Nancy O'Dell in a blue strapless dress waving at a awards showIn addition to marrying my hubby, the biggest thrill in my life was getting pregnant, being pregnant (I actually loved it!), and then giving birth to my beautiful baby girl. What can I say, it was a magical time! And being pregnant was the one time in my adult life where I actually enjoyed seeing the pounds go up on the scale because it meant my baby was growing! And I admit that it was nice to actually splurge on a few calories without anyone saying anything…because I was pregnant! And I sure did enjoy a Krispy Krème doughnut every now and then, as that was one of my massive cravings. My girlfriends even made my shower cake out of donuts in a pyramid.

But, after the baby came, so did the pressure to take off the weight. I had been careful to put on the amount of weight during my pregnancy that my doctor told me was the healthy amount…not too little, not too much. But I still had lots of pounds to lose after giving birth and that is no easy feat, especially when you have a brand new little one whom you want to give all your attention. And if all those images of svelte celebrity new moms have left you feeling you insecure and as if they jumped from the delivery bed right to the gym, think of how I felt…I had to report about them! So many celebrities were pregnant when I was which means so many of them were getting their bodies back at the same time!

Everyone had advice for me. My girlfriends told me about crazy fad diets. My trainer had his ideas for some strict exercise regimes. And, most importantly, my doctor gave me his medical advice. And, after listening to EVERYONE, these are the things that I decided were best for me, my body, and my baby. So here is some real-world advice on how to get your body back after baby. The first thing I had to come to terms with was there was no rushing this. The most important thing was my newly born baby and doing this the healthy way. After all, my precious little girl was depending on a healthy mom to take care of her. I think the worst thing a woman can do is to do too much too soon. If you do, you're likely to find yourself exhausted and discouraged and less likely to continue, and you'll wind up carrying the weight a lot longer. Ultimately, you have to choose what's right for you and your child. For what it's worth, here's what I did:

Making Sure Baby is Healthy Motivates You to Stay Healthy

Everything I read had experts warning that when it comes to getting that post-pregnancy body back in shape, neither crash dieting nor a crazy exercise program is the way to go, particularly if you're breastfeeding. I was breastfeeding, so I wanted to make sure my baby girl was getting all the nutrients she needed. So I didn’t dare cut my caloric intake to next to nothing to lose the weight. That wouldn’t have been anything to brag about for sure. What I did do was make sure I ate tons of healthy foods like vegetables and fruits. I didn’t even want unhealthy snacks after I gave birth, because I wanted my daughter, Ashby, to get the good stuff. So there’s an incentive for you right there. If you are breastfeeding, remember whatever you are eating, your newborn is eating it too. That’s enough to automatically make you eat healthier.

Don't be Too Hard on Yourself and Take it Slow

The next thing I had to embrace was to not be too hard on myself. It took months to put on those pounds; I had to give my body time to lose them. I was able to get into a good routine…after starting with baby steps. Believe or not, there is not a ton of time in between feeding a brand new baby. They are hungry! So, one of the things I started with was simply walking up and down my driveway at a fast pace until the next feeding. You have to find the time where you can, because newborns sleep for small periods at a time. So the key is to make good use of that time. I loved getting outdoors and that exercise offers benefits with postpartum depression. I was lucky to not have postpartum depression. Who knows, maybe it was that small jump back in to exercising that helped. Notice how I said small jump back.

I highly suggest not doing anything that puts major stress on your joints, like running or jumping, for the first 6-8 weeks after birth. It would totally be counterproductive to a post-baby weight loss plan because you could get a major injury. As my doctor explained to me…. during pregnancy you produce a hormone called relaxin, which actually makes joints loose and consequently more prone to injury. I was told you still have significant amounts of this hormone in your blood for at least several weeks after childbirth!

Focus on Strength Training

Now, my trainer told me exercises which I should start on sooner, rather than later were strength-training exercises to build a strong core. He said it was an area that many women neglect during pregnancy, as well as during the postpartum. He said even if you had strong core muscles before pregnancy, you tend to lose that during pregnancy because the muscles are all stretched out.

Drink LOTS of Water

I also learned that drinking water was very important. I was like a fish, loving my water! Burning calories requires an adequate amount of water in order to function efficiently; dehydration slows down the fat-burning process. Water also helps maintain muscle tone. And, of course, drinking water with a meal may make you feel full sooner and therefore satisfied eating less.

Get Plenty of Rest (Ha! Or, Get as Much as You Can)

I found it was also very essential to get a good night’s rest. I know, I know…hard to do with a new baby, but try your best. When I was able to get a good night’s rest, I had way more energy for my new baby and to work out!

Eat Small Meals and Have Healthy Snacks Readily Available

You always hear eating multiple times a day in small portions is good for a diet, same with post-baby. Eating multiple times a day increases your metabolism and decreases the feeling of hunger, but yet you and your new baby (if you are breastfeeding) are getting all the proper nutrients.

Keep healthy snacks around. Make sure you have all kinds of great snacks ready for yourself. I would have an apple cut up every day sitting in the fridge for when I would get hungry. I also had pre-made containers of carrots and celery cut up ready to grab when I wanted. That way you don’t just grab the first unhealthy thing you see. I also kept vegetable soup in my fridge all the time. I would take every vegetable I could think of, boil it in low sodium chicken broth, and then puree it. It was that simple. It was delicious, but healthy and so filling.

Turn Strolling Into Jogging

Definitely get yourself a jogging stroller. A couple of months after I gave birth, I went out and bought one. I highly suggest doing that or ask for it in your registry so you get it even before baby comes. Ashby loved the outdoors as a baby and I would get exercise while pushing her in the stroller. Pushing that extra weight helps burn more calories. I also used the stroller as a piece of fitness equipment and did exercises that relied on the stroller. So, take that perfect little bundle of joy out for a walk! That will not only help tone your body and shed some pounds, but it will also give you some fabulous bonding time with your yummy new baby…and that’s exactly what you need now more than anything. So, Mama…enjoy!