A Dietitian's Postpartum Weight Loss Plan

I’m a functional dietitian and here’s my postpartum and pre-wedding weight loss plan. For some background, I had a baby 4.5 months ago and I have my wedding party in 4.5 months. My husband and I were supposed to get married in May 2020. We had to cancel the wedding because of COVID but still got married. After a few failed rescheduling attempts, we decided to put the wedding party on hold and try to have a baby. We were fortunate to have our first baby in June 2022 and our wedding party is now planned for February 2023.


Let me start by saying there is no shame in wanting to lose weight. The majority of my clients have weight listed as one of the reasons for working with me. Most people want to feel good, healthy and confident in their bodies and sometimes weight loss is part of that. Postpartum weight loss can be about wanting to feel like yourself again. It can also be about prioritizing your health and the health of future pregnancies. However, this can take time. On average, 80% of women take more than three months to return to their pre-pregnancy weight. [1]


It can feel uncomfortable for many people to talk about weight loss. It even feels a little uncomfortable to me to talk about my own weight loss, but I would be doing new moms a disservice if I said that all of the pregnancy weight naturally comes off without any sort of structure, plan, or intent on my end. In this article, I am outlining healthy habits that support weight loss (or management) but they are neither exclusive to weight loss or to the postpartum period. These are practices that also help with energy, digestion, sleep, hormone balance and optimizing lab work.


I should also note that I usually don't work with my postpartum clients on weight loss specifically until at least 3-4 months postpartum. This is when hormones start to stabilize, you’re typically (hopefully) starting to get into a good routine with your baby and life, your cravings/appetite may be feeling more normal, and if you’re breastfeeding, your milk supply is fairly well established. It’s also very common for women to keep some extra weight on until they wean from breastfeeding due to hormones.


Lastly, know that there are many ways to lose weight in a healthy way and the below is just scratching the surface. This is my plan - based on my health history and what works for me mentally and physically - combined with my knowledge, education and research. I will go through my plan in the same way that I outline client plans by focusing on 3 categories - diet, lifestyle and supplements.


DIET

Food is absolutely the most important part of this puzzle. There are two parts to my food plan. First are the basics: the consistent food habits that I practice daily and will serve you at all stages of life. Success happens when you are consistent with the basics. Without practicing the basics, the rest of your plan won’t be effective. This would be like trying to learn calculus without first mastering basic arithmetic.


Second, are specific tools and strategies I do to specifically support weight loss and/or maintenance. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can start to think about adding in these other strategies.


THE BASICS


These are consistent food habits that I practice daily, postpartum or not. If you’re just starting to make diet changes, I would start with these. They include:


1. Regular and consistent meal times

  • This usually looks like 3 meals + 1 optional snack/day. This works for me right now - if you’re very active or you’re in the first few weeks postpartum, you may want to add in additional snacks.

2. My balanced plate method

  • The balanced plate method is a template to follow when making meals. The emphasis is on protein, fat + veggies (fiber). By prioritizing these 3 components, you naturally add the most nourishing foods to your plate, balance your blood sugar, and decrease cravings. This template also ensures that your meals give you energy and satisfy you!




My balanced plate method:

  • ½ plate non-starchy vegetables

  • ¼ of your plate a protein (about the size of your palm)

  • ¼ of your plate a fibrous complex carbohydrate/starch

  • 100-200 calories of healthy fat





  • I typically follow this template closely for lunch and dinner. For breakfast, I try to focus on breaking my fast with protein and/or fat and fiber. I love breakfast bowls and smoothies.

  • The balanced plate method may seem overly simplistic but take a close look at your meals and start to see how you balance your plate. Most people are undereating protein, fat and veggies and overeating carbohydrates.

  • For more information and tips on blood sugar, read my article “Why Understanding Blood Sugar is Critical for your Health


WEIGHT LOSS/MAINTENANCE TOOLS


1. Early dinners

  1. A very effective tool to support weight loss, digestion and sleep is to finish eating 2-3 hours before bed and get at least a 12-hour overnight fast.

  2. I try to be asleep between 10-11pm so I will aim to be done eating by 7-8pm at night and then eat breakfast 12-14 hours later.

  3. Always listen to your body to see what works best for you and pay attention to hunger levels. While a 12-hour overnight fast can be a good starting place, if it makes you feel more anxious, tired, or hungry, discontinue. Regardless of any timing, always eat when hungry. I also would not recommend this for anyone currently pregnant or in the first few weeks postpartum.

2. Implement a habit of 0-2 starches per day

  • Starches are a type of carbohydrate. What foods are starches? Pasta (even gluten-free or chickpea pasta), rice, grains, bread, chips, quinoa, potatoes, crackers, cereals

  • Overeating starches can raise blood sugars, leading to weight gain, low energy, increased cravings, and other unwanted symptoms. It can also increase calories without satisfaction. A sample day of ‘healthy’ eating could be oatmeal for breakfast, avocado toast for lunch and chickpea pasta for dinner. Separately, these are all whole food, complex starch sources and balanced meals. However, when combined into one day, it can cause elevated blood sugars, and under-eating veggies, protein and fat.

  • How much is a serving of a starch?

  • About ¼ of your plate or ½ cup of a cooked grain, or one large slice of bread

  • The practice of 0-2 starches per day provides structure to support balanced blood sugar and low-glycemic meals made up of nutrient-dense and satisfying foods such as non-starchy carbs/veggies, healthy fats and protein.

  • And remember, fruit, dairy, vegetables, legumes and nuts all contain carbohydrates but don’t count as the dedicated starch. This is NOT a ‘no carb’ diet.

  • A few things that help me with this practice:

  • Prioritize getting carbohydrates from fibrous, unprocessed sources such as:

  • Fruit

  • Non-starchy vegetables (lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, celery)

  • Nuts

  • Legumes (peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas)

  • Add volume to meals with non-starchy vegetables!

  • How do I eat using the balanced plate while having some meals without the dedicated starch?

  • When omitting the dedicated starch from the balanced plate, I replace carbohydrate with more non-starchy vegetable, protein and healthy fat portions



Sample One Starch per Day MenU

  • Breakfast: OG Green Smoothie

  • Lunch: Tuna Salad Lettuce Wraps + berries

  • Snack: Greek yogurt with nuts

  • Dinner: Chickpea pasta (starch), chicken sausage and simple salad

  • Dessert: 2 squares Hu Dark Chocolate






LIFESTYLE


A number of things can fall under the lifestyle category. It can include sleep, stress management, movement, food journaling, daily habits, meal prep, etc. Think about what is most important for you in this category. For me:



1. Define your goals

  • For me, I want to lose the weight I gained during my pregnancy in a healthy way (0.5-1 lb/week) and also feel great at my wedding celebration.

  • My goal right now is to lose about 7-10 lbs by the end of February.

  • I am also still breastfeeding my son which requires extra calories and energy and will still be my priority.

2. Daily movement

  • The most important lifestyle practice for me is daily movement. It’s one of my wellness non-negotiables - when I incorporate movement into my day, everything else is better

  • I really try to be intuitive with movement and do whatever feels good. For me, that is walking, jogging, strength training and reformer Pilates.

3. Planning

  • I work with a lot of very organized individuals. They plan things in advance and intentionally schedule their calendar to fit in priorities - work meetings, time with friends/family, workout classes. I always tell them to treat their health like they do everything else - plan out time to grocery shop and meal prep. Put it on your calendar.

  • Write out a food plan for day and plan meals and snacks in advance. This can provide structure, hold you accountable and also help make sure you're optimally balancing your meals throughout the day.



SUPPLEMENTS


Pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding are very nutrient- and calorie-demanding processes. Adequate nourishment through food is essential, but supplements are also key in supporting health, energy, metabolism and weight. Research shows that most pregnant women do not consume the recommended amounts of key nutrients needed during pregnancy. [2] The recommendation is to begin a prenatal vitamin ideally 3 months prior to conceiving and remain on a prenatal vitamin throughout your pregnancy. I also recommend clients stay on their prenatal while breastfeeding and throughout their childbearing years.


  1. A quality prenatal vitamin:

  • The prenatal I take and love is FullWell - it’s 8 capsules/day (a lot!). This is because it’s one of the only prenatal vitamins on the market that contain all of the nutrients in optimal doses to best support pregnancy. These nutrients take up a lot of space!

  • I break it up and take 4 capsules with breakfast and 4 with lunch - I also have some clients who like to open and empty the capsule powder into smoothies.

  • You can get 10% off your first Fullwell order using code ABBY - Shop Fullwell Prenatal


When it comes to weight loss, consistency and patience is key. My approach to health is always about creating sustainable habits that set you up for long-term success. I hope this provides you with some actionable tips and a structure to follow in your postpartum health journey. I’d love to hear about your experience or thoughts on this article. Send me an email at info@abigailtaftnutrition.com or a message on instagram.


If you want a more personalized support, you can learn more about my dedicated postpartum nutrition coaching service here and schedule a free consult call with me.


My 5-Day Reset Week Guidebook is also a great starting place and resource. This 45-page guidebook includes 16 recipes, recommended snacks and will give you a day-by-day plan to get you started in nourishing your body and building meals and snacks that balance your blood sugar and help you take control of your weight, cravings, energy, fertility, sleep and mood.


You got this mama :)


Abby




[1] McKinley, M. C., Allen-Walker, V., McGirr, C., Rooney, C., & Woodside, J. V. (2018). Weight loss after pregnancy challenges and opportunities. Nutrition Research Reviews, 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954422418000070

[2] Bailey RL, Pac SG, Fulgoni VL, Reidy KC, Catalano PM. Estimation of Total Usual Dietary Intakes of Pregnant Women in the United States. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(6):e195967. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.5967



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