The Real Reason You Aren’t Losing the Baby Weight
It’s not because you’re a failure. The fact that you can’t get all the way through that Tracy Anderson Post-Pregnancy Workout DVD isn’t to blame either (Unless you have the abs of a Navy SEAL. Or Gwyneth Paltrow. Then you should be able to do it, but let’s not get all hung up here because it’s not even the main thing.) Lack of will power? Not really. The real reason those last few pounds of baby weight are still with you is simple: it’s because you’re tired. Science says so.
Yes, there are choices about what to eat for successful post-baby weight loss. Experts always suggest real food (not processed stuff, even if the label says “healthy”), less sugar, more veggies and as much water as you can possibly drink. Then there’s quantity. Three to five small meals a day seems to be the gold standard. Of course there’s exercise too. But none of those measures are as powerful as they sound when you aren’t sleeping anymore.
When you suddenly stop getting a full night’s sleep on a regular basis (You are now waking up EVERY night at least once, for at least three months. In a row.), your body starts making adjustments to handle it. I’ve had three babies in the last four years and I can tell you for sure that all the exercise in the world won’t melt those last ten pounds away until two bigger forces get under control. And for this new mom three times over, that’s always been the toughest part. In fact, I’ve gained more weight AFTER the babies were born than I did during pregnancy. Here’s why:
Less sleep is scientifically linked to slower weight loss. “Getting enough sleep may be as important as a healthy diet and physical activity to returning to pre-pregnancy weight,” says Erica P. Gunderson, an investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif., who was the head writer of a study that every new mom should know about.
Here’s what Gunderson’s group found, according to ABC News:
“A year after giving birth, 124 of the women retained at least 11 pounds of the weight they had gained during pregnancy. After the researchers adjusted the statistics to take into account such factors as family income, they found that women who slept five hours a day six months after giving birth were more than three times likelier to keep weight on compared to women who slept seven hours.”
There are even short-term problems with lack of sleep. In just FIVE days, participants of another study gained weight when they stopped sleeping for a full eight hours at night. Why? Because their systems immediately went out of whack and they ended up eating more. Here are the details, courtesy of U.S. News & World Report:
“In a controlled lab test, 16 healthy adults were limited to just five hours of sleep over the course of five days—participants gained, on average, nearly 2 pounds and tended to eat meals later than expected. Surprisingly, participants burned more calories while sleep deprived, but ate more to make up for that fact.”
Which leads to the second issue that I could’ve told you without a study of any kind. Other than my closet full of jeans that still don’t quite fit.
You crave carbs. After a few weeks of life with each new little guy, I start to get rundown and just need a pick-me-up to get through the afternoon (or the morning, or the night…). However, carbs aren’t a dieter’s friend. Not even someone who doesn’t want to call herself a “dieter”. Chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter toast, turkey sandwiches, M&Ms, banana bread…all things I’ve eaten (a lot of) just to stay awake enough to keep up with the baby through the day. Unfortunately all those carbs are just stored as sugar and the little spare tire around my midsection is proof.
Unfortunately I’m not the only one. Here’s another tidbit from the article on ABC News:
“Claire D. Brindis, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, said her own experience of giving birth to two children taught her about how stress, sleep and weight are all connected.
‘Having lived this, it’s partly that you’re more tired, and you feel you need food to keep you energized,’ she said. ‘And when you’re stressed, you feel like you can reward yourself with food. It creates a sense of comfort.’”
Having a baby is a miracle and a blessing, but loss of sleep has always been the hardest part for me, and this is just one more reason why.
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