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Chicago fitness expert Dana Pieper on how to lose pregnancy weight — and the pressure that comes with it

DanPieper with daughters Hayley Abby

Dana Pieper with daughters Hayley and Abby

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Updated: January 30, 2014 12:55PM

We’re all bombarded with endless images of celebrities and their post-pregnancy bodies — Kate Middleton and Jessica Simpson, most recently. While I am long past this period of my life, I distinctly remember how photos like those made me feel after I delivered my triplets. I was fit and in shape prior to being pregnant, and was shocked that things didn’t just “bounce back.”

The pressure to live up to those standards eight years ago seemed unending — and today is no different. New moms see countless photos of a trim Middleton and slimmed-down Simpson less than two months after giving birth. As a mom and a fitness expert, I feel the responsibility to remind women that this is not the norm — and that this pressure can disrupt the precious first months of motherhood. Returning your body to its pre-pregnancy state is a process, not a race.

My particular situation was very difficult, as I carried triplets and was on hospitalized bed rest for the last three months of my pregnancy. I focused my energy on being strong and energized, and set a goal of being able to care for my children as a healthy individual. I was less stressed about the weight loss, and my objectives became more realistic. I set a date, made a plan, established small goals and took the adventure one day at a time. Here’s how you can do the same:

Start simple. Take at least two walks a day. Pushing a stroller is added weight and will slowly increase your stamina and strength. As you go, challenge yourself — search for hills and uneven terrain to work your core and legs.

Find opportunities to build your muscle mass. This will help you burn more calories as you get back to regular exercise. Lift your child up and down, squatting and elevating onto your toes. Do planks during “tummy time.” Lunge while the bottle warms up. Lay your baby on her back and do some push-ups over her — smiling above her will be fun for both of you.

Time is of the essence. Perform upper and lower bodywork simultaneously for an effective and efficient workout. Buy a set of weights to use while the baby naps. Grab them and do lateral lifts with knee raises, squats, bicep curls and forward lunges with overhead triceps extensions. As a bonus, these moves will raise your heart rate and will burn extra calories.

If you alternate strength work with simple cardio moves, your body works harder to switch between the two formats and therefore creates a workout that will catapult you back into your previous shape.

Schedule time for your body. Plan ahead and always be prepared with the tools you need if you find yourself with some extra time. Stash weights, a jump rope and elastic tubing in your office, car, stroller or diaper bag.

Most of all, remember to remove the pressure. All pregnancy experiences are unique, and the need to fit into our pre-pregnancy jeans should be well balanced with the time and attention required of a newborn.

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