You've had a kid - maybe two - and now the idea of mom jeans is starting to seem less laugh-at-funny and more, dare we say it, practical. Before you start "hiking up" of any kind, hold it right there. These easy-to-instill practices will get you smiling at your skinnies again. Additional reporting by Ava Feuer, REDBOOK.
Log your meals, snacks, and drinks
First and foremost, stop feeling bad about those extra five pounds. They represent your role as a mom - and that's a good thing - but if you're feeling unhealthy, start by writing down what you eat. It will give you a baseline for what you're consuming, and hold you accountable to the most important person of all - yourself. You can use a notebook, your calendar, or sparkpeople.com - it's free to join, and their calorie counter comes in handy revealing for the truth about your food intake. (You can also use their tools to find out how many total calories your body needs.)
Start packing in protein
Eat it with every meal and snack. This helps stabilize your blood sugar level, staving off hunger pangs. Nuts, eggs, lean meats, chicken, fish, tofu, and low-fat dairy like yogurt are all good sources. (Unfortunately those sneaks of your daughter's ice cream don't count.)
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Avoid any "pooch-inducers"
Stay away from artificial sweeteners, gum (you swallow air as you chew), foods high in sodium or sugar, and carbonated beverages like soda and even seltzer - which can make you gassy, warns Stephanie Middleberg, R.D.
Eat your veggies
You may be thinking so hard about getting your kids to eat their veggies that you've forgotten to work good-for-you greens into your meals. Bring them back now - they're fiber-rich, so you'll feel fuller longer. At lunch and dinner, fill up half your plate with veggies; make the other side a mix of lean protein and whole grains.
"The idea is to spread calories throughout the day," says J. Graham Thomas, Ph.D., a researcher for the National Weight Control Registry. "If you don't eat all day and you have your first meal when you're starving, you're likely to eat way too much." The best option for belly fat: eggs. A 2008 study in the International Journal of Obesity showed that over eight weeks, those who ate eggs for breakfast lost 65 percent more weight than those who started their days with bagels.
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Limit your portions
Between work, kids, friends, and your husband, you're always on-the-go. As a good night's sleep becomes a thing of the past, and you become increasingly crazed, your hunger hormones kick into high gear, and your body cries out for bigger portions. To keep your appetite in check, stay away from too many carbs, which fill you up fast but leave you starving soon after. When you balance out whole grains with lean proteins and healthy fats, it'll be at least a little easier to keep your portions in check.
Skip so-called "diet" foods
It can be tempting to go back to your old diet-y ways, swapping in sugar-free soda, rice cakes and other manufactured diet foods, but while they might produce short-term weight loss, it's unsustainable - not to mention when you're eating them, you start having all these random cravings for things like the Birthday Cake Pops at Starbucks.
Keep calcium levels up
Research shows that low calcium levels can trigger the same hormone that causes the body to hold onto fat to be released. Nutritionist and author of Bread is the Devil Heather Bauer, RD, CDN suggest opting for low-fat dairy such as cheese, yogurt, salmon, tofu, and oatmeal.
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Picking off your toddler's plate isn't all bad - if it's the right snack. "Not providing your body with food is a surefire way to slow down its basic functions," says Bauer. "Choose high-fiber, high-protein snacks like low-fat cheese, fiber crackers, fruits, veggies, or Greek yogurt. Starving your body will sabotage all of your dieting efforts." For more little bites that won't go straight to your midsection, check out our favorite sub-150-calories snacks.
Eat, sleep and be merry
Multiple studies have proven that those who sleep six to eight hours a night and keep stress levels as low as possible have the best luck when it comes to weight loss. When you're living life in a relaxed, calm state, levels of grehlin (the hunger hormones) decrease, and those of leptin, which cause you to feel full, rise. We haven't heard of a better excuse for a spa day yet!
For more flat belly tricks, visit Redbookmag.com.
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