The Duchess of Cambridge gave birth in late July, then sent the media into a frenzy at an October charity event, where it looked like her (very slender) figure had snapped right back into place. Kim Kardashian also made headlines last year when she dropped 50 pounds of baby weight in just six months. Every day, it seems, we’re shown another celebrity mom who has miraculously managed to shed her pregnancy weight in a few weeks, or months. Or getting “fit-shamed” by someone like Maria Kang, whose “What’s Your Excuse” Facebook post went viral in the fall.
Cue the self-loathing for those of us who, 10 years postpartum, are still toting some of our baby baggage. The constant chatter about how people who were ridiculously thin to begin with are ridiculously thin again just weeks after giving birth is another example of how celebrities are an unrealistic—and often unhealthy—influence on women’s body images.
For most women, it is not reasonable or realistic to expect your body to bounce right back after nine months of nurturing a new life, said Elizabeth Ward, a registered dietitian and the author of “Expect the Best: Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy.”
“These celebrities or people with a lot of money who have somebody to clean their house, make all of their healthy foods, shop for them, change their kids’ diapers so mom is getting the sleep she needs or has the energy to exercise or deal with eating, that’s another universe and that’s to be ignored,” Ward said. “You cannot do that without an enormous amount of money.”
Lots of variables factor in to how long it takes to shed the weight, Ward said, from how much you gained, to whether you had a Caesarean section delivery, to whether you’re breastfeeding. Generally speaking, though, it can take anywhere up to a year to get your body back to its pre-pregnancy shape.
“The first three months are really difficult and sleep deprivation will keep you from doing little else other than caring for the child and doing the bare minimum for yourself,” said Ward, a mom of three. “But that’s your job.”
New moms should not diet while breastfeeding, Ward said, and shouldn’t lose more than a pound a week while they are nursing. For the first few months after delivery, women should eat between 1,800 and 2,000 calories a day, Ward said, to ensure proper nutrition for themselves and their babies. A Caesarean delivery is major abdominal surgery and will limit your ability to work out for several weeks while you heal, she said. Women should work with their physicians to find a way to balance calories and exercise to help them lose the weight, Ward added.
“Having done it three times, it takes time and that’s okay,” Ward said. “It’s really impossible to have instant gratification. If we looked really closely at what some of these ‘superwomen’ were actually eating, I’m not sure it would be so good. I know people want to look good, and they will. It just takes time.”