Counting Calories for Nursing, Exercising and Losing Weight

This is a heavy post full of counting calories, numbers on the scale and diet talk. I have no problem sharing such things with you, but please be respectful and offer suggestions/advice (to me or anyone else) kindly. It is sometimes hard sharing your person life and opinions on the internet because you get all sorts of fun advice and comments, and it’s hard to be vulnerable at times. But I hope that what I share with you helps or encourages you in some way! Remember, I do what works for me, you do what works for you. I’m just sharing my story. 🙂

I want to talk a little about what my diet is going to look like these next four weeks (I take it 4 weeks at a time) as I do P90X and other exercises in my attempt to lose fat and train for a half marathon.  Diet is super important for fat loss and muscle tone. And, diet just happens to be the hardest thing for me, and I’m guessing for you too, as chocolate tends to have a lot of calories. But I am rather pleased that a Dove chocolate bar only has 210 calories which can fit into my daily slot nicely if I so choose.

I’ve decided that I’m going to start counting calories. I have counted calories before when trying to loes weight, and it worked. When I say count calories, I do mean roughly count. I do a lot of rounding up or down and a lot of estimating. But it is a general idea and I can tell which ball park range I’m in. I usually do good in the 1400-1600 calorie range.

Here are my current stats: 

Height: 5’2
Current Weight & 3 1/2 months postpartum: 140
Goal Weight: 125-130 I think. I honestly don’t know what the “perfect number” is for me and I’m really not too hung up on the number, but I think around 125/130 is where I want to be. Remember I’m just 5’2 so that is a realistic number for me. 🙂

{Your daily caloric needs is going to vary greatly on how tall/short you are, what you’re current weight is, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and what your current level of activity is. For example, someone who has a desk job and sits down for eight hours a day is going to need less than someone who works as a waitress and is walking around eight hours a day.}

Counting calories may be a tool in helping me lose weight, but honestly, I need to make sure I am eating enough as well.  There are many days when I’m just not that hungry! I  don’t feel like I need a lot of food, BUT enough calories is important for fat loss and (my biggest concern here) maintaining my milk supply so I can continue nursing Joshua.

When doing the Shred DVD I lost 5 pounds in about three weeks, but I also noticed that my milk supply suddenly dropped. As soon as I stopped the workouts, my supply came back. I did P90X for TWO days and on Friday I felt as though my milk supply dropped drastically. I had a huge lunch on Saturday and then presto- I’m back to workin’ it.  It’s hard to say if that supply increase/decrease is because of a change in exercise, not eating or drinking enough, a change in Joshua or maybe it’s all in my head.

It slightly terrifies me because I HAVE to exercise. I don’t care if it’s for weight loss or not, I just have to exercise for general health/happiness/feel good vibes, etc.

I feel like I’m on a rocky boat, because I need to eat enough to lose weight but also enough to maintain milk. It’s a tricky balance! That’s why I feel like counting calories, at least for a couple weeks to see where I’m at, might be really beneficial for me. It is sort of like a trial n’ error.

So my plan is to track my daily intake as much as possible. This isn’t something I could do, or ever want to do long term, but if it’s what I have to do for a month or two to figure things out with my body and help me lose weight, then I think it’s definitely worth it.

I am happy if I lose .5 – 1 pound a week. I did not weigh myself at all when I was pregnant (I made a big stink about it at my doctor appointments and most of the time didn’t look at the scale because I don’t care) and since then I have only weighed myself a handful of times. While counting calories I will be weighing myself once a week (and not a day more!) to see if I’m on the right track. 
My Plan: 


I’m going to start my daily calorie intake at 1,600 calories. I have no mathematical formula that told me that, it is just a number I chose based on the estimates and rough counting I have done before. I know that 1400-1600 calories a day is what WORKED for ME and kept me full and healthy, but I have never counted calories before while breastfeeding.  On days that I’m doing heavy exercise (like P90X and a hike in the snow, for example) I will eat a little more and on days where I don’t do any exercise at all, I will eat less. Because, that makes sense.

From there, I can adjust my caloric intake as needed. If I’m losing weight and keeping my baby well fed, then I know I’m right on track. If I notice my supply dropping, I know I might need to eat more. If I notice I’m gaining weight, then I’ll step back. You just figure it out as you go, yo.

I’m not going to get too hung up on it, but in general I want to increase my protein intake as well. I am also drinking 4 liters ( or a gallon) of water a day. This is NOT too much water. Too much water would be if I drank a gallon of water a day in one sitting or if I drank two gallons of water a day and didn’t do any activities. This is fine. Relax water police. I drink to thirst, I drink because it is healthy, I drink because it helps my skin look better and I drink because it helps me lose weight. H U G E weight loss factor for me personally. I don’t want to defend myself.. but I’m also breastfeeding and it’s dry outside so  I am thirsty! I easily drink a liter of water during my workouts, if not more.

{Side note – if you are trying to lose weight and don’t drink very much water, try upping the amount you drink and see if it’s “magic” for you!}

:: If you have any questions please let me know and I’ll do my best to answer! If you have any personal experience with counting calories, either while breastfeeding or not, please leave your words of advice for me and everyone else. I know a lot of us are trying to lose weight and figuring out how much to eat can be hard. If you’d like to share your stats as well (because seriously, a 5 foot person is going to need much less than a 6 foot person!) that might be helpful.

Be kind. Peace on earth to all good.

Published by Samantha Mellen

Certified personal trainer & health coach helping women transform their lives through fitness, abundant mindset coaching and internal peace. Mom of two boys, living life in Alaska.

9 thoughts on “Counting Calories for Nursing, Exercising and Losing Weight

  1. I've been working on this too. I have no idea what the magic amount is for me b/c this is the first time I've really counted calories, but this is my first week and I'm doing a baseline to see what I eat, then seeing what I can cut down from there and how that affects my supply.

    Why is drinking more water a “magic trick” for losing weight? Is it because it fills you up?

  2. I drink around 96oz of water a day and it really helps. I eat less and feel better when I drink all of my water. I'm tracking my calories at http://www.myfitnesspal. com and it's really helping. I'm nursing my 12 month old and haven't seen a supply problem and am averaging 1300 calories per day. (but my supply isn't as important as yours is because she's so much older than Joshua) I'm about 5'5 and weight a ton more than you 🙂 I've lost 15 pounds since I started tracking my calories.

  3. Just my two cents on the whole issue, but Weight Watchers Points system takes into account nursing and it worked great for me with both girls!! As for fitness I am really loving the Moms into Fitness program.

  4. Oh counting calories and nursing is so hard. It's hard to find that number that works for you. What I did when I was losing weight after Xander was to account for 30oz of milk a day at about 20 calories per ounce; 600 calories just for making milk per day. Then I added it to 1200 calories a day for someone that is as short as I am 5' 3″ to sustain. So I would eat a base of 1800 calories per day. I would add in and extra snack or two if I worked out one day.

    This time I have been using weight watchers online and I really like it so far. I'm losing about 1lb per week.

  5. I drink a lot of water and it does help with weight loss. I'm 5-months postpartum and I still have 5-10 pounds to lose. I had noticed that my weight loss has leveled off so I started drinking even more and…presto…the weight started going down again!

    Be careful with watching calories while breastfeeding. They say it takes 500-700 calories a day to nurse a baby. It sounds like you are being careful to monitor what you are eating and watching your supply, though, so you will be in tune to your body if you need more.

  6. Thinking about doing weightwatchers online too. I always lose weight but it's hard to stick with it long term. I'm only 3 weeks postpartum, but I have 35 pounds to loose. The plan to minimize my weight gain didn't go well.

  7. I was in the P90X boat and I had to stop the workouts and diet because I couldn't find the balance with enough calories and keeping my supply up. I also was drinking about a gallon daily, and following the “fat shredder” diet (level 1, if that helps)… My supply decreased over the week and I actually added nursing sessions in to keep it up, but it didn't work, so I just stopped altogether. My supply is normal again. I think I'm just going to wait until Isaiah is 9 months to start working out again, just for the sake of my supply.

  8. I really like dailyburn.com for counting calories. It's hard to know how many calories to eat while nursing/losing weight. I am due in 6 weeks, but when I can I am going to try to do a 1 pound weight loss per week with a ton of water. It's definitely a guessing game at first.

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