loss. When weight is lost quickly, the calories your body burns come from your muscles first and not your fat stores. It burns the muscle calories and releases the water that the muscle holds. You lose muscle and water weight; not fat weight. So, think of your new eating pattern as a permanent lifestyle change and not just a weight loss phase. Lose fat; not muscle. Take a year to lose those 30 pounds.

I plugged in your gender, height, and weight and guessed that you are in your early 30s and have less than 30 minutes of exercise per day beyond your normal daily activities.  ChooseMyPlate suggested the following breakdown of foods for good nutrition:

 
 
Grains:  5 ounces ( half should be whole grains)
Vegetables: 2 cups
Fruits: 1.5 cups
Milk: Equal to 3 cups lowfat or fat free
Meat and Beans: 5 ounces lean
Oils and Discretionary calories: 5 teaspoons oil + 130 calories to use as you would like (extra fats or  sugars to add flavor to breads, vegetables, milk, or more meat etc).
 
The web site will give you tips for foods in each of the food groups. Grains are low fat. Use your discretionary calories to flavor them. Vegetables should come from all color groups over the course of a week. Fruits do not have added sugar. Milk is fat-free and other dairy products are fat-free, or use your discretionary calories to put fat in your milk products.  Meat is lean.

Don't go longer (except when sleeping) than 4-5 hours between food intake. If you do, your body will shift into starvation mode and slow your metabolism down (which means you don't burn as many calories), which makes it harder to lose weight.  For good health and for successful weight reduction and maintenance, be sure to eat within 2 hours of waking up, and don't go longer than 5 hours without eating.

Successful weight losers listed through the National Weight Control registry (they have maintained their weight loss for 5 years and more) eat breakfast, don't skip meals, monitor their weight regularly, and are physically active every day.
 
So . . .  get up in the morning and eat breakfast. A high protein, high fiber breakfast cereal with nonfat milk, plus fruit on the cereal will provide you with a good start to the day. The protein in the cereal and milk, and fiber in the cereal and fruit provide you a breakfast with 'staying' power that will keep you going from a 7:00 AM breakfast until noon. Kashi and Nature's Path are two cereal brands that make a high protein, high fiber cereal. 

Eat lunch. Look at your meal plan that ChooseMyPlate.gov gives you and decide what you can eat for your lunch. You can use frozen dinners heated up in the microwave, leftovers from the night before, or a sandwich, plus fruit and a salad (think beyond carrot sticks or lettuce- think bean, pea, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, cauliflower, etc).  It's perfectly okay for your children to eat the same way. It's healthy. Go easy on the dressing for any salad you decide on or just put salt and pepper it.
 
If you won't be able to eat your evening meal until late, you may be better off having a small snack at 5:00 or so - maybe lowfat cheese and lowfat, 100% whole grain crackers, or 1/4 cup dried fruit and nuts or lowfat  yogurt.  Then you won't be ravenous when you eat dinner. Kids usually like these snacks, too.

Watch your portions at dinner so you don't go over your calorie limit. For good nutrition you should look back at what you have eaten earlier in the day and make your evening meal from the remaining foods in your ChooseMyPlate food plan.
 
Since I guessed your age and how physically active you are,  you need to go to ChooseMyPlate.gov and put in the accurate information. Four young children can keep you busy, but only you can determine if it also translates into extra physical activity beyond normal.
 
A healthy weight is best maintained through both controlled food intake AND at least moderate (30-60 minutes per day) physical activity. Children need this activity too, so plan an active activity with your kids (dance, jump rope, skip and hop around the block with the kids playing follow the leader, etc.) and all will benefit.
 
One last bit of advice: get enough sleep. Recent studies have indicated that people who get close to eight hours of sleep each night have a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who are sleep-deprived.
 
Good luck to you.

For more information:

Go to the Healthy Weight Center health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Sharron   Coplin, MS, RD, LD Sharron Coplin, MS, RD, LD
Former Lecturer
Food & Nutrition
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University