How I Lost the Baby Weight

Six moms reveal how they got fit and reclaimed their former bodies after childbirth, so you can too.

Ladies, don’t deny it: Although becoming a mother is wondrous, so is becoming un-pregnant. There’s no shame in admitting that childbirth itself is one of the best weight-loss strategies known to women. It’s not often we drop anywhere from eight to 30 pounds in one day. Sliding back into that favorite pair of jeans is exhilarating in its own right. And for many of us, this is reason enough to celebrate.

Meet six local women who are either back in their pre-pregnancy clothes or who are well on their way. They share their slimming techniques from walking the dog to yoga to cutting carbs to spinning. And the results? Heartening.

Chizu Sakai-Imoto, 36
5’2”, gained 18 pounds
Lost: 15 pounds
Baby’s birth date: Oct. 13, 2003

HOW SHE DID IT: Breast-feeding, sensible diet

NURSING KNOW-HOW: Chizu Sakai-Imoto laughs and says that childbirth was her strategy to lose weight. “I didn’t do anything,” this Mayfield Heights mom says, adding that she feels as though she’d like to slim down a little more. “I didn’t change any of my daily habits, except that I incorporated breast-feeding Casey and then pumping when I was at work.” Sakai-Imoto is a full-time nurse at The Cleveland Clinic, and found that after her son was born, she had little time to devote to exercise. Breast-feeding became her main weight-loss method. “I know it sounds strange, but I’d heard that other women lost weight and firmed their stomachs just from breast-feeding,” she says. “I had planned on breast-feeding anyway, but the weight loss benefits were a bonus.”

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Cutting back on junk food and chasing her son have also contributed to helping her fit back into her former wardrobe, but she says she’d still like to shed those annoying last few pounds. “My clothes size hasn’t changed,” she says, “but things are tighter than I’d like. For now, though, my home and work schedule keeps me busy. I’m really bad at maintaining an exercise schedule, so I try to eat sensibly and stay active.” Bethany

Pinzone, 23
5’2”, gained 50 pounds
Lost: 50 pounds
Baby’s birth date: June 4, 2005

HOW SHE DID IT: Personal chef, personal trainer

KISS THE COOK: With a husband who’s a former chef and a neighbor who’s a personal trainer, Bethany Pinzone attacked her excess poundage on two fronts: diet and exercise. “Having my husband cook was wonderful,” Bethany says. “He prepared a lot of good Italian food with an emphasis on protein and served green vegetables with every meal. He’s conscious of nutrition and makes great dishes.”

CRUNCH TIME: Her neighbor, a fitness expert and former aerobics instructor who now works with clients personally, visited Bethany in her South Euclid home and taught her exercises specifically targeted at flattening her abdomen. “Not only was losing weight important, but so was getting a flat stomach again,” Bethany says. “Teri [Dombrowski] came over and showed me special exercises that I could do on my own over time.” Three personal training sessions taught Bethany enough to firm up in a few months, working out about twice a week. She learned about 10 different ways to do crunches and combined them with a daily walking routine, pushing her son, Joseph, in his stroller about two miles a day. “When I left the hospital, I had dropped 18 pounds without doing anything,” she says, “and this was encouraging. It took me another four months to finish losing the weight. The main thing for me was just to be balanced and consistent.”

Shaileen Love, 25
5’6”, gained 68 pounds
Lost: 43 pounds
Baby’s birth date: March 21, 2005

HOW SHE DID IT: Walking, sit-ups, monitoring her diet

MAKING THE MOST OF HER TIME: Although shedding the excess pounds she gained during her pregnancy with Isaac is important to her, this Burton mom needed a weight-loss routine that fit into her full-time work schedule. She didn’t join a gym, sign up for a diet program or visit a nutritionist. Rather, she made the most of every moment with what was available to her at home and on the job at her Chardon office.

COMMON SENSE APPROACH: “I’ve just been losing weight the old-fashioned way,” Love says. “I cut my food portions back, I try not to eat too many carbs and exercise when I can. I do a lot of sit-ups. It’s been a long, hard road, but I’ve been very disciplined and I’ll make it.” On work breaks, this secretary often walks the company’s black Labrador mix around the block. At home, she’s got three other dogs that she hits the sidewalks with. When her son is occupied with toys or food, Shaileen often crunches a few rounds of sit-ups. When watching television in her bedroom, she puts miles on a stationary bike.

Karen DeMarco, 39
5’4”, gained 25 pounds
Lost: 25 pounds
Baby’s birth date: July 24, 2004

HOW SHE DID IT: Weight Watchers

ON THE GO: This real estate agent and mother of three used Weight Watchers to help her lose her post-pregnancy weight three times. Immediately following each child’s birth, Karen quickly lost 12 pounds, which she largely credits to breast-feeding. Casting off the remainder, however, proved challenging every time. Because her career keeps her on the go, Karen wanted a weight-loss program that would help her no matter where she was scheduled to be on a certain day. “I really like Weight Watchers,” Karen says. “I still go to meetings, even though Sophia is 1 1/2 and I’ve lost the weight.”

STAYING ON POINT: Karen says the Weight Watchers’ point system makes it easy for her to enjoy a variety of foods and keep track of what she’s putting into her body. “I’m allocated a certain number of points every day,” she says, “and I know at any time during the day how many points I’ve used up. If I’m going out to dinner and want to save points for my evening meal, then I know I have to make adjustments. Being forced to pay attention to various foods and how many points they’re worth makes it simple to lose weight.” Weight Watchers has a food companion booklet that lists many restaurants’ food items and tallies how many points each meal is worth. “So if I need to eat while I’m out, then I choose appropriate foods,” she says. “It’s not hard.”

Jacqui Wilson, 38
5’9”, Gained 30 pounds
Lost: 35 pounds
Baby’s birth date: Nov. 16, 2003

HOW SHE DID IT: Spinning to a triathlon in Hawaii

TRAIN TRACKS: Working out is a way of life for Jacqui Wilson, a Cleveland Heights mother of three. With each of her pregnancies, she gained between 30 and 35 pounds, but a love of running, biking, swimming and the training to compete helped her trim down within a few months after each birth. “I’m not good at following a strict diet,” Jacqui says, “so I knew I had to rely on exercise, especially after Wade was born about two years ago. I did a triathlon 10 years ago and loved it, so I decided to start training again. It’s now become a big part of my life.”

SPIN TO THIN: About a year ago, Jacqui discovered spinning, an intense stationary-bike workout, and has been hooked ever since. She now teaches spinning classes at the Hillcrest YMCA and says one 45-minute workout burns about 470 calories. Combining cardiovascular and resistance training into one session saves time and is a lot of fun. Jacqui has a lottery spot for next October’s Iron Man triathlon in Hawaii, but she isn’t content to rely on luck to get there. She’s also training to qualify, depending on her spinning regimen as well as running and other workouts. “What’s great about spinning is that it can be tailored for anyone’s ability,” she says. “You don’t have to be coordinated or have rhythm to spin. People of all levels can work out in the same room and individually control how much resistance they want. And new moms enjoy coming and meeting others who are also trying to stay fit. As for me, it was the best way to get weight off fast and get me ready to start competing again.”

Yidiahyah Aharon, 35
5’3”, Gained 40 pounds
Lost: 45 pounds
Baby’s birth date: June 1, 2004

HOW SHE DID IT: Sacred diet, yoga, aerobics

A WAY OF LIFE: This St. Thomas native came to Cleveland about nine years ago to learn more about this area’s Hebrew Israelite society. Little did she know then that her cultural affiliation would influence how she would get back in shape after giving birth to her son, Yeshai. “I followed the Hebrew Israelite sacred diet for pregnant and lactating women,” she says, “and simply doing that along with breast-feeding helped me lose everything. The Hebrew Israelite way of life promotes joy, peace and good health. So, to achieve those things, followers are encouraged to adhere to certain truths. The sacred diet is balanced and nutritious, and it works.” The diet ascribes certain foods to certain days at each mealtime. For instance, Yidiahyah ate oatmeal, other grains or fresh fruits for breakfast depending on which day of the week it was. Lunch and dinner meals required other foods on various days. As a strict vegan, she relied on nuts, grains and vegetables as her main sources of protein.

POSITIVELY YOGA: Along with the diet, she also practiced yoga, aerobics and stretching. “Hebrew Israelites believe that to attain good health, the body requires a combination of healthy foods and exercises,” she says. “As I was losing weight, I focused on staying positive, caring for my son and following the sacred diet while exercising. Shortly after he was born, I couldn’t do too much, but as I grew stronger, I added the postnatal yoga and walked 30 minutes a day. Now I’m back to normal, and enjoy walking on a treadmill and even doing aerobics.”

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