When I first started working on this post, it carried a different tone. I was feeling irritated by a recent injury and I forgot what I know to be true—I am strong, determined (aka stubborn), and capable of damn near anything I put my mind to, even if the universe isn’t moving at rapid speed when I want. Let me explain…
Prior to getting knocked up, one of my biggest pregnancy fears was gaining a ton of weight and not being able to lose it. I’m just shy of 5’7″ (5’6 3/4″ to be exact, and you better believe that’s what I tell doctors), and twice in my life I’ve been single digits away from 200 lbs. And not like a super ripped bulging muscle 200, but a very unhealthy one. I used to have an extremely toxic relationship with food—an addiction, really—and when I was 15 my doc weighed me in at 197. Food was my solution to everything, so there was a vicious cycle in play of eating, gaining more weight, feeling terrible about myself, eating to feel better, hating myself for giving in, and then eating even more, thinking “Fuck it, I’ve already gone this far.” I remember walking home from school one day a year or two prior to this when some random guy yelled out his car window, “Slow down on the cupcakes, sweetheart!” I had been teased all through elementary and middle school, and now things had reached a true peak.
I had a few friends in marching band who kept trying to get me to join, so I decided to give it a go in hopes of feeling better about myself and shedding a few pounds (it didn’t hurt that my mom also agreed to let me get a tattoo for my 16th birthday if I lost 20 pounds—I succeeded). I dropped the weight and maintained a healthy size until Iwas 18, at which point I started making some very poor life choices that first led me to lose way more than I ever should, only to put back on even more due to drinking, comfort eating, and depression. I think the highest the scale went that time was 195, but it was enough to bring back painful memories of the last time I was that weight.
In 2007 I made a huge life change, and shortly after I discovered fitness. I had belonged to gyms in the past and swam and played soccer as a kid, but it was never really a lifestyle. This time around I got a Jillian Michael’s DVD (30 Day Shred, and shoutout to Ms Michaels for unknowingly playing such a significant role in my life), started walking with ankle weights on, and tried not to eat all of the bad things all of the time. A month or two in and I was HOOKED. Helllooo endorphins! And hello energy! I used to be of the mindset that if I was too tired to work out, then working out would make me more tired. SO untrue! I discovered that working out actually gave me more energy, and I slept better to boot!
So I had this fitness thing down pat, right? But then the food thing happened. I started a series of somewhat extreme dieting attempts, and every single one brought me to tears time and time again. Counting calories, tracking all my food, eliminating sugar, HCG (500 calories a day and you take these little drops, WTF), making mental lists of things I “can” and “can’t” have, Nutrisystem (aka “NutriToots”, as my father accurately dubbed it), etc. I could go for a 10 mile run and still feel absolutely disgusted with myself if I ate too many stray bites of strudel (I worked at a Hungarian bakery at the time). It was an extremely unhealthy relationship food and I had, yet again, and it took many years to learn how to grow out of those habits and get to a place where I can just eat what I want, when I want it, and not hate myself for it. That’s not to say I down a half gallon of ice cream every day, but there is no longer anything on my “can’t” list. Moderation is everything, and it worked beautifully for several years.
I say all of this to get back to my original point, which (in case you forgot because it was only one sentence and then I went off on a multi-paragraph tangent) was that one of my biggest pregnancy fears was gaining a ton of weight and not being able to lose it. Well guess what? The former happened. At first had this adorable little baby bump, but then I blossomed to a rotund 209 lbs by the time baby girl entered the world. I worked out throughout my entire pregnancy, even accomplishing my goal of 100 barre classes while preggo, and even when I stopped those at 38 weeks I started walking two miles almost every day up until the day I was admitted into the hospital. But despite all of that, I looked in the mirror and saw a very large pregnant woman, and those old fears were very much alive and well.
Three months postpartum, I’m 189 lbs. I was 192 for a couple months until I could really start working out again, but recently I hit a new hurdle with a strained quad muscle. These last couple weeks have not been the easiest, because I’m super limited in what I can do for exercise and I find that old mindset trying to creep back in—the doubt and negativity, concerns about if/when/how I’ll ever lose this weight, moments of intense jealousy when I see my half-marathon-training husband shedding pounds and doing crazy workouts that I could once upon a time keep up with—but I’m trying sooo hard to not give in to that negative bullshit. I’m sure the injury was because I’m 30 pounds heavier than the last time I worked out hard, and because I was trying to run and do plyometrics and barre and all of the other things without giving myself much room to rest, but that’s almost even more obnoxious to me because I used to be able to do all of that and not pay for it. My body is not the body I used to know at all, and some days it takes a lot of concentrated effort to accept that.
But then there are the days when my husband takes me through a killer arm-intensive TRX workout, and I follow it up the next day with 50 minutes of sweat-inducing assaults on my arms, core, booty, and calves (calf raises while holding two 10 lb dumbbells suck, btw). Those right there? Those are good days. And that’s what I want to hold on to. I want to remember that even though I don’t recognize a lot about this body right now, it still contains that little badass that loves to kickbox and run and swim and torture herself at barre. Even if my stupid leg isn’t cooperating right now and needs a little reprieve, underneath this motherly fluff is a strong and capable core that I can put through the wringer, and arms that not only carry around a 13 lb bundle of baby all day, but can also do an impressive number of weighted punches (holding 8 lb weights while air boxing also sucks) and, with enough practice, will be able to bust out a fair amount of legit pushups (and no shame in the girly ones for now!). And you know what else? I haven’t obsessed about food once. The husband and I have cleaned up our diets quite a bit, but I haven’t kicked myself for anything I’ve indulged in (800 calorie stout pies from Trader Joe’s, say whaaaaat), and while I won’t even try to tell you I haven’t comforted myself with food, I can say that it’s been waaaaay different than years before. Like when did a handful of chocolate almonds become a “treat”? I can’t even tell you how proud I am of that girl, who can be in the middle of one of her biggest fears and still not lapse back into that awful eating cycle that she knows so well.
I never truly appreciated the body I had pre-pregnancy. Even with how hard I worked and how far I’d come and everything I was able to do, I still picked it apart and judged it and was ashamed of parts of it. I don’t want to do that with my body now. I built a freaking HUMAN. In mah belleh. What right do I have to judge a damn thing?! That’s why I edited this post today, because the first draft was not where my headspace usually is. I was feeling deflated and frustrated and haunted by painful memories and fears, and it came across with every word.
I will always allow myself those moments, but it’s not where I choose to live.