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Got a question about some aspect of mind-body-spirit fitness? Ask! It can be as earthly as "Can a heart monitor really enhance my workout?" (the short answer to that is yes) or as heady as, "Don't I need to sell all my worldly goods and go live on a mountain top to find enlightenment?" (the short answer here is no). Needless to say, we can't answer every question we receive, but we will take one every month and answer it here. If you've got a burning need to know about something, email us, and you may find your query featured next time around.

I gave birth three months ago to a beautiful baby boy. During my pregnancy I worked out five to six days a week (cardio and weights) and ate healthy foods. By doing this I gained the recommended 25 pounds. Now, though, I find myself getting more and more discouraged — I cannot lose the weight. I still do cardio and light weights (60 minutes) five to six days a week but to no avail. I haven't shed one pound since giving birth (other than the immediate 13)! I am eating roughly 1400 calories a day, mostly dividing my foods into small meals. I feel mislead by all the medical sites and books I've read. I worked so hard to be healthy and fit during my pregnancy so I could first give birth to a healthy baby and then get back to my usual self in a reasonable amount of time. Please help?

(Article continued below.)

Don't be discouraged — you really are on the right track! It's very, very common to have difficulty losing post-pregnancy weight, and it can — and often does — take longer than just three months. Keep in mind that your body just went through one of life's milestones — playing home to a living being until that being was able to live outside of your womb. There were a lot of hormonal and other physical changes involved with making that possible, and it's wonderful that you took good care of your body while that was going on. It's also great that you are continuing to take care of yourself so that you are able to do you best in your new role as a parent. You're clearly thrilled at being a new mom — you just want your old body back, too! But at three months post-partum your body is still recovering from all the changes it so recently went through, and adjusting to a new lifestyle.

Consider all the healing your body has to do. For example, if your abdominal muscles separated, they can take six weeks or more to heal. And your pelvic floor, which is part of your core, needs a similar amount of healing time. At three months postpartum, your joints continue to be affected by the pregnancy hormone relaxin, so they are still a bit unstable. If you are breastfeeding, there are other hormonal changes that are continuing. And keep in mind that breastfeeding won't help you lose the weight faster. In fact, sometimes it keeps the weight on. Every woman is different in this area. In fact, the road to reclaiming your figure is a different one for every woman. Yes, some new mothers do get back to their pre-pregnancy weight in three months, but most (yes, even fit women) don't. It can take six months, or up to a year or more to lose the weight you gained during pregnancy, and no one is to blame. It's all due to your own particular body chemistry, how your body has reacted to being pregnant, how stressful new motherhood is for you, and your own attitude. In fact, in the long run, your attitude is what is going to make the difference.

The truth is that your biggest dilemma right now is getting past the disappointment you feel for not losing the pregnancy weight as quickly as you had expected. If you keep eating healthy within a reasonable calorie range, doing both cardio and weight training exercises, and enjoying your new baby, the weight should eventually come off. The best thing you can do right now is stop being hard on yourself, and stop thinking that the "experts" have led you down the wrong path. Relax. Forgive your body for not behaving the way you want it to. Stay with the level of calories you are consuming (if you are not breastfeeding, that is — breastfeeding mothers need more calories!), and make sure that what you eat is wholesome and consists of as many vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins as possible. Nourish your body, and then nourish your soul by forgetting about your body for a while and just be with your new baby. Keep exercising. Once your joints are definitely stable again and your doctor has given you the go-ahead, you can try a little heavier weight load. Try different exercises for fun — check out some new workout DVDs or videos. Eventually you will see the number on the scale dropping. If you would like some additional information on losing your baby weight, you might want to read Outsmarting the Female Fat Cell After Pregnancy. It has a lot of information and good, practical advice on weight lost post-pregnancy. In the meantime, be patient and know that you are doing exactly what you need to do, even if the goal is a little farther off than you had planned.

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