My Second Pregnancy Journey: Pregnancy After Weight Loss, Eating Disorder Recovery, and Finding Intuitive Eating

Ok, ok, I won’t put it off any longer: yes, readers, I am officially pregnant (actually, 18 weeks pregnant) with baby #2 — Michael! Due June 20, 2020!

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As with my last pregnancy, I really want to document this journey, because there are so few illustrations of how a body might change during (and after) pregnancy after major weight loss and, this time, after eating disorder recovery and finding intuitive eating.

Let’s start with a rundown of what my last pregnancy looked like and what’s very VERY different this time around!

My Pregnancy (in numbers) with Emma!

  • Starting weight: 123 pounds (which I was unhealthily maintaining eating 1,000 calories a day. Do not recommend.)
  • My age: 28; 29 at delivery
  • Exercise pre-pregnancy: None
  • Exercise during pregnancy: None
  • Caloric intake during pregnancy: 1,500 1st trimester; 1,700 2nd trimester; 2,000 3rd trimester
  • Weight at delivery: 157 pounds
  • Total gain: 34 pounds
  • Emma’s weight: 7 pounds
  • My weight post-delivery: 147-150 pounds

My Pregnancy (in numbers) with Michael! (So Far)

  • Starting weight: 140 pounds (which I was maintaining eating 2,300-2,500 calories a day – estimated – intuitive eating!)
  • My age: 32; 33 at delivery
  • Exercise pre-pregnancy: Lifting 3x a week; cardio 3x a week
  • Exercise during pregnancy: Lifting 3x a week; cardio 2x a week (intensity is also diminished)
  • Caloric intake during pregnancy: Not sure as I am doing intuitive eating. 2,300 – 2,500 calories most days still, I imagine, based on the couple of days I have tracked out of curiosity (and anxiety).

And here’s where I’m at right now:

  • Week: 18
  • Current weight: roughly 148-149
  • Total gain so far: 8-9 pounds

I haven’t taken my 18-week picture yet (tomorrow!), but here’s my …er… “growth” so far lol.

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And, of course, here is a comparison ūüôā

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And, for fun, here’s a sneak peak at what I look like now (but not scientific ‘cus not at the same time of day or in the same clothes — science is important! Ha!):

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Mental Struggles

As you may recall, I struggled hardcore with antenatal mental health as well as post-partum depression, anxiety, and OCD that eventually led to me being hospitalized when Emma was 7 weeks old. Moreover, with Emma, I was still in an active eating disorder when I got pregnant.

I’ve been in pretty intense therapy for years now, but I’ve also improved to the point of being able to be off of psychiatric medication for a year. I’ve also been in genuine eating disorder recovery for only a year, and I admit that the body image part of this is HARD for me. Somewhere in my head (before recovery), I had it in my plans to get my weight way back down again before getting pregnant again because I was SO AFRAID of how a second pregnancy would impact my body and weight. But, then I found lifting…and running…and recovery… and, well, here we are.

This pregnancy has been different — I’ve been far more sick, I’ve been far more tired, but I’ve also been far more active, and I’m not having to go through psych medication withdrawal. My anxiety is still very present, but I do feel overall more emotionally stable this time compared to last time.

My brain and body have also not totally caught up with one another: my brain currently refuses to accept that I am pregnant when it comes to my weight & what I’m seeing in the mirror.

Impacts to and of Intuitive Eating

Pregnancy (and post-partum) are going to probably be the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced when it comes to committing to intuitive eating. I’ve been doing intuitive eating for a year now, and if I’m being honest – I don’t know that I can commit to NOT tracking/trying to intentionally lose weight after this baby is born. I already am feeling the pull.

I’m trying to eat intuitively right now, but my appetite is alarming to me at times: I wake up hungry multiple times throughout the night, every night. In 1st trimester, I would eat even in the middle of the night; now, I don’t. I also try very hard to focus on eating mostly “whole foods.” This is mostly because I’ve found these foods appealing and they physically make me feel the best; but, admittedly, it’s also partly a weight gain/fear food thing.

I’m not tracking calories (except for portions of a couple of days to get just a ballpark of where I’m at); I religiously tracked in my last pregnancy. And, I just put my scale in timeout too.

I’m honestly not sure what I’m doing — I’m overwhelmed by my hunger levels and fear of gaining too much. My midwives have mostly been supportive (they know I am in ED recovery), but they’ve still mentioned ballpark target weight numbers, which has been difficult for me. I’m very much looking forward to meeting with my ED recovery/intuitive eating dietitian next week for some reassurance and guidance.

So, there you go – that’s where I’m at right now.

I’d like to keep documenting this pregnancy and postpartum just like last time. Hopefully, some of you will find it helpful (or at least interesting)!

What Does Normal Bloating Look Like?

I recorded a video for my YouTube channel yesterday (I’ll post it below) that I thought would translate pretty well into a blog as well (plus, I’m going to add some bonus pictures that aren’t in the video just for my awesome blog readers). For those who would rather watch vs. read (or watch and read), here is the video:

Now…let’s talk about bloating.

This experiment was inspired by one of my favorite YouTubers, Natacha Oc√©ane, who recorded what a normal day of bloating and scale fluctuations look like for her. Now, there are a few differences between Natacha and myself…

Natacha and Me

…have you spotted them?

I’ll give you a minute.

Just in case you can’t tell from this photo, Natacha is in her 20s, has never been obese, and has never had a child — three pretty big differences between the two of us!

I loved her honest portrayal so much, though, that I wanted to provide my own showing my different body type. So, that’s what I did!

Now, if you watch the video, you’ll hear all about how difficult this day wound up being for me. I struggle pretty hard with watching the scale and my body fluctuate. I am hoping that this experiment will help to remind me that these are very fickle things that fluctuate wildly, and there’s no need or reason to change anything just because of minor fluctuations like this.

Now, the experiment…

Method!

I “measured” as soon as I woke up, after my run, after lunch, before bed, and when I woke up again this morning.

I took two sets of photos/video: my abs relaxed vs. my abs flexed (not that you can see them, haha).

I also weighed myself.

What I Ate

Pre-run: espresso with some creamer

Breakfast: protein pancakes w/ extra protein powder, peanut butter chips, coffee w/ creamer

Lunch: half of a buffalo ranch salad kit with a beef pattie on top, sweet potato chips, sour gummies

Dinner: a bowl of cereal with 2% milk, blueberries, and a yogurt

Snacks: lunch meat (turkey), crackers, pickles, protein bar, decaf coffee with creamer

How I Worked Out

5-mile short run

Results!

Here are the weights:

I was 140.2 when I woke up, 138.8 after my 5-mile run, 140.8 after lunch, and 140.8 before bed.

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I woke up at 139.6 this morning.

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Abs Relaxed Photos

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This morning:

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Abs Flexed Photos!

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This morning:

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Conclusion!

Bloat is normal, the scale fluctuates a lot throughout the day and day-to-day, and these things are not something to worry about. I thought, at first, that I bloat up “bigger” than others because of the elasticity in my stomach area, but I’m honestly not sure that’s true now. I think I’m just much more critical of myself!

Also, on a personal note, yes, I have legitimately gained a couple pounds in the last couple of months. I actually had lost about 4-5 pounds when I went on a short-term, idiotic diet, but my body composition test told me that all I’d managed to do was lose muscle & water & freak my body out so that it was holding onto fat for dear life. So, I stopped dieting, got back on the intuitive eating train, and re-gained the weight within 3 weeks. My next body composition test is next week, and I’m hoping to see that I have my muscle (water) back.

Personal Note

This was a really hard experiment for me, and I am feeling all sorts of anxious about putting it out there. I’m definitely struggling with body image a lot these days – more, I think, than I was even before I started exercising.

That said, the exercise is going amazingly well! I continue to see gains in my strength and endurance, and I want that to be all that matters — I at least want it to matter more than a stupid number on a scale. I hope, some day, this is true for me.

 

Eat Less, Weigh Less: A Woman’s Mantra

43117043_10102349786336293_6428486540736856064_nMy whole life, I have always thought there was only one way to “be” as a woman: eat less, weigh less.

That’s how you get thin; that’s how you stay thin. And, women should be thin.

After years of trying and failing to commit to eating less, somehow, I finally got a grip on that chain, and I’ve been toeing that line for a decade.

It’s exhausting. There’s a reason that all of the studies show that most people who lose weight will gain it back. (Even my nutritionist tells me that I’m the first person she’s ever met who is part of the National Weight Control Registry.) I have spent years living in fear that I will gain it all back too. To combat that fear, I clung to this truth: “If I eat less, it can’t happen.”

Starvation is a full-time job. There are no breaks when you turn restriction into a lifestyle. When every calorie matters, food becomes an obsession: the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about at night. It even invades your dreams. You learn to live at a low level of hunger at all times.

I am so tired of being hungry.

Three months ago, I stumbled into a local gym that provides personal training and specializes in educating their clients about all things health-related. During my consultation, I told the owner that I had nutrition down but was ready to learn about exercise.

For the first couple of months, I continued to do what I’ve always done: eat less. I asked even more of my body, and I was so angry at it when it “failed me.” In frustration, I did, again, what I’ve always done: I doubled down on my commitment. I decided that I would eat even less, I would work out even more. That has always been the answer: eat less, move more. Right?

And then, about a month ago, after literally crying outside of the gym after a particularly bad day in which I felt weak and like I had regressed in my strength training, I found this video¬†by a female fitness (and especially strength training) guru, Natacha Oc√©ane. In the video, she halved her caloric intake for a week (dropping from her normal 2,500-2,800 to just 1,400 calories per day, which was about what I was eating at the time) but continued her typical exercise routine. Suddenly, she couldn’t lift nearly as much weight, she was exhausted, and every time she ate, she just felt more hungry.

I felt like I was watching myself from that morning at the gym – unable to lift what I’d just been able to lift a couple of weeks before.

And something clicked.¬†And I watched more videos, read more articles, scoured the internet world of female strength training and…holy…crap.

There is an entirely different world out there.

There is a world of women who are eating more, gaining muscle (which means, yes, gaining weight on a scale), and yet somehow being leaner and stronger and a million times more alive than my starving self.

There are countless women showing how they moved from an “eat less, weigh less” lifestyle to an “eat more, f#@% the scale” strength training lifestyle and are now actually¬†a few dress sizes smaller despite a higher number on the standard scale.

But, more than that, there are women who have said “f#@% the scale, f#@% my appearance, I want to be strong. I want to be able to do pull-ups. I want to run a Spartan race. I want to deadlift double my weight. And that is what is going to fulfill me.”

At first, I was thinking “well of course it’s OK for you, super fit women, to eat more; but, not me. I’m not allowed to eat that much.”

What sealed the deal for me, though, was my trainer very bluntly telling all of us that he sees so many of his female clients come in eating next to nothing and desperately trying to lose weight, and that his goal for us was to see us eating more, getting stronger, and focusing on performance goals.

That told me “Yes, you…specifically you…who are not super fit or lean like the women in those YouTube videos, you who still have a lot of body fat…even you are allowed to eat more. NEED to eat more. This will work even for you.”

And, so I am.

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Slowly, and with a lot of fear and trepidation, but also with trust and just as much stubbornness and willpower as it took to restrict, I am increasing my intake. I am changing my goals.

I am no longer trying to eat less to weigh less; I am trying to eat more to get stronger and to develop a lifestyle in which I am thriving – doing so much more than trying to stay thin.

And, it’s working.

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I went from never running a mile straight to being able to run a 5k in a matter of weeks. (Aiming for my first 10k on Thanksgiving day!)

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If you follow me on Instagram (@saladflambe), you’ll have already seen this, but I gained a pound this month, and it was all muscle; plus, I still lost some fat. All while eating more, not less.

I want to shout it from the rooftops… every time I see someone talking about how little they are eating, I want to take their face in my hands, look them in the eye and say “you don’t have to do that! There is another way to live! And to really, truly be alive!”

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Yes, even for you.