Pregnancy After Weight Loss is Really Freaking Hard

Yeah, my title is not creative today. I’m not really feeling creative right now. I’m struggling. Because, like the title says, pregnancy after weight loss is really freaking hard. I’ve promised to be honest with you (perhaps too honest), and so I will be…even if it means opening myself to criticism.

First: an outright update. Here I am in all my pregnant glory, now 22 weeks along:

18 to 22

Our little girl, Emma, weighs nearly a pound. She’s healthy, and I can feel her wiggling around every day. I’ve gained 18 pounds and have zero pairs of pants that comfortably fit. The maternity pants I ordered also don’t fit, though, so I mostly live in leggings. To try and reduce my mounting frustration (and, honestly, depression) related to gaining weight and my changing body, I purged my closet. I packed away clothing I hope to fit into again someday and donated a ton of clothing that I will likely never wear again. What’s left are outfits that look like this:

Christmas pic

Because I’m not comfortable “showing off the bump.” Also, have I mentioned that I have zero pants? I have zero pants.

One of the biggest things I’ve noticed, though, is how different my mentality seems to be compared to my fellow pregnant compatriots. I belong to a few groups of ladies who are pregnant, and I have to admit that my brain just appears to be in a completely different place than most of theirs. While they fawn over nursery decorations, I fret over my caloric intake. While they show off cute little bump pictures every week, I find myself taking my picture and using it to compare where I’m at versus others at a similar stage as me (probably the worst thing I could do, really, because I never realized just how extremely different women look compared to one another while pregnant…every body is just so different). I glow when someone says I’m “small” for how far along I am, and I get frustrated when people tell me the weight will “come right off…at least if you’re breastfeeding.” (That’s not how my body works… weight does not “come right off” of me… ever.)

When my blog went viral, a lot of people called me inspirational. Now, I feel like a drag…constantly criticizing my own weight, menu, and appearance. Instead of focusing on growing a healthy baby, I’m really a lot more focused on not gaining too much weight, not using my pregnancy as an excuse, and not breaking my food-tracking habits while pregnant. I worry all the time about what people are thinking about my weight gain: do they think I’ve already gained so much more than I should? Are they judging my food choices? What will they think if the weight doesn’t “come right off” post-pregnancy? …I’m fairly certain that I will never weigh 120 pounds ever again. And that matters to me. And I don’t want it to. I really want the other parts of my life (you know, like my family) to matter more than the number on a scale.

In the last week, I’ve started telling myself to view this as an opportunity to try again. When I lost the last 50 pounds of my weight last year, I did so without allowing internal issues like those above to be resolved. I lost the weight, but the weight was only a symptom, and the underlying disease (self-hatred) did not resolve. This time, I would like to change that. I would like to re-focus on learning to love myself and allowing my weight to settle itself at whatever number that might be: 120, 130, 140…just something healthy. It’s supposed to just be a number, after all. I really hope that, someday, it can just be a number.

 

Dear Daughter…

Dear daughter,

Where do I begin?

Announcement

When I found out that you existed, I was so excited. It was 6 in the morning, and even though I didn’t have to be up for a couple more hours, I was so eager to find out if you were really there. When the test turned positive, I felt a rush from my head to my toes. I swore. I had to sit down. I touched my stomach. Holy crap… I was going to be a mom. Your mom.

For an hour, it was just you and me. Nobody else knew that I had you yet. I held you all by myself for that hour. You were mine. I walked around talking to you. I was so happy. Finally, when an hour was up, I woke up your daddy to tell him you existed. And we were happy together.

The last four months have been so crazy. My body is changing to bring you into this world.

Pregnancy Progress

I’ve struggled with this…a lot. Not so long ago, I was really scared when I became very visible to the world after something I wrote went viral. I said “if I gain weight, everyone will see. If I fail, everyone will know.” But, of course, I can’t have you without giving some of that up right now. But, if I’m being honest, I am still sometimes really hard on myself about this journey of ours. I say some really mean things to myself about it. It’s hard to see your size-2 body in health articles while secretly hiding that you’ve actually already gone up 2 sizes and 13 pounds. And nobody warned me about the emotional turmoil pregnancy can bring. Everyone else always seemed so happy to be having a baby; but, there have been many times when I have struggled with the immense change and responsibility coming my way. I’ve cried. A lot. I didn’t feel the things you’re “supposed” to feel while pregnant. But, I carry your sonogram pictures in my purse now, because I know that all I have to do is take them out and start talking about you, and I light up. Even if I’ve just been falling apart.

When I found out I was having a daughter, I cheered. A real cheer. A surprising cheer. After all the tears, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel when I found out your name (your dad and I already had names picked out for if you were a boy or girl). Emma. That’s your great-great grandmother’s name. It’s yours now. You have no idea how much I was secretly hoping for a little girl. That happens when you grow up with three brothers. But, also, you have no idea how anxious I am for you.

Will you love yourself? How can I help you love yourself? Will we have similar struggles? What if I cannot understand things that you need me to understand? What mistakes will I make? Because, I will make mistakes. And, my biggest fear? I remember when my biggest fear surfaced. I texted a friend: “oh my gosh…what if she loves me?” You see, I’m afraid of you loving me. What I mean is…I’m afraid of you loving me and me not deserving that love.

This is my struggle, Emma. Loving myself. It’s really hard to think of another human being loving you when you are struggling so hard to love yourself. You don’t get to choose who your mother will be. What if I’m not deserving of being your mother? Have I harmed you just by forcing you to have me as a mom? These are my fears. And I’m working hard on them.

Emma, there’s so much we’re going to encounter together. Big changes, big feelings, little things that can feel gigantic. And, while I will always be on your side, I won’t be able to protect you from a lot of things. I won’t be able to fix all of the things. Sometimes, I will let you down. But, I will always be on your team. I will do my best. That’s the best I can do.

Now, for a moment here…a note to my readers. I’m sorry for being so silent these last months. I’ve wanted to come here and tell you all what was going on in my life, but I’ve been trying so hard to wrap my mind around it. I’m still trying to figure it out. I feel a lot of things. Happiness, fear, love, joy, anxiety…a lot of things. It’s hard to come back to you, a crowd of people I attracted through my weight-loss journey, and say “hey, I’m gaining weight.” But, I am. I’m gaining weight. I will be honest with you. I’m going to gain weight, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get back to where I was. I’m not sure how much that matters. I’ve been 235 pounds, I’ve been 117, and I’m going to be a lot of other numbers in coming months and years too. But, this blog was never meant to be about just successfully losing weight. It’s about loving myself. Or trying to. So, if you’re here to read about weight loss, this may not be the place for you. But, if you’re here to read about all the things in life that challenge our abilities to love ourselves, I’ll do my best to write about it.

I told you After didn’t exist. You were warned. We all were.

Here I go.

 

 

Why Was I Fat?

Let’s go beyond literal answers to this question. Yes, I was overweight because I ate too much and moved too little; but, I eat less and move more now, and that’s how one fixes symptoms without ever fixing the root issue. Why was I fat?

It was safe.

When I was larger, I was less visible. Not because I was fat, but because I believed being big meant I didn’t deserve love, attention, or to be noticed by those more worthy than myself. I made myself less visible because I was fat and ashamed of it all the while convincing myself that my size was the reason that nobody wanted me. The truth is that many people tried to love and get close to me when I was fat, but I didn’t allow myself to receive it because of my self hatred.

Being fat also made me an easy target for some people’s bullying. And, somehow, it seemed safer to be on the receiving end of that. If I was a target, then I was not a threat. If I was not a threat, maybe they would stop tearing me down. These were people who I wanted to love me but who were unable to do so because of their own issues, but I didn’t understand that at the time. All I knew was that I desperately wanted to be good enough for them, and that seemed to mean losing weight. It seemed like the only thing I had to do to finally be good enough for them was to lose weight. But it was never enough. I would starve myself down 40 pounds, and they would push for 10 more. 10 more, and I would be good enough. But, I was starving, and I hated myself for still not being good enough. Inevitably, I would gain it back and remain a target. I was never allowed to stop being fat…even when I wasn’t fat.

play

An assortment of theatre/drama photos from high school. Can you find me?!

I believed it was inevitable.

One side of my family has always struggled with weight; three people on that side of my family have had weight-loss surgery. In fact, when I joined Weight Watchers, I did so in order to prepare myself for weight-loss surgery. My mom had told me that Weight Watchers would “teach me how to eat,” which was a skill I would need after surgery. I fully believed that surgery was going to be my path (and know that it is a path that I do not judge – it has worked wonders in my family members’ lives).

I was shocked when I began losing weight on Weight Watchers. I thought, like with everything else I tried, it would be unmaintainable. I thought that I would fail. I thought that I’d give up. That was my real resignation: I believed that I would give up; I believed that I would fail. Attempting something while believing you will fail makes you about a hundred times more likely to quit. I’d say I was about a month or more into the program before I started believing that it might be possible for me to do this.

snarky look

“That look” hahaha

I tried to fill the void with food.

This….this is probably the biggest reason I was overweight. I still struggle with this today.

For every happy memory, special person, and celebrated occasion in my life, there is a food. There’s my Nana’s mac and cheese, my grandmother’s doughy rolls, my ex-stepmom’s Moroccan stew, my dad’s meatloaf, my mom’s spaghetti. There’s the crab soup we ate at the beach, the cold watermelon we ate all summer that my dad taught me how to pick out, the sweet tomatoes with salt we pulled from my great grandmother’s garden. There’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the tang of ocean water still on my lips, there’s fried chicken before Santa shows up to pass out presents, there’s red velvet cake before we sing happy birthday. For everything, there is a food. My memories are tied to food. My emotions are tied to food.

I have a void inside of me. It comes from a desperate desire to be loved, to be good enough. Sometimes, I try to fill that void with food. I make and eat my Nana’s mac and cheese and, for a few moments, she’s alive again, and I am loved by her. I have my dad’s meatloaf and, for a little while, it’s a really special day during my childhood (he only made meatloaf on special days). I’m good enough in the past for those few short present moments. I re-create my ex-stepmom’s Moroccan stew and, for a time, that divorce never happened, and my family never fractured. I eat and eat, remember and feel, and I try to fill the void.

Only the void can’t be filled with food or memories. I can’t go back and make the people who didn’t love me in the past have loved me then. I can’t bring back my grandmother or my great grandmother; those goodbyes have been said for the final time. I can’t be a child again and get to experience all of the things I missed out on. I can’t go back; I can only go forward.

being a goof

So, how do I fill the void left by what I missed out on in the past? Not by trying to re-capture what’s gone, but by creating love now. By capturing the love around me today. Not through food but through the experience of love and those people who give it now. Through being fully present for today’s times of love, care, and being good enough. Slowly, piece by piece, the void is filled…as I let go of the old, worn-out pieces I’ve been trying to cram into it, set them aside to be valued for what they are, and allow new, solid, foundational pieces to fill the void. This will allow me to be filled by something much more permanent than food — by love.

me and misty

Becoming Visible

Wow. Just, wow. I never expected that last post to go viral. I never expected so many people to ever hear me. I never expected you all… I am honored that so many people took the time to read my blog. I read through each and every one of your comments, and so many of you brought tears to my eyes with your compassion, empathy, and support. Just, wow. Thank you.

I have another confession to make: I never expected to become this visible. And, I’m scared.

I’m afraid of writing something dumb in this next post.

I’m afraid of gaining weight and it being much more public than I could’ve anticipated.

I’m afraid of not being worthy of you all reading my words. Of being heard.

I’m afraid of losing the right to speak and be heard.

The best I can do is continue, as I always have, to write for me…whatever comes out of me…and try to just be okay with however people receive that. But, that’s so much easier to say than to do. In the last week, I’ve become visible, and that’s been an ongoing struggle for me. Being seen. Being noticed.

singing

Sometimes, when someone notices me now, approaches me, speaks with me, I worry I’ve done something wrong. Fat was safe. Invisible was safe. Unapproachable was safe. Someone asked in the comments of my last post if people treated me differently now that I’ve lost weight. The truth is, it’s not that they treat me differently — they just “treat me” more often. Because I let them. Because I am working on feeling more worthy of being seen, of being “treated” at all.

One reader, Mary, posted a comment that hit me so hard I’ve been thinking about it all week. The comment was “I have no idea what scary demons I’d find to obsess over if the weight was not there to take the blame.” Can I just say… thank you for that comment. Somehow, in all this self awareness, I hadn’t even considered that maybe the reason it’s scary to be done losing weight is because now I’m left without the one “issue” in my life over which I have some semblance of control. Without that issue, I’m left with the rest of me…so very visible, so very hard for me to look at.

horseback

But, I have to look at me. I can’t cover myself back up with fat or thin: either would be temporary distractions — deflections from the actuality of me. Instead, I must stand in front of a mirror — not a physical one, but a mental and emotional one — and look at the me that’s underneath this skin I’m in, fat or thin. She’s been there all along. It’s time to stop hiding her, hiding from her. It’s time for her to be visible too. Even though visible is really rather scary.

I don’t know how many of you will stick around to read more of my blogs. If this is the last one you read, just know that I appreciate you more than I can say. Your comments, your insight, your seeing me. Without you, I would not have looked in the mirror. Thank you. For those who choose to keep reading, I hope that I don’t let you down, but I make no promises. This is a journey. It’s going to have its ups, downs, plateaus, hard rock walls… that’s life. So, I won’t promise that my posts will be awesome. I will only promise that I will write. For me. As my mirror that you’ve helped me look in once again. That, I can promise.

hiking

The “After” Myth

DURING

After.

It’s here.

In my first post, Before, 3 years ago, I said “I’m not to After yet, but I’m closer to After than to Before.”

I now weigh 117 – 120 pounds (depending on the day), and standing at 5-foot 6-inches, that measurement means that After is very, very here. But, before you congratulate me, dear readers…if I have any…and dear friends and family who I know follow this blog… I have to come clean with you: I don’t feel like I’m at After. I’m terrified of being at After. And, I don’t like that After is here.

After5 2

The tagline of my blog is “uncovering myself one pound at a time.” For most of this blog, I’ve spoken strongly about how my relationship with food and myself was what caused my weight struggles. I stand by that. The thing is, the symptoms have resolved faster than I’ve been able to treat the deeper disease. I’ve lost the weight, but I’ve failed to uncover and learn to truly love myself in the process. Truthfully, I have no idea who I am without “needs to lose weight” being one of the primary parts of my identity.

This is why I have not been posting…because this blog is not about weight loss…it’s about life gain. I could not bear to post here about the beautiful things one can gain in life by learning to love yourself while, in the background, hating myself so hard while the weight melted off. Progressing on the outside while regressing internally. Because, that’s the truth, readers. The last stretch of this weight loss hasn’t been healthy OR happy: it’s been agony. It’s been sad. It’s been an exercise in mourning.

After2 2

I’ve gotten so good at putting on the happy face. At “smile, nod, yes, thank you, I have lost a lot. No, I’m not trying to lose any more; you don’t need to worry.” I’m very good at this script, but it’s been such a lie, readers. The truth is my body melted away, and I stared at myself in the mirror not understanding why I couldn’t love the skin I’m in. Why? I thought After was the goal!

But I made a mistake.

A crucial mistake.

I forgot that the number on the scale is only a number. Only just a number. It’s not a before. It’s not an after. Getting that number to a certain set of digits is not my After.

I’m not at After. There is no After – happily ever or otherwise. There is only today. Just today – During.

After1 2

I tell you this now not to discourage you but to hopefully prevent someone from making the mistake that I did and associating After with a number. I weigh 120 pounds and still struggle with my weight. Losing weight does not mean you no longer struggle with your weight; I wish I had truly understood that. I still struggle with food. I still struggle with me.

Looking at the picture I put first in this post, I have to pause. I look at me … past vs. present. That is me. All of those pictures are of me. People say they do not recognize the girl in the other pictures. I’m here to say: that girl is me.

Don’t look at her as an abomination, because enough people, myself included, did that already.

Don’t congratulate me on no longer being her; I still am her. And doesn’t she deserve to be?

Don’t tell me I look better; I don’t. I look different.

Don’t speak of her as if she is a poor, piteous person. She’s not.

She’s me.

She’s standing right here, and she is fucking strong.

After3 2

There. Is. No. After.

There’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow of weight loss because the rainbow has no end.

There is today. There is now. There is during. There is life.

I uncovered myself one pound at a time; now, I must REcover myself…I must DIScover myself. And that…that is the new goal. Not numbers. Not sizes. Not inches.

Me. I am the goal. Finding. Loving. Being.

Can anybody hear me?

After6 2

Dear Self, You don’t know it yet, but you’re going to be ok.

self

7 years and 105 pounds ago

Hello, self.

I just wanted to tell you, it’s going to be ok.

You don’t know it self, but, one day, you will lose the weight. But, of course, that won’t fix everything. You don’t know that yet though. You don’t know that there’s more to it yet. That’s ok.

You don’t know it, self, but, one day, you’ll find someone who would and will love you yesterday, today, and tomorrow. You don’t know it, self, but you’re already worth loving.

You don’t know it, self, but you’re going to be successful. You’re going to have a career, and you’re going to be good at it. You don’t know it, self, but you’re going to fight so hard. You don’t know it, self, but you’re going to do great things.

You don’t know it, self, but one day, that smile will be real. Then, you’ll struggle to find it again, but that’s ok. You don’t know it, self, but life is both more beautiful and more difficult than you know. You don’t know it, self, but you’ll be glad you woke up tomorrow morning.

You don’t know it, self, but tomorrow comes. Things change in ways you don’t know, self. You change in ways you don’t know. You don’t know it, self, but you don’t know yourself. I wish I could tell you who you are, but I still don’t know you, self. I still struggle to love you, self. I’m sorry for that.

You don’t know it, self, but you’re already beautiful. You don’t know it, self, but those are still just words to me even now. You don’t know it, self, but you have a voice. You don’t know it, self, but you’ll find that voice. I believe.

You don’t know it, self, but you’ve been lied to. You don’t know it, self, but you’ve lied to yourself as well. You don’t know it, self, but you’re going to need help figuring all of this out. You don’t know it, self, but it’s OK to ask for this help. You don’t know it, self, but you deserve help even now. You don’t know it, self, but someone else believes you deserve help too.

I worry for you, self. I cry for you, self. I am angry at you, self. I am angry for you, self. Because you, frozen image self…you will never know these things. You, self caught in time, will never know love, joy, self respect, passion, drive. You, past self, will never know yourself. But, I want to know you, self. I want to love you, self. I want to be you, self.

We don’t know it, self, but we will be best friends. We don’t know it, self, but we will be the most important person to ourself forever; we touch our life more than any other. We don’t know it, self, but we need one another.

I don’t know you, self. But someday, I hope I will.

Love (someday soon),

You.

—-

Note: I am intentionally not including any current pictures in this letter tonight because the picture included here is of the girl who deserves to be seen. She is deserving of love. She deserves to hold her head high. If either of “us” inspires anyone, she should be that one. If you want to be proud of someone involved in this journey here, then, please… be proud of her then, not me now. 

The Power of Acknowledgement

Forewarning: this is an oddly philosophical, floaty post. And, it has little to do with my currently plateau-ed weight loss journey. You have been warned :)

You know that feeling you get when someone simply acknowledges your presence? Maybe it’s a stranger in a coffee shop who gives you a smile and a nod, or maybe it’s a friend who greets you after a long time apart. Maybe the act doesn’t even come from a human: I’ve seen dementia temporarily cured and muteness lifted for a little while by the simple act of acknowledgement from a little dog in a nursing home ward. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself: when I am acknowledged, it feels like a nod to my existence. I feel like I am worthy, right then, to be in the right place at the right time for whatever is right for that moment. The act of acknowledging and being acknowledged is a profound and important one; at least, it’s that way for me.

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There was a time when I didn’t really feel I was worthy of being seen or acknowledged. I desperately wanted to be seen; but, I also wanted to be invisible. Self hatred and reliance on external sources to provide meaning to your life and definition to your sense of “self” will do that to you. This time in my life is in the past, and it is not where I am anymore; nevertheless, it’s something I’ve been reminded of lately — the power of acknowledgement.

This week, I have found myself genuinely touched by moments when someone else acknowledges me…when they see me and take a moment to say hello, smile, share a laugh, like a Facebook post, really any little thing. And, I have felt compelled to acknowledge others more — not just people I know, but also the people I encounter wherever I am in the moment. It’s important to know and make known when someone is seen because there are many people out there who feel invisible. Choosing to see someone in any given moment could, for all you know, give them a breath to get through the next moment. Even a simple act of connection can remind someone “you exist; I see you,” and I believe that is an important message to send to those around you.

There’s little point to this post except to encourage you to make eye contact with someone today. Acknowledge someone. See someone you might not typically notice. Let’s all remind one another that we exist and are worthy to do so.