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I have to admit, the thing I feared most about having a baby wasn’t the pain of childbirth or the exhaustion of taking care of a newborn. No. Those things didn’t scare me at all. The thing that haunted me every day of my pregnancy was how I would get my body back once my son was here.

I planned and strategized how I would work out during his naps, and take him running in the jogging stroller. In my head, I was going to have tons of time to work out and cook healthy meals, after all, newborns sleep all the time, right?

I was in for a shock when Paxton came home from the hospital. He did want to sleep a lot, but in my arms, not in the crib. This meant hours and hours of sitting – to nurse him, to pump, to burp him, and to let him sleep.

After a few weeks, I started to adapt to my new mommy duties and Paxton’s improvisational style of living. Now, he is an active 4-month-old and I have managed to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight – and you can too. Paxton still likes to take his naps on my chest, but with a lot of determination and a little bit of creativity, I managed to reclaim my body – and my mental health! If you’re not sure exactly how to begin, here are seven proven steps for working your way back to your pre-pregnancy bod—or better!

1. Move It
I know, being a mom is exhausting. Especially in the first weeks. Your body is recovering from a major trauma, you are sleep deprived and your hormones are out of whack. It’s all a little overwhelming.

Sometimes a walk in the sunshine and a little fresh air is just what you (and your little one) need. Of course, depending on your delivery, you may need to take it easy – so no powerwalking.

Start by walking around the block. If it feels good and doesn’t cause or exacerbate bleeding, walk a little farther the next day. Be careful not to do too much too soon, but don’t be afraid to move. Add just a little distance each day. Do this until your six-week checkup, after which you should be ready to do 20 to 30 minutes of cardio 3 to 5 times a week.

You don’t even have to leave your neighborhood: The Surgeon General says that pushing a stroller 1-2 miles in 30 minutes burns 150 calories.

If the weather is bad, why not have a little baby dance party – right in the living room. Paxton loves music and has a blast when we dance. (He even sings along…at least the oooohs and aaaaahs).

2. Breastfeed
When you’re breastfeeding, you need an extra 500 calories a day or about 2,700 total. But since breastfeeding burns 600 to 800 calories a day, even if all you do is sit comfortably and feed your baby, you could still be in a calorie deficit.

So, if the gym isn’t one of your favorite places, track your calories and stay within a range of 500 calories over your BMR.

Some lucky women can drop all their baby fat, and then some, through breastfeeding alone.

Just be warned – for me, breastfeeding made me super hungry, so I ended up eating well past the calorie deficit, (I didn’t track my intake) making it necessary to work out – which, lucky for me, I happen to enjoy.

Also, take caution that as soon as you stop or taper off breastfeeding, or begin supplementing your baby’s diet with solids, your calorie needs will plummet. This sneaks up on a lot of women and causes them to pack on the weight. To avoid looking this from happening to you, adjust your calorie intake downward and/or your exercise routine upward

3. Lift
If you’ve been following me, you know – I love me some weights. Muscles are not only functional (they help me carry my baby and groceries up three flights of stairs), but they are sexy (muscles are what give the body shape and tone), plus the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn doing nothing. (read: the more you can eat and not gain weight).

No gym membership? No problem (with a newborn, chances of getting to the gym are slim anyway, but if your child is older, you might want to take advantage of the gym’s childcare to give yourself some much deserved “mommy time”)

Use your baby’s weight to lose your baby weight.

Instead of going to the gym or investing in a set of dumbbells right away. Grab your baby and lift. Hold your little bundle of joy to your chest and squat variations, say, or do lunges behind the stroller as you walk. Keep a lookout in the coming weeks for my free Baby Weight Workout – which includes moves such as the baby bench press, baby bridge, baby crunch, and much more (sign up for my email list and you’ll get it right in your inbox.)

If you need specific advice or have questions, don’t hesitate to hit me up on social media or on my contact page- or you can post a question below.

4. Watch your food intake
I know what you are thinking…NEWS FLASH – Too many calories and fat will prevent weight loss…Call me Captain Obvious – but it is worth mentioning since this is the main reason why new moms have trouble losing weight (aside from hormonal imbalances).

Maybe it is the hunger resulting from breastfeeding, maybe it is the bad habits and weird cravings developed during pregnancy, or maybe it is the sleep deprivation sapping your willpower – or some crazy combination of all three.

The easiest way to cut calories is to clean up your diet. Say no to empty-calorie foods like sodas and chips, as well as any process foods. Never drink your calories – stick to water, green tea, and coffee as your beverages of choice. I personally love soda – as a recovering Diet Coke addict, I love making bubbly water with my soda stream.

You will fill your diet with a variety of nutrient-rich meals containing organic lean proteins, nuts and seeds, lots of fresh organic vegetables, and a little bit of fruit.

You won’t want to overly restrict calories right after giving birth (make sure you are getting at least your basal metabolic rate plus 500 extra calories for breastfeeding. Remember, not only are you creating the building blocks to nourish your baby, but your body needs quality nutrients to rebuild and repair itself following childbirth. So, while I don’t advocate crazy fad diets to new moms, I do feel strongly about eating a clean diet. Twinkies and Doritos have no benefit to you or your baby.

5. Meal Prep – make ahead small meals and healthy snacks
My son is quite the little improv artist. You never know when you are going to get a break. Some days he sleeps a lot, some days he is cranky, sometimes he wants me to hold him all day, and sometimes he likes to chill out.

If I don’t have a bunch of easy to grab, ready-to-go prepared meals and snacks on hand, I’ll either starve or make some bad choices. (and it is usually the latter.) Pick a day or evening – preferably when your hubby or another friend or family member can watch your baby, and shop and prep all your food for the next few days. (Actually, little Paxton loves trips to the store, so I just take him with, then prep while he naps or during Daddy play time).

Bake some fish and chicken breasts, make some turkey burgers, wash and cut all your fruits and veggies to have on hand for sides and snacks. Pre-portion everything into little containers or baggies and store them in the fridge. (Three to four ounces of protein and a cup of veggies or ½ cup of fruit is a good rule of thumb. Boom – meals are ready to go whenever you need – even if you only have one hand free.

Eating small, frequent meals throughout the day will keep your blood- sugar levels steady and help control cravings and overeating. Keep in mind that if your calories are distributed throughout the day, they’re digested and metabolized more efficiently, making them less likely to be stored as fat.

6. Take naps
Missing sleep is the number one diet sabotage. Getting your ZZZ’s is essential to your metabolism and your willpower. Lack of sleep puts in your body under stress and inhibits fat burning.

I know. As a new mom myself, getting sleep has been a challenge. I am trying to run my naturopathic medicine practice, write a book, get in my workouts and still have quality time with my husband and it is nearly impossible. Some days I just need to nap when I am tired. Last night, I went to bed at 7:30. Whatever it takes.

When you are well rested, you’re not compelled to binge on high-calorie, high-sugar foods for energy. Take a nap anytime the baby does, everything else can wait. Ask for help with the housework and laundry. You might even consider hiring a sitter to watch the baby while you get a power nap.

7. Get with other new moms
I love my baby more than anything, but every now and then I crave a little more stimulating conversation. Ooooh, goooo, and ahhh can only get you so far.

It can be helpful to connect with other moms with whom you can share struggles and tips. When the kids get a little older, it can be a great social activity for them as well. I couldn’t find a group in my area, so I became a volunteer group leader for No Excuse Moms. We work out in the park with our kiddos in tow. It turns out to be a combination of a boot camp and a playdate. Whether we a running laps or running after the kids – we seem to always work up a sweat and have a few laughs. Some moms come for the fresh air, some for the fitness, and others for the friendships. It’s a great way to combine all three and be a positive role model for your child. Check our Maria Kang’s website to find a No Excuse Moms group in your area.

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