If you’re a new mom, you might be counting down the days when you can trade in your maternity pants for your favorite pair of skinny jeans.
Yet experts say just as it took you nine months to put on the weight, losing it can take several months or more. If the weight isn’t coming off as fast as you want it to or your weight loss has stalled, there are several factors that could be hindering your efforts. Here are 10.
1. You weighed too much before or during pregnancy
More than 50 percent of women are overweight or obese when they get pregnant, and only about a third gain the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If you became pregnant while you were overweight or if you gained more than you should have, it can make it that much more challenging to lose the weight. In fact, women who gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy are more likely to keep the weight on even up to 15 years postpartum, a meta-analysis in the journal Nutrition Reviews found.
Although you can’t go back in time, it’s important to recognize that it could take you longer.
2. You’re not getting enough sleep
Sleep is hard to come by with a new baby, but when you are sleep-deprived, the hormones that affect appetite are unbalanced. In fact, people who slept for only four hours ate more calories the following day than when they had enough sleep, a study presented at the American Heart Association’s scientific sessions in 2011 found.
Sleep deprivation causes your body to up its production of ghrelin, which increases hunger, and slow down its production of leptin, which regulates appetite.
If your partner can take a feeding at night or you can catch a nap during the day, it can help you get the rest you need.
Also, eating at the exact same time every day will regulate your hormones and your appetite. “Although your baby’s sleep schedule is inconsistent, you can actually train your body to maintain a consistent schedule,” Dr. Susan Albers, a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and a New York Times bestselling author of “50 More Ways To Soothe Yourself Without Food,” told Fox News.
3. You’re not being patient enough
Trying to stack up to those celebrities who are back in their bikinis two weeks after giving birth isn’t healthy. The time it takes to lose the baby weight is different for each woman, but it will take at least six months, if not more, Angela Ginn-Meadow, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Baltimore, Maryland, and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Fox News.
Don’t beat yourself up, but do make sure your diet and exercise habits are consistent and realistic for your life.
“It might not happen overnight, but small, simple steps to getting back will be key,” Ginn-Meadow said.
If you think you’ve been doing everything right but your weight loss has stalled, seek advice from a registered dietitian nutritionist, who may be able to help.
4. You’re skipping meals
Between feedings, diaper changes and an unpredictable schedule, making time to sit down to a meal can feel like an afterthought. Yet if you don’t make regular meals a priority, you’ll feel irritable and more likely to eat more at the next meal. In fact, fasting is linked to abdominal weight gain and may increase your risk for type-2 diabetes, a study out of The Ohio State University suggests.
5. You’re hitting the gym too hard
You might think it will take hours at the gym to lose the baby weight, but that’s not the case. In fact, doing too much too fast can put you at risk for injury, pelvic organ prolapse — a condition that causes the pelvic organs such as the bladder or uterus to bulge out of the vagina, and even halt your weight loss efforts.
“A lot of cardio also stimulates your appetite to increase to match it and sometimes to exceed it,” Leah Keller, a pre- and post-natal fitness expert in San Francisco, California, and creator of The Dia Method, a prenatal and postnatal fitness program, told Fox News.
Instead of pushing yourself to do a HIIT class when you get the all-clear to exercise again, resistance training that targets the major muscle groups is the most effective way to torch calories. Aim for 25 minutes, twice a week.
Cardio isn’t off limits, but make sure it’s low impact — especially when you start to exercise again. Then as you feel stronger, you can move onto intervals on the elliptical or bike. “As you push the heart rate up and down, you get more benefit long-term both for your cardiovascular fitness and calorie burn,” Keller said.
6. You have a thyroid issue
Up to 30 percent of postpartum women likely have thyroid dysfunction due to an iodine deficiency, Dr. Prudence Hall, founder of The Hall Center in Santa Monica, California, told Fox News.
During pregnancy, your baby takes iodine from you, which in turn can cause hypothyroidism, a disorder whereby the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. After you give birth, symptoms like fatigue, depression and weight gain can show up.
If you suspect that you have a problem with your thyroid, ask your doctor to run a comprehensive thyroid panel, which includes TSH, free T3, free T4, and reverse T3 and the thyroid antibodies. If the test determines there is an issue, your doctor may prescribe iodine and a thyroid medication. There’s also some evidence of women reversing their thyroid problems through diet.
7. You’re eating the wrong foods
To lose weight, you need to eat meals that regulate your blood sugar and keep you feeling satiated. Make sure you eat plenty of vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats throughout the day to fill you up, but be sure to keep empty calories to a minimum.
“We all love treats, we all love indulgent foods. But those occasional foods really need to be once or twice a week — they don’t need to be a habit,” Ginn-Meadow said.
8. You’re snacking at night
You might get a hankering for a snack after your baby’s middle of the night feeding, but those extra calories can add up. Instead, drink a cup of chamomile or cinnamon tea, which studies suggest may lower blood sugar in people with diabetes.
9. You have a leaky gut
Breastfeeding causes low levels of estrogen, which surprisingly can affect the GI tract and lead to intestinal hyperpermeability, or leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut syndrome occurs when tight junctions that line the inside of the intestines open and allow undigested food particles and pathogens through. Research suggests that this increased permeability in the gut is linked to increased visceral, or “deep,” fat.
“When the GI tract goes out and doesn’t digest food as well, that’s a major cause for weight gain,” Hall said.
To boost your gut health and lose weight, try probiotics, along with digestive enzymes, eliminate gluten, minimize dairy and of course, eat a healthy diet, she said.
10. You’re eating your feelings
When you’re sleep deprived and feel overwhelmed and stressed out, it’s common to rummage through the pantry for something to make yourself feel better. Yet if you don’t break that habit, it can prevent you from losing weight.
Instead of turning to food to feel better, have a list of healthy activities you can do when you’re trying to cope with your feelings.
That might include putting your baby in the stroller and taking a brisk walk, signing up for a mommy and me Yoga class, journaling, or simply escaping to the bathroom to take a few deep breaths for a moment of peace. “Five minutes away of [or] getting a few moments to yourself can [be] so refreshing,” Albers said.
Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She's also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.