Love handles? Don't blame the baby - WNEM TV 5

Love handles? Don't blame the baby

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Blaming those extra pounds on baby weight? Researchers say your little bundle of joy may not be the reason for those love handles.

An associated professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing found that age and mom’s lifestyle were actually at fault for expanding waistlines.

In the study, Olga Yakusheva examined the long-term weight gain of childbearing women compared to expected weight gain for women without kids.

She and her team looked at data from roughly 30,000 women who’d given birth between one and four times.

They found while most women never returned to their pre-pregnancy weight, their weight at 1-2 years after giving birth was nearly identical to what they could have been expected to weigh if they didn’t have children.

Researchers believe the mother’s lifestyle is the main reason for weight gain.

"Mothers tend to put the needs of their children first, so they might not be exercising or taking care of themselves," Yakusheva said. "It might also be little things like finishing the food on their child's plate or spending more time sitting with their kids reading or watching a movie."

The study also found women with and without children gained 1.94 pounds a year due to age. However, once children became toddlers, the mothers gained a full pound more a year than their childless peers.

Yakusheva said the findings should not make mothers feel guilty.

"Understanding the demands of motherhood and age-related weight gain is important for promoting positive expectations of body image after pregnancy," she said. "As long as women are healthy, that is what matters."

Instead, researchers want to break the myth of lingering baby weight as a reason for being overweight.

"Many women really crank up their diet and exercise for a short time to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight, and often get discouraged by the results. But it's much better to take a holistic approach focused on a long-term healthy lifestyle before, during and after pregnancy," Yakusheva said.

Yakusheva is hoping the study will encourage doctors to counsel women about age-related weight changes and to make them aware of subtle ways parenthood could worsen these changes. 

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