The postpartum period is a transformative time for new moms, filled with joy, challenges, and significant changes to their bodies. One of the most common concerns faced by new mothers is postpartum weight loss. While shedding the extra pounds gained during pregnancy is a natural desire, many women encounter a frustrating phase known as the “postpartum weight loss plateau.” In this blog post, we will dive into the topic of the postpartum weight loss plateau, exploring its causes, its impact on new moms, and most importantly, effective strategies to overcome this hurdle.
Understanding the Postpartum Weight Loss Plateau
The postpartum weight loss plateau refers to the period when a new mom experiences a stagnation or slowdown in her weight loss progress. After the initial weeks postpartum, during which the body sheds water weight and the amniotic fluid, many women find it challenging to continue losing weight at the same rate. This can be attributed to various factors, including hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and a reduction in physical activity due to the demands of caring for a newborn.
Factors Influencing the Postpartum Weight Loss Plateau:
- Hormone Imbalance: Hormonal fluctuations, such as elevated cortisol levels and thyroid gland changes, can hinder weight loss efforts.
- Sleep Deprivation: New moms often struggle with sleep deprivation, which can lead to increased cravings for unhealthy foods and decreased energy levels for exercise.
- Physical Activity: The demands of caring for a new baby can make it challenging for new moms to find time for regular exercise.
- Caloric Intake: Breastfeeding mothers need to consume enough calories to support milk production, but finding the right balance is crucial to avoid excessive weight gain.
- Muscle Loss: Lack of regular exercise and reduced physical activity can result in muscle loss, which negatively impacts metabolism and the ability to burn calories.
- Emotional Well-being: The stresses of motherhood, coupled with societal pressure and unrealistic expectations seen on social media, can have a negative impact on a new mom’s mental health, making weight loss more challenging.
Overcoming the Postpartum Weight Loss Plateau
- Set Realistic Goals: It’s important to understand that postpartum weight loss takes time. Instead of aiming for rapid weight loss, focus on steady and sustainable progress.
- Prioritize Proper Nutrition: A well-balanced diet consisting of healthy foods and portion sizes is essential for postpartum weight loss. Opt for nutrient-dense meals and snacks that provide energy and support milk production. At the same time, utilize macronutrients and consumer them in the proper portions for your body type, goals, age, weight, etc.
- Establish a Caloric Deficit: Ensure your daily calorie intake remains adequate for breastfeeding and overall energy needs while also aiming to eat in a deficit for fat loss. While in a deficit, you must focus on protein in order to preserve muscle mass and keep your body burning fat, not muscle.A good starting point is to consumer .8-1.2 grams/pound of body weight.
- Engage in Regular Exercise: Incorporate light exercises to start and postpartum-specific workouts into your routine as soon as your health care provider gives you the green light. Focus on strengthening abdominal muscles and pelvic floor exercises to aid in the recovery process. Once you are able, start incorporating more strength training and HIIT to burn excess calories in a short amount of time.
- Seek Support: Joining a postpartum exercise program or hiring a personal trainer can provide guidance and motivation during your weight loss journey. Additionally, connecting with other new moms who are facing similar challenges can be invaluable for emotional support. I run a group program and also take 1:1 clients. Email [email protected] for more information.
- Prioritize Self-Care: Make sure to prioritize self-care and get enough sleep whenever possible. Enlist the help of your partner, family, or friends to allow yourself some extra time for rest and relaxation.
A Common Hurdle
The postpartum weight loss plateau is a common hurdle for many new moms. However, with the right mindset, strategies, and support, it is possible to overcome this phase and achieve your weight loss goals. Remember, the journey to a healthy weight postpartum should be approached with patience, self-compassion, and a focus on overall well-being. Embrace the changes in your body, and celebrate each milestone along the way. Your body has accomplished an incredible feat, and it deserves to be treated with kindness and care.
What if You’ve Done All the Right Things and Still Aren’t Seeing Results?
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may find yourself in a situation where the weight loss progress remains stagnant even after implementing the tips mentioned above. It’s important to remember that everyone’s weight loss journey is unique, and various factors can influence results. Here are a few considerations if you find yourself in this situation:
- Consult with a Healthcare Provider: Reach out to your health care provider to discuss your concerns and evaluate any underlying medical conditions or hormonal imbalances that may be hindering your progress.
- Reassess Caloric Intake and Exercise Routine: Double-check your caloric intake, macros and exercise routine. It’s possible that you may need to adjust your calorie deficit, adjust your macro ratios or switch up your exercise program to challenge your body in new ways. You may not be lifting heavy enough (which is a very common problem) or implementing progressive overload in order to challenge your muscles enough to build.
- Track Non-Scale Victories: Sometimes, the scale may not reflect the changes happening in your body. Look for other signs of progress such as increased strength, improved energy levels, better sleep quality, or changes in body measurements. One of my favorite ways track progress is pictures. Be sure to take pictures along the way to track progress!
- Practice Patience and Persistence: Remember that weight loss is not always linear. It’s normal to experience fluctuations or plateaus along the way. Stay consistent, trust the process, and focus on overall health and well-being rather than solely relying on the number on the scale.
Is what you are experiencing actually a plateau?
You may have some expectations of what your weight loss journey should look like. And if it doesn’t look like that, you may think something is wrong and that you aren’t still seeing progress. But actually, what women think may be a plateau is just part of the process. The best way to determine if it is a plateau is to look at measurements, progress pictures, and non-scale victories.
A real plateau is 2 weeks of consistency and your data points (listed above) are not changing at all. You must look at all of these data points and make them factual. You cannot look at your interpretation of the data, but rather you must look at the actual facts. AND you must also truly have been consistent. NO cheats. NO semi- tracking your macros, semi-getting your workouts in. You must be consistent for these two weeks and see no results at all. That is a true plateau.
Steps to Breakthrough An Actual Plateau
1. Look at More than the Scale:
Losing a pound doesn’t mean you lost a pound of fat. It could be a pound of muscle, water, etc. You must change your mindset that the number on the scale defines your progress. That is simply not true.
2. Be Consistent:
Are you actually being consistent with your macro ratios? Do you have some days that you are not meeting your carbs, protein, and fats within 5 grams? It doesn’t mean you need to be perfect. But you do need to be as consistent as possible in order to break through. Being consistent means aiming to reach your macro goals- but knowing that you will likely never perfectly hit them.
3. Adjust Your Deficit or Reverse Diet
If you have been consistent for a long time, and are starting to stall in progress, it’s possible your metabolism has adapted and you need to reverse diet. You need to reverse back to maintenance after 16 weeks of a deficit (don’t worry, if you do it correctly you will not gain weight back). THEN you can go back into a deficit. Reverse dieting can take anywhere from 3-12 weeks depending on how steep of a deficit you have been on. Once you have reverse dieted and are ready for another deficit, you can enter into another deficit. You can add in things like extra cardio, more steps, or decrease total calories to assist in the process once you enter that deficit again.
4. Be Realistic About Expectations
Know that changes take TIME. Once you implement the things listed above, you can expect to see results. And implementing those things take time. It could take 3 months to reverse diet before your body is ready to enter into a deficit again. It’s the LONG game, not the short game. There is going to a delay in the amount of effort you put on the front end and the results you are going to get on the backend. One of my favorite books is Atomic Habits by James Clear and he talks in details about this. I highly recommend!
If you are honest with yourself and have done all of the steps listed above and are STILL not seeing results, then you may consider finding a functional doctor or dietitian that can run labs and different tests on you to see if your hormones may be playing a role. If that is the case, then it’s important to heal your hormones before jumping back into a nutritional and fitness regimen.
By staying proactive, seeking professional guidance when needed, and embracing a holistic approach to wellness, you can navigate through any roadblocks on your postpartum weight loss journey. Remember, your body has undergone incredible changes, and it deserves time, care, and appreciation. Stay motivated, celebrate your progress, and continue to prioritize your well-being as you work towards your postpartum weight loss goals.
Well and Balanced Life is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This post may include affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission if you shop using the links below at no additional cost to you.