Calories. Weight. Ugh. As if we mothers don’t have enough to worry about after pregnancy and welcoming a new baby. And let’s be honest, eating chocolate makes everything better! But sooner or later those extra pounds we packed on while growing that little human need to be addressed.
So we will take any help we can get and the burning question on everyone’s mind is – how many calories does breastfeeding burn? I mean really burn and what does that mean for my weight loss? And more importantly, how hard do I have to work?
Well, I am here to deliver good news! You can burn 300-500 calories per day doing…wait for it…NOTHING! Besides breastfeeding that is. That is basically an hour long, strenuous treadmill session. Not bad.
So how do you make that work in your favor and lose some of that unwanted baby weight without sacrificing your milk production? It’s not easy and it takes some discipline but trust me, it is worth it!
How Many Extra Calories Do I Really Need to Breastfeed?
I gained anywhere from 30-35 pounds with both of my boys. The issue is that with each pregnancy I kept 10 pounds… That’s 20 pounds of unwanted baby weight.
Sure, I breastfed both my boys for nearly two years each but I failed to make that extra 300-500 calories I was burning work for me. The result? My body held onto that 20 pounds like gum on the bottom of a shoe.
One misconception about breastfeeding (much like pregnancy) is that you can eat whatever you want.
I have heard all the excuses for the over eating (and maybe used a few myself), such as – “You are only Pregnant/breastfeeding for a short time,” “It’s for the baby,” “I’m hungry so I must not be eating enough,” “I will lose the weight after I wean,” etc, etc, etc.
You do not need a lot of extra calories per day while breastfeeding. The American Pregnancy Association recommends that breastfeeding mothers eat around 3,000 calories per day. It is important not to eat too little or your milk supply can tank like a ton of bricks in water but you can’t pig out either or you will start to get rather round.
A Calorie in is NOT a Calorie Out
So you want to lose weight while breastfeeding but you can’t technically diet? Well, that’s confusing. The key is that you don’t need to “diet.” To understand weight loss, you also need to understand how your body uses the foods you eat.
What is a Calorie?
A calorie is a measure of energy from food once inside the body. It is a simple law of physics that a calorie in, minus a calorie out, equals weight loss or gain. In theory, a person should gain or lose the same amount of weight as another regardless of the source of the calorie. That, however, is not entirely true.
Calories from protein are not the same as calories from a donut, for example. Your body will process those calories differently.
Food is made up of more than just calories alone. There are fiber and nutrients to consider. The body breaks down food rich in nutrients differently than empty, processed food which is packed full of sugar.
So let’s take a good look at our beloved friend, sugar.
Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of the issue with sugar – Basically, we suffer from such strong craving for sugar because of a hormone called leptin, which regulates our craving for sweet foods.
When sugar is metabolized it is immediately stored as fat (since it has no nutritional value to the body) and it releases a massive amount of leptin.
The issue with large levels of leptin is that too much of it and you become resistant to it, so your body struggles to tell your brain that you aren’t hungry any more, but your brain is craving more and more.
Combine that with your brain telling you that not only are you still hungry, but you are hungry for a huge slice of chocolate cake which leads to more leptin intake which leads to more cravings… It’s an endless struggle!
Add a sleep deprived, new mother who has no time to actually cook and needs to reach for quick, easy food (usually prepackaged, processed food) and it’s a wonder any of us gets back our “before baby” bodies.
Processed Food is the Enemy
Before we get to how you can lose weight while breastfeeding, I want to give a little overview on what you are actually eating.
Have you ever read the ingredients on prepackaged food? Or even low fat or diet food? How many ingredients can you actually pronounce? 3 out of 100? 10 out of 100? I bet it’s not many.
That’s because the prepackaged food is so processed that it is no longer natural and has very little nutritional value.
I can think of one ingredient that you can pronounce in processed food – sugar. Or its companion corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup. Remember what we learned about how sugar works in the body?
Well, processed food is packed full of it.
Oh, You think that low fat or diet food is healthy? Think again. Just like all processed food, when you add chemicals and strip fat and nutrients, food tastes terrible so sugar is added to make it more palatable. Gross.
Your body finds little nutritional value in processed food and stores it as fat since there is nothing else to do with it. Plus, add the addicting effect that sugar has and you will be craving processed food. Thus, the crazy cycle continues.
You cannot lose weight eating sugar packed, processed food breastfeeding or not!
How to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding
So how can you shed those extra pounds without starving yourself or eating a low fat, processed diet without putting your milk supply at risk?
Simple. You eat REAL food. It’s not hard and it’s not rocket science.
I have spent hour upon hours educating myself on the best weight loss options while breastfeeding and I am happy to share them with you. Here are some tips that I have used to lose my baby weight and feel great about the results I’ve seen. The plus side is that it is easy to follow:
1 – Stay Away From Processed, Diet Food and Sugar – So, so bad for you. For all reasons, we have already touched on.
2- Eat Good Fats and Natural Carbs – There is a myth about fat. Fat is not bad for you and it will not make you fatter if you eat it from the correct source. Avocados, Lean Protein, nuts, coconut oil, butter – yes, I said BUTTER (the real stuff) – are great sources of good fat that your body turns to energy. You will burn more fat by eating good fats (win, win).
There is also a Myth about Carbs. Carbs are not bad, again, when they come from a natural source. Think unprocessed grains (quinoa, oats, whole grains) instead of highly processed white bread, pasta, etc. Veggies, whole grains, and beans are a great substitute for processed carbs!
3 – Don’t Sweeten Anything – Stop the sugar crazy cycle. Cutting sugar is not easy and the goal is to retrain your body to not want sweet things. So no more sweet tea or sweetener (natural or artificial) in your morning cup of Joe. (But…If you absolutely need a sweetener see below for my recommendation)
4 – Learn to Cook – This might seem silly but seriously – learn to cook. Cooking at home means you can control what is in your food. You will be shocked at what is in the food that you eat when you eat out. Spend 10 minutes on Google and you will see what I mean. So learn to cook your favorite dishes at home.
Replace canned veggies with fresh or frozen. Use whole grain pasta or spaghetti squash (so yummy) as an alternative for pasta. There are many recipes for clean eating out there. A quick look on Pinterest or Google will bring up a ton!
5 – Find a Bread Alternative – If you are like me (especially with kids) it can be hard to cut out bread completely. There is healthy bread on the market that are made with unprocessed, whole grains. Some, to be honest, are just plain awful.
My kids love toast and we need sandwich bread for lunches so cutting it out completely wasn’t an option. After trying many, many brands, my favorite is Dave’s Killer Bread. They make a bread called Dave’s Killer Bread – White Done Right. It is wonderful!
My kids don’t notice the difference. It’s a little more dense than typical sandwich bread but it is really very good. The issue I had with other brands and even some of Dave’s was all the seeds and gains on and in the bread. My kids didn’t care for them. This one is just like any other white bread but it is made with Barley, Spelt, Whole Grain, and Quinoa flour.
Great alternative if you just can’t cut out bread completely and have little ones that aren’t into the typical health bread! A true clean-eater would still frown on Dave’s Killer Bread, but like I said, with kids sometimes it’s not realistic to cut everything out so find the lesser of the evils.
6 – Eat Small Meals Several Times a Day – I struggled with sugar (and still do at times) and find myself hungry often, which is part of the sugar craving. I found the best thing to do was to eat small meals frequently and that helps curb the want to snack on unhealthy things.
Reach for nuts or veggies (with hummus – yummy) for a quick snack. Eating often also helps maintain a healthy supply as your body always has fuel to make milk.
7 – Exercise – You don’t need to become a gym rat or run a marathon to be healthy. Studies show that as little as 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day is all that is needed to see significant health benefits. 30 minutes a day!
Take a brisk walk around the block with your baby in the stroller. Fresh air is good for you and baby and you will feel great! Do some lunges or walk up and down a set of stairs. Again, you don’t need to try and be He-Man.
Losing Weight While Breastfeeding Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
Losing weight isn’t just about following the latest fad diet and thinking you will see results in 3 days. Losing weight is is about making life changes in how you eat and think about food.
There is no special formula that you need to follow while breastfeeding. You simply need to eat healthy foods. Cut out the sugar. Cut out processed foods. Eat more natural carbs and fats and whole grains. You WILL see the fat melting off. Your body will love you for it.
You will have more energy, more self-confidence, and you will be healthier than ever!
My Favorite Products
Overtime, I have found some products in my weight loss journey that I love and thought I would share. Check them out and you will see why they are part of my favorites!
1 – The Beyond Diet – I have tried many, many diet fads. None, of course, worked. There is a “diet” that is run by nutritionist Isabel De Los Rios. It’s not a diet really. It’s more of an informational course on how to make changes in the way you eat and how you view food. I learned so much about food and how our body uses it.
There are diet plans and recipes on the website that you can follow. Wonderful course if you want to learn about what to and what not to eat. I highly recommend you check out her book today. You will not be sorry! Great place to start!
2 – Truvia Natural Sweetener – I mentioned above that if you absolutely need sweetener, then I have a recommendation for you. Truvia is derived from the stevia plant. It is a zero calorie, all natural, sugar alternative.
You can use it in coffee, tea, baking, just about anything you would use sugar in. Great alternative!
3 – Gillian Michael’s Ripped in 30 – I do not have time to go to the gym. Not to mention most gyms have a minimum age so going with your small baby just won’t work. I tried several home workout videos and some on youtube, but the one I loved the most was Gillian Michael’s Ripped in 30.
It is a 24-minute workout. We all have 24 minutes! And man, it is a workout! It has 4 workouts, one for each week. You will be amazed at the progress you will make in just 30 days with this video. You do need some light hand weights, though. Get this video and do yourself a favor! No excuses!
4 – Naked Whey Protein Powder – I won’t get all into protein powders but the best protein powders are whey which is derived from cow’s milk and is a complete protein. Naked Whey brand is from 100% grass fed cows, GMO-free, gluten-free, soy free and preservative free.
In my opinion, it is the best choice for protein powders! If you have not yet added protein shakes to your daily life, then I suggest you get on it! It makes a great snack and is very filling. Great for post workout!
5 – Only Natural Chitosan Fat Blocker Supplement – Chitosan is said to help deter the absorption of fat in the digestive track. As I stated in this article, good fat sources are healthy for you so I don’t condone this supplement to be taken regularly. But it is a good source of dietary fiber and in those cases where you will be indulging, this would be a good supplement to take beforehand.
So there you have it, 5 of my favorite products to help you in your weight loss journey. Losing baby weight can feel overwhelming at times but just remember that it took 9 months to put on that weight so give yourself a break. It will happen!
Have a weight loss journey you want to share? Leave a comment and let us know your secrets!