Weight loss is hard. Weight loss for busy, working moms is even harder. Add kids, a job, and a family to the mix, and it feels near impossible. With all of the misinformation surrounding healthy eating and diets that set unreasonable weight loss goals, you can unintentionally be setting yourself up for failure.
Weight loss takes work, no doubt. In fact, I still struggle to lose weight and keep it off. It’s been much harder after having two kids.
In this article, I want to talk about weight loss for busy, working moms. I’ll discuss a few of my favorite weight loss tips, my favorite foods that promote satiety, and how to start living a healthy life as a busy mom.
Full Disclaimer: You won’t find any magic cures, supplement suggestions, or fad diets here.
How Many Calories Should I Cut to Start Losing Weight?
This answer depends on a lot of factors. It depends on your physical activity level, height, current weight, genetics, etc.
The Academy of Nutrition And Dietetics recommends cutting 500-1000 calories from your current intake to safely lose 1-2 pounds per week. You can do this by combining exercise with reducing calorie intake. For example, you can cut 250 calories from your daily intake and burn another 250 through exercise each day.
You can use this equation to find out how many calories you need to maintain your current weight:
Your Current Weight x 15 = The number of calories you need daily to maintain your weight if you are moderately active.
For example, if you are 160 pounds, you can maintain your weight by eating around 2,400 calories per day. If you subtract 500-1000 calories from this, you’ll end up with 1,400-1,900 calories per day to lose 1-2 pounds each week. It’s important to note that this is a very general statement for moderately active individuals who already are getting at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. To get a better estimate of your daily calorie needs, consider making an appointment with a dietitian.
8 Tips For Weight Loss For Busy Working Moms
1. Plan Meals Ahead of Time
I can’t stress this enough. Planning meals ahead of time can help take the guesswork out of last-minute meal decisions. If you’re like me—I get hangry— when I’ve been without food for too long. For example, if I’m at work and haven’t brought my own lunch I end up straight in the cafeteria getting a meal I’ll regret soon after the hunger subsides. Planning meals can also help you develop long-term healthy habits to help you lose weight.
Here are a few key tips when planning meals ahead of time:
- I like to plan my meals and snacks for the week on Saturday morning, make my grocery list, and get my groceries on Sunday morning.
- When planning, try to decide if you want to cook every night, every other night, or batch cook on Sunday for the entire week.
- If you are wondering how many calories you should plan for, there are many calculators available online. However, it’s best to speak with a registered dietitian for a completely individualized plan.
- I personally love healthy casseroles and sheet pan meals because they are easy to divide up and simple to cook.
- I love the online shopping apps or use a grocery pickup because it’s convenient and saves me hours grocery shopping.
2. Meal Prep
If I don’t meal prep the Sunday before, my entire week gets thrown off. I try to stick with my meal plan as best as I can during the week and eat the foods I’ve prepped ahead of time.
I try my hardest to avoid the foods my picky eaters at home are eating. I’ve found having meals already made has really helped me.
If you’re new to prepping meals, you can start very simple and prepare larger quantities of lean protein for a few days. That way, you’ll only have to prepare sides with it for dinner when the time comes.
The best meal prep tips for weight loss for busy, working moms:
- Start by meal prepping healthy snacks
- Make freeze-ahead meals for variety during the week
- Find a place to store all of your favorite meals and recipes
- Set aside a meal prep time and stick with it
- Use your crock pot when you don’t have time to stand in front of a stove
3. Reduce Stress
According to a survey by The American Psychological Association, around 25% of Americans rate their stress levels as at least an 8 on a 10 point scale. As busy moms, we have so much on our plate. This leads to high-stress levels. When we are stressed for long periods of time, our adrenal glands release a stress hormone called cortisol.
If our stress levels stay high, so do cortisol levels. This leads to increased appetite and cravings, which can put a serious damper on your weight loss journey. Do you notice that you go for “comfort food” in times of stress? I know I do. Whenever we eat high-fat, high sugar foods, our stress levels often seem to subside temporarily.
Though in today’s world, it’s impossible to completely eliminate stress, there are a few things I’ve discovered to really help calm me down in times of stress and anxiousness.
- Meditation: I like using an app on my phone or TV.
- Exercise: Taking a long jog walk is my favorite way to relax and clear my mind. I’m working on trying yoga, but it’s hard for me to really be able to sit still and focus. (any tips you have, send them my way!)
- Seek out a friend or therapist: Sometimes, it’s just good to have someone to talk to. Thanks to technology, there’s plenty of online therapists you can safely confide in to discuss stress-relieving techniques. Having a strong support system is also a plus!
4. Make Time to Workout, But Don’t Overdo It
Seriously, one of the things most people won’t tell you is the negative effects of cutting calories while over-exercising. I personally struggled with this. It led me to binge-eating on anything I could find later in the day because I had worked out intensely and not eaten enough.
It wasn’t until I learned to find a healthy combination of working out and a healthy diet that I found success.
You can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Weight loss is about 80% of what you eat, and 20% exercise.
With that said, physical activity is a key component of a healthy lifestyle and can certainly help you lose weight.
I always tell my clients to start with 20-30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 3 to 5 days a week. You don’t have to exercise for an extended period of time every day to see results.
If you’re like me, the gym membership was the first thing that went out of the door when I had my first child. With my husband being away from work and very little family around, it was impossible to make time to leave to go to the gym.
Here’s a few of my favorite workout tips for busy moms:
- Workout or take a walk during your lunch hour at work
- Buy hand weights at the store and use an on-demand workout program. I personally love Peloton ON Demand. I used it strictly for their strength workouts until I saved up to purchase my bike and saw great results.
- Dance around in the living room with your kids. I’ve turned on Just Dance more times than I can count. The whole family gets to be active, burn calories, and have fun!
- If you’re a morning person, establish an early morning workout routine.
- Consider joining other busy moms and forming an exercise group. This can help with accountability and can let you socialize and de-stress, too!
- Seek out a gym with a daycare.
5. Eat Whole Foods
If you compare 100 calories worth of broccoli to 100 calories of chips, you’re going to get significantly more food (and nutrients!) with the broccoli. I like my foods to have volume. If you eat a pack of pop tarts for breakfast, you’ll be eating around 400 calories.
While this isn’t too many calories at breakfast, you’re way more likely to be starving before lunch if you eat 400 calories worth of pop tarts than, let’s say, two boiled eggs and avocado toast.
So, while daily calories in vs. calories out is a basic concept of losing body weight, the quality of the calories you eat means everything when you’re trying to lose weight.
Focus on lean meat, whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. (If you or your kids are picky eaters, I suggest checking out my favorite vegetables for picky eaters) I never suggest eliminating any food group in meal plans. This includes your favorite treats. Eating your favorite foods in moderation should always be allowed!
The BEST foods for weight loss for busy working moms that won’t leave you starving
- Boiled eggs
- String cheese
- Leafy greens
- Brown rice
- Lean beef/chicken
- Greek yogurt
6. Eat More Protein
Protein can help you feel full because it takes longer to digest than carbohydrates. Studies show that diets high in protein and fiber can help you lose weight.
We burn calories from protein faster than calories from other sources. You can expect to burn 25-30% of the calories you eat from protein just from your body digesting it.
A good rule of thumb is to 15-30% of your total calories. Studies suggest the higher end of this range may be best for weight loss. One study, in particular, showed that a diet high in protein (~30% of calories) led to a greater fat loss than a high-carbohydrate, high-fiber diet.
Good sources of protein include eggs, turkey, chicken breast, beans, lentils, and soy products.
7. Limit Alcohol
This is one I struggle with as a busy mom. At the end of a long, busy day, I like to enjoy a glass (or a few) of wine after the kids get in bed. However, I have gotten away from this and try to limit it to a few glasses per week.
Sure, you can fit the calories in your meal plan, but alcohol can put a damper on your weight loss goals.
This is because, in addition to the extra calories it provides, alcohol also can relax you and decrease your inhibitions leading to you snacking before bed. One study found that participants who consumed alcohol ate 12% more calories compared to those who did not drink alcohol.
8. Stay Hydrated
Water naturally suppresses your appetite. While you don’t want to skip meals and drink water to decrease hunger pangs, it’s a good idea to ensure you stay hydrated throughout the day to avoid false alarms.
Drinking enough fluids is also important to let waste pass through your body and rid yourself of any waste you could be retaining that could add on a few extra pounds of bloat.
Consider carrying a refillable bottle of water with you throughout the day. I like the HUGE ones that you fill up in the morning and carry with you throughout the day.
A good rule of thumb is to drink 1mL of fluid per calorie you take in. For example, if you eat 1,600 calories a day, you should drink at least 1,600 mL (54 oz) of water.
Between leading a busy life, having a long to do list, and trying to keep tiny humans alive, weight loss for busy, working moms is hard. Sometimes, we get so caught up in being superwoman that we often forget about our own health.
The good news is, there are a few simple ways to swap old, unhealthy habits with new habits that will help you live a healthy lifestyle and can result in weight loss without having to obsess about it.
Remember the old saying, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Weight loss doesn’t happen overnight, but if you stay motivated and take a slow, healthy approach to weight loss, you’ll be much happier than signing up for a quick fix that leaves you deprived and moody.