If your weight loss seems slow at first, don't panic. "If you need to take it slow, take it slow," says Shonda Bradford, fitness expert and owner of Bradford Method. "There's a myth that you should be at your pre-baby weight when the baby turns one years old, but I would say two years old is more like it. You didn't gain the weight overnight, so you can't lose it overnight."
No two bodies are alike, so be patient with your weight loss journey and be open to new activities. Swimming, yoga, pilates and dance are great ways to unwind and burn calories as a new mom. "As women we have to realize that every body is different. Your physical body is different from the next," says Bradford. If you're experiencing aches and pain after giving birth, paying attention and being gentle to your body is even more important. "After my baby, I had lower back pain and I listened to my body until I was able to stretch and alleviate the pain."
"Whenever and wherever you can get a workout in, go for it," says Bradford. "Do something in your own living room while the baby is taking a nap. You'll have to get creative and sneak in exercise whenever you can."
"The best free workout is walking," says Bradford. " All you need is some shoes on your feet and somewhere to go. Walking is really my ultimate, hands-down favorite workout. You can walk anywhere with your baby." Bradford advises to aim for 45 minutes to an hour of walking to help lean and tone postpartum.
When you're trying to squeeze in a workout but you're tight on time, rethink the events that are already on your calendar. "If you usually get together with a girlfriend or co-worker over dinner and drinks, go play tennis or take an exercise class together instead. This way, you still get to chat with your friend but you get a workout in too."
If you're busy with the baby and can't make it to the gym, grab your laptop and break a sweat at home. "A lot of fitness studios and gyms are offering an online component that you can do in the comfort of your own home," says Bradford. "Some of them are as low as $9.95 a month and you have acess to a library of workouts. There are a lot of downloadable podcasts that you can do, too."
"The scale can play tricks on you," says Bradford. "After a baby, we have hormonal changes going on and our weight fluctuates so we can't use that number as a reliable indicator. If you're just getting back into exercising, you're doing so many other things for your body that have nothing to do with your 'weight.' You're getting stronger in your joints, you're building muscle, and you're gaining strength. Those things are so much more important than a number on the scale."
If you're losing inches, the number on the scale may not change even though you're getting smaller. "Use a pair of your pants a judge. I've found that putting on my pants to see how far I can zip them up and getting out of my elastic waistbands and leggings is a better indicator of fitness progress."
Having a baby causes great change in your body and it's important to take your weight loss journey one day at a time and not be so hard on yourself. "Don't get into the 'I'm a failure' mentality," says Bradford. "It will only bring you down and not get you where you want to go. Look at what your body does every day. You should tell yourself, 'Yes, I'm awesome,' and that will create positive results."
Just because you're carrying a few extra pounds doesn't make you any less beautiful. You may be surprised at how your body settles into a new shape post-baby even with extra weight. "I actually have people who tell me I look better now than I did before the baby and I weigh more now," says Bradford. "I've been walking a lot and toning, but my body shape looks different. I'm almost 10 pounds heavier now but I'm getting all these compliments!" If your body is a little curvier than you're used to, keep working at it while enjoying life as a new mom in the meantime.
Shonda Bradford, is a former NYC ballet dancer and instructor at Alvin Ailey. She created a signature workout called the Bradford Method that blends Pilates, yoga, core and ballet strength techniques for a truly unique experience, designed to create a sculpted and limber physique. The Bradford Method is taught on the Garuda incorporating resistance with springs, cables and bands, enabling the body to stretch and strengthen simultaneously. Learn more about Shonda's courses at The Bradford Method.