First, set a reasonable goal. It took you nine months to gain your pregnancy weight, and it may take just as long - if not longer - for it to disappear. Try to separate yourself from Hollywood stereotypes and put things into perspective. Set goals and stick to them. "You may want to break it down into several smaller goals, but don't expect things to happen too soon. You'll set yourself up for failure," says Pachella.
Once you have a goal, find a plan to make your weight loss a reality. Plans can come from all types of places - nutrition books, advice from friends or a doctor - but it's important to find one that works for you. "You need to write down what it is you're going to eat and when you're going to eat it," says Pachella. "Don't just wing it."
When looking for a plan, though, beware of "quick fix" or "fad" diets. If a product is promising weight loss in a bottle or is severely restricting calories or certain foods, it's probably not a healthy, long-term solution. "The problem is... that they do work initially," says Pachella. "You lose all of this weight, and then you gain it back in spades. What's the point?" Fad dieting only works in the short term. To obtain permanent weight loss, you need to make lifestyle changes and stick to them. Try to find a healthier alternative. "You're not going on a diet, you're just changing the way you relate to food," says Pachella.
A plan doesn't have to be expensive either. Sometimes, all you need to do is visit the grocery store and stock up on healthy food. "Having a plan and having a goal isn't going to get you very far if all you have in the fridge is a wedge of brie and a jar of mayonnaise," says Panchella. "It sounds obvious, but you need to go out and stock up on all of the foods that you've written down that you plan to eat." Make sure you buy a variety of food, and lots of it. You don't want to run the risk of getting bored with your food or running out of healthy options. Doing so may coerce you into eating that bag of chips.
While many people associate dieting with extreme hunger, that doesn't have to be the case. The idea is to limit your portions and eat healthy foods that will fill you up and will sustain you until your next meal. However, even if you're not hungry when meal time rolls around, it's important to eat anyway. According to Pachella, skipping meals reduces your metabolism, which means your body will burn less calories, thus slowing your weight loss. While it may sound counterintuitive, eating smaller meals 5-6 times a day can help you reach your weight loss goals.
It's also important to expect plateaus while you're dieting. Your diet may start off perfectly, but a few weeks in you may find your weight loss has slowed. Don't get frustrated. Plateaus are a normal part of weight loss. "It might be a week, it might be two, but you can't give up," says Pachella. "It's that tendency to just throw in the towel when you hit a plateau, which makes most people gain the weight back." You're much better off powering through periods without weight loss than starting back at square one.
For more post-pregnancy weight loss tips, as well as parenting advice, click here to visit www.AmericanBaby.com.
By Erin Petrun