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September 28, 2011

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New moms need to shed pounds

JESSIE Zhang, 29-year-old professional, gave birth to a 3.5-kilogram boy in late August, and though he's a bundle of joy, he helped mom pack almost twice his weight.

"I have to wear my mother's trousers since I can't fit into any of my old pants," says Zhang. "I need to lose kilos or move up a size."

Pregnancy-related weight gain is a problem for women worldwide.

No matter how carefully a woman watches what she eats during pregnancy, a few (or more than a few) stubborn pounds often remain after the birth.

The situation is usually worse in China because of the tradition of zuo yue zi (literally "sit month") ? the first month after giving birth when a mother must stay indoors, rest and eat a lot to ensure more nutrition for breast-feeding.

That's the case with Zhang who avoided overeating during pregnancy to ensure a safe, natural birth. But she found herself around 6 kilograms heavier after the blessed event. And during a month of yue zi she ate a lot of rich food ? everyone insisted. Now she's allowed to go outdoors, but she feels bad about all that weight.

Eating extra-nutritious food to ensure the best breast milk ? but without much exercise ? are the major reasons that new moms get fat.

But experts from Weight Watchers, an international company offering weight-loss services and diet products, say that one month doesn't have to be a diet disaster. There's a lot of room for adjustment.

"Many people believe a new mother must eat twice as much as she used to so she can provide nutritious breast milk, which is totally wrong," says Rice Fan, a senior founding leader of Weight Watchers in Shanghai. "Though mothers do need more nutrition, they only need to eat about 1.2 times as much as their ordinary diet."

Overeating "for baby" and not exercising can get to be bad habits and over time they pose a danger to women's cardiovascular health (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high sugar).

Overweight and lack of exercise are linked with numerous other problems, including type 2 diabetes, endocrine disorders and increased risk of stroke.

Abundant research shows that the mothers who fail to restore their normal weight within a year are much more likely to remain overweight for at least 15 years, according to Dr Chen Xiafei, chief of the Nutrition Department of Shanghai Huadong Hospital.

The way to lose weight is to eat a healthy, balanced and not too fatty diet, with lots of vegetables and fruit and regular brisk exercise.

But with breast-feeding women eating usually more "nutritious" food than they have to and generally not exercising, they need another strategy.

Generally, about 42 days to six months after giving birth is the best time for a mother to get started on losing weight, since the body needs time to adjust to breast feeding. Women who start early and are persistent are the most successful.

Nursing mothers should not lose more than around half a kilogram a week, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Too much and too rapid weight loss can affect the baby's nutrition.

To ensure they have enough calcium, nursing mothers should drink around 500ml of milk a day, even if they are dieting. If they lack calcium in their diet, the body takes calcium from the mother's body for breast milk. Eventually this can weaken the mother's bones.

In addition, more high-quality, low-fat protein (225-375g per day) and water (more than 1,600ml per day) are also needed for milk production.

Diet expert Fan says mothers can choose wisely, eating fish soup rather than traditional pig's feet soup.

Fish is equally nutritious and has far fewer calories. Lean cuts of meat are best.

Fatty soups like chicken soup and pig's feet soup can still be had occasionally, but the surface oil should be skimmed off.

Small extra meals in the morning and afternoon are necessary to replenish energy lost through nursing. Fruit is recommended in the morning, while soup or a low-calorie snack is advised in mid-afternoon.

New moms should pass on the desserts if they want to shed pounds. Alcohol and coffee are out, as they should be during pregnancy, because they can undermine the baby's health.

It's easy to burn fat while taking the baby out in a stroller, and it's low intensity.

"Intense exercises may frustrate the mother, but it's easier to persist in easy exercises and build up a habit of regular exercise," says Fan.

She also recommends exercises such as abdominal curls with the baby on the belly and easy, not-too-deep squats while holding the baby.

Nutritious low-calorie soups

¥ Crucian carp soup

Ingredients: Crucian carp (250g), mushrooms (46g), bamboo shoots (46g), salt (5g), vegetable oil (10g), yellow wine (5g), ginger (5g), green onions (5g)


1. Wash crucian carp, rub it with yellow wine and salt and set it aside for 10 minutes.

2. Pan-fry ginger, bamboo shoots and mushroom.

3. Prepare soup with fish and all ingredients.

4. Add salt and simmer 25 minutes.

5. Add green onion.

¥ Mushroom, bamboo-fungus and yam soup

Ingredients: Mushrooms (25g), bamboo-fungus (65g), yam (100g), sesame oil (3ml), caraway seed (5g), soup-stock


1. Wash the chop ingredients.

2. Cook mushrooms and yam in soup-stock until yam gets slightly soft.

3. Add bamboo-fungus and continue cooking until ingredients are soft.

4. Add sesame oil and caraway seeds.


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