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Battling 'baby fat' on moms

Angelina Jolie is the latest one. There she is on the cover of US Weekly just 11 weeks after giving birth to twins looking, of course, stunning and thin and claiming that exercise just wasn't the answer for her.

Like Jolie, celebrity moms make losing baby weight look easy, and increasingly their quick, post-birth weight loss is touted as, if not exactly the norm, at least the ideal.

"It's really frustrating because it's not reality," said Shannan Felix, a self-proclaimed "Chubbie Chica" from Richmond who has created a blog at www.chubbiechica.blogspot.com to help inspire other mothers to lose baby weight sensibly.

But Felix, a mother of five kids who successfully lost 65 pounds after one baby only to discover she was pregnant again, finds herself falling into the comparison trap.

"Yeah, you are envious. You can get caught up in that fantasy world."

Here are some things to remember if you're struggling with some additional post-pregnancy weight: Most celebrity moms have already won the genetic lottery, have personal trainers and the money to spend on specialized diets. Plus, getting fit and looking good is essentially one of their job requirements. So keep in mind that they are automatically at the high end of whatever scale measures the ability to lose baby weight.

Many moms do experience significant weight loss immediately after birth because they drop the weight of the baby, the placenta and amniotic fluid, said Doraine Bailey, breastfeeding support services coordinator for the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.

But the body has been altered to do its job — taking care of the newborn. And changing that takes time.

Most of the extra fat added to the body during pregnancy is preparation of breast feeding, she said. Fat accounts for about half the calories in breastmilk. Mothers who are exclusively breastfeeding will start to lose body fat about 15 days after giving birth.

Non-breastfeeding moms, will need to follow a sensible diet of between 1,500 and 1,800 calories a day and can expect to lose between ½ a pound to 1 pound a week, she said.

So, Halle Berry and Jennifer Lopez may be bikini ready in three weeks, but the more reasonable expectation is that if it took nine months to put on the weight it is likely to take nine months to take it off, said Dr. Wendy Hansen, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Kentucky.

The body undergoes a tremendous change during pregnancy, she said. For example, blood volume increases by 50 percent.

While the celebrity moms in the news are presented, on the whole, as adjusting seamlessly to their new role, most new mothers have to adjust to a new body. That can take time.

"There is a real awkwardness with your body image. It really changes how you think about yourself," she said.

At the same time, new moms are adjusting to their role as mother and all it entails. Taking care of yourself can sometimes take a backseat to taking care of the new little life in front of you, she said.

"You just lose yourself in motherhood," said Felix, whose son is nearly 2. "He totally turned my life upside down."

Bailey said finding an exercise routine that includes the baby, such as a stroller or water workout or mom and baby yoga, can be a great way to bond with the baby and get a workout.

Felix has found solace on the Web. Blogging is a way to both encourage others and make herself accountable for the food choices she makes.

"It's just about forcing myself to make good choices," she said.

The most important thing, said Hansen, is that mothers are patient with themselves. If the weight is not coming off as quickly as they'd like, she said, a six-week check up is a good time to discuss options with your doctor.

But don't stress, she said,

"We can't all be a size two," she said. "That's just not the real world."

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