I’ve been meaning to write a post to update you guys on my plan to get healthy again postpartum, but I have to be honest, I’ve been struggling to find the words. So many of my emotions are tied to my body and how it functions, that it’s hard to put it all down in black and white for the whole world to see. I guess the best place to start is to get you up-to-speed on my health and fitness journey. I know some of you have been around since the early days, when I talked a lot about health, fitness, and weight loss, but a lot of you are new around here, and don’t know the story. So here it is.
My highest weight pre-pregnancy was 272 pounds. And it was a very, very unhealthy 272 pounds. It was a 272 pounds made up of mostly fast food and a totally sedentary lifestyle. And then I read In Defense of Food, and something clicked, and I changed my whole lifestyle. I started eating more “real” food. And being more active. And drinking more water. Slowly, but surely, I dropped over 50 pounds, and landed at 215 pounds. A very healthy, very happy 215 pounds. I floated back and forth between about 215-225 for a few years, and was fit, active, and healthy.
When I found out I was pregnant last year, I was just shy of 230 pounds. I know that sounds like a lot to most people, but to me, it wasn’t really. I still felt super healthy. I was active and eating well. I talked a big game about wanting to lose weight, but my heart really wasn’t in it. I was only saying that because I wasn’t supposed to be happy at that weight. But I was.
And then, pregnancy. Oh man, did I loathe pregnancy. I first suspected that I was pregnant because I threw up my dinner one night (when I was four weeks pregnant), and I continued to throw up throughout the entire 41 weeks and 6 days of my pregnancy. You’d think that so much puking would mean no weight gain, and that was true in the first trimester—I actually lost 12 pounds. But, by the second trimester, I had figured out that the key to keeping my food down was to eat all-the-time. And I mean, all the time. I literally couldn’t go more than 45 minutes without eating or the nausea would come back. So I was eating constantly. And because of my weight loss in the first trimester, my midwife pretty much gave me clear to eat whatever sounded edible. It was more important for me to take in calories at that point than to worry about what they were made up of. So I ate. I ate white bagels with cream cheese. I ate potato chips. I ate french fries. I ate fast food. And the weight piled on.
Of course, the food was just one part of it. Combine the soul-crushing nausea with some pelvic issues I had, and I didn’t workout once during pregnancy. I tried to walk as much as I could, but as far as actual heart-pounding, sweat-pouring workout? Nope. Literally, the only workout I did during pregnancy was on October 11, 2013—I went on a hike with my husband on his birthday. The next day, we found out I was pregnant, and the morning sickness set it, and it was pretty much all I could do to walk from the bed to the bathroom.
I know this sounds like a bunch of excuses, and maybe it is, but the fact of the matter is, I went into labor at 295 pounds and feeling incredibly unhealthy. The day we came home from the hospital, I was 282 pounds. And after all my swelling went down and my body regulated, I was right at 272 pounds when I wrote this post. Right back up to my highest adult weight ever. Full circle, and all.
Now, at seven months postpartum, I’m 246 pounds—almost none of that weight loss is due to any effort on my part. Thank you, breastfeeding! I know losing 26 pounds of baby weight should feel like an accomplishment, but it really doesn’t, because I’m not feeling any healthier. I haven’t been working out more or eating better or drinking more water. 26 pounds is a number that doesn’t measure anything other than my body’s awesome ability to produce food for my kid. 26 pounds only feels like an accomplishment when it’s actually a sign of something that has been accomplished. And while yes, I think breastfeeding my baby girl for seven months is an accomplishment that deserves to be celebrated, I’d also like to be celebrating other accomplishments of mine on the fitness and health front. I’ve never been one to put much stock on the scale, and this is a perfect example of where the scale doesn’t tell the whole story.
I’ve been mostly at peace with my new (or at least, new for now) postpartum body, but I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t wear on me at times. I think what I’m most frustrated with is that I miss having confidence in my health. I no longer feel like I can do any hike in the guide book. I no longer feel like I can just hop on the treadmill and bust out some sprints. My balance is off. My muscles that support my joints are no longer strong, and I’ve had countless little injuries here and there (twisted ankles, sore back, etc.) that could have probably been prevented if I was back to my fit and healthy self. If I’m being 100% honest, for the first time in my life, I’m feeling old. And it has nothing to do with my age. My body feels feeble.
I know this all sounds like a pity party, but I’ve been really good about not getting down on myself for the baby weight. It is what it is. And, above everything, I am incredibly, remarkably proud of my body for growing and birthing my favorite tiny human. Giving birth was the most empowering thing I’ve ever done. I honestly had no idea I had that much in me. It was awesome. I would rather give birth 100 times over than go through pregnancy ever again. I can’t be mad at a body that did that.
That being all said, I think I’m finally getting to the point where I’m really ready to recommit to being fit again. I wanted to believe I was ready when I wrote that original post at 10 weeks postpartum, but looking back at it, I wasn’t even close to a place where I could have committed to a fitness routine. I know some women bounce back just a few weeks after having a baby, but I’m not one of those women. Not physically and certainly not emotionally. I’ve really needed this half year to acclimate to this brand new life. I’m also getting to the point where Juniper is becoming mobile (she’s crawling like a rockstar!), and I can see, in the not-so-distant future, needing a lot more energy to keep up with a toddler. I want to be a healthy, fit mom who can run around after my kid!
I’m sure you know what’s coming up next—a plan! Duh. I’m a planner at heart, and I couldn’t very well get through a whole post about postpartum fitness without laying out my plan for the future. I’m trying to keep it über simple this time. Three parts. That’s it. I’m just going to focus on these three things, and then, once those stick, I can maybe add more later.
1. Drink water. Lots of it. I used to be a water-drinking rockstar. I would drink four or five liters a day! And then, pregnancy happened. And one of my biggest morning sickness triggers was drinking water. Nine months of water making me nauseous got me out of the habit of drinking. I’m much better now, but even still, I’m not consuming nearly the amount I should be each day. I feel so much better and have so much more energy when I’m hydrated.
2. Move everyday. This one has been a real struggle for me. I think I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that any activity is better than no activity. Some days, I just can’t find the time or energy to do a big, long workout session, but that’s okay. I can get up and go for a walk. Or step on the treadmill for 15 minutes. Or do a few sun salutations. Any movement is better than no movement, and I have to get back in that mindset.
3. Eat more plants. It really is that simple (simple enough that it’s a bumper sticker on my car). I want my diet to focus on more plant-based foods. I have no desire to give up meat or fish or dairy completely, but I do think my ratios have gotten off a bit. Bring back the veg!
I’m not planning on setting any weight loss or fitness goals—right now, I’m more concerned with getting back in the healthy mindset instead of hitting any specific number. Feeling healthy is something that’s really hard to quantify. But I’ll know it when I get there.