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It's true that there are certain times in your life when extra poundage seems to appear out of nowhere . . . and settle on you. In fact, experts have honed in on the exact moments when you're most vulnerable to weight gain.
"Life transitions, having a baby, and going through menopause cause many women to pile on pounds," says Susan Albers, PsyD, author of But I Deserve This Chocolate!: The 50 Most Common Diet-Derailing Excuses and How to Outwit Them. "But with planning and prep, you can stay thin."
We asked top experts for their strategies to help you ward off weight creep — and even shed pounds — at these tricky stages. Solutions ahead.
Heavier ever after? It can be the flip side of wedded bliss: "Six out of 10 of my clients come back heavier after the honeymoon," says celebrity fitness and wellness guru David Kirsch.
Young newlyweds pack on an extra six to nine pounds in the five years after getting hitched compared to singletons, according to research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. And most of that gain happens in the first year of marriage.
"Couples start to mirror each other's eating habits," explains Albers. "You might be matching him calorie for calorie without realizing it."
Learn how to keep the pounds down postmarriage and in the mommy years, after the break.
Keep the pounds down with some strategic single-girl thinking:
Be a portion teller. Women tend to eat more when dining with their mate, says Albers. Back when you were only eating together a few times a week, that was no biggie, but once you have a dozen meals a week or more together, those extra calories add up.
As a general rule, have a serving each of carbs (fist-size), protein (palm-size), and healthy fat (around a tablespoon), and fill the rest of your plate with a nonstarchy veggie like broccoli, cauliflower, or green beans, says celebrity dietitian Ashley Koff, RD, coauthor of Mom Energy.
Yes, his hands are bigger — so he gets more.
End dinner drama. Just because he's a steak-and-fries kind of guy doesn't mean you have to give up your favorite healthy meals. "Alternate days to choose dinner," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of The Flexitarian Diet. "If you want sushi on your night, he can go along with it or fend for himself."
Leave the love nest. Gym classes. Social obligations. Couple time. Once you're hitched, it may feel like something has to give. To make sure it isn't your gym time, work out with your girlfriends, suggests Koff.
Having a baby
Here's a hefty fact: a married woman who has a baby gains an average of nearly 20 pounds over 10 years, found a study in American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
And women face an average of seven percent increased risk of obesity over a lifetime per child born, according to research from Duke University Medical Center. That means after three kids, you have a (yikes) 21 percent increased risk of developing obesity.
Hormonal changes don't help: "Pregnancy increases insulin production and the accumulation of fat," says Lori Bastian, MD, associate professor of medicine at Duke University. Beat those stats with these rules:
Eat, already. "I was working with Josie Maran, and she told me her child was eating better than she was," says Koff. "Josie was forgetting to fuel herself. You need to eat every three hours." Otherwise, you're likely to get worn out or famished and binge.
Eat your own food! No grazing off your kids' plates, says Blatner. "Put the baby in a bouncy seat and grab a quick bite." Stock healthy foods with low prep time like canned tuna and frozen veggies.
Keep burning. Breastfeeding can burn an extra 300 calories per day — but that translates to just an extra half pound per week. You still need to exercise regularly and eat right to get your body back.