Why you might not be eating enough to lose weight while breastfeeding

You’ve established your milk supply and ready to drop the extra weight of pregnancy, but it’s not budging. You’ve tried everything that worked before pregnancy but it just isn’t cutting it this time.

Your frustration levels are through the roof! Why isn’t healthy eating and exercise “working”?

Calorie needs increase during breastfeeding; an estimated 500 calories per day for someone who is breastfeeding exclusively. This seems like it would help with weight loss (and for many women, it does!), but for some, it can make things more challenging.

The rules of weight loss change when you add nursing into the picture. With your calorie needs going up and postpartum hormones at play, your body is going to behave differently.

Why you might not be eating enough

Chances are if you’re anything like most of the women I speak with and coach, you’ve been under-eating without even realizing it (you may not be used to your increased need for energy during breastfeeding, or you think you have to cut a large amount of calories to lose weight). There are two reasons this can make fat loss during breastfeeding difficult:

1. Your body is holding on to reserves

When you’re pregnant and nursing, biology dictates that your body will prioritize calories, nutrition, and energy for the baby over you.

What this means is that your body will desperately hold on to it’s energy reserves if it thinks there is a risk of energy running out.

If your calories are too low, this is sending the body that very signal: energy coming in is low, so hold on to the reserves (stored fat). The body’s metabolism will adapt to be as efficient with the incoming calories as possible so no (or less) fat reserves are used.

2. You’re overeating regularly to compensate for chronic under-eating.

You have planned core meals, and you have compulsive eating. The less you’re eating at your core meals, the more likely your compulsive eating will increase.

By the time you begin to eat compulsively (snacking, grazing, even bingeing), your blood sugar has dropped and your body is seeking fast forms of energy: sugar and simple carbohydrates, foods that do not take long to digest into the blood stream. These foods are generally higher in calories, and this compulsive eating can add up fast, making up for the calorie deficit you created by under-eating and then some.

What to do about it

Use the breastfeeding calorie calculator here to find your maintenance calories (the calories you eat to maintain your milk and your current weight) and subtract 15%. This is your goal range to begin.

Make sure you’re filling about 80-90% of that calorie goal with whole, healthy foods (fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, legumes, and grains). The other 10-20% save for fun nights out, the occasional sweet tooth, birthday parties, social occasions, or weekend brunch.

Eating this way will make sure your body is receiving plenty of nutrients and calories so it will be signaled to release the energy reserves stored on your body in the form of fat.

If you’ve been chronically under-eating, you are going to feel so much better right away – my clients report an increase in energy levels, a decreased obsession with food and snacking, and a stable blood sugar.

Remember to be intuitive over blindly following the calorie calculator, which is just an estimate: don’t force-feed yourself until you are stuffed, but do experiment with different calorie ranges until you find what is right for you.

Be Patient

Give your new calorie range two entire weeks before you judge whether or not it’s the right range for you, and then slowly decrease by 50-100 calories each week after that until you hit what I call “the sweet spot”: enough calories to maintain your milk, signal to your body that it’s getting enough energy in to release the fat reserves, and still be under your maintenance calories.

Do yourself a favor and don’t obsess over any aspect of this process, especially the scale and counting calories. This will drain your energy and cause you to make decisions that will not benefit you in the long run. Stay process-focused rather than results-focused so you don’t make impulsive, emotional decisions.

This process is going to require patience. Focus on your daily habits and the process rather than focusing on the results (the scale). There is a reason they say it took 9 months to put the weight on and 9 months to get the weight off: the postpartum, breastfeeding body is very sensitive and for good reason, it is protecting your baby’s food.

Take this opportunity to learn to love your body at any size, and treat it with the respect it deserves for protecting your baby through nine months of pregnancy and many more months of nursing. Don’t compare yourself to other women: if I have learned anything, it is that we are all so different in our body’s responses to breastfeeding hormones. It’s not personal, it’s just DNA.

The post Why you might not be eating enough to lose weight while breastfeeding appeared first on Fit To Be Pregnant.