Sustainable postpartum weight loss – the most important things you need to know to actually lose weight

Aug 13, 2023 | 0 comments

The journey through pregnancy and birth brings big physical changes and it’s completely natural to want to reconnect with your self and feel comfortable in your own skin again. If you’ve been following along, you might remember our previous blog post, So you want to lose weight postpartum: ask yourself these 5 questions first, where we delved into the important considerations before embarking on a weight loss journey in the postpartum period.

Now, let’s talk about the journey itself. Weight loss can be a challenging road, requiring not only determination but also a lot of patience and commitment. Sustainable weight loss isn’t about fad diets or quick fixes. It’s about making lasting changes that are supportive to your overall health in the long run. In this blog, we’re going to break down the top 10 essential factors that contribute to successful and sustainable postpartum weight loss. These are the building blocks that will help you not only achieve your weight loss goals but also maintain them for the long haul.


The information provided in this blog is for your personal or other non-commercial, educational purposes. It should not be considered as medical or professional advice. We recommend you consult with a GP or other healthcare professional before taking or omitting to take any action based on this blog. While the author uses best endeavours to provide accurate and true content, the author makes no guarantees or promises and assumes no liability regarding the accuracy, reliability or completeness of the information presented. The information, opinions, and recommendations presented in this blog are for general information only and any reliance on the information provided in this blog is done at your own risk.

Postpartum Weight Loss

Tip #1: Be clear about the goal – you want body recomposition, not weight loss

Let’s start with a critical mindset shift. When it comes to postpartum weight loss, the ultimate goal isn’t just about shedding numbers on the scale – this is a red herring that will distract you from the true goal, which for almost every mother I work with is actually something called “body recomposition.” This approach is all about transforming your body’s composition by reducing fat while preserving and even building lean muscle mass. It’s not just about losing weight; it’s about losing the right kind of weight.

Understanding the difference between weight loss and body recomposition is key. Weight loss can involve a combination of fat, muscle, and water loss. But the real magic lies in shedding excess body fat while maintaining your precious muscle tissue.

When it comes to numbers on the scale, its important to know that the numbers can be misleading or confusing. It’s possible to lose fat while simultaneously gaining muscle, which might not reflect a drastic change in weight. Conversley, you could see numbers drop on the scale, but that might not necessarily mean you’ve shed a significant amount of fat tissue.

Why do we want to preserve muscle mass, anyway? Well, lean muscle not only gives your body a sculpted and toned appearance, but it also has a host of other benefits.

Preserving muscle mass helps boost your metabolic rate, making it easier to burn calories even at rest. Plus, strong muscles support your posture, overall movement, and protect your joints. And let’s not forget about long-term bone health – strong muscles help support strong bones too, which is an important things to keep in mind as we get older as women.

Long story short – remember that this is a journey of body recomposition rather than just numbers of the scale. Consider ditching the scales altogether and focusing instead on how you look, how your clothes fit, and specific measurements.

Tip #2: Be patient

This is probably the most important thing to nail down on any weight loss journey – patience. While it’s understandable to want quick results, when it comes to sustainable postpartum weight loss that supports your overall wellbeing instead of depleting it, slow and steady truly wins the race. Prioritise balance over extremes or drastic changes.

Although we just mentioned above that the numbers on the scale are not everything, a realistic rate of weight loss is around half a kilogram per week. This pace gives your body the chance to adjust, adapt, and ensure that you’re losing fat while preserving your precious muscle mass.

Here’s the secret: aiming for a modest calorie deficit, typically around 200 to 400 calories a day, is the sweet spot for most women. You’re not starving yourself; you’re making small, manageable adjustments to your food choices and meals that your body can handle without feeling deprived. This approach is a far cry from skipping meals or getting sucked into crash diets that promise rapid results but often leave you feeling miserable and drained, and yo-yoing back to where you started.

Think of this as a lifestyle shift, not a race to some imaginary finish line. Instead of fixating on a quick fix, set your sights on building habits and practices that you can maintain for the long haul. The habits you cultivate now will shape your well-being for years to come.

Tip #3: Calories matter, but there can be underlying factors affecting your energy balance

When it comes down to it, fat loss is fundamentally about energy balance or the ‘Calories in, calories out’ equation. It’s undeniable that to shed fat, you need to create a calorie deficit, ensuring you’re expending more energy than you’re consuming. However, life is rarely as simple as an equation, especially when it comes to our bodies.

There can be underlying factors that affect your energy balance and influence how your body uses calories. One common example I see in mothers is thyroid hypofunction. An underactive thyroid can slow down your metabolic rate, making it tougher to create that necessary calorie deficit, meaning you need to eat less and less calories to reach a this deficit point.

Similarly, blood sugar imbalances can throw off your energy balance, as erratic blood sugar levels can lead to increased cravings impacting food choices, and hinder your body’s ability to tap into fat stores by switching off fat burning processes.

For all postpartum mothers, and especially those who’ve been striving to shed those extra kilos without seeing the results they desire, testing for these underlying factors is essential. Ignoring them can be like trying to solve an equation with missing variables – the solution just won’t add up!


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Tip #4: Hydration is queen

Hydration – the underrated hero of weight loss and overall well-being. It’s easy to underestimate the power of water, yet its impact on your metabolism, energy levels, mood, and cognition is profound. Picture your body as a well-oiled machine; water is the lubricant that keeps everything running smoothly.

Dehydration, on the other hand, can masquerade as hunger. Your body’s thirst signals can be misinterpreted as a craving for food, leading to unnecessary snacking and overeating. By keeping yourself well-hydrated, you can avoid falling into this trap and ensure that your body gets what it truly needs.

Furthermore, hydration is a potent mood booster. Even mild dehydration can leave you feeling irritable and fatigued. As a mother navigating the demands of daily life, maintaining a positive mood can make all the difference for your day-to-day quality of life.

How much water should you be drinking? While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, aiming for about 2-3 liters per day is a good guideline, but keep in mind you get fluids from other drinks beyond water – herbal tea, juices and smoothies, kombucha, as well as fresh produce. Use your thirst to guide you and keep your water bottle close by throughout the day to top up. Your fluid needs may vary depending on factors like activity level, weather, and whether you’re currently breastfeeding.

Tip #5: Protein is king

Consider protein the king of your weight loss journey, because if there’s one nutrient that deserves a standing ovation, it’s definitely protein. Not only is it a fundamental building block for your body, but it also plays a pivotal role in achieving sustainable weight loss.

Imagine protein as the commander of your appetite, the guardian against cravings, and the defender of your muscle mass. When you include adequate protein in your diet, you’re giving your body a powerful tool for managing your hunger levels and keeping those pesky cravings at bay. Protein takes its time to digest, keeping you feeling fuller for longer and preventing the all-too-familiar energy dips that can lead to overeating.

Speaking of muscle mass, let’s circle back to our earlier chat about body recomposition (remember Tip #1?). Preserving muscle mass is key for a successful weight loss journey. When you focus solely on reducing calories without paying attention to your protein intake, your body might start breaking down muscle tissue for energy, sabotaging your efforts and leaving you feeling weak and fatigued.

But that’s not all – protein is also a stalwart defender of stable blood sugar levels. By incorporating protein-rich foods into your meals, you can help prevent those notorious blood sugar spikes and crashes that leave you reaching for sugary snacks.

Supporting various metabolic pathways when it comes to postpartum weight loss, protein can be your secret weapon.

I highly recommend revisiting my past blog on “Why eating a protein-rich breakfast is my number one nutrition tip for tired mums”? as it’s chock-full of valuable information about protein-rich foods, meal ideas, and specific guidelines about how to calculate your personal protein needs. Generally speaking, most mothers will require at least 100g of protein daily.

Remember: protein is king and it’s here to help you reign supreme on your weight loss journey!

Tip #6: Focus on ‘volume’ eating

Eating more to lose weight? Sounds counter intuitive. Well, welcome to the world of ‘volume’ eating, where abundance meets weight loss goals in the most satisfying way possible.

If you’re someone who loves the feeling of eating a big, filling meal or indulging in hearty meals, you’re not alone. Many of us are ‘volume’ eaters at heart, and the good news is that this can actually work to your advantage on your postpartum weight loss journey.

When you focus on volume eating, you’re prioritizing foods that are high in fibre and water content. These foods have the incredible ability to make you feel fuller and more satisfied, all while keeping your calorie intake in check.

But wait, there’s more! Many volume foods are naturally low in calories while packing a nutritional punch. These foods allow you to enjoy the sensation of eating generously without worrying about overindulging.

This might look like always adding a veggies element to every meal – whether it’s a stir-fry, a hearty soup, or a wholesome omelette. Or, incorporating a simple side salad to transform your meal into a voluminous feast! And let’s not forget about snacks – fresh, whole fruits and crunchy veggie sticks can be the perfect midday pick-me-ups. These options provide that much-needed volume to your diet, helping you manage your hunger and keep those energy levels steady.

Volume eating doesn’t feel restrictive or like you’re sacrificing on satisfaction from meals, which makes it a great strategy for staying on track for the long haul.

Tip #7: You don’t have to give up the foods you love, but you do have to exercise portion control

Often times we associate weight loss programs with restriction and cutting out foods or entire food groups. But it is possible to have your cake and eat it too when it comes to the foods you love and your weight loss goals.

The good news is, you don’t have to bid farewell to your favourite snacks and treats. But, you do have to find a balance around how much you’re having.

The key here is portion control. It’s not about saying no; it’s about saying yes to moderation. You don’t need to deprive yourself, but you also need to avoid overindulging. This is much easier said than done, as many foods available are hyperpalatable, meaning that they override normal appetite and self-control mechanisms and can be incredibly difficult to stop eating – once you pop you can’t stop. Sometimes complete avoidance is actually easier than moderation, for some people with certain foods. See tip #8 below about abstainers versus moderators for more about this.

One helpful strategy to build your understanding about what portion sizes will work for your goals is to track your food intake for a short period. This isn’t about counting calories obsessively, but rather building awareness about the energy content of the foods you consume. Sometimes, we underestimate the calories in certain dishes or snacks, and this awareness can be a game-changer. Tracking for a few days or a week can offer valuable insights into portion sizes, helping you make informed decisions about your meals and snacks moving forward.

Two apps you can use to help with this are Cronometer or My Fitness Pal.

Tip #8: Understand if you’re a moderator or an abstainer

Ok, ready for a total game changer when it comes to things like managing food choices and cravings, or getting in control of overeating? Learn whether you are a moderator or an abstainer. Let’s explore.

Moderators are individuals who can enjoy small portions of indulgent foods without losing control. They have the ability to savour a piece of chocolate without feeling the need to devour the entire bar. They value freedom and find restriction to be suffocating. On the other hand, abstainers find it easier to say no to certain foods altogether. For them, having just a taste can trigger an onslaught of cravings that’s are hard or impossible to resist.

This principle doesn’t necessarily have to apply across the board, there can be certain ‘avalanche’ foods that are the biggest triggers for us; foods that we can’t stop ourselves from devouring once we start. With these foods we may need to act like an abstainer, while less triggering foods we can be a moderator with.

Understanding your tendencies can be empowering. Although we just discussed above in Tip #7 that there is room for your favourite foods while working on weight loss, for some of us avoidance may actually be the easier path.

If you’re a moderator, incorporating small treats into your routine may satisfy your cravings while keeping you on track. If you’re an abstainer, it might be more effective to avoid trigger foods altogether, focusing on nutritious alternatives that satisfy both your taste buds and your health goals.

Tip #9: Resistance training and walking should be your new BFFs

There are a few exercise and workout myths that need busting when it comes to weight loss. The ‘old way’ of weight loss would have you believe that higher output = more loss, and while it’s true that more energy expenditure does tip the balance of your energy in-energy out equation, it’s not as simple as just ‘exercise more’.

Instead, we can be more strategic about our exercise choices. I always say that the best form of exercise is the one that you enjoy and can do regularly – this principle almost always trumps all else.

But beyond this, incorporating resistance training and walking into your routine can be your new BFF combo for sustainable weight loss. Resistance training is a powerhouse when it comes to body recomposition, helping you to build and preserve muscle mass and boost metabolism as a result. Having more muscle mass means your body burns more calories even at rest. Try body weight exercises if you’re just starting out, or things like hand weight or resistance band home workouts, mat or reformer pilates, or weight lifting in the gym.

On the other hand, walking is a gentle yet effective form of aerobic exercise that complements resistance training well. Unlike higher-intensity workouts such as HIIT, cross fit, aerobics, or boxing, walking doesn’t trigger excessive stress responses or spike cortisol levels. This is crucial because cortisol can impact blood sugar levels and potentially hinder your weight loss efforts. Additionally, high-intensity workouts can lead to an increase in appetite because of the high energy output, causing you to consume more calories than you burn.

Tip #10: Watch out for mindless snacking

Beware the trap of mindless snacking – it’s the silent saboteur that can undo all your hard work in other areas. Those little nibbles here and there can quickly add up, and before you know it, you’ve consumed more calories than you intended.

One of the culprits behind mindless snacking is not being mindful about portions. When we eat straight from the packet or container, it’s easy to lose track of how much we’re actually consuming. To tackle this, try portioning out your snacks onto a plate or into a bowl. This visual cue can help you better gauge how much you’re eating and prevent unintentional overconsumption.

Another pitfall is eating while distracted, whether it’s in front of the TV, while scrolling on your phone, or even working at your desk. When you’re not fully present while eating, it’s easy to ignore your body’s signals of fullness and eat more than you need. Instead, make an effort to sit down at a table and just eat without distractions. This mindful eating practice can help you tune in to your body’s cues and enjoy your food more fully.

Planning your snacks in advance can also be a game-changer. While you don’t have to adhere to your plan rigidly, having a rough outline of what you’ll snack on throughout the day can help you avoid impulsive choices. If you find yourself reaching for a snack, give yourself 10 to 15 minutes before reaching for more. It often takes this long for our bodies to register if we’re truly satisfied or still hungry.

Revisit tip #7 above about portion control and the value of tracking your food intake for a short period to understand exactly how much energy you might be consuming when it comes to snacking, in particular.


The information provided in this blog is for your personal or other non-commercial, educational purposes. It should not be considered as medical or professional advice. We recommend you consult with a GP or other healthcare professional before taking or omitting to take any action based on this blog. While the author uses best endeavours to provide accurate and true content, the author makes no guarantees or promises and assumes no liability regarding the accuracy, reliability or completeness of the information presented. The information, opinions, and recommendations presented in this blog are for general information only and any reliance on the information provided in this blog is done at your own risk.




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