By Jennifer McCaffery, Reader’s Digest
Jessica Diaz found that the secret to lasting weight loss after her two pregnancies was ditching the rigid rules, focusing on the healthy foods she loved, and making a plan that fit her schedule
The first five pounds of Jessica Diaz’s pregnancy in 2007 came on seemingly overnight. “Then I just started eating,” Jessica calls. “I wish I could say it was genetic, but I really took eating for two literally.”
At 31, Jessica worked in advertising in Boston, Massachusetts; attended barre classes three or four times a week; and, at five feet five inches tall, weighed about 125 pounds. She made sure she ate healthily for her baby, but she gave in to cravings for ice cream and cake every day. By the time Jessica was about five months pregnant, she had stopped exercising. When her daughter, Chloe, was born in 2008, Jessica tipped the scales at 196 pounds. Learn the number one diet rule that helped these people lose more than 20 pounds.
Friends told her that it was baby weight and it would come right off. Jessica was breastfeeding and lost about five to ten pounds initially. But when Chloe reached six months, Jessica still had about 60 pounds to lose. The movement that used to bring her joy now made her tired.
Jessica decided to do something but wasn’t sure at first how to go about it. When she was younger, she would try crash diets to lose ten pounds quickly for a vacation, then gain it all back when she went back to how she normally ate. She realized that part of the reason fad diets didn’t work for her was that she didn’t like the rigidity. Rules like requiring you to eat egg whites for breakfast, or prohibiting some fruits, or not allowing you to eat after 7 p.m., didn’t fit her life. Avoid these 50 sneaky things that can make you gain weight.
So Jessica took a hard look at her eating patterns. If she obeyed the rule to eat dinner by 7 p.m., for example, she would often find herself starving at 10 p.m. and devouring a bowl of ice cream. But she thought about how people around the world eat at all different times, and many don’t have issues with their weight. With a recommendation from her nurse practitioner that she aim for about 2,000 calories per day, Jessica came up with her own plan to suit her lifestyle. Check out the best diet books that helped these women lose at least 20 pounds.
Typically not hungry first thing in the morning, she started the day with hot water and lemon and sometimes an apple. For breakfast at 9 a.m., she would often eat oatmeal with berries. Then, for lunch, she had found that neither salads nor sandwiches sustained her. Jessica’s husband’s family is French, and she picked up on their custom of having a small dinner for lunch, grilling up chicken breast or eating fish with greens. A light afternoon snack of apple slices with almond butter kept her satisfied until later. Then she would enjoy dinner at 8:30 or 9 p.m., which kept her from eating the bowl of ice cream at 10 p.m.
Jessica also knew that she wanted to get moving again. She went back to barre classes in Boston, but they were taught by ex-ballerinas, and she felt out of place in the classes she had once enjoyed. “My body didn’t feel good, and I was struggling to keep up and look like everyone else,” she says. “It wasn’t working for my body.” So Jessica took her knowledge of barre and created her own program at home with modifications that supported her lower back. Her experience of feeling uncomfortable post-pregnancy in barre class eventually led her to pursue her own certification. She also started taking Zumba classes. Find out how many calories you really burn at your exercise class.
“It’s about finding something that makes you feel good, that’s not overtaxing your body, at a time when you’re probably sleep-deprived and don’t have a lot of energy,” Jessica says.
Slowly but surely, she got back down to her goal weight of 125 pounds. More importantly, she’d developed an eating plan for life. Check out these 13 secrets experts won’t tell you about weight loss.
By the time she got pregnant again with her son about two years later, Jessica wasn’t worried about taking the weight off again. She ended up gaining almost as much—78 pounds—as she had with her first pregnancy. But she got back to her eating plan three months after Chase was born.
With two little kids, though, finding time to exercise was even more challenging. Jessica started teaching baby-barre classes, taking her son along. She huffed and puffed up and down the hills of her town, Charlestown, Massachusetts, pushing the double stroller. And when she didn’t want to waste an hour away from her kids going to and from the gym, she popped in a DVD and worked out at home. Try these 14 easy ways to jump-start your metabolism.
With the eating and exercise plan she’d already established, Jessica was able to get back into shape about four months sooner than she had after her first pregnancy—right around Chase’s first birthday.
Now Jessica feels healthier than she’s ever been. At 41, she teaches barre classes six or seven days a week. And when she gets that craving for a piece of chocolate cake? She’ll satisfy it with a little bit of dark chocolate and a handful of almonds instead.
Here are some of Jessica’s tips:
- Develop your own plan. Be mindful of calorie counts, but take the time to think about what and when you like to eat and formulate your plan from there.
- Don’t go overboard on healthy fats. Jessica was going through a bottle of olive oil a week. Instead of using four tablespoons of olive oil to sauté vegetables, she dialed back to a teaspoon of olive oil and water. Be careful with your portions of avocados and almond butter, too.
- You don’t have to ditch foods you love. Jessica loves white rice, bread, and sweet potatoes. She just makes sure to limit her portions and stick with one starch per day.
- Order your groceries online. Avoid temptation and order from Amazon or Instacart. “Those $5 delivery charges are worth keeping me from adding in the pretzels, chips, ice cream, and brownie mix,” she says.
- Find a mantra. To promote a healthier relationship with food, before she ate anything, Jessica would say to herself, “Food is fueling my body for health and energy to be the best mom I can.”
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