Weight Loss During Lactation: My Favorite Tools

As someone who’s been an athlete for much of my life, I try to focus on fitness and health more than I do numbers on a scale. My sport of choice was rugby, so I’ve always been surrounded by fit bodies of many shapes and sizes! But the fact remains that I put on a lot of pounds during pregnancy, and the extra weight puts a strain on my frame. Silhouette of young slim mother doing exercise with a pram

I know that in order to drop these pounds while caring for 3 young kids, I need to focus on balanced, healthy eating as well as whatever exercise I can sneak in between nursing sessions and nap time. Really, the nursing sessions are the big kicker.

How do I account for my added caloric needs while nursing and still try to ease my way back to health?

My situation is this: I can’t find an insurance-covered nutritionist in my area, I have very limited childcare and so my time to shop and meal plan (let alone exercise) is…strained, my schedule is utterly unpredictable, I nurse on demand, my kids don’t sleep. Also, I love technology.

I spend a lot of time with other mothers who share my challenges. I’ve seen women using a lot of different strategies, from fad diets to lifestyle overhauls. Oh, and FitBits. A lot of my friends use FitBits.

After a long discussion about the benefits of different programs and apps to track eating and exericse, I decided I’d just reuse the strategy that worked for me after my second baby: a combination of the My Fitness Pal and Run Keeper apps on my phone.

The perks:

  • Both apps are free
  • My Fitness Pal has a database of foods, just like the Weight Watchers app, to track caloric intake
  • Within this database are entries for breastfeeding (it’s a “snack” worth -500 calories per day) and breastfeeding a toddler (another snack, -200 calories)
  • Recent updates even include entries for tandem nursing!
  • Both apps sync together, so if I tell Run Keeper that I’ve gone on a 20-minute walk, it’s automatically accounted for in My Fitness Pal
  • There are cardio options that work for my family, like babywearing (“walking, carrying infant or 15-pound load”) or pushing strollers (“pushing or pulling a stroller with child”)
  • If I eat the same things from one day to the next, these get saved and I can quickly click and keep track
  • Both apps allow me to network with my friends, so if I see someone has met her cardio goal for the week, I can send her a “good job” message. And I sometimes receive them!

The drawbacks:

  • Many of the food entries are user-provided, so there can be a big difference in listed calories for different entries of, say, raw bananas or baked chicken breasts. You have to be careful what you pick!
  • It’s sometimes tedious to record everything I consume or every minute I exercise
  • While packaged or prepared food is generally very easy to keep track of, it’s hard to get a fair picture of what I’m eating when I prepare meals from scratch…which I try to do as much as possible. Does anyone actually measure how much olive oil she uses to lubricate the sauté pan? Likewise, I’m sure there are big differences between Monday’s handful of grated Parm Reg and Wednesday’s version.

It’s obviously not a perfect system, but for me it’s important to get a visual picture of what the foods I’m eating actually mean. Like, oh, yes! Six chocolate chips at a time every hour of the day really actually count as consuming calories. Same with the crusts of my kids’ sandwiches.

The social aspect of the programs is really vital for me. It’s so important for me to feel accountability with my friends who are in similar shoes. The apps aren’t doing any work for me, they are just letting me keep track of things and hold me accountable to myself. They also remind me if I’ve forgotten to eat lunch!

Have you used any geeky tools to help manage your weight and physical activity while in the trenches of parenting? Leave us a comment to share your favorites!

Note: I have not been compensated by My Fitness Pal in any way. The opinions and experiences expressed here are utterly my own. 

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