Oof. This is a scary post to write. I mean, I posted pictures of my stretch marks before and my deflated body about a week postpartum but talking numbers is a little more daunting. Julie inspired me, what can I say?
(This post—she’s a long one, so more after the break.)
Anyway, some back story. I’ve been 6 feet tall since I was about 13 and I have no idea what I weighed then. I don’t remember. By the end of high school, I was in the upper 130’s. And I was skinny. It’s so funny looking back at high school photos now because at the time I know I was fussing about this body part or that body part, but then I see pictures and want to punch my 17-year-old self in the face. I gained some muscle during my last year of high school and the summer after from doing lots of cycling and when I went to college, I weighed about 140-150 and stayed within 145-160 for the next four years.
The mid-20’s are a rude awakening. It’s like your body giving you a little taste of how things are gonna go for the next 20 years or so. A gradually slowing metabolism. A general thickening that doesn’t go away unless it’s worked off or dieted off. No longer could I eat crap and write it off the same way I used to be able to and that was a sad realization. Having a significant other who eats like a racehorse and thinks three Zebra Cakes is a pretty fun breakfast didn’t help either. From the time I graduated to when I got pregnant, it was a slow, steady gain.
My highest weight (other than while pregnant) was actually about six months or so before I found out I was pregnant. I had stopped working out regularly and was generally enjoying the slug life. I think I was in denial, thinking that at some point the 21-year-old metabolism might kick back in. About three months before I discovered I was pregnant, I took a pretty drastic measure and started dieting. (The Dukan Diet.) If you’re wondering if it works, it does. I think I lost 7 pounds in two weeks or something like that. I don’t think I’d ever do it again, but it did show me just how little protein I was getting prior to the diet. Brandon and I were both raised vegetarian and rarely cooked meat at home and it was/is easy for us to fall into a carb-heavy routine. My highest weight before starting the diet was 175—the highest weight I’d been to date. (Here’s a photo.) When I found out I was pregnant, after dieting for just over two months, my weight was 160. I’d also been working out during that time more than I had in a couple years. As in, I was actually working out. Here’s a photo for reference—I was pregnant here but didn’t know it yet. You get the idea.
So, here’s where things get crazy. My weight gain was pretty normal throughout my pregnancy. Then, in the last 10 or so weeks, it started getting out of control. I was retaining a lot of water and was really swollen and bloated. Thank god it wasn’t July. December was bad enough. My weight gain got so rapid that my midwife would double check my blood pressure (it was always excellent) and they had me redo the glucose test a couple times (was always normal) because she didn’t believe that I couldn’t have preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. By 30 weeks pregnant I was too uncomfortable to continue with the low-impact cardio I’d been doing, so my exercise routine did drop off. I was still doing yoga and I walked about 2-3 miles a day. Didn’t matter! I looked like a sausage.
I’ve said before that I gained about 50 pounds while pregnant. You do the math. Guess how much I weighed 40 hours before Isobel was born?
The first time I saw a “2” in front of my weight at the midwife clinic, I didn’t want to tell her what it was. They had us weigh ourselves privately and then tell them the number. Sure, that’s fine—less embarrassing in a way. But then I still had to tell her the number! Imagine me standing on that scale. It was an old-school scale, the one with the sliders. I tinkered with those sliders for a good five minutes. Brandon was out in the waiting room and after our appointment, he asked me what I had been doing with the scale because all he heard was “Clink! CLINK! Clink clink” coming from the bathroom as I frantically tried to salvage my wracked body image. I was like, okay, don’t panic. You’re wearing heavy shoes. I took off my shoes. Wait, I haven’t peed yet! I am storing AT LEAST 30 POUNDS OF URINE, YES?
It was a bad day. My very first thought after we left that appointment (and after I’d told Brandon to shut up when he asked me about the scale) was that I would never, ever fit into anything in my closet ever again. No way. I was done for. I berated myself. How could I have let it reach this level? My weight gain had been normal and honestly, I hadn’t cared seeing the numbers tick up. I had loved being able to wear tight clothes and bikinis through the summer and fall without caring if I was sucking my stomach in or what my thighs looked like. The weight gain hadn’t mattered until that moment on the scale. Granted, I did give birth to a week-early baby who was nearly 10 pounds. But that’s 10 pounds out of 52.
After Isobel was born, the “weight” came off fast. I say “weight” QUOTEUNQUOTE because a lot of it was water weight and that wasn’t the problem. The problem was deflating too fast. It looked like my body was the equivalent of someone sighing as they sink into a really comfortable chair. Everything was saggy and mushy. I’ve compared it before to looking like the Pillsbury Dough Boy from my neck to my knees. (Read here for more on this.)
By my six week postpartum appointment, I was thoroughly terrified to step on the Scale of Doom, but I did and my weight was 171. 41 pounds gone! The midwife congratulated me. Brandon said, “Good job! Isn’t that the weight you were before the diet?”
The six week appointment was a reckoning. I knew that whatever weight remained at that point would have to be scraped off my body through sweaty realness and I was wholly unprepared for that kind of fitness commitment. Plus, I was breastfeeding and so I put aside working out for a while since I knew my supply suffered if I dared to take even a brisk walk. (P.S. Breastfeeding helping you lose baby weight is not exactly a real thing. Or at least, not real in the way you think it is from reading US Magazine and stupid celebrity interviews. It may help some in the first month or two, but then it makes your body hoard all the fat pockets as little milk reserves in case you decide to start starving yourself. ETA: I also had this tendency to eat like a freight train while breastfeeding and may or may not have justified certain treats because THE BABY WANTED IT OKAY, so I may not be the best one to speak about breastfeeding/weight loss going hand in hand or not.)
Once Isobel had weaned, I started working out, but then life got in the way and I thought I looked so good in comparison to OverstuffedPregnantFest 2011 that I got pretty complacent. That’s the real trick of postpartum weight loss. It’s easy to start thinking that you’ve gotten back to square one when the current number on the scale looks pretty damn impressive compared to the number you saw in your 40th week of pregnancy. (Or the 2nd week postpartum or the 6th week postpartum.) But I was really just kidding myself. I had lost a lot of muscle tone, especially through my midsection and on my arms, and my skin elasticity was shot to hell. I had work—HARD WORK—to do and I didn’t want to face it.
Everything came to a head for me one night when my mom cleaned out some storage and gave me my wedding dress. Brandon said, “You should try it on!” I was all hell no, but it taunted me from the corner. I was so stupid. I should not have done it. But I did. Of course it wouldn’t zip. I stared in the mirror and hated everything about my reflection. I mean, a visceral hate. I took the dress off and quietly walked downstairs to the kitchen. Brandon was taking a shower. I cried sitting in the corner of the kitchen for almost an hour. Brandon never knew. It seems so petty—to cry over your body, of all things. But that moment—seeing the proof that I was not the same as I had been on one of the happiest days of my life—really knocked me down. I had lost the baby weight, congratulations to me blah blah blah, but the reality was that my body was not the same body and I had to get it to a place that worked for me in the present. I had to stop thinking about how I looked pre-pregnancy or how I looked in college or in my early 20’s or in high school or on my wedding day.
So, I started working hard. And I’ve been working really hard the past 8 months. I’ve been spinning at least 3 times a week (usually 4) and have been doing yoga about 3 times a week too. This is not easy for me. I haven’t worked out this much since I was in college. But, if I don’t do it, I get a little crazy. I need exercise to keep me sane, frankly. My stress and anxiety can get out of control without regular exercise, even if it’s just a 20 minute walk. I’m not a healthy living/fitness blogger and I don’t like fitness challenges and I hate running with a burning passion and I eat Doritos on the regular, but I do have to sweat at some point each week so I don’t turn into a psycho. Oh, and I’m not going to lie and say that I’m doing this exercise solely for my mental health. No. Vanity plays a part, sure. I started being very regimented about my fitness primarily to fit into things that I hadn’t worn in 8+ years.
Last night Brandon bought a scale because our other one broke and we had never replaced it. I am really nervous about scales. I don’t like them and they don’t like me. Brandon weighed himself. We weighed Isobel. “Mommy’s turn!” Brandon said. “Let me just take it over in the corner so you can’t see,” I said and tried to make a run for it. “We all had to do it!” He replied, smiling because he knows how much I hate scales. He knows. But whatever. FINE. YOU WIN. I stepped on.
I still have some work to do. Even though I haven’t weighed 152 since I was 20, my body now isn’t the body I had then. I need more flexibility and I need to do more toning. But I know one thing I won’t do.
I won’t go near that fucking wedding dress.
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- lifeofstine said: Thank you for sharing. I can feel my brain starting to get a little fucked up regarding my body image post baby - it’s tricky when the number on the scale is ok but I still don’t fit into my favorite jeans and have more belly skin than I thought possible
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- emilyposts said: it’s so amazing to hear other people tell their story. i would never have guessed this was a struggle for you. i remember thinking when we met how lovely your figure is!
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- dailybaxter said: I really love this post. It’s so detailed and so true! I haven’t put in that are work. I keep putting it off and at least once a day I am grossed out by my sloth. You work, you mom, you work out. I cn do it too.
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