I used to think weight loss for moms was no different than weight loss for any other person. I figured, “you just burn more calories than you eat–what’s so hard about that?”
Three kids, two dogs, one cat, and a small business later I remember that toned, well-rested, naive, twenty-something version of myself and think, “bless her heart.”
Mathematically, it’s accurate that weight loss for moms is the same as it is for other people.
But moms have a LOT on their plates…and I’m not just talking about food.
And this endless list of tangible and invisible tasks can make it difficult to find the time, energy, and motivation to lose weight.
In this post, I’ll share some everyday struggles among moms trying to lose weight.
I’ll also share ten tips for making diet and exercise more effortless so that you can finally build some healthy habits that support weight loss!
Why do So Many Busy Moms Struggle to Lose Weight?
Why do so many busy moms struggle to lose weight?
Well, let’s see.
There’s the sleep deprivation, the housework, the scheduling and logistics, the sports and dance classes, the PTA meetings, the pets, the emotional heavy lifting, the shopping, the cooking, the appointments…
Oh, and let’s not forget any career outside of the house!
Weight loss takes time, energy, and (above all) consistency.
Finding the time and energy to devote to weight loss is challenging when you already cram a lot of activity into your days. It’s also difficult to stay consistent when your constantly dealing with scheduling hiccups!
Ten Weight Loss Tips for Busy Moms
Even when you’re tired and busy, there are a few things you can do to form the habits necessary to lose weight…without feeling like you’ve taken on another full-time job!
Set Realistic Expectations
Diets that promote fast fat loss typically require more of a time commitment than more gradual approaches.
They also tend to be more restrictive, making you more likely to regain weight once the diet ends. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not diet more than I have to!
A good rule of thumb: Aim to lose between 0.5 and 0.8 percent of your body weight per week. This will be between 0.9 and 1.4 pounds per week if you weigh 180 now, assuming you stay pretty consistent with your plan.
You could potentially lose a bit more, especially if you have a bit more weight to lose. But I’d recommend losing no more than one percent of your body weight per week if you want to keep that weight off.
Numbers aside, being realistic also means taking a hard look at your schedule and assessing whether you’re likely to follow through with your meal and exercise plans.
Are you really going to want to cook an elaborate dinner after a ten-hour workday, followed by a two-hour soccer practice?
Or, are you actually going to get that workout in between games four and five of that hockey tournament?
If the answer is no (or even maybe), consider a simpler plan that’s maybe a little less healthy but requires less time and energy.
Eat Moderately and Mindfully
I don’t know if your kids like to bake as much as mine, but I’ll tell you this: If my kid makes me cookies with love, I’m not about to turn them down.
And it’s not just the surprise baked goods. It’s also the birthdays, the classroom parties, and countless other events where treat foods are present.
You can white-knuckle your way through these occasions, or you can learn to eat moderately and mindfully.
Eating everything in moderation means enjoying foods you might feel are a little bit naughty without overindulging.
Mindful eating helps you tune into your body so that you’re thoroughly enjoying your food while also eating just enough (but not too much).
Both of these are learned practices that take time to develop. But I promise you, if you do the work, you can enjoy pretty much any food you love while also achieving your weight loss goals.
In fact, I start most weight loss clients who are fairly new to following diets with mindfulness and moderation. And, I think these strategies are a great start for weight loss for moms.
Start with Little Upgrades
Nobody’s perfect, which means that most of us have at least one or two things we do regularly that aren’t helping our weight loss efforts.
Let’s say you have a couple of cans of Coke each day. No judgment, but that might be some low-lying fruit you can pick off.
Can you cut back to one can per day (or have one regular and one diet) to start?
Do you have four cups of coffee with cream and sugar every morning? What about cutting back on the cream?
These little upgrades can make a HUGE difference when you make them every day.
Start with one or two and give it a couple of weeks. Add another when you feel pretty solid with the first change(s).
Skimping on sleep is one of the sneakiest ways you can sabotage your weight loss efforts.
Inadequate sleep wreaks havoc on the hormones that control your appetite and also make you more likely to give in to cravings.
Not convinced to give up your nightly Netflix binges? In a 2022 study, overweight adults who increased their time in bed from less than 6.5 hours up to 8.5 hours ate 270 fewer calories per day, on average.
To make the most of your weight loss efforts, you must aim for seven to nine hours per night.
So here’s the deal: To lose weight, you’ll need to create a calorie deficit.
In other words, you gotta burn more calories than you eat, and you have to be consistent about it.
A healthy diet is most important when you want to shed a few pounds, but the right types of exercise can also help!
Resistance training twice weekly (or ideally, more) can increase your metabolism, which means you’ll burn more calories at rest.
You can lift weights, of course. But you can also rep out bodyweight movements like pushups, squats, dips, and lunges while waiting for the kids at soccer practice.
In addition to pumping some iron, you need to stay active throughout the day.
Start by using your phone or an activity tracker to monitor your daily steps. If you’re not consistently getting 10,000 per day, try increasing by 1,000 weekly until you hit that target.
Fill Up on Protein and Veggies
You can still eat relatively healthy, even if your busy nights involve more drive-thru than you’d care to admit.
Here’s how: Fill up on protein and veggies.
Protein helps fill the belly and can also help build muscle when paired with a resistance training program.
Veggies also take up a lot of space in the stomach while contributing relatively few calories to the diet.
Grab a grilled chicken sandwich and a side salad (easy on the delicious toppings) if you’re on the go.
At home, try to fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables (anything but potatoes, corn, and peas–which you can enjoy in smaller amounts) at lunch and dinner.
Have a Plan (and a Backup Plan)
My most successful weight loss clients leave nothing to chance. And if you’re a busy mom who wants to shed a few pounds, you should do the same.
Weight loss for moms requires going into each week with a realistic meal plan, scheduling your workouts in your calendar, and having a training plan when you hit the gym.
Got all that stuff planned? Awesome.
Now make a plan B.
Look at your planned meals and workouts for the week, and think about any obstacles that might keep you from executing that plan. Next, form an “if-then” plan.
“If my daughter’s soccer team makes the tournament final, I’ll do some squats and pushups between games and get grilled nuggets and a salad from Chic Fil A.”
Your if-then plan is your next best option to stay on track.
And according to one study, people who made these plans stayed on track with an exercise plan 91 percent of the time, compared to 39 percent of those who didn’t.
Of course, do your best to stick to the original plan. Just be ready to pivot if life gets in the way (not that life EVER gets in the way when you have kids!).
Focus on What You Can Control
If I could map a direct path to diet hell, it would involve focusing entirely on scale weight (also, giving up carbs, but that’s another story).
Weight loss for moms (or anyone, really) rarely happens linearly.
Your weight might jump up a couple of pounds if you have PMS, if you eat a salty meal, or if you’re super constipated (among other reasons).
Thanks to changes in body water, your weight might also dip down if you’re dehydrated or eat really low-carb for a couple of days.
You cannot let the scale dictate your happiness and self-worth, even if you’re not seeing the desired results.
There also could be some changes happening under the surface that need some time to emerge. For example, your weight could increase if you gain muscle, and that’s a good thing in my humble opinion!
If you’d like to avoid making yourself crazy, focus on what you CAN control and try not to worry about what’s out of your power.
Instead of focusing on a number on a scale, see how many days in a month you hit your 10,000 steps, eat protein and veggies with each meal, or replace your second glass of wine with bubble water.
The scale will reflect your efforts if you give it time–I promise.
Don’t Feel Guilty for Prioritizing Yourself
You know how when you board a plane with your kids, they tell you to put your oxygen mask on before you help your kids with theirs?
The same could be said for taking care of your physical and mental health.
I’m not talking about neglecting your kids for hours on end so you can hit the gym, of course.
But saying that you don’t have to focus on health is a HUGE red flag that you need to prioritize yourself more.
Constantly putting others’ needs ahead of your own will leave you feeling burned out, which can manifest as other physical and mental health problems.
Carve out some time for yourself each day, mama. Take a 15-minute walk after dinner (alone, if you can swing it). Do something that makes you feel healthier.
Sometimes, just the act of taking time for yourself can snowball into massive change.
Get Some Help!
Feeling overwhelmed by the idea of adding weight loss to an already full agenda?
Perhaps you should consider hiring a registered dietitian!
In one study, people who worked with professional coaches were more than three times more likely to lose ten percent of body weight compared with those who don’t work with professional coaches.
A dietitian (cough cough, like me) can tell you exactly what you need to do to lose weight based on your body, your goals, your health history, and your lifestyle.
We also help you devise strategies to overcome any obstacles in the way of success.
Ready to get started? Click here to learn more about working with me!