I’m normally not a strict dieter. I don’t believe in it. Eating a healthy diet and exercising are vitally important, to be sure, but life is too short not to thoroughly enjoy the occasional chocolate Martini or Hostess Sno Ball. So I follow the “80-20″ rule: I eat clean 80 percent of the time, and the other 20, I eat what I want guilt-free.
My attitude toward food, weight and self image weren’t always so healthy, but over the course of the last several years, I came to a few realizations:
1. If my doctor is OK with my weight, then I should be OK with it, too. He doesn’t give a you-know-what what size my jeans are; his only concern is that I’m healthy. Which is as it should be.
2. If I meet my own standards for reasonable attractiveness and physical fitness, then I’m not going to tear my hair out worrying about those last 10 pounds. I have more important things to think about.
(No, I will not tell you what those standards are, not because I’m ashamed of them – I absolutely am not and will, when not pregnant or postpartum, happily tell anyone what I weigh – but because they’re MY standards, not anyone else’s. Some people are funny about weight and body image, and I don’t want to write anything that might make it worse for someone than it already is.)
3. Speaking of attractiveness, it’s really unattractive to spend too much time thinking about yourself and how you look. If someone doesn’t like me or makes fun of me because I’m heavier than they think I should be, that’s their problem, not mine. My weight shouldn’t be the topic of anyone else’s conversation anyway.
Toward the end of my pregnancy, my self-image was pretty lousy. But I guess that’s understandable. Let’s face it, it’s hard to feel sexy in the slightest when a trip to Target leaves you exhausted, you have to pee every single time you stand up and you’ve outgrown even your MATERNITY clothes. But I wasn’t too worried about it. I had a plan to lose the baby weight after Harper was born, and I started watching what I ate even before we left the hospital.
Admittedly, my expectations for myself were unrealistic, but that’s a pretty common rookie mistake. Regardless, I was eating healthily, exercising and losing weight. While it was definitely going to take more than “six or eight weeks,” I was off to a good start at shedding what remained of the 55 pounds (yes, 55) that I gained while I was pregnant with Harper.
(I lost 19 within a few days of giving birth. Harper weighed 7 pounds, 11 ounces, and the rest was retained fluid, etc.)
I was “dieting” (I hate that word, because the way I eat is a way of life, not a “diet,” but I guess that’s the most efficient way to describe my now-much-more-conservative eating habits) during the holidays, but even that wasn’t a problem. I just made a few rules for myself:
–No commercial junk food (i.e., no Hershey’s Kisses, holiday Oreos, store-bought eggnog, etc.).
–If someone gave me homemade treats, I tasted each one, enjoyed them, then passed the leftovers on to someone else.
–On Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, I allowed myself one indulgence (usually dessert) at one meal.
That’s stricter than normal for me, but then again, I’ve never had to lose this much weight before. It worked, though – I managed to keep losing throughout the holidays.
Until shortly after the start of the new year, when my weight loss stopped. In the month and a half or so since bringing Harper home from the hospital, I had lost eight pounds (a little slower than my normal rate of loss, but still pretty good), but now the scale refused to budge.
Well, I thought, I must be eating more than I think I am. Time to tighten the reins.
OK, let’s keep a food journal for a few days just to be sure.
I tried a cleanse.
Huh. Fine, I’ll cut out a few more carbs.
And then the number on the scale starting going UP.
I had eliminated almost all sources of carbohydrates from my diet. I was exercising as much as I could, given that I still had to take care of the baby, work, run the household and pay a little attention to my husband. And I was still GAINING weight.
I went to see my OB in early February, and by then, I was only three pounds down from the weight I was the day we brought Harper home. I took The Guy with me to testify that I was NOT one of those people who bemoans the fact that she can’t lose weight while eating fried chicken and ice cream every day. Meanwhile, exercising was getting even harder. I developed tendonitis in my left knee because, at five feet, four inches tall with a smallish frame, I’m simply not built to weigh that much.
The OB ran a number of tests, none of which indicated that anything was wrong. I was even further demoralized, not to mention hungry. I cried every single day.
The Guy and I scoured the Internet, to no avail. I even saw a psychiatrist to see if he thought my OCD medication might be to blame. He assured me that was extremely unlikely.
My plan of last resort was a diet doctor in Sugarland, TX, who is not covered by our health insurance. At that point, though, The Guy was willing to pay almost any price imaginable to put an end to the daily crying jags that inevitably began when I had to get dressed to go anywhere.
The Guy was getting ready to kiss his line of credit goodbye when suddenly, and without any obvious explanation, the weight rapidly began to come off again. In the last 11 days, I’ve lost a little over nine pounds and counting.
My personal theory (and as you may or may not know by now, I have the least scientific mind of anyone you’ll ever meet, so take this for what it’s worth) is that my body finally figured out it isn’t pregnant anymore. At almost the same time the first of those nine pounds came off, I started growing hair on my legs again, and my hair, which had, like a lot of women’s, become extremely thick and heavy while I was pregnant, started shedding the way it used to before I got pregnant.
It’s easy for me to understand why some women just give up and never really lose the baby weight. I assure you, I didn’t keep dieting because of any superior willpower; like so many things with me, it was the sheer force of pathological stubbornness.
So why tell you this besides to relay my own personal horror story? Because according to my doctor, this is just one of a hundred versions of “normal” where pregnancy and the postpartum period are concerned. Some people lose all the weight immediately without even trying; some take “nine months to put it on, nine months to take it off”; some lose weight like crazy while breastfeeding; others can’t lose weight until they stop breastfeeding. And still others turn themselves inside out trying to lose weight to no avail until one magical, random day in February, the stars align and the pounds start to come off with no apparent explanation whatsoever.
What’s even more interesting is that a person’s ability to lose weight post-pregnancy doesn’t seem to correlate with how easy it was for her to lose weight before. I’ve never had any problem losing weight as long as I was even halfway disciplined about it, but friends who’ve struggled with weight all their lives lost their baby weight without even seeming to try.
All I know is I’m happy my hard work is finally starting to pay dividends. Only nine pounds gone, and my knee is pretty much healed. I already have more energy, and more items from my old wardrobe are starting to fit again. And that feels pretty good.
I really want Harper to grow up with the positive example of a healthy mom who feels good about herself, and I’m going to do my best to give it to her.
Your walking, yoga-ing and Xbox-Kinect-ing