Just over a few years ago, I intentionally put on 15lbs to get my period back after secretly struggling with amenorrhea, a lack of periods, for nine years.
Now, a few years later, I have an amazing baby (wait toddler!) and everything in my world has changed in the most beautiful way. My life is more fulfilled than it has ever been, I am happy, healthy, and (w)hole.
But it doesn’t stop a toxic thought from finding its way into my mind a few times a day:
Why am I not losing weight?
The “baby weight” that is.
I try to pretend this thought doesn’t come through, and push it out as soon as it rears its ugly head. I want to be able to say that I am totally proud of my new body as a mother. After all, I grew another person inside my body and then pushed her out, now she is surviving and thriving off liquid my body is producing.
The human body is incredible.
I know that. You know that, and I am proud of my body.
You know deep down that your body does not define who you are, your looks do not define who you are.
Yet sometimes, we have a moment of weakness.
Maybe you catch yourself creeping on someone you compare yourself to on Instagram and wonder why things are coming together so well for them and not for you.
Maybe you see a photo of your former self and wonder if you will ever get that back again.
Maybe you saw an unflattering photo or view of yourself right now, and you vow that enough is enough, time to get back in shape.
But then those Reeses Peanut Butter Cups in your cupboard are just calling your name, WHO CARES they say to you, Be Brave. Be Strong. Be YOU! remember! I don’t give a crap what others think of me!
So, you give in to the imaginary voice of those peanut butter cups, and you feel proud of yourself that you were able to stick your middle finger up to society.
No one tells me I need to be skinny to be happy, or skinny to be a fast runner.
A little while later you go to the bathroom or get into your pajamas in the evening, and you catch a glimpse of a belly that is hanging just a little too far over your pants. Or you try to put on a pair of jeans that just will not go over your hips.
Guilt floods your body.
You beat yourself up.
Why am I so weak? Can’t I even resist a stupid chocolate bar? I eat so healthy, so why do I keep sabotaging myself by eating sugar (or chips or ice cream)? Runners diet or no runners diet, if I can’t stop eating these foods, I am never going to get back to where I was. Right, that’s it, from now on, I am going to resist those damn Reeses and I am going to eat super healthy.
Until a friend brings over a plate of cookies, or it is someones birthday at work, or you are celebrating an anniversary.
There are a never-ending stream of temptations, which leaves us feeling doomed, and means we spend a good chunk of our day feeling like crap.
So we enter into this cycle where we go round and round.
Waking up in the morning feeling confident, today is a new day, until a temptation appears or a craving starts. You give in, say eff you to societies need to be skinny, I am going to enjoy my life by having indulgences. You feel strong, brave, confident. Then you see yourself in the mirror, those negative, self sabotaging thoughts come flooding in. You vow that enough is enough, no more treats…until another temptation appears, this time feeling sorry for yourself helps you to give in, why even bother, I am never going to look like INSERT SOMEONE YOU COMPARE YOURSELF TO, so I will eat this. Every 2 hours this cycle repeats. As you get undressed to go to bed, you see yourself in the dim light. Ugh. Tomorrow this MUST stop.
Or maybe you make it through the day, feeling strong, brave, and confident that you resisted those temptations all day, but then the evening comes, you feel like you deserve a treat, you reach into the jar of cookies and take one, but one didn’t satisfy the craving, you can have just a little bit more, they are so damn good. And before you know it, the whole jar is gone, and you go to bed feeling overly full and annoyed at yourself that you didn’t even enjoy it that much, it just…happened.
How do I know what is going on in your head?
Because I have been in both of these situations before, and they are a vicious cycle that can be really difficult to get out of. Not so much physically, we aren’t really doing ourselves much harm, but emotionally. Even if you are eating well, getting in enough calories, carbs, fats, and really paying attention to putting good food in the rest of your diet, those thoughts can still come find you.
After I worked with Nancy Clark to recover from my amenorrhea, I was in such a good place with my body. Although most of the time my body didn’t feel amazing, I knew that was because it was working so hard growing a little person inside, but one thing was for sure. My confidence in who I was and how I looked had never been greater.
I ate what I wanted when I wanted. I ate when I was hungry, stopped when I was full. I didn’t give a crap about what others thought about my food choices when eating out. Whatever I wanted, I had it.
It was glorious.
I was 15+lbs heavier than I had been in probably 10 years, but I felt more confident about my body than I ever had. If you are struggling with amenorrhea, you are probably wondering how that could ever be the case. It was, read my getting your period back post and also this letter I wrote for SELF magazine.
Nancy warned me during my pregnancy that my body took 9 months to get into this situation, and I had better give it 9 months to figure itself out again afterwards. No pressure to get back into shape!
At the time, I shrugged her off, I didn’t need that advice. My mind had changed for good this time. I “got it”. Both Nancy and Renee had really hit home for me, and I was a changed woman.
After I gave birth to Bailey, the next day I could barely believe how flat my stomach was. All the nurses commented on how I looked like I had never even had a baby.
Of course it wasnt defined in any way, and was still protruding, in fact, I really enjoyed pushing into it as it was so squishy and I found that really funny. But it was a monumental difference to the day before…yes, losing a 6lb baby and her temporary home from your stomach can do that 😉
I felt confident and happy, proud of what my body had done, and mentally sound because my new mindset had obviously worked for me, I had the baby weight plus a little extra, just what I needed.
Except the rest of that weight didn’t seem to be coming off as the weeks passed. I reassured myself that I needed time, I was only 1 week, 2 weeks, 4 weeks postpartum, so I could push those thoughts away.
All the while, my hunger was off the charts. I was eating more than Steve, I would barely finish one meal before I was hungry for the next. I felt like I was back in marathon training. A bottomless pit.
I clung desperately to Nancy’s words. if you are hungry, then eat, and I did.
I ate solid meals every time I was hungry, and continued eating when I was full, not when I thought it looked like enough. I was not restricting, I was not holding back, I was still having whatever I wanted when I wanted, but there was one difference; my sweet tooth was back with a vengeance.
Since making those lifestyle changes last year, my sweet tooth had faded away. During pregnancy I felt very, “meh” about sweets. I enjoyed the taste while eating, but I didn’t crave them. At first I thought it was morning sickness, then I thought it was pregnancy, then I thought, “wow, I really have got rid of my sweet tooth by eating enough.”
But now, no matter how much I eat, the cravings are still there, and more often than not, I give in and eat those foods, justifying them by screaming, “I JUST HAD A BABY!! Give yourself a break, and besides you are burning an extra 500 calories a day breastfeeding remember” to myself...yes, yelling that to myself in my mind.
Rather than losing weight, I was gaining it.
How is this possible?! I thought breast-feeding TORCHED baby weight. Why isn’t this working for me?!
Then the comparison trap begins. You start searching for someone you can compare to. Someone who has done what you hoped to do, and you feel terrible about yourself. Your mind goes back to not liking what you see when you look in the mirror.
My friend said she felt like her body was a temple after having a baby, so why do I hate on mine so much?
For comfort, you go back to your indulgences, seeing even trying to lose weight as a lost cause, it will come off when the time is right you tell yourself.
So the time passes, and you either continue to spiral, or you stop. recognize that these thoughts are what is sabotaging you, not the food.
That you are spending all this time thinking about how “bad” you look (when in fact, no one else has even noticed) when you could be freeing up more time to be thinking about more wonderful things, like the fact I was able to have a baby!
Thankfully, motherhood does not allow you much time to dwell on these thoughts, with babies being notorious for needing your attention, and it zaps me right out of it, but if I do not work on this now, these thoughts will continue to fester long after Bailey has grown up…and I will pass them on to her, the last thing I would ever want.
I want her to grow up feeling that she can do anything. That the way she looks does not define who she is, but she is a strong and confident woman (which I have already been telling her) who can chase any dream she wants and make a difference in this world.
You can either choose to do something about it, by going to see a registered dietitian like Nancy, or talking to someone about how you are feeling, accepting that the weight will come off when your body is ready, if it even does need to come off at all. Often we feel like we need to lose those last 5 lbs and I have talked about that before, my message to those of you who do want to lose the last few pounds.
Maybe your body is hanging out at this weight as this is where it wants to be right now, it needs that extra fuel, the extra food to get through a tough period it is trying to work through. The more we fight it, not only is our body now stressing out as we are restricting and going against what it is asking for, but now are minds are in this spinning vortex where our confidence plummets, not just in our bodies, but in who we are as people as the negativity spreads to other areas.
Besides, stress only increases the likelihood that your body will cling to it, so we aren’t doing ourselves any favors.
So my friends, whether you are postpartum or not, I hope you will join me in trusting your body. Trusting it to tell you what it needs right now.
If you need to eat those extra calories, go ahead and do it. Yes, maybe at this point in your life you will be a few pounds heavier, but this part of your story, this chapter of your book will have some role to play in your life, some lesson to learn, and until you take the time to learn that lesson the way you were meant to, it is going to keep coming back to you.
Think about how quickly time passes. When you see a friend has run a race, they are now taking 2 weeks off, and before you know it, they are tapering for their next race. Time just flies like that, and so others will not notice the way you will.
Rather than living your life in guilt and fear of what others will think, enjoy this time in your life that you can enjoy some extra goodies, but really do that, stop seeing them as guilt, and instead make the choice to have them, take the time to really savor in that flavor, as you might not always be able to have those foods you love…well as often as you are now.
Nancy taught me that we should never really hide ourself from our indulgences, there are no bad foods, they can ALWAYS be in your diet…just maybe not this much 🙂
So enjoy it, and join me in determining your own future, not letting society tell you that you have to “get back” to where you were.
You are not the same person you were then, so why would you want to go back to that person now?