I miss it: being less zaftig. I was just looking at pictures from the first month of my son's life and was shocked at the size of my body and the thinness of my face. I think that I looked better or prettier than I do now but that feels like a fucked up thing to think, and also deeply ironic given how sleep deprived and on the verge I was at that time in my life. The fact of the matter is that I shed almost 30 pounds in two weeks time because I was the most stressed out I've ever been. I largely didn't feed myself for the first month of Oliver's life. I was constantly tending to him in some way or another, and putting him down to feed myself was not an option a lot of the time, so Honey Bunny would spoon my breakfast, lunch, dinner, into my mouth for me. Nothing tasted good anyhow. I just didn't care about food.
Until... my friend Ivy sent us a box of . She sent it to us in a bigger box which had several presents for Oliver. I saw the size and shape of the See's box amongst all the other gifts and knew what it was instantly. Ivy's homemade card, stuck to the top, read, "And a gift for the pooped parents!" I thought, Oh my god, she gets it. She gets that I'm tired. She knows what I'm going through. Thank you so so so much for understanding, Ivy! Most, if not all, of my other close friends had also expressed empathy for our newly sleepless plight but for whatever reason Ivy's message hit me in the heart. I remember putting the first piece of chocolate in my mouth and thinking that's what it must be like to come alive after having been dead. Becoming and being pregnant, giving birth, becoming a parent both physically and emotionally -- as wonderful and miraculous as it all was, as it is, it was also absolutely laden with grief. I've only realized that recently, and Oliver is almost two years old! Ivy's chocolate shocked me out of the most intense, immediate, part of the grief I was experiencing and woke a piece of me up. In that moment I remembered who I once was, before I had birthed a child: Oh yeah, I used to really enjoy food! Especially chocolate! I'm so glad to know that that part of me hasn't changed through all this...
I ate like a horse when I was pregnant, and I didn't make very healthy choices. Super burritos were actually the healthy menu item in the midst of daily Diet Cokes and bags of Cheetos. Again, Oliver is almost two years old, and I finally have the ability to reflect on that and wonder, What the hell was I thinking? I wish I had moderated my eating a bit but I also remember thinking at the time that I wasn't going to let the chance pass me by to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, with almost no lasting consequences. I would roll my eyes at other pregnant ladies who lamented about not being able to exercise as much as they did before, and I especially eye-rolled the shit out of the one who whined about how she wanted to keep her super healthy diet of daily kale and tofu but really she just wanted a quesadilla. I wanted to say to her, Really? You're pregnant and you're going to feel bad about craving a quesadilla? You can't just have one and enjoy it? What's the worst that could happen?
My thought process now is more that I needed, that I need, to consider someone other than myself. I wish I had eaten better quality food for Oliver's sake while he was cooking in the womb. I'd like to be in better shape to keep up with him as he grows and gets more and more active. I'd like to be healthier so I can hopefully add to my longevity and see Oliver grow into his 20's and 30's at least. Oliver, after all, has older parents, one of whom has gout and hypothyroidism, and was also diagnosed pre-diabetic this year. This, ironically, is the merely "overweight" parent, not his "obese" parent.
All the while I have the ghost of Weight Loss Past following me around. Six months before I conceived Oliver, when I started losing weight and was actually enjoying getting more fit with the help of my personal trainer, I remember thinking it was a slippery slope. It was all so fun and new to me but I knew that once I stopped eating a calorie-restricted diet and/or stopped doing hardcore interval training that all the magic of seeing the number on the scale gradually going down down down, and feeling my clothes become loose on my body, and hearing people's compliments on my changing figure would come to a grinding halt. It's good, of course, that the reason it DID come to a grinding halt was because I got pregnant. Switching gears from losing weight and working out to gaining weight and not doing a damn thing for fitness for eight months was just the beginning of the sustained grieving process I mentioned above. I hated that I had to switch gears but... I had to.
My post-pregnancy body story is different than most other moms I know. Most moms I know gained a lot of weight and they've had to work, sometimes quite hard, to lose it. I'm unusual in that I didn't gain a whole lot during pregnancy, lost all of it and some change within two weeks of the birth, and since then I've gained all but about five pounds of it back. Ivy's chocolates indeed breathed color into my black and white postpartum existence, but it also unleashed a monster. Chocolate started fueling my happiness. I had Honey Bunny buy a couple large bars of organic, dark, sea salted, beautiful chocolate every week at the grocery store, and it would truly take a few days to nibble through each bar. Then when I was brave enough to venture out in the neighborhood on my own, Oliver in the stroller, I started stopping at the store for a big bar of chocolate every day. Then it turned into buying a pint of organic, whole fat, luscious ice cream each day. HB and I would have a bowl after dinner and then, why not, polish off what was left in the container after putting Oliver to bed. After several months of that, Honey Bunny was diagnosed pre-diabetic. He was plain with the doctor about our daily pint habit and she agreed that's probably what did it. When it was my turn for my annual physical with blood work, I waited for the same exact diagnosis to roll in, but... no. My cholesterol was on the high end of the normal spectrum but otherwise the lab results were good. Better than before Oliver was conceived, in fact. What the fuck? (Sidenote: my poor husband!)
I've been ready for awhile to start losing weight again and have attempted to do so with the two methods that worked so well for me before. Firstly, I went back to personal training as of last May. As I'm in a different financial place in my life now, I can't afford my previous trainer and so I'm seeing her much-nicer-and-not-so-hardcore apprentice. Clearly I'm also in a different physical or emotional place now because training just isn't as fun as I remember it being. I remember feeling high when I left the gym, turning the radio up really high and singing along unabashedly with the moon roof open while I drove home, not caring who could see or hear me, and talking a mile a minute to my husband when I got home, telling him how much I loved training. These days I get in my car afterwards and I feel accomplished and happy, but I also know what awaits me at home which is generally a cranky but wired, over-tired toddler who needs a bath and to be put to bed, and his cranky, over-tired Daddy. Training before I had a kid was awesome because I could just flop on the couch afterwards to eat my take-out dinner while watching TV and joke about how sore I already felt. Training after having a kid kind of sucks because there is no flopping on the couch when I get home, there is no take-out food because we theoretically can't afford it, and if I'm already sore by the time I go to bed then my tomorrow of chasing a toddler around is FUCKED.
The other thing I've attempted to do again is track my food intake, exercise and weight on My Plate at livestrong.com, a system that was paramount to my previous success. Tracking caloric intake was an eye-opening experience when I started doing it. I marveled at how many calories certain things had (things that I often thought of as "healthy" and therefore low in calories) and how few calories other things had (things that I thought of as "bad"). I also didn't realize just how many calories I was eating in a given day, versus what I "should" be eating to simply maintain my weight, until I started tracking them. It was like when eight year old me discovered Pac Man... I was hooked, and I wanted to win the game. I started eating within my caloric limit for the new goal of losing 0.5 pound per week. I remember thinking that it wasn't even hard to eat less because I was having fun trying to meet the challenge, trying to win the game. I lost more in the neighborhood of 1 pound per week which was inexplicable in the numbers game. Afterall, if anything, I could have been accused of obsessively over-tracking everything I ate, sometimes including crumbs. I'd log green tea, Diet Coke and sugarless gum despite the fact that there's not a calorie to be found among them. Again, allllll of that was fun to do when the hardest thing about my day was making sure my cats got their dinner by 7pm. Now that I have a kid, I find that I just, well, don't give a shit. I've got much bigger fish to fry than tracking that I just finished off the remainder of Oliver's string cheese when he was about to throw it out of the stroller onto the sidewalk. There's no way I can remember the name of the cereal I ate this morning because half the time I can't even remember that I HAD a bowl of cereal this morning. Life is different now and if I'm gonna go back to My Plate, it's going to require a Herculean effort to move it up the priority list.
In full disclosure, I also have abandoned my latest attempts at My Plate because I'm a sore loser. I don't like not winning at games. At some point, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to track what I ate just to see what I was eating and how many calories it was. "No judgement!" YEAH, RIGHT. If I'm 200 calories over what I'm "supposed" to be eating for the day, and dinner is still three hours away... I'm FUCKED.
So, where do I go from here? Most, if not all, of my life circumstances have changed. The things that made me successful - namely, resources and motivation - aren't working as they did before. Obviously I'm going to have to reexamine the plan to get from point A to point B, and that plan is going to have to include a LOT of flexibility. I hope to talk about it more, blog about it more, as I find my way because I know that helped to keep me both accountable and checked in my previous success.
On a last note, I realize that talking about weight loss, calorie restriction, etc, is verboten among those who identify as anti-fat bias. I realize that even embarking on a weight loss goal is a contradiction when, above all, what I truly want is to be around as long as I can for Oliver and that that can be achieved by simply putting effort into daily exercise and eating good things for the body. All I can say to that is, OH WELL. I'm a contradiction. I'm human and vain and, in addition to losing weight to theoretically help with overall health and longevity, I want to lose weight because it was fun and novel to watch my body get smaller and the pool of clothes and shoe possibilities get bigger. I also want to lose weight because I think my body felt better that way, or at least by virtue of getting more movement and/or less food than it currently gets. Not that I have much of a readership (thank you for reading, !) but in case anyone from the anti-bias community ends up here... my apologies if you're offended, if you think I'm the worst hypocrite you've ever laid eyes on, so on and so forth. Truly, best of wishes to you and your anti-bias work. (And no need to visit my site again, unless you've chosen to root for me.)