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Help me balance career, new baby, weight loss

Asked by Lisa T., Los Gatos, California

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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?

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Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis Physician Nutrition Specialist

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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.

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