Ten years ago, I truly believed that happiness lay at the other end of the scale. I thought that so much of what made me unhappy in life would be fixed by changing numbers: the one on the scale, the one on the tag of my pants. And, for eight years now, my life has been consumed by numbers: Points, PointsPlus, calories, carbs, sugar, protein, fiber, fat.
My brain is full of numbers. I can tell you there are 73 calories in an egg, that 100 calories usually equates to roughly 3 Points on the old Weight Watchers plan, that a typical serving of fries at a restaurant is about 400 calories. I’ve had so many numeric goals: 100 carbs or less; 1,500 calories..1,200..1,000…800 calories a day; 200, 180, 150, 145, 135, 125, 120, 115 pounds on the scale. As you may have guessed, some of these goals were not healthy; some of these goals were not even safe. I didn’t care. I cared about numbers: I cared about making the numbers smaller and smaller and smaller.
Then, I had a daughter, and she was more important than the numbers. And, for a time, I thought that was it: I was fixed. My relationship with food, with the numbers, it was all OK now. Pregnancy had taken me back from the brink of underweight, and as long as I didn’t get back there, then what I was doing was healthy. I could let go of the shame of knowing that “After picture” was really just the outcome of an eating disorder.
But, over time, the numbers have crept in on me again. They’ve wrapped their claws around me. And, I look back now and see that all of those numbers have taken something away from me: I am less happy because of them.
Ten years ago, I thought weighing less would make me happier. But, now, I weigh less, and I don’t feel any happier. I don’t feel accomplished and content; I don’t feel any safer. All I feel is like I’m on the edge of losing all control of a bunch of numbers. And, that losing control of those numbers will bring destruction and failure and loss. I am afraid of the very numbers that I thought were making me better and happier.
So, you see, perhaps, why I have not written in this blog in a very long time. I have been too wrapped up in the numbers — in making them smaller (even while they have become HUGE in my mind), keeping them steady, trying to control them all the while knowing, deep down, that they are controlling me.
But, tonight, I am back. And, I’m here to say that I am going to be trying something new: I am going to try to break up with numbers. We’re in an abusive relationship, and the only way to end an abusive relationship is to cut it off.
To say I am scared would be an understatement: I have no idea what I am doing. I am terrified that I am going to regret this decision. I am terrified that all of this will be, in the end, just a bunch of words. I am afraid that I will ultimately go right back to my abusive relationship with numbers. I’m also carrying the fear of those numbers still — I am afraid of them changing, of them increasing. I’m scared of gaining weight. I am so so scared of gaining weight. And, I’m telling you this, because I just want to be honest. This blog is about honesty. Raw, open, unfiltered honesty. And, I’d like to use it again while I go through this breakup.
Now, I hesitate to share this next bit, because I don’t do endorsements or gimmicks or fads — ESPECIALLY here in this blog — and I do kind of fear that’s what this next thing I’m going to share might be. But, as I am committed to transparency, I will just blurt it out: I’ve decided to start this break-up by doing Whole30. There. I said it. Ugh. That was hard. I’ve no idea if it’ll be a good choice for me or not; I’m choosing to do it this way, because it feels right to me — it feels “safe” to me. I do want to say this though: if, at any point, any of you see this becoming some sort of act of restriction, please call me on it. Because, that is not what this is about, and if it goes that direction, I need to stop the program immediately.
Also, let me be clear, this is pretty much the only time I plan to mention this program’s name. I’d like to use this blog to talk about what this is really about: processing my breakup with numbers and working on my relationship with my body and food. Because, I’ve realized that not only am I in an abusive relationship with numbers, but I’m in an abusive relationship with my body. Only, in that relationship, I am the abuser.
I have both physically and emotionally abused my own self. And, right now, I’m not entirely sure why…or how to stop. I do know that my abusive relationship with with numbers feeds my abusive relationship with myself, so, it seems to me that cutting that off is step 1. I hope you’ll hang with me while I try to figure out steps 2 and beyond.
I have tried to write this post many times over the last 8 months. It’s not that I haven’t had time; well, that’s not been the reason for about 5 months at least. It’s partly been fear and shame, and it’s partly been my telling myself that if I waited just a little longer, I’d lose more weight, and then I would feel better about sharing. But, it’s time. I made a commitment to sharing how my body responded to pregnancy. I made this decision because, when I got pregnant, I could not find information anywhere about how my body might look during or after pregnancy given my weight loss history.
Would my “bump” be round? Would I simply look fat? Would I get stretchmarks? Would the fact that I had so much loose skin make my pregnancy easier? How much might I lose after giving birth? Would losing weight be more difficult after giving birth?
Well, of course, everybody and every body is different. But, I wanted to share my experience. So, where were we? The last month.
I went into labor the day before my due date; my daughter would eventually be born on my due date. So, I am, in fact, in labor in my 40-week picture. I waffled back and forth on how much about my physical changes I wanted to document and share. But, ultimately, I wanted to provide an example of how a body that has lost a large amount of weight might look during pregnancy. So, I’m taking a risk here, and I’ve decided to share.
At my largest, I weighed 235 pounds; at my lowest, I weighed 117. I ultimately maintained a weight of about 120 pounds for roughly 8 months before deciding to try for a baby. After a 115-pound weight loss, I had quite a bit of loose skin.
I was always frustrated that, despite weighing 120 and wearing a size 4, I would never get to have a flat stomach. When I got pregnant, I wondered if this “B-shaped” stomach would translate over to pregnancy: would I get to have a round bump? Would I get stretch marks? Would my belly button pop out? Or, might the extra skin and old stretch marks save me from anything new?
I gained 34 pounds during pregnancy: I went from 123 pounds to 157.
Here I am in labor again 🙂
I was pleasantly surprised at how my body changed during pregnancy. I did not get any stretch marks, and my belly button ultimately did not pop out. My bump was fairly round with a sort of small “curtain” of still-loose skin hanging underneath. Though I carried my daughter way far back, which prevented me actually looking pregnant for a good while, by my third trimester, I ultimately felt comfortable dressing in clothes that showed “the bump.”
I believe had I not lost all of that weight pre-pregnancy, I would have gotten stretch marks as I got MANY during the years when I was obese. I also feel that having been many different “shapes” in my life ultimately allowed me to feel more comfortable with my post-partum body even immediately after giving birth.
Many women say that they lose lots of weight in the first week or two after giving birth. This was not my experience. A lot of the weight that I gained during pregnancy was, indeed, actual fat on my body – not fluid, blood, or baby. My daughter weighed 7 pounds at birth; I lost 10 pounds total after having her.
I maintained a weight of 147 – 150 for basically 7 months and have only recently dropped a couple more pounds. I now weigh 143 – 145. Breastfeeding did not assist me – at all – in losing weight.
Behold my messy living room…
So, that chronicles the physical changes that my body went through. I hope that it might help someone who has all of the same questions I once had. As I said before, my body is my body – everybody and every body is different. There is no shame in how your body changes or handles pregnancy. So, please don’t look at this as some example of how your body “should” do pregnancy; there are no “shoulds” here.
At some point in the near future, I will share the far more difficult struggles I encountered with antenatal and post-partum anxiety, depression, and OCD. But, those are different topics for different days.
I can’t close this entry without, of course, sharing a photo of of our family: my how far life has brought us!
Happy New Year, everyone 🙂
One. More. Month!
Of course – they say it’s the longest month of your life, so… But here I am!
36 weeks pregnant.
I’ve gained 35 pounds.
So, I think I can officially say that I will be going over the “recommended weight gain” guidelines for pregnancy. That’s ok. It’s going to be ok. If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout this process it’s that pregnancy is a time for trusting my body. And my body wants to gain more than 35 pounds. And it’s going to be ok.
Honestly, the fact that I can say that and mean it really gives me some hope. At my lowest weight, I could never say it was going to be ok. I was terrified. I needed control. Of my food, of my body, of my weight, of everything. I’m still scared; I still want to be in control. But, I can say that it’s going to be ok. And I can mean it.
I’ve tracked my food throughout my entire pregnancy. It’s something I’ve done for 6 years now, it’s how I lost my weight, and it’s now a habit that I think may be a life-long change. For me, it’s comforting to be able to look back and say that I know what I’ve consumed, so if my scale jumps, there is no wondering “did I really eat that much?” I can know: no, I didn’t. So, it’s something else.
Pregnancy has taken a lot of control away from me. I can’t control a wiggling baby inside of me. I can’t control swelling, my increased heart rate, or any number of symptoms. This has been scary and difficult for me. It’s been especially hard to not be able to fully control my weight. I was really frightened early on because while everyone else seemed to lose weight 1st trimester, I gained. I belong to an online community of pregnant ladies, and I swear…every time we’d talk about weight gain, the conversation would go something like… “I’m 20 weeks and up 3 pounds!” “I’m 22 weeks and still at my pre-pregnancy weight!” “I’m 25 weeks and am 10 pounds under my pre-pregnancy weight!” … then, there was me: I gained 14 pounds in 1st trimester alone. Everyone told me that 3rd trimester would be rapid weight gain. I was terrified. But, fortunately, my body (so far!!) has been more of the slow and steady type. And, gradually, I’ve begun to trust it. I’ve begun to listen to it rather than force it into my strict guidelines. And, it’s been ok. Everything is ok.
Once the baby is born, I’m going to need to reevaluate. I’m not who I was a year ago when my “After Myth” post went viral. I’m not the same me. I’m not even the same me that I was 9 months ago when I got pregnant. I will never be the same me again. I’m not sure what that “me” is going to look like, believe, feel, think, care about, eat…. But, I do know this: it’s going to be ok.
I think I can trust my body.
I think, maybe, I can even one day trust myself.
I don’t spend a lot of time really connected with my body. In fact, I quite often try to tune it out or escape from it. I haven’t given my body a lot of credit. I don’t often acknowledge its strengths (although I’m damn good at tearing it to pieces for its failures). But, lately, I’ve been really appreciating my body — not for what it looks like but for what it’s doing. And doing well.
I’m now 30 weeks pregnant, and I have seriously been lucky. Aside from the ridiculous insomnia I had in first trimester, early-onset braxton hicks, and a slightly irritable uterus, my body has physically been handling this pregnancy splendidly. I’ve passed all my blood tests, my blood pressure remains right where it’s been since I lost weight before getting pregnant, and I haven’t had any swelling so far. I can still get down on hands and knees every morning and evening to give my foster cat his pills, I can still squat down to read labels on the low shelves at grocery stores, and I was even able to walk endlessly for 4 days on our pre-baby vacation to St. Augustine. I’m certainly gaining weight (28 pounds so far, if I’m being transparent and honest), but even that has been just steady since the beginning.
Excuse me while I go knock on some wood, because we all know I’ve just completely jinxed myself.
Truly, I don’t mean this as a bragging post. I really can’t take much credit for any of this — I’ve just gotten lucky. But, I do want to acknowledge it. Because I’m really really hard on this body. I criticize it so much and so often, and I just feel like it’s worth it to pause and acknowledge that no matter what happens from this point forward — even if it all goes to hell in the next 10 weeks — my body has done something pretty awesome these last 30 weeks. And that really makes me appreciate it in a way I’ve never taken the time to even think about.
I remember the first time I joined a Zumba class was when I first started thinking “look at what my body can do!” I’d push myself so hard jumping and kicking just because I could — because there was a time when I couldn’t. When I returned to horseback riding, I marveled at what I could do with my body: I could use it to communicate with a creature 10 times my size, and that animal listened…usually…unless it was a mare. 😉 When I started cantering and jumping bareback, I loved the knowledge that my body was strong and balanced enough to stay on.
These feelings — I’ve not had them at all since getting pregnant. I’ve been so so focused on the weight gain that I’ve just not acknowledged at all what my body is doing.
We’re doing this — my body and me…and the baby too. We’re growing life. I’m pretty sure that trumps flying bareback on a horse. You’re pretty badass, body.
So, anyways. I just wanted to take a moment and appreciate this: that my body is doing this. I know that not everyone gets to do this – and through absolutely no fault of their own. I’m lucky. I’m blessed. And I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that.
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:
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:
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.
Where do I begin?
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.
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.