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4 diet traps new moms face

You stroll with your baby regularly and eat skinless chicken — but those leftover pregnancy pounds just won’t budge. What’s going on? One possibility is that you’re expecting too much too soon. “To get back to your old weight, give yourself a year,” says registered dietitian Fran Grossman. It can take that long, especially if you’re not nursing and you gained more than the recommended 25 to 35 pounds.

Look at your lifestyle habits, says Grossman. New mom Ilise Kesslin says her nemesis was deprivation dieting. “I realized that when I restricted the food I could eat, I binged later in the day on snacks,” she says. She now eats small portions when she’s hungry. As a result, “I’m skinnier than I was before my pregnancy.”

Here are four common mommy diet traps.

Trap 1: Eating food just because it’s there

Your mother-in-law shows up on your doorstep with one of her pies... again. You eat leftovers so they don’t go to waste. “This is environmentally induced eating,” says weight management psychologist Daniel Stettner, PhD.

Food fix: Don’t keep edibles out in the open. If you find yourself foraging in your cupboards when chatting on the phone, talk in another room. When you’re out at mothers’ groups, carry a water bottle so you can take a swig instead of nibbling on something. Put leftovers in the refrigerator immediately — or toss them. At snack time, have something that’s calorie-contained, like a piece of fruit or a low-cal yogurt.

Trap 2: Eating when you’re tired

“In that compromised state, we often reach for food, especially sweets, because we’re looking for a quick energy boost,” says Joy Bauer, RD, author of The Joy Fit Club.

Food fix: Pace when you talk on the phone, deliver a memo in person instead of sending an e-mail or go for a stroll with your baby.

“Exercise can ultimately make you feel more energized as your blood glucose level rises,” explains nutrition consultant Neva Cochran, RD. “Designate three low-calorie foods you’ll eat before grabbing anything else,” advises Bauer, such as baby carrots, a nonfat yogurt and a 30-calorie fudge pop.

Trap 3: Multitasking meals

Whether it happens in front of the TV or as you talk on the phone, munching while doing something else is an easy way to inhale calories mindlessly. Moreover, consuming on-the-go calories can be dissatisfying on an emotional level; you may not feel like you've eaten and will then seek that fulfillment by eating more later, says Stettner.

Food fix: When you’re at home, schedule at least 20 minutes for eating — the time it takes for your brain to get the message that you’re full — without the TV on or a book in front of you. The exception is breakfast. “Most people don’t overeat at that meal,” says Bauer.

Trap 4: Not eating all day because you’re too busy

“Not eating all day is one of the worst things you can do,” says Grossman. “To compensate for the lack of fuel coming in, your metabolism will slow down and you’ll burn fewer calories.”

Food fix: Grossman recommends not skipping meals — no matter what. In fact, she suggests eating something every three hours. This can be a challenge. One way to manage the situation is to take advantage of naptime. “I have my biggest meal — lunch — when the kids are down,” says Ilise Kesslin. “It's a calmer meal, and I truly enjoy it because I'm not rushed.” 

Sandra Gordon is a freelance writer.

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