Losing the Postpartum Chub: How I Lost 13lbs in 13 weeks

boston-portrait-photographer-1As every woman who’s carried a child knows, losing the postpartum baby weight is HARD.  Some women miraculously bounce back to themselves in a few months, but for most of us mere mortals it requires attention, effort, and dedication to return to your prior shape.  Last September, I found myself with 10 lbs of baby weight still hanging on, 9 months after giving birth.  In my mind, losing the weight wasn’t just about getting back to a number – it was about changing the trajectory of my long-term health.  I knew that if I didn’t lose the jiggle around my middle, I would find myself at much higher risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke in the next decade.  Weight gain in your 30’s compounds quickly – starting at age 40, the average American woman gains a pound a year.  That means by my late 40’s I would have been about 25 lbs heavier than I was when I got pregnant.  I want to live a long, healthy life with my family and continue to ninja my way through my photography career, and so it was time to DO SOMETHING.

As of today, I’m proud to say that I’ve lost 13 lbs in the last 13 weeks, and 1.5″ around my waist.  I want to share with all of you how I’m doing it, and how YOU can do it too.

A little background on how I got to this point: most of my pregnancy I maintained a healthy weight, partly because my work encouraged me to keep moving.  The last 6 weeks of my pregnancy, however, I felt like I doubled in size overnight.  I was incredibly swollen, and remember gaining 8 lbs between two of my weekly appointments.  Things were going south fast, but I knew the end was near.

After Wyatt was born last December, I was breast feeding roughly 75% of his meals, and for the next 5 months, that kept the weight flowing off of me.  I remember one day last spring, I stepped on the scale and found I was only a few pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight.  And then I stopped breast feeding.  And it started piling back on.  At first I sort of ignored it, and figured I had a little too much pizza and beer.  But then it kept coming, and no matter what I did, I couldn’t shake it.  I was determined to make a change, but I needed a plan that would work for my body and lifestyle, and a way to be held accountable.

Enter Christen and Johnny, two of my KKP Lifers getting married next spring (check out their sweet faces below).  We had brunch over Memorial Day weekend and got to chatting about food and fitness.  They told me about a diet they were both on called 5-2, and a trainer that Christen had been working with at home, Blake Leshnick.  Christen said she had lost 3 dress sizes over a few months through strength training and changing her mentality on consumption.  She was happy and energetic.  I looked down at my cider donut, and knew our affair was over.  I called Blake that day, and we started working together 2 weeks later.

karen-kelly-photography-engaged-12The amazing thing about Blake is that he is INCREDIBLY knowledgeable about body mechanics, how all your systems work together, and best of all, is relentless in finding ways to help you achieve your goals.  My left knee is a like a boxer in the third round, and I can’t do a lot of typical strength training because of pain.  He has found a way around every obstacle I have thrown in front of him, and he does it all with a smile (see below). That’s him in my little gym at home where we train.

boston-portrait-photographer-3Blake had recommended that I set up long term and short term goals for myself, so we did that on the first day.  Things like drinking at least 60 ozs of water a day, getting 7500 steps in a day, and weight loss – first 5, then 10, then 20 lbs.  He also encouraged me to get a took like a Fitbit to help me track what I’m eating and my movement every day.  The watch also syncs to an app on your phone, so you can add foods you’ve eaten, water consumed, and get stats on your sleep and your heart rate.  I sorta love the face on the Fitbit Blaze watch because at a glance it not only tells you the time, but also how close you are to your daily goal for steps.  Like a good soldier, I did all of the above.  And I think this is a crucial point – I was ready to make a change.  If I wasn’t motivated, this would be a total uphill battle.  And now, the hard part.  The diet.


The 5:2 diet involves restricting your calorie consumption to 25% of your energy (calorie) needs, two days a week (fasting), and eating normally the rest of the time.  Mathematically here’s how this works: there are 3500 calories in a pound, so assuming you eat 1800 – 2000 calories on your 5 non-fast days, and 500 calories on your fast days, you will cut 3500 calories from your diet a week.  Thus, losing a pound a week.

One of the best parts of this lifestyle diet is that intermittent fasting is thought to help your body repair its cells, which may help prevent diseases including heart disease, stroke, dementia, type 2 diabetes and cancer.  My blood pressure had also jumped 10 – 15 points since prior to pregnancy, and I knew weight loss would help me return to a healthy number.

Initially I was worried I might binge eat the day after fasting.  I mean, you’ve got to be STARVING by then, right!?  Wrong.  There was a relatively quick shift for me in the way I thought about food when I started this diet, and essentially I now wake up every day in a fasting mentality, whether I’m fasting or not.  In other words, the days when I fast have taught me a lot about my eating behavior.  I have become incredibly cognizant of what I need to eat to not be hungry, the exact caloric makeup of what I’m putting in my mouth, and best of all, motivated by the fact that this is actually WORKING.  I have an abundance of energy that I haven’t had in years.  I eat far less in general than I used to, and my diet is 75% salad, vegetables, yogurt, eggs, chicken and water.   Sound boring?  It’s really not.  There’s so many ways to serve up those ingredients.  Dessert happens once in awhile, but mostly I don’t want it anymore.  Here’s me at the beginning (right), and when I crossed the 10 lb weight loss mark (left).


Let me be totally honest about the 500 calorie fast.  I almost never stick to it.  I usually end up around 600 or 700 on my fast days, but my eating has improved so much on my non-fast days, that the additional calories even out. Once I reach my goal weight (another 7 to go!) I will likely switch to a 6-1 schedule.  I firmly believe that much of my success is simply about motivation, and finding the right mix of tools.  If you’re looking for an in-home trainer who will guide your health through personalized fitness and nutritional plans, I highly recommend Blake.  I think he has a waiting list so…act fast.

Thank you to all my friends and family who are supporting me in this endeavor.  It might be the most important one I ever take on.

(Shot this morning, 13 lbs lost)


Karen is a Boston-based photographer specializing in documenting and preserving family history.  You can see more of her work online at www.kkpforlife.com, on Instagram or on Facebook.  If you’d like to contact her directly, you can find her at karen@kkpforlife.com.

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