August 5th, 2011
05:04 PM ET

Help me balance career, new baby, weight loss

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Friday, it's Dr. Melina Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist.

Question asked by Lisa T. of Los Gatos, California

Since I had a baby at 44 after several years of fertility treatment, I personally have been struggling with addressing all that with the "no time" problem of new motherhood, career balance, etc, and yes, an extra 20 pounds gained pre-pregnancy due to fertility treatments. I bet there are LOTS of women out there who could benefit from some of your no-nonsense information and guidance on this issue, regardless of what point and circumstances they became new mothers. Any tips?

Expert answer

Hi Lisa. First and foremost congratulations on your baby. Having a 15-month-old of my own, I understand the joy that children can bring to our lives but I'm also VERY aware of the challenges, and finding the time to balance career, motherhood, and getting back to a healthy weight can be tough.

I wrote about balanced nutrition for breastfeeding moms a few months ago, but I thought this would be a good chance to elaborate on specific tips for busy moms with no time (this was my focus even before my child arrived with my book "The No Time to Lose Diet: The Busy Person's Guide to Permanent Weight Loss").

The first challenge is to avoid the increased hunger and manage the increased number of eating occasions that come with sleepless nights. Research shows that not getting adequate sleep (defined as 7-8 hours per night) can alter your body's chemistry to increase hunger, decrease metabolism, and may lead to insulin resistance which can make weight loss more challenging.

The three most important aspects to controlling hunger are:

1. Protein - It is the most satisfying of the three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat)

2. Fiber - It provides bulk without calories, which can help you feel physically full, and it also slows the rise in blood sugar after meals, which can help manage insulin resistance

3. Water (consuming water both in foods and drinking water may help, too) - In foods (think soup, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables) it can provide volume without increasing calories. Drinking water may also help fill you up and can prevent you from mistaking thirst for hunger.

For busy people (and what new mom isn't crazy busy?), a little planning goes a long way. Anytime you are cooking, make plenty of leftovers if possible for heat-and-eat healthy snacks and meals. In addition, to avoid the takeout calorie minefields, load up on healthy frozen meals, frozen protein (chicken, fish), and frozen fruits and vegetables you can easily heat and eat to make a quick and healthy breakfast smoothie, meal or vegetable side dish.

I am a big fan of the pre-cut bags of vegetables that you slice off the corner and heat in the microwave. Top them with a little freshly grated parmesan and you have a quick and delicious vegetable side dish. If you are on a budget, the pre-cut is more expensive so this may not be an option.

When it comes to frozen meals, try to keep them around 250 - 450 calories and make sure they contain at least 3-5 grams of fiber, 10 grams of protein or more, less than 4 grams of saturated fat, and try to limit sodium to less than 600 mg. Look for meals that have vegetables listed in the top half of the ingredient list to make sure that not all of the carbohydrates in the meal come from grains. In addition, try to choose products that use whole grains like brown rice or whole wheat pasta when they are available. If you are on a budget, you can buy all these things in bulk and make your own easy meals by having a big container of brown rice or whole wheat pasta already made, adding cooked protein and vegetables, and topping with a little low fat sauce (homemade or in a jar), olive oil, or fresh parmesan.

When it comes to exercise, squeeze it in whenever you can. Walking is one of the best ways to burn calories and it doesn't require a sitter, a bonus for new moms. Investing in some inexpensive home exercise equipment like a set of 5- and/or 8-pound weights, resistance bands or even a great workout DVD can help you squeeze in a mini strength training or more challenging cardio workouts during your baby's naps. I love the idea of "10 minute solutions"and Tracy Mallet's 6 minute workout series. (Tracy is a busy mother of two so she is especially aware of the challenges facing busy moms) I found that I rarely have an excuse not to exercise for 6 -10 minutes!

One more tip that I'm dealing with – don't fall into the trap of finishing everything that your toddler doesn't. All those little bites can easily add up to several hundred calories over the course of a day, so find a way to keep yourself from cleaning their plate after every meal. I try to eat a little protein before feeding my son (usually a slice of turkey or half a protein bar) so I'm not famished while feeding him. If I'm feeding him something that is really tempting, I suck on a mint or two or even a lollypop to keep from picking at his food. I also like to sip a cup of metabolism-boosting green tea while feeding him breakfast to keep my mouth occupied and burn a few extra calories.

Follow Dr. Melina on Twitter.

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. amylynn

    How to lose weight

    The FDA must take responsibility for the food chemicals that have been injected into the feed.

    Obesity is not the fault of the overweight person

    In fact, it is almost impossible to lose weight in the USA due to Food Chemicals.

    The food has been filled with food chemicals and this is proven by a European filmmaker. This is why people cannot lose weight

    A filmmaker has shown how to reverse weight gain with a diabetes diet for NON diabetics in 10 countries and the drug-makers hide the story

    The diet reverses the damage from Food chemicals and causes weight loss

    If you cannot lose weight it is not your fault

    just google SPIRITHAPPY.ORG

    August 6, 2011 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • PDXmum

      Sorry, I don't buy it. I read way too many stories about people who lose massive amounts of weight just by eating right and getting moving. There might be a tiny minority of obese people with a true medical problem but otherwise it's just overeating and not getting enough exercise. I've eaten lunch with overweight coworkers and watched them polish off twice the amount of food I've eaten, time and time again. I have a coworker whose entire family is fat and she tells me about the family genetics being to blame, then the next day talks about the great outing they all had at Claim Jumper and how she can finish a pint of Haagen Daaz in one sitting when she's stressed. Yeah, I agree that processed food is bad for you, but it's all about moderation, and if it's bad try not eating it!

      August 6, 2011 at 15:12 | Report abuse |
    • footnotegirl

      Considering that I've lost 67 lbs in the past 10 months, I call BS on this. I did it still eating normal food, just watching portion sizes and making sure I got in a good mix of nutrients (like listed above, focussing on lean proteins and whole grains, fruits and vegetables) but still eating the occasional processed food and restaurant meal. Being overweight is a mix of MANY different factors, some of which are the responsibility of the person who is overweight, and some of which are not, in varying degrees. There is no one simple solution for everyone, but especially not if that simple solution is a conspiracy theory.

      August 7, 2011 at 23:26 | Report abuse |
  2. Boo Xang

    oh one my wife gain. its ok she so fertile and hands so strong good for work very much.

    August 6, 2011 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Shana

    I have a 2 year old and an 11 month old. I was fit most of my adult life, I am now a bit overweight post babies.. and it is ABSOLUTELY my fault. This "if you cannot lose weight, it is not your fault" is BS. people need to get educated about what makes healthy eating. yes, it takes some time investment to learn and plan. fast food joints don't force you to eat their food, 3 times a day. lack of portion control is not the government's fault. if you make it a priority and learn how to eat nutritiously, and MOVE, it can be done, A vast majority of overweight people are overweight due to no one's fault but their own.

    August 6, 2011 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Diwakar

      Well said!

      August 7, 2011 at 13:16 | Report abuse |
  4. Shana

    I should say I was fit, but it always took work! You have to be willing to make your health a priority.

    August 6, 2011 at 13:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. dx2718

    Another good reason not to finish what's on your toddler's plate: it's a great way to get sick, especially if they're in daycare. Of course, getting sick can cause you to lose weight, but I suspect most people would prefer not to have their weight loss come with increased stress, misery, and an inability to properly parent.

    August 6, 2011 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. food intervention

    Why would anyone eat from their toddler's plate? That's stealing food from your own kid. Get your own plate!

    My sister-in-law had her last baby 6 years ago and she still looks like she's 8 months pregnant. I watch her eat and she eats twice as much as I do. My brother is obese and he eats like a white shark at a whale carcass. They are letting their youngest child fill an adult-size plate with food, scarf it and then refill it and eat it all. She's already a chunk at 6 years of age. Stop the insanity!!! None of them sees what they are doing. How does a person hold a food intervention for loved ones?

    August 6, 2011 at 18:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Suzy

    Are you kidding me, not your fault???? I am so sick of people not taking responsibility for themselves. In most cases, it is your fault and you can do something to change it.

    August 6, 2011 at 22:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Kati

    The easiest way to ward off obesity is to avoid getting fat to begin with. It's far easier to be thin if you've never been fat before than it is to lose and keep off a significant amount of weight. Your body acclimates to fat; once on, your body will do everything in its power to keep it on.

    JUST DON'T GET FAT TO BEGIN WITH! If you find yourself a few pounds heavier than you'd like, take action then. Better to have to drop an extra 5 pounds than 50.

    August 6, 2011 at 23:11 | Report abuse | Reply
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      Okie State has no excuse for getting beat by Iowa State....but what's Iowa State's excuse for playing Albert? Gary? Why is he still on the team?

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  9. Diane

    Read Gary Taubes' book, Why We Get Fat. It's an eye opener. It's actually a shorter version of his well-researched book Good Calories, Bad Calories. The USDA food plate is wrong. I've lost over 30 pounds in 6 months using the principles in Taubes' book and I've never felt better. I had stomach fat leftover from pregnancy that never came off no matter what I tried–Weight Watchers, Pilates, calorie watching, etc. After using the low carb approach, the fat came off and continues to come off. It requires changes because we are constantly bombarded by poor diet choices, misinformed physicians and fast food (because we're all busy and stressed). Low carb works! Those bags of vegetables mentioned here are nutritious in some ways but carrots are higher in carbs than you think and those vegetables won't satisfy your hunger more than a couple of hours. Fats (including animal fats) and protein will keep you going for hours without hunger.

    August 7, 2011 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Kyle

    Hello all also you can loss weight by on yo-yo effect is also known as yo-yo dieting, Operation shape up lose weight and gain muscular curves and burn fat by bicycling. Hub for being fit and healthy. http://www.spainfitness.com/en/

    August 8, 2011 at 04:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. AD

    I would advise all overweight people to go live for 3 months in some third world country. And, I guarantee they will loose at least 10 to 15 lbs. =)

    August 8, 2011 at 08:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Muskaan

    I am so tensed my weight because after my baby I have gane 35kg , befor my baby my weight 61 and now my weight 92kg plz help me and give me hot weight loos tips .

    August 9, 2011 at 19:56 | Report abuse | Reply
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    August 24, 2011 at 11:00 | Report abuse | Reply
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    January 19, 2012 at 05:08 | Report abuse | Reply
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    JUST DON'T GET FAT TO BEGIN WITH! If you find yourself a few pounds heavier than you'd like, take action then. Better to have to drop an extra 5 pounds than 50.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.