One 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.
Here 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.
- Avoid white carbohydrates.
- Eat the same few meals over and over again, consisting of one each: protein, legume, vegetable.
- Don't drink calories.
- 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?