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Dos and Don’ts of Losing Belly Fat

I always marveled at my massive pregnancy belly. How could a body do that? Then, each time I had my kids, I always marveled at my postpartum belly. When it was no longer basketball-shaped with a human in there, it was amazing how deflated and squishy it seemed in those first few days sans baby. It’s easy to wonder if your body will ever bounce back and be normal again. Sure, the belly may be your “new normal,” with scars and stretch marks, but odds are you’ll be able to recover just fine. So many women wonder how to go about losing belly fat and regaining their former flat-stomached glory. Having done it three times — okay, so this third time is still a work in progress almost 11 months later — here are some dos and don’ts when you go about trying to find your former physique. 


Don’t: Squeeze into too tight pants. This will only make you grumpy.

Do: Wear clothes that are comfortable for you. It’s okay to wear maternity pants until you drop some inches. Don’t get too comfortable in the stretchy waist pants though; they can be a little too forgiving sometimes! But know that it’s completely normal to take time to get back to those pre-pregnancy pants.


Don’t: Start back in too fast. Even if you feel like you could conquer the world now that you can reach and bend to touch your toes, don’t get overconfident and do too much too soon. 

Do: Let yourself recover from pregnancy and childbirth. Make sure you get your doctor’s okay before jumping into anything.


Don’t: Eat only rice cakes and kale. Cutting out entire food groups and making foods off limits is only going to make them more enticing. Plus, eating too-few calories is only going to backfire. I know when I’m not eating enough throughout the day I more than make up for it at night — and I’m certainly not snacking on spinach at 10 p.m., if you know what I’m saying.

Do: Eat a well-balanced diet, lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains and plenty of protein. You might find that eating more frequent, smaller meals helps you avoid getting too hungry and going for a sugar bomb midday. Check out these ideas for yummy snacks.


Don’t: Eat when you’re bored/mad/tired/sad. It’s easy to hit the fridge when your emotions are going haywire, you’re super fatigued or super stressed. Try to get emotional eating in check; recognizing it is the first step in combating it!

Do: Listen to your hunger. Start paying attention to your stomach, rather than a clock or habit to know when you need to eat. We’ve got a whole chapter dedicated to listening to your hunger in our book.


Don’t: Focus on the weight. The number on the scale is not the Holy Grail (that’d make an excellent catch phrase).

Do: Focus on the strength. During any break from fitness training, you’re going to lose some muscle. Focus on getting your strength and endurance back, and the weight will come off, too. Plus, strengthening your body, particularly your core, will help hold everything where it belongs and improve your posture.


Don’t: Drink your calories. It’s easy to go for a sugary soda or mega-sized coffee when you’re sleep deprived. But make sure you’re not getting a meal’s worth of calories in a drink that won’t fill you up.

Do: Get plenty of water. Stay hydrated, particularly if you’re breastfeeding.


Don’t: “Spot tone.” You’re not going to lose belly fat by doing dozens of crunches — you need overall weight-loss to lose fat.

Do: Focus on the basics. Build up your strength and increase your cardio endurance by doing circuits of full-body exercises. Remember, every little bit counts.


Don’t: Expect results overnight.

Do: Know that it takes time to see change. It took a long time to make a baby and gain weight. It takes time to go the other direction. Be easy on yourself, but don’t be afraid to work hard either.


Don’t: Tie yourself to a timeline. You’re not a failure if you fail to lose weight by your baby’s first birthday.

Do: Keep working at it. I’m still a healthy amount of weight over where my body normally settles. I attribute it to being a little older and wiser for the third child and breastfeeding. My body tends to hang onto weight to ensure an ample milk supply, so as long as I don’t keep eating like I’m breastfeeding once I wean, I think the pounds will drop.


Don’t: Compare yourself to celebs or your BFF who bounced back in a hot minute. It’s not the norm to walk out of the maternity ward looking like a model. It’s not normal to walk through real life looking like a model because we’re not all models. 

Do: Realize that everyone is different. Every bounces back at a different pace; remember it’s not a race. (Another catch phrase!) Heck, every pregnancy and recovery is different every time.


Don’t: Worry so much. You probably worry more in the first month with a baby than at any other point in life. But stress increases your stress-hormone levels, which can make you hold onto fat.

Do: Try to meditate and destress at least once a day, even if it’s for five minutes. And forget worrying about that belly fat — it really takes time and everyone is different on their path to weight-loss.


Don’t make weight-loss the focus of your early postpartum days. 

Do enjoy that baby. Babies are worth it. 

There are not tricks to losing belly fat and bouncing back. The key is consistency, a little bit of hard work and patience. Boring, but true! —Erin

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