Lowering your standards
Trap 6: Now that you're a mom, you've relaxed your weight-control efforts.
You have more important things to think about than your shape, right? As you pour more of your time and energy into your kids, you may become more blasé about the circumference of your thighs or the love handles at your waist. To some extent, it's good to shift your focus away from the tyranny of the scale, but weight control is still crucial for your health. "I often see women accepting those extra five or ten pounds because life is so hectic," Zelman says. "They just can't deal with it."
To find the middle ground of sticking with a healthy diet and lifestyle without becoming obsessed about it, keep in mind the benefits of controlling your weight. If you're only a few pounds over your prepregnancy weight, it may not be worth worrying about -- as long as you're eating well and staying active. But if you're more than 10 percent over your ideal weight (for example, you weigh 154 when you should be at 139), try to do it slowly and steadily, losing no more than two pounds per week. You'll increase your chances of succeeding in the long run. Some programs, like Weight Watchers, promote gradual weight loss without restricting foods.
Trap 7: You're eating lots of junk because you're so busy.
Let's face it: Preparing nutritious, balanced meals can seem like a hassle. It's a whole lot easier to order take-out Chinese food or grab a hamburger and fries. But these habits can be hazardous to your waist and your health over the long run.
So make savvy choices by ruling out anything crispy or sweet and sour when ordering Chinese food and by picking items that are steamed or stir-fried instead, says Zelman. Request half the cheese and lots of veggies on a pizza (and no meat or meat only on half). At fast-food joints, hit the salad bar or order a grilled chicken sandwich with no mayo or a small burger without french fries.
In your freezer, keep some microwave meals from such brands as Healthy Choice and Lean Cuisine -- they're fast and low in calories and fat, and they're tasty enough to satisfy.
It's also a good idea to stock up on healthy staples that can be used to prepare meals quickly: frozen vegetables to toss into a stir-fry; spaghetti sauce to put on pasta or in tacos; a variety of sandwich fixings. Keep plenty of fresh fruit or carrot sticks in the fridge for snacks. It can be just as easy for you to shortcut with good nutrition as bad nutrition.
Ultimately, having the shape you want is a matter of being mindful about what you eat and seeking out opportunities to move your body as often as you can. I dropped the extra pounds that had crept on by cutting back on snacks and desserts, joining a gym with childcare, and setting up a twice-a-week running date with a neighbor who's also a mom. And now that I have a new baby, I already know what I need to do to get my shape back once he stops nursing.
Stacey Colino, a mom of two, wrote "Short on Sleep...," in the May 2003 issue.