NurtureMom Mothers Health and Family Support Resource Center - Low Stress Parenting with Teamwork
Home Directory
Practical Help
The Family Store
Resource Directory
About Us
Mother Nurture

Book Reviews, Endorsements and References for Mother Nurture

Mother Nurture

© Rick Hanson, Ph.D. and Jan Hanson, L.Ac. 2001, 2002, 2003

Losing Weight

It's three years since I became a mom, and I just can't seem to lose about fifteen extra pounds Over the years, .I've tried the usual diets, and they maybe work for awhile, but I always go back to wherever I started. Plus now there's Cassie and we're so busy that it just happens that a lot of the time I grab a bagel or a slice of cold pizza and call it a meal.

About the only semi-positive feature of Jan's long slide into depletion after becoming a mom (you may have read her story in our book) was that she lost a good deal of weight, ending up about twenty-five pounds lighter than she was on her wedding day. But hers was an unusual situation - and she'd have traded the weight-loss "benefit" in a heartbeat for becoming less depleted!

The typical mom weighs about ten pounds more than a woman the same age without children. It's easy to get there: the stress and hurly-burly of raising kids makes us reach for quick comfort foods, and who's got time for preparing super-nutritious meals?!

Sure, you don't want to be a nut about weight loss, whether it's yo-yo dieting or extremes like bulimia or anorexia. But about one woman in three is considered, by current medical standards, to be overweight - and excess weight is associated with many health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, colon cancer, and gallbladder disease. Besides, being overweight can make you feel embarrassed around others, uncomfortable making love, and bad about a fundamental aspect of yourself.

The formula for getting to and then staying at a healthy weight is simple: regular exercise and a high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet. Frankly, anything else is a gimmick. Here's how:

  • Three or four days a week, exercise for twenty or thirty minutes to the point that you're sweating. If you did nothing but exercise every other day for half an hour and cut your daily calories by five percent, you'll lose about two pounds a month, or twenty-plus pounds in a year. Plus it will be easier to maintain your weight since now you've got more muscle mass, which uses up more calories, and your overall metabolic rate-how fast your body burns calories-will be greater.

  • Eat lots of protein and vegetables, and minimal carbohydrates (e.g., sugar, bread products, pasta). Forget the Food Pyramid: it's an unscientific gimmick perpetrated by the agriculture industry that has led America to be the fattest nation in the world. For resources, look to The Zone Diet by Barry Sears, or the various books on the Atkins diet. And don't get fixated on "low-fat" unless you have significant cardiovascular disease risk factors: We've found that a focus on "low fat" just drives people's intake of carbohydrates up.

    This high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet has important benefits besides weight loss: it eliminates gluten foods that many people are allergic to, it helps stabilize insulin metabolism and thus lower the risk of Type II diabetes, and it prompts people to eat more vegetables which are chock full of vital nutrients.

  • If you're not pregnant or breastfeeding, try carnitine, a natural nutrient. Carnitine encourages the body to metabolize fat, plus it can boost your energy. Take it in the morning, before eating, following the instructions on the bottle. You can get this supplement on our website,, or at many health food stores.

  • Drink at least eight glasses of water a day; besides filling you up, water helps eliminate the toxins in fat cells that are released when you lose weight.

  • Know the enemy! Face the fact that certain foods - or food habits like snacking while watching TV - could be addictive for you. The foods that are most addictive - sugar, gluten grains (wheat, oats, rye, and barley), and dairy products - are exactly the ones (alas!) that will put the most pounds on. Plus many people actually have an allergy to these foods as well.

    Jan has seen many people lose lots of weight and feel enormously better when they stop eating sugar, gluten, and dairy - it's her primary prescription for weight loss. We know it's a tall order, but try an experiment of a couple weeks and we bet you'll be happy with the results. If you can start to deal with yourself like an addict with regard to these foods, life gets easy. Get them out of your world - like an alcoholic in recovery gets rid of the booze in the garage. Consider Overeaters Anonymous, for general purposes, and check out The False Fat Diet, by Elson Haas, M.D., for how the body can get hooked on foods to which it is actually allergic.

  • Be good to yourself. For example, focus more on your health than your appearance. Everyone wants to be healthy, but there are a lot of mixed feelings about beauty. Women who are nice to themselves reach their weight-loss goals with less of a struggle than women who are mad at themselves for "being fat." If you take a little side trip from your personal program-or a major detour through the forbidden continent-don't be harshly self-critical, which just makes diet-busting comfort foods more appealing than ever. Get back on your program the next day.

    Try to increase the nice things in the nonfood parts of your life, like more cuddles with your kids, a fantastic new novel, or a deepening of your relationship with your husband. Give yourself rewards along the way, like permission to linger in the shower or a new pair of pants that fit great.

  • Avoid relapses. Rebound weight gain is very discouraging; a friend of Jan's once said, sighing, I've lost two hundred pounds, but it was the same twenty, over and over again. Once you've gotten to a weight you like, you could write a letter to yourself-to be opened if you're tempted to overeat-that talks about how good you feel and look when you're trim. If you start down the slippery slope of eating the wrong things, try to have the warning bells ring loudly inside your head; tell someone if you're starting to slip, and go back and do the things that worked for you the last time you lost weight.

(Rick Hanson is a clinical psychologist, Jan Hanson is an acupuncturist/nutritionist, and they are raising a daughter and son, ages 12 and 14. With Ricki Pollycove, M.D., they are the authors of Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships, published by Penguin. You can see their website at or email them with questions or comments at; unfortunately, a personal reply may not always be possible.)