This week I stepped on the scale and was 50 pounds lighter than the day I stepped on the scale after getting out of the hospital after my daughter was born. Basically I got back to where I was when I started and then about ten more. My daughter is almost two, so it’s not a rapid transformation. For me, 50 lbs heavier than I am now does not work for me, so I was pretty motivated to lose it. As it is for a lot of people, it was a struggle for me to love myself the way I was at each stage of the way and to not feed into impossible standards set by the media. There was nothing inherently horrible or wrong with me when I weighed more, but when I carried extra weight, a lot of it was the result of stress eating junk food or just not the best choices, so I was feeling pretty awful. The hormonal roller coaster that is having a baby and going through all of the changes with your body is tough enough, but we also have a lot of pressure that we as women place on ourselves to lose it fast. So I like that it took me two years, because it forced me to focus on other things.
One of the most important observations I made about losing weight is that the weight really came off the most when I was focusing on health, rather than weight, issues. when I have modified my diet for weight issues in the past, I got caught up in an unhealthy good vs. bad, reward/punishment mindset (“cheating” and “I’m so bad for eating this” vs. “I have been so good today”). Recently because of a diagnosis of an autoimmune disorder, I made a ton of dietary changes with the goal of bringing down the number of antibodies on a blood test. My numbers are getting better all the time, but what really has gone down is my weight. And it was a lot less of a pain in the ass to focus on something really important: i.e., my health, instead of something less important, such as the measurement of the circumference of my thighs and how much time it takes for the number of that measurement to shift.
Another observation is that losing weight is a lot more fun when I accept myself as I am each stage. At this point, I may lose more, I may not, but for the most part, I’m satisfied. I am fairly grateful for where I am even though I’m not perfect. Maybe it just took a lifetime of being on different diets and stressing about it. I don’t feel like stressing any more. I am in a good place.
Since everyone always asks me how I lost weight when I lose weight, I will say that the first 25 pounds was Weight Watchers and probably helped by nursing, the next 10 were from going low carb and then wheat and gluten free, and then the rest were following and autoimmune paleo diet. If I’m going to be honest, I am not sure I would have stuck with such a restrictive diet if it did not make me feel better. Getting Hashimoto’s, in a way, was a blessing in disguise, because the diet has me thinner, but more importantly, feeling more emotionally even and physically energetic and healthy. I’m still tweaking what I eat every day but I feel best staying pretty strict towards the autoimmune paleo diet. My relationship to food has changed drastically.
I really do think that walking, yoga, and moderate weight training are the best forms of exercise for women postpartum, and also for Hashimoto’s folks too, since we are supposed to avoid overtraining. In fact, I think chilling the heck out on the exercise helped me lose weight a lot more consistently this time than other times. In the past I would burn myself out by exercising pretty intensely 4-5x a week without enough rest when I was tired or sore. Like a lot of other people who have started eating paleo, I was thrilled to discover I could take it easy and lose weight pretty easily.
Another thing I did differently that seemed to help me lose weight was get enough rest. In the 2 years after having a baby I have learned to grab sleep when I can, and sometimes that means going to bed early. I feel best getting 8 to 9 hours a night, and it helps me feel stronger for when I am working out.
Postpartum women experiencing self doubt, self loathing, body hatred or dysmorphia, or any depression that seems to fixate on weight and body issues can greatly benefit from talking to a licensed therapist about some of the emotions that can seem overwhelming. It can be helpful to explore perfectionism and the pressure women feel to be perfect even after they participated in a glorious miracle of science and nature by giving birth. Therapy can be a space to find some compassion and gentleness towards your self. It could be a place to explore why you have not taken the time that you would like to in order to take care of yourself by eating well and exercising after giving birth. A great inspiration to embrace your postpartum body is Beauty Revealed Project-beautiful photos of real postpartum bodies that celebrates the miracle that a woman’s body is capable of performing.
May we all feel beautiful, powerful, and strong.