Focus on nourishment, not weight loss
Q: I’m breastfeeding my 6-month-old daughter and would like to lose some of the baby weight, but I amjust so hungry all the time. Do you have any tips? Many thanks, Jo
Hi Jo. Please don’t worry about your weight – this is such a precious time and a focus on weight will only take away from it. Now is a time when your body is primarily focused on nourishing a little human and it’s still going to be readjusting after months of pregnancy.
Hormonally, nutritionally and emotionally, things can take time to restore itself.
In my experience, you have to be healthy to lose weight, not the other way around, so focus on taking care of yourself and know that in time, by providing your body with the nourishment and support it needs for great health, your body will naturally settle at the right weight for you.
As you mentioned, breastfeeding is a time where we can experience extra signals from our body to seek out more energy.
It’s normal to be feeling hungrier, as our own nourishment needs increase when we’re also nourishing another. In fact, your energy (calorie) needs will typically be higher than they were while you were pregnant.
It’s important to honour your body’s hunger signals as they are a message that your body needs more fuel. After pregnancy, women can be depleted nutritionally, and if you are trying to lose weight by eating less, you will essentially be limiting how many nutrients are going in. This can have an enormous impact on how you look, feel and function.
Dieting isn’t the best approach for long-term sustainable weight loss. Cutting calories is only going to lead you to feel even hungrier, which, for many people, can lead to a vicious cycle of restriction and bingeing. And when they are unable to stick to their ‘‘healthy’’ plan the guilt sets in, and the added stress of this really isn’t healthy at all.
In saying all of this, sleep deprivation and exhaustion can send us searching for more energy, and often we reach for sweet foods and caffeine to try to fill this gap. The reason we crave sugary foods is because they provide a fast hit of glucose, giving your energy levels a rapid boost. The problem is, the energy is short-lived, so you end up on an energy rollercoaster, constantly searching for more energy, craving more poor-quality foods. And when these foods become a part of our everyday lives, they end up displacing real, whole foods that actually provide the nourishment we need.
I encourage you to focus on choosing whole, real foods. They don’t have to be fancy – easy, practical meals that include plenty of colourful vegetables are a great place to start. Slow-cooked meals are great. It can also be helpful to make a batch of whole food snacks, such as mini frittata muffins to keep in the fridge, or bliss balls made from nuts, seeds and a few fresh dates to keep in the freezer, so that you have nourishing snacks on hand for when hunger strikes. The fat content in these snacks will help to keep your energy levels stable and feeling satisfied for longer.
Dr Libby is a nutritional biochemist, best-selling author and speaker. The advice contained in this column is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalised advice from a health professional. Dr Libby is bringing her signature event, the Beautiful You Weekend, to Christchurch in November. For more information or to book, visit www.drlibby.com
After giving birth your body is primarily focused on nourishing a little human and readjusting after months of pregnancy.