I used intermittent fasting to lose the last 5-10 lbs of my baby weight six months postpartum. After both pregnancies, I was unable to lose the weight using breastfeeding and had to use exercise and diet to get back to feeling good about myself again. I get a lot of questions, YES I REALLY DO, about nursing and intermittent fasting. Women want to know if it is safe primarily, but also when they can attempt to do it if so.
Let’s back up real quick: “Get your body back” and “lose the baby weight” are thrown around like they are something you are supposed to want to achieve. First, if you don’t aspire to achieve this goal, then F*ck it. Don’t. If you’re reading this though, you probably do. So second, the truth is, the scale is a liar when it comes to postpartum. Some women get back to their pre-baby weight and still feel unsatisfied because their bodies don’t look the same. Our bodies change when we go through pregnancy and every pregnancy/body is different! Don’t compare yourself to other women.
You are never going to get back to your pre-baby body. I’m sorry but it’s the truth. Weight and muscle definition aside, you’re going to have extra skin from when your belly was stretched out and if you nursed, your boobs might look a little saggy. I call it a mummy tummy and it’s nothing to be ashamed of, all moms have one unless they’ve had a tummy tuck. Your boobs, well, there are bras and plastics for that too. The mummy tummy is easy to hide while standing for some but in a seated position, you’ll be able to spot one a mile away. It’s like a Superwoman headband, a badge of being badass if you ask me.
I use the terms get “my body back” and “lose the baby weight” to mean something less literal. Postpartum, I’m looking for a stomach that doesn’t need to be sucked in (hello healing a diastasis recti), legs that can carry a 30 lb child up the stairs, arms that can hold a 25 lb baby for what feels like an eternity. I’d like definition, I’d like to wear the same clothes as I did before but if I can’t, I’m cool with it. That being said, I’m like 139 lbs last time I checked (yes, I wrote 139 and not 140 because I am a crazy female and rounding your weight up even if you don’t care what the scale says is not something we do, right!?). For the past 10 years, I’ve been between 135 and 140 lbs but I’m still working on my DR.
Ok, so let’s talk Intermittent Fasting also known as IF.
“Studies show IF can lead to weight loss, stabilized blood sugar, reduced inflammation, improvements in memory and stress resistance, slowed aging, longer lifespan, and blood sugar stabilization.”
There are a variety of ways to practice IF. In the FASTer Way, we do time restricted eating following a 16:8 protocol which means we squeeze in all our meals within an 8 hour window followed by a 16-hour overnight fast. If you are nursing, we recommend a 15:9 approach or even 14:10 if your baby is under 6 months.
Others practice a 5:2 diet, which means you eat normally for 5 days of the week followed by two days where you eat 25% of your normal daily calories. Some people don’t eat at all, relying on black coffee, tea and water.
Whenever we eat, the body releases insulin to help cells convert sugars (in particular glucose) from food into energy. If the glucose isn’t used immediately, insulin helps makes sure the excess is stored in fat cells. But when we go without food for extended periods, as people do in IF, insulin is not released. The body then turns to breaking down fat cells for energy, leading to weight loss.
“Insulin is a hormone that’s released when we eat, but it isn’t meant to be released all the time. Intermittent fasting is simply letting your insulin level go down to basically normal so that you unlock your fat stores. So nobody’s going to lose any weight unless they get that insulin level down. Which is why eating very small meals throughout the day doesn’t really help with weight loss.Inverse.com source
When it comes to nursing, there are not a ton of studies out there because no one wants to make nursing or pregnant women part of a study for obvious reasons! Much of the IF studies are on men and out of the studies with women, there are not a ton on timed eating using the 16:8 or 14:10 protocol. However, with the research that has been done, I feel we can safely agree that any kind of modified fasting regimen promotes weight loss and improves metabolic health.
The cautionary approach to IF if you are nursing is to make sure you are not decreasing your calories significantly. If you decrease your calories too much before your supply has been established, you may not produce enough milk for the baby.
In the FASTer Way, we set our caloric goals to lose .5 lb a week using MyFitnessPal to help with calculations. For me, this means I aim to eat 1880 calories which is not significantly lower than what I was eating not tracking my macros. If you want to try IF while nursing, you’ll want to make sure you’re eating ENOUGH calories to maintain your supply but you’ll be eating those calories within an 8-10 hour window.
As with anything, if you are up all night nursing and wake up famished, of course you should eat something! IF doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Maybe you try to do it 3 days a week at first, then 5, then 7 or maybe you go back to just 5 because you’ve got older kids and want to enjoy brunch on the weekends with them.
I recommend waiting until 4 months when most women have a supply established. Do not go back to work full time, start pumping and IF at the same time. This is too much change. Ideally, I’d want client to wait until 6 months when the baby begins eating solids. That way, they naturally begin drinking less milk. If supply drops a tiny bit, hopefully the little guy will eat more real food making the transition to 100% real food easier.
From my personal experience, I did not experience any decrease in my supply and I was able to lose the last 5-10 lbs. I started IF 6 months postpartum. I exclusively breastfed because Connor refused bottles. I still feed him once in the night because I am weak. I do not think my supply suffered at all from a 16:9 protocol. I dropped to a 15:9 approach once I hit my goal. I think this is because I did not significantly decrease my calories, I just structure my eating window to be 8-10 hours long and drink plenty of water.
With the FASTer Way, I also exercise 5 times a week for about 30-40 minutes. That’s it! I take my rest days seriously and I work hard during a short workout because that’s all I have right now.
If you’re interested in trying the FASTer Way with me, I have a new round starting September 2nd and I’d love to have you.
Here’s what’s included when your client signs up for The FASTer Way:
- Eight weeks of all program materials for $199.
- A low monthly membership fee of $99, after the first eight weeks.
- LIVE trainings with nutrition, hormone health, and fitness experts.
- Access to our Digital Workout Studio with full length workouts.
- Weekly workout plans that include low impact, home, and gym workouts.
- Small group coaching with a Certified Coach for daily ongoing accountability, training, and support.
- Four week FASTer Way meal plan and recipe guide.
- Nutrition strategies with a focus on whole food nutrition, balanced macros, intermittent fasting, and carb cycling.
- Option to pause or cancel the membership at any time.
You can sign up here!