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 🙂

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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 Océane, 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.

 

I Am a Fraud

I am a fraud.

Four months ago, I came on here and wrote that I was done caring about what the scale said. Fuck Thin; I Choose Fat was so easy to say, though, when the scale had been sitting eerily still for months on end. The truth is, the moment that scale moved again — even just a tiny bit — I freaked out and jumped right back on the diet train for the last month.

To be honest, guys, I’m kind of a fraud all around. I write in these blogs with all of the passion I have in a given moment, but then I immediately turn around to my real life of not actually knowing who I am or what I believe. I preach intuitive eating and “screw diets” while not-so-secretly still dieting myself. I say “I’d rather be fat than eating disordered” while secretly thinking to myself “but, I don’t want to give up my thin privilege now that I’ve finally gotten it.”

It is so easy to preach “be done with diets” when society, doctors, and everyone around you is no longer really telling you, personally, that you should be dieting. It is so easy to say “all foods are allowed” when people around you have finally determined that you are deserving of all foods now that you have lost the weight. When nobody is side-eyeing you for buying candy or for being in a store that doesn’t even carry your size.

The world is shitty to fat people.

Why wouldn’t I be afraid of being back in that place?

In any case, this post is mostly just me coming back, tail between my legs, and telling you that I totally did not do the thing I said I was going to do. That being said, I’m here to try again. A little humbler, and a little more honest.

 

Keep Your Diet Away From My Holidays

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, I’ve been reflecting a lot about past holidays. I remember sitting in Weight Watchers meetings around this time of year hearing the leaders talk about how to portion out your plate and comparing the different Points values for each of the traditional side dishes. If I remember correctly, Weight Watchers even had an interactive web page where you could build a Thanksgiving plate of food and see how many Points you would be using. Most of us hoarded our “extra weekly points” for this meal, and there was a lot of anxiety over leftovers as well.

I also remember always worrying about what my family would think of however I might look that year. I’ve been a lot of shapes and sizes, and I almost never look the same from one Thanksgiving to the next (and this year is no exception). I’d change outfits a half a dozen times trying to find the right combination of flattering and comfortable.

During my binge eating days, I remember sneaking a lot of food during and around the meal when I thought people were not looking. I remember eating until I was in pain and then doing it again and again with leftovers in the days that would follow Thanksgiving. I felt out of control around those leftovers and, to this day, Thanksgiving leftovers cause me a lot of anxiety, which is why I have always tried to “forget” my leftovers box when we leave my mother’s house (hi, mom! I know you’re reading…)

During my restrictive days, I have some pretty dark memories of how I handled the food during holidays – the details of which I’m too ashamed to share. There was also one Thanksgiving during which I used veganism to avoid eating pretty much anything. Instead, I brought along my own box of “safe” foods so that I could at least appear to be eating something.

Reflecting back on all of these holiday memories really makes me sad: why are so many of my holiday memories about food and weight anxieties? I LOVE the holidays…or, at least, I thought I did.

This Thanksgiving is going to be different. This Thanksgiving, I will not be tracking my food or calories; I will not be weighing or measuring my food; I won’t even be weighing myself. There’s not a single food I will avoid; in fact, if the little voice in my head says to avoid a certain food, I’m challenging myself to eat the thing its telling me not to eat — even if it’s just one bite.

This Thanksgiving, I will not starve all day to “reserve calories” for this one meal. I will eat when I am hungry, and I will eat until I am full. I will trust my body AND my hunger to guide me in how much I should consume. This is the challenge my nutritionist and I have agreed upon: I am to follow my hunger so that we can see what happens. So far, nothing catastrophic.

This Thanksgiving, I will happily and, with gratitude, take those leftovers home and actually eat them. Yes, even the stuffing and pecan pie.

And, when Christmas comes, I will have Christmas cookies, Christmas brunch, Christmas Eve AND Christmas dinners. I might eat past fullness — overeat, you might say. I might gain a little weight. The world will not end.

I’m talking as if this is all easy; it isn’t. But, I’m setting the intention anyways. I’m tired of worrying about calories during the holidays (and every other day too); I’m tired of centering my life around food and body shape. I thought that my life would no longer be all about food when I finally got thinner, but the opposite was actually true.

Food, diets, weightloss, “lifestyle changes” to be thinner, eating disorders, whatever you want to call it…have robbed me of enough time. They are not welcome at my holiday celebrations this year.

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Getting Comfortable with Being Anxious

It has been 3 weeks since I last stepped on a scale; I have no idea what I weigh right now. Not only that, but for the last 3 weeks, I have eaten the number of calories that somebody else has set as my target number of calories. It is higher than I would choose to eat on my own.

I’m anxious, but that is OK.

I am anxious, but I am doing it anyways.

I’ve been relatively quiet on here about what exactly I’m doing right now, because I was honestly not sure that it would last. I was afraid to tell you all and then to fail…not unlike how I failed to give up tracking my food. But, I’m going to go ahead and talk about it now; if I fail, you’ll get to see it, but that’s ok. It’s all part of the journey.

Nearly 3 months ago, I joined a small local gym and began exercising regularly for the first time ever under the guidance of group personal trainers. I expected to burn out on it quickly, but, actually…I think I kind of love it.

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I quickly noticed that, in order to perform well, I needed to eat. But, of course, the eating disorder part of my brain panics about that. So, I was caught between a rock and a hard place: one part of me wanting to perform well in the gym; one part just wanting to lose weight.

I am choosing performance.

Right now, I am taking part in a challenge at my gym during which I have made some commitments:

  1. To work towards being able to run 5k without stopping — (Accomplished this morning!!)
  2. To work towards my first pull-up — (stilllll a ways off)
  3. To eat enough protein — (I am still tracking my food; but, I am eating more than I would typically eat. And, in fact, my goal is to be eating even more in time)
  4. To not weigh myself except for those weigh-ins required by the challenge (one at the 4-week mark; one at the 8-week mark both on a body composition scale – because scale weight is a crappy tool for measuring anything worthwhile)

I am also working with my eating disorder nutritionist to challenge my eating disorder; it is becoming a lot easier to distinguish that ED voice from my own, because while I am focused on performance, the ED is not.

Right now, I am at this stage where pretty much everything I’m doing makes me (and/or the eating disorder) anxious:

  • lifting weights = stalling out on the scale
  • eating more food = fear of weight gain
  • not weighing myself = feeling out of control
  • eating fear foods = feeling like I am completely losing control of myself and am a bad person

I’m doing it anyways. All of it. Because enough is enough. Because life is too short for this bullshit. Because I want to actually be happy and live life and not sit on the sidelines terrified that a plate of pasta is going to mean that nobody loves me.

My nutritionist told me that if I continue to “do it anyways” (listen to the other trusted professionals who have told me what it is I should be doing rather than listening to my eating disorder (previously thought of as “myself,” but I prefer now to think that I am not my eating disorder)) that one of two things will happen: either the anxiety will fade or I will be able to say “I am anxious about this thing, but I am doing it anyways,” and that will be OK. I’ve already seen this starting to happen.

I don’t want to make this blog too long, but I do update my Instagram regularly now; you can find me @saladflambe

I’ve been posting a mixture of “What I Eat in a Day,” race and lifting videos and photos, eating disorder challenge posts, plus pics of my daughter and my cats 🙂

I am 3 weeks into my gym’s 8-week challenge, and I am already thinking about what I will be doing next. I discussed it with my nutritionist this week, but I’m not quite ready to “commit to it” here. So, stay tuned… If I can work up the courage, it’s going to be big (for me), and it’s going to be terrifying (but, in a good way). Good thing I’ve got these guns to keep me safe now 😉

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This is Real Life…An Uninspirational Blog Post

It’s been a month since my last post, and though I have been reluctant to write, I wanted to stick to my goal of including  this blog in my present journey. So, here I am…with a confession:

I’m tracking macros again, and my abusive relationship with numbers (and myself) is in a definite “on again” phase.

I am very frustrated this morning.

I’m angry, actually.

I’m angry that this is so difficult.

I’m angry that the real “meat” of a disordered relationship with food and body is so illusive.

Honestly, the food is the easy part. Food is concrete: eating it or restricting it in many various ways are all firmly graspable behaviors that can be forced in one direction or the other. It’s the mental and emotional battle that leaves me feeling hopeless. As I said in one of my online support groups this morning: I can make myself eat bread; I can’t make myself be OK with it.

The thing is, I feel like the only thing anyone is prepared to help me with is the food, and it’s making me worry that that’s all that anyone CAN help me with. That I’m doomed to one of two fates: follow my obsession & live it out loud… or don’t actually act it out — follow someone else’s plan instead — but still be trapped with it in my head. And, honestly, I’m not sure which of those two outcomes is the easiest to live with.

I really don’t have much more than that to share at this point. I will say that the path I’m currently being nudged down is towards “intuitive eating.” I’m reading the book, and I’ve joined a couple of online intuitive eating support communities, but I currently can’t even imagine it ever being possible for me. I’m not even sure I can bring myself to want it. The truth is…I don’t trust my body to tell me how to eat, and I don’t trust myself with food. I can’t imagine a world in which my weight doesn’t determine my worthiness, and I’m not sure I can ever believe that to be true…not in my world. True for others, but not for me.

Whole30 Did Not Make Me Whole

“I am Whole30!” That’s what those who complete a round of this elimination diet post on day 31 (or beyond). Well, today is my day 31, and so, today, I felt it important for me to say…though I successfully completed a Whole30 round, I am not Whole30.

Whole30 did not make me whole.

Let’s rewind.

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Like most people with food and eating issues, I have relationship problems.

My relationships with people? …fragile.

My relationship with food? …complicated.

My relationships with numbers? …obsessive.

My relationship with myself? …abusive.

 

Like a lot of people with or without food and eating issues, I often struggle with a feeling of “never enough.”

Never enough money.

Never enough time.

Never enough energy.

Never full enough.

Never fulfilled enough.

Never thin enough.

Never strong enough.

Will I ever be enough?

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Funny thing about food issues — they are rarely solved by food. Neither the addition nor elimination of it. That’s because food issues are rarely about food.

They are about fullness. Enoughness. Worthiness.

They are about feelings and the overwhelming act of feeling them.

They are about aloneness and emptiness and the desperate search for connection and safety and something reliable…that will not leave you, nor hurt you, nor change.

They are about control and the terror of realizing how very little of it we have in life. Over anything. Not even over our own bodies.

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No diet, meal plan, exercise regime, or heroic amount of self control can solve food issues. And, I desperately wish I could sit here and tell you what can solve them, but your answer will likely be different from mine.

I can tell you that it’s not Whole30. It’s not Weight Watchers or keto or going paleo, vegetarian, vegan, or raw. I can tell you that the answers aren’t there. Those are merely different ways of eating, and food issues aren’t solved through eating (nor are they solved through starving).

In fact, maybe food issues…at least mine…aren’t even food issues at all. Maybe they are, in fact, a coping mechanism for something not even remotely related to food.

This is tough shit, guys. This is coming face to face with yourself and realizing that deep fear of “not enough-ness” you (I) carry will not just go away if you (I) lose weight.

Changing the number on the scale… that’s the easy part of this. Changing the “number” (the value) I assign myself… that’s the hard part.