Three months ago, on the day I gave birth to my little boy, I was 165 pounds. Anyone who is lucky enough to have the experience of being 9 months pregnant or those who have lived with more weight on their bodies than necessary can, I’m sure, sympathize; though I loved having a body that accommodated my growing baby, it was uncomfortable. Though I still mostly watched what I ate and exercised several times a week, I would frequently find myself stuck in places between walls and chairs, climb a flight of stairs and be breathless halfway up, or eat dinner, still be hungry, and decide I needed a second dinner. You know, for the baby.
Never in my life did I complain like I did from March to June. Friends, family, and strangers who lingered around me a moment too long all got to hear about the aches in my back and feet, and about my anxiety, growing proportionally with my body: HOW did I get this big?!
I heard, mostly, two different responses to my unending complaints:
1.) “You look great for being X months pregnant!” Subtext: Yes, you’re huge. Why can’t you remember that you’re also pregnant? Guess it’s up to me to remind you.
2.) “Don’t worry, you’ll lose the weight.” Subtext: dear lord, let’s hope her butt doesn’t look that way forever.
Of course, my sweet friends were just trying to cheer me up. But when you’re uncomfortable in your body, you begin to tell yourself stories, true or untrue, about how you’re perceived. And that’s what I did, feeling sorrier for myself by the moment and griping more loudly to more people, until my mom said something that actually made me feel better.
She brushed off my tired grumbles and said, “Oh, Megan…you’ll have fun taking that off.”
And I did. It’s been three months, and now I weigh 125 again. That’s just 5 pounds away from the number on the scale the day I found out I was pregnant, meaning since last October, I gained 45 pounds, and then lost 40.
Here’s how I did it, in order from least important to most:
5.) I’m taking (another) hiatus from drinking.
This one’s really not such a big deal. Since I’m nursing, I’ve been able to indulge with just one while everyone else is enjoying their beer or wine, but now Ryan and I have decided to give it up entirely, at least until the race. Despite a slight digression or two, it’s going quite well and is helping us save money and calories.
4.) I’m eating real food.
Half or more of the grocery cart is produce now. We’re enjoying healthy recipes like this one and more green smoothies. I’m also snacking lightly on fruit and almonds, not allowing myself to get hungry and desperate like I used to do. My body does not miss those kindergarten snacks I used to tell myself it needed to get through the day – I haven’t had a graham cracker, string cheese, or cupcake since I left teaching.
3.) I signed up for a race, and I’m training for that race.
It’s different from just exercising. It’s a defined goal that I invested in with cold hard cash. And all my friends and family know about it. The daily workouts are on the calendar like dentist appointments so both Ryan and I know we can’t miss them.
2.) I’m lucky enough to breastfeed.
If you’re not a mother, you may not know that this is a huge issue among our kind. There’s a ton of research on the benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mom. Breastmilk is essentially liquified body fat, and though relying on breastfeeding alone is only likely to help a woman lose 1-2 pounds per month, I’d say it helps. I should also mention that for a myriad of women, breastfeeding hasn’t worked for one reason or another. Despite the initial discomfort and that one terrible day I had a blocked duct, I’d still say I’m fortunate that I haven’t had any issues.
1.) I married the right person.
This one is the kicker, the reason I’ve been successful in everything mentioned above. When you get married to someone, you know you love them, but you don’t expect them to be the central reason you lost forty pounds in three months. But when you marry someone who shares your values and cares about your long-term happiness to the point of self-sacrifice, it doesn’t come as quite as much of a surprise. Ryan wakes up early to go to the gym, then watches Finn while I work out in the evenings. We share common goals, like the race and the temporary teetotaling, as well as a kitchen. In the months I’ve been breastfeeding, he’s handed me the baby, pillows, and gallons of water. He’s heard every complaint in my book and has refused to engage or let me wallow in self-pity, building me up and encouraging me instead.
You can, absolutely, take weight off on your own. But for a social creature such as a human, our love is our greatest tool. There have been so many lessons given to me in the past three months, but the greatest has been this: let good people find you, and then let them help you.
And then you may find you’re able to turn around and help someone else.