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Losing Weight After Pregnancy

Losing Weight After PregnancyOne of my new year’s resolutions for 2011 is to lose 35 pounds. It’s not a new goal. But here I am again. The post title “Losing Weight After Pregnancy” is a bit deceptive. My “baby” is seven years old. I’m still trying to lose weight after pregnancy, it’s just long after pregnancy. Prepare yourself for a very sad story.

Childhood Weight Issues

For years I thought it was a cop-out when women complained about trying to lose baby weight. I was a round baby, a chubby child, and an overweight teen. I have struggled with my weight since I was five when a new boy moved into the neighborhood and told me I was fat and ugly. And continued the ridicule for almost a decade.

When I was 13, I read a college P.E. textbook and embarked on my first diet. I reduced my intake drastically, abstained from treats and junk food — and most school lunches — and worked out. The more I learned the better I got at it. In late high school I read a then-revolutionary diet book called How to Lower Your Fat Thermostat that changed my life for the better. It was one of the first low fat, low refined carb, eat when you are hungry diets ever. Having spent years doing the calorie restriction diets, this was a godsend.

By college I was fit enough to pay for some of my school expenses with beauty pageant winnings and, more to the point, to win a couple of swim suit competitions in those pageants. Of course, I never thought I was thin enough. I almost didn’t do the pageants because of the swim suit portion. Talent, interview, piece of cake. Evening gown, no problem. Swim suit? Shoot me first. The first time I was announced swim suit winner, my jaw hit the floor (and I never heard the end of it from one of my best friends).

If I could get in shape, anyone could.

Pregnancy Weight Gain #1

In 1986 I got pregnant for the first time, with Jessica. I worked out daily — even when I was so rotund that my sides ached and I wanted to collapse. I was finishing my last semester in college, working part time, and by golly I still did one full hour of aerobics in my target training zone. I had good eating habits most of the time— except when I couldn’t stomach another stalk of broccoli. And I still gained 50 pounds.

But after the baby was born I spent an entire year working myself down to my ideal weight and finished a few pounds under my prepregnancy weight. I was a muscly 128 pounds at 5’7″.

Pregnancy Weight Gain #2–4

When we decided to have baby number two, it wasn’t so easy. I miscarried twice, each of the failed pregnancies resulting in almost ten pounds of weight gain, which I dutifully worked off. Then I finally got pregnant with Belinda. Again, I worked out and ate a healthy diet. I played on an intramural softball team until past my due date and helped teach an aerobics class to the end of the pregnancy — which is where I went into labor.

Result: 50 pound weight gain.

I was able to lose some of the weight before we moved to Florida in 1991 (when Sam finished his PhD) by eating carefully and doing two full-hour workouts each day (one in the morning, one at night.) I didn’t lose all I wanted to before moving to our post-college life, but I didn’t feel like a total cow.

Pregnancy Weight Gain #5

A few years later I got pregnant with Alana. No problems at all. Worked out through the entire pregnancy. Ate pretty well. Gained 50 pounds.

When I say 50 pounds, I really mean 50 pounds. Although I know it sound illogical and scientifically unsound, I have literally gone into the hospital to have a baby that weighs seven pounds (not to mention all the other stuff that comes out!), and come out weighing only four to five pounds less. When I tell you that I hate women who lose 20 pounds during childbirth, it is not hyperbole.

After this pregnancy I got serious. I hunkered down into rigorously following my low-fat regimen. I joined the local YMCA where I spent 90 minutes per day doing a relentless circuit training workout, followed by 45 minutes of weight training. After almost a year, I got my composition down to 138 pounds with 18% body fat. Woo hoo for me!

Pregnancy Weight Gain #6–7

A number of years later I had a third miscarriage. This was soon followed by my pregnancy with Monica. Because of my history of miscarriage, the doctor put me on strict physical limitations. No exercise, no lifting stuff, no sex, no nothing. I was terrified to stop exercising and imagined my weight skyrocketing.

Result: 50 pound weight gain.

Seriously? So I could have sat on my behind on the couch all those other pregnancies and it wouldn’t have made any difference? Sick!

After the birth I worked extraordinary hard and finally lost all but about 10 pounds — just in time to get pregnant again.

Pregnancy Weight Gain #8–9

This series almost mirrors the last. Miscarriage, followed by pregnancy with Samson (who knew we could have a boy?), followed by months of “high risk” restrictions, followed by 50 pound weight gain.

Again, worked and worked. Weight came off slower. Didn’t lose it all — again.

Pregnancy Weight Gain #10–11

Another pregnancy miscarried — which put me at 50/50 for pregnancies. Finally pregnant with Caleb. Put on severe restrictions because I threatened to miscarry most of the pregnancy. Gained 50 pounds.

Trained for five months and ran a marathon to celebrate my 40th birthday (using the term “celebrate” loosely) when Caleb was almost a year old. Total weight loss: six pounds. Are you kidding me?

Five years more of off and on fitness hyper-focus with almost no results.

Post-Pregnancy Weight

4-Hour BodyHere I am, seven years after Caleb was born. I no longer think post-pregnancy and age-related weight gain issues are imagined. Sure, some people are lazy and some just shove garbage in their mouths 24/7. And some sneak chocolate all day long. But not everyone. Some of us really do have bodies that change over time and that don’t cooperate with our reasonable and diligent efforts. And I hate it.

I will not deny that I love food. I do and I’m pretty sure I was born that way. I was never naturally a “normal” weight in my entire life. I was only thin with lots of work. And when you get teased about your looks day in and day out in school — where you can’t escape — sometimes turning to food for comfort is natural, if not logical. (Who said a seven-year-old had to be logical?) But if you compared our family’s diet to those of most people in America, you’d think we were health food freaks. Tons of vegetables, lots of fruit, whole grain everything, skim dairy, very lean meats, almost zero sugar and refined carbs.

Daily workouts have been part of my life since I was 13. I do regular aerobics, race walking, weight lifting. I’ve done step and yoga and zumba and spinning. I have nearly every exercise DVD on the planet from The Firm to Tae Bo to Core Rhythms to P90X — and I’ve actually done them, over and over and over again.

Two years ago I went on Nutrisystem. Not too tasty and expensive, but I lost almost 20 pounds. Unfortunately I only maintained about ten when I stopped eating all my food from a box.

Since then I’ve tried a couple of plans. First, I tried Live the Life for about six weeks which involved many, mini-meals (high protein, low fat, moderate carbs) and lots of strenuous exercise. I lost six measly pounds, which came back. Then I tried Eat to Live for another four weeks, which (in it’s aggressive weight loss version) is a serious vegan diet with very low grain content —mostly veggies and beans with some fruit. I lost four pounds, which came back. (Sam had great results with it, however.)

11 pregnancies over 16 years. Tons of diet and exercise. And I’m left with (at least) 35 pounds that really need to go. My oldest daughter is getting married in April and I just can’t bear the thought of fat momma forever memorialized in wedding photos. Ugh. So, once again I’m trying a new diet program.

I’ve been on The 4-Hour Body diet since January 1. It’s what I’d call a modified Paleo Diet. written by Timothy Ferris, author of the epic The 4-Hour Workweek. The basic rules are as follows:

  1. Avoid white carbohydrates.
  2. Eat the same few meals over and over again, consisting of one each: protein, legume, vegetable.
  3. Don’t drink calories.
  4. Take one day off per week.

I’ve followed the 4-Hour Body diet quite religiously and have lost about five pounds. Not as much as I had hoped, but better than a kick in the head (as my mom would have said). The main differences between the 4-Hour Boday diet and the Paleo Diet are that the former allows beans but no fruit, the latter allows fruit but no beans. And 4-Hour Body gives you one day a week that you can absolutely stuff your face with anything you want. True story.

I hate to say it, but it was the cheat day that was the decider for me. Sticking to a diet all the time is hard. Sticking to a diet most of the time, isn’t nearly as hard. Knowing that I really can have the chocolate cake — as long as I just wait until Saturday — makes abstaining from the junk (temporarily) not so bad.

In order to avoid complete public humiliation, I won’t outline every single thing Sam and I ate together last Saturday (our cheat day). Suffice it to say it included: corned beef hash, french toast, hot cocoa, lasagna, a bucket of theater popcorn, M&Ms, chocolate donuts, and more. Between Saturday morning and Monday morning I had lost a half a pound.

The best part might be that I’m only doing a few minutes of exercise, three times per week. There are physical things I like to do, but most of the things I’ve always felt I had to do are not on that list. Now I get my “required” workout done in no time, which frees me up to enjoy physical activity (and the rest of life) without it being consumed with so many time consuming must-dos.

One caveat: The 4-Hour Body book is not just a diet book. It full title is The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman. So it’s got some chapters that may not be what you’re looking for in a…ahem…diet guide.

So this is my first body goal of the year. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

What’s your health, fitness, or beauty goal for 2011?

{ 31 comments… add one }
  • Karenal January 19, 2011, 11:49 pm

    Just heard about this diet. Finally I ordered the book. When I get it we’ll have to be diet buddies!

  • Carnie January 20, 2011, 8:11 am

    11 pregnancies? I cannot imagine! Good luck on losing the weight!

  • Alison Moore Smith January 20, 2011, 1:06 pm

    Sigh. I know, Carnie. My kids are certainly growing up too fast, but I do not miss the precariousness of my pregnancies. So stressful. Happy to have that in the past. 🙂

  • Alison Moore Smith January 20, 2011, 1:08 pm

    Karenal, diet buddies it is! Have you started yet?

    ‘m doing well right now. Just had a turkey salad with walnut raspberry vinaigrette. 🙂 But, really, can’t wait until Saturday. I really miss my hot chocolate!

  • benji January 21, 2011, 12:12 am

    Having never been pregnant, hey, I don’t re,ate to all of this. But I’ve struggled with weight issues all my life. My goals thus year are small but will add up, I hope, to a lot.

    First goal: drink two quarts of water every day.

  • SueBee January 21, 2011, 12:15 am

    Body goals? Mine is to get at least 7 hours sleep very single night, no excuses!

  • Alison Moore Smith January 21, 2011, 11:03 am

    benji, a worthy goal and one that will most likely benefit your health in all sorts of ways. Most of us don’t drink enough.

    Also, it’s a very good idea to start small and doable. Conquer the first goal and you’ll be psyched for the next!

  • Alison Moore Smith January 21, 2011, 10:33 pm

    SueBee, I have a sleep goal down the road, too. Gotta get that licked.

    Thanks for dropping by. 🙂

  • Kelly Lester January 21, 2011, 10:43 pm

    I’m sorry, but anyone who has had 11 pregnancies is a hero in my book, with or without a few extra pounds. Losing weight is SO hard and I admire your resolve. I’ve learned to live with my very loose stomach skin (only 3 kids) and enjoy the fact that at my age, a bikini is never required 😉

  • Alison Moore Smith January 22, 2011, 1:08 am

    Bless your heart, Kelly! My husband is the only one who usually calls me a hero. 🙂

    Bikini. Now that’s a nasty word if I ever heard one. Ack!

  • amy January 22, 2011, 6:48 am

    Hey Alison,
    Losing weight is hard! I, like you, was an overweight child. I went from a home where we ate granola bars and apples for snack. Alway felt hungry. Then when I was 9 my sisters and I ended up living with my dad and stepmom. Then it was basically all you can eat. My weight ballooned! Yes there was fruit and veggies but there was also the hostess cakes and a ton of other junk food I wasnt used to, but I loved it! A bit too much! Long story short I was very overweight til my mid teens. I didn’t play sports I just ran laps around the house, literally, and did hours upon hours of working out in my bedroom. I got my weight under control. When I was 19 I started working at a pizza chain. Not a good idea! It would be like an alcoholic working at the liquor store. Now at 31, I have 3 boys who are 2, 4 and 6. I am still trying to lose all the pregnancy weight gain. I gained 80 with my first. Boy was I glad he weighed almost 12lb. I gained 50 with my second. He weighed almost 10lb. With my 3rd pregnancy I only gained 13. My doctors told me I was only allowed to gain 15. I think the thing that helped me with this pregnancy was working. I had been a stay at home mom for a few years. And when you constantly have food in your face it just sotra make grazing easy! I like seeing your story. It was very encouraging to me to keep doing what I am doing. Thank you!

  • Alison Moore Smith January 22, 2011, 11:35 am

    Denise, thank you so much for sharing your story. Keep me posted on your progress in the gym. I am so with you!

    I have a friend I’ve known since I was a teen who is thin as a rail. She just last week divulged to me that she was anorexic in high school. I could not have been more shocked, but it’s strange how the “fatty” mentality and teasing makes it so hard for me to (1) understand how someone can actually stop eating and (2) to feel empathy for someone who is thin.

    Even though she was teased for being thin, it’s hard for me to fathom the offense. From where I’m coming from being called “skinny minny” or “bones” or something would seem to be a compliment. That’s pretty warped, really. And now she has some resulting health issues from the damage done to her body — which I do have empathy for — but it’s really just the other side of the weight problem.

    I have a cousin who has never been thin, but she’s a dear woman and describes herself as “comfortable in my own skin.” I envy that so much. That’s what I want to feel. It shouldn’t be directly tied to the scale, but to me there’s a still big connection. I don’t feel good or attractive when I’m fat. I just don’t.

    Anyway, thank you for stopping by. I hope you’ll continued to check in with progress — or lack thereof. Support is good. 🙂

  • Denise Robertson January 22, 2011, 11:12 am

    Thanks for sharing! After my first and second babies, I was able to get down to my “skinny” weight of 126 at 5’5, one year later.

    My healthy weight is 135. After the third baby, my weight has gone up and down like a yo-yo.

    Baby, is 3 now! I am juicy and frustrated. I weigh 155 now. This is how much I weighed when I was pregnant: 155/160 with each baby.

    I have even joined a gym for the first time but probably not working-out enough.
    Yes, please keep us posted. My big 40 is in March.
    Denise, “MAMAJ”

  • Alison Moore Smith January 22, 2011, 12:48 pm

    Amy, thank you so much for telling us what you’ve been through. Supportive community really helps in the quest to be fit.

    The biggest problem with weight is that it’s simply not formulaic. The human body is so complex that many factors contribute to both weight gain and loss. In spite of new advances and research, no one has found the magic bullet or the ultimate formula for optimum, lasting weight loss.

    When you’re as old as I am, you’ve seen myriad diet “miracles” emerge. Every few years it’s a new “cutting edge” cure. Only to have it replaced a few years later when you’re told that everything you did for the past five years is all wrong. It’s annoying and frustrating.

    I have friends who never work out and, literally, eat whatever they want whenever they want and they are slim as can be. Now if I could just chalk it up to appetite — meaning that they just don’t want to eat very much or that they just want to eat really healthy food all the time — it wouldn’t be so aggravating. But that isn’t the case. Some of them eat lots of junk and some of them eat a ton of food.

    Life just isn’t fair. Sigh. But I’m still convinced I can have a body (once again) that isn’t appalling to me. 🙂

  • Alison Moore Smith January 22, 2011, 7:40 pm

    Very interesting stuff, Lisa. I’ve heard of Williamson’s Course in Miracles from a couple of decades ago, but not this new one. I’ll have to check it out. Maybe I’m just psychologically flabby! (But, I really was chubby from birth, not sure much psychosis I developed in the womb!)

    Thanks so much for your insights.

  • Lisa January 22, 2011, 7:19 pm

    Like your blog! There is a belief among many(including me!) that weight can be about more than just physical calories & exercise. For example, that emotional energy can express itself in the form of weight that just doesn’t go… in spite of all the physical evidence that it should. A new book by Marianne Williamson called “A Course in Weight Loss” may be a helpful tool to supplement the physical work you are describing. Louise Hay is the master of the emotional/body connection and her book is called “You Can Heal Your Life”.
    My physical body shifted majorly when I became open to the possibility that emotions could be creating physical experiences in my body.

  • Darcee Yates March 6, 2011, 5:08 pm

    I have been trying for over two years to lose ’10 pounds’. For the last 3 months I’ve kept a blog(I kept the blog private) to try and make myself accountable daily. My total loss in 3 months? A measly 6 pounds. I haven’t dieted every day of those 3 months, sometimes I just tried to hold onto what I’d lost and other times I binged, regained and had to re-lose. Ugh!

    2 years is a long time. Why don’t I give up? I just can’t answer that. Well, yes, I can. To give up is to gain even more weight. I’m sure of it. As women, we are either gaining or losing. There is no standing still.

    So I’m trying again. To give up is just unacceptable.

    Just a quit note of hope. For those of you who haven’t tried palates, doing a plank (body in pushup position from the toes, only you rest on your fore-arms and tighten everything and hold it there for 60 seconds), just once a day makes a greater difference in how I feel in my clothes no matter what my weight is.

    I hope everyone the best. And yes, losing weight after 50 is the most difficult thing I’ve ever tried to do. Do anything and everything you can to get it off and keep it off BEFORE 50. It only gets more difficult.

  • Jenny August 20, 2011, 12:30 pm

    Frankly speaking, its really appreciable that you took the challenge in your 40’s or 50’s. It’s really great, you can change your shape after 11 pregnancies in 16 years!!
    Your suggested book is good one, may be buy it if my current after pregnancy diet plan will fail…
    Jenny recently posted…Pregnancy Miracle: Great Way to Get Pregnant NaturallyMy Profile

  • Jade November 21, 2011, 9:09 pm

    Exercise would be useless without healthy diet. Losing weight after pregnancy requires you to take out all the junk from your diet and replace them with nutritious meals, which is high in vitamins and minerals. This means you have to bump up intake of fruits and veggies.
    Jade recently posted…Ways on Losing Weight after PregnancyMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith November 29, 2011, 11:38 am

    True, but it would be great if cutting the junk did the trick! As you can see, so far it hasn’t worked. 🙁

  • Lisa July 31, 2013, 6:43 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story. I like the other 4-hour books but did not know the philosophy on this one.
    Lisa recently posted…13 Thoughts on Losing Baby Weight: How I *Think* I lost the Baby WeightMy Profile

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