It’s been a long process, but I am proud to announce that I have successfully shed the 22 extra pounds I had been carrying since the birth of my son in October 2009.
What started in August 2010 as a frantic effort to lose weight, stop hating my body (and life) and look halfway decent in a dress for an October wedding, became an eight month personal challenge. I wish I would have blogged throughout this time, but I figured my readers would get bored with my morning weigh-ins and obsessive recording of caloric intake and output.
Here’s the skinny on my personal journey from angst-ridden, pop-culture hating, rebellious teenager caught in a nicotine hold until mid-20s, to a happy, healthy, fitness-obsessed 30-year-old. It’s been quite a ride.
At the end of this series, I will try to sum up (with enough detail) so that hopefully anyone can follow this easy, and quite painless, weight loss plan.
Smoking: Kicking the Habit
In my previous life, I was a smoker. I smoked up to, and frequently over, a pack each day. I never realized it until I quit smoking, but it was true, smoking kept my weight down.
I have always had a love affair with food. I used to brag that I could take down a loaded Chipotle burrito in less than five minutes. But it didn’t matter what I ate, because I wasn’t fat and I liked the way I looked.
In May 2008, my husband and I embarked on a “quit smoking” challenge. We both always said we’d quit after college (fail), by the time we were 25 (fail), and especially before we got married (fail).
The turning point? We were married in January of 2008 and bought a house shortly thereafter. We were moving in May. Most smokers would think, “Your own home? Why would you quit smoking? You don’t have to deal with a landlord or neighbors!”
The caveat to home ownership and our own space was that our house didn’t have a front or back porch, something we were both accustomed to sitting on for hours on end, smoking cigarette after cigarette. Neither one of us wanted to smoke inside because we hated the stench. (God forbid, a smoker hated the stench of smoke?)
The answer was clear. We must quit smoking once and for all.
We went cold turkey. In reality, it wasn’t as bad as we were expecting. We decided to quit on a weekend so that if we had cold sweats, were irritable, or otherwise horrible to be around, we would be in our own, controlled environment. The other trick to successfully quitting was that we picked the most stressful weekend we could think of — moving weekend!
I was ashamed of smoking and never did it in front of my parents or any of the rest of my family. I didn’t want “adults” knowing I had a dirty little secret. I’m sure everyone could smell it on me at all times (even when I thought I was being stealthy and hiding it really well).
We had asked my mom to come in to help us move. We quit on a Friday, and she arrived on a Sunday. It was perfect. We wouldn’t have an opportunity to smoke because she would be there! She was our way to hold ourselves accountable for slipping up and sneaking cigarettes.
The days preceding the move were long. My husband and I couldn’t understand how three hours felt like a few minutes, or how two minutes felt like an eternity. We fondly refer to this time as the “Time Space Continuum.”
After two or three days of being really confused and dealing with the Time Space Continuum, quitting smoking really wasn’t that bad. We argued a bit but that was normal because we always argue when one of our parents is in town. We only had one slip up several weeks later, when we each took a drag off of a friend’s cigarette, and to be honest, it was the grossest thing ever.
It was official. I was a nicotine survivor.
Enter weight gain…
I didn’t realize what was happening, or even that it could happen to me. It happened so gradually, so slowly. Instead of going out for a smoke break at work, I would pull out a bag of baby carrots (a tip my mom told me about when she had quit smoking some time before). I didn’t rely on the lollipop method because I was fearful I would gain some weight.
Lo and behold, I did anyway. I ended up gaining about 10 pounds, just from quitting the dirty habit. I don’t think I really realized what had happened until just before the holidays. I remember my husband and I discussing wanting to have a baby, and how we were going to perhaps start trying in the near future. I also recall saying that I wasn’t going to bother trying to lose weight if I was just going to end up being pregnant.
So what did we do? What every other logical couple would have done…
We got pregnant!
I started my pregnancy 10 pounds heftier than I should have been. I was fearful of morning sickness, so I did everything in my power to make sure I didn’t end up kneeling in front of the porcelain god. I have an irrational, and somewhat theatrical aversion, to throwing up. I hate it more than anything I can even think to conjure up in my ridiculously overactive imagination. It was imperative that I did not get sick.
One of the ways to attempt to side-step morning sickness and nausea associated with the surge of hormones during pregnancy, is to never let your tummy be empty. It means constantly snacking and keeping something small nearby to nibble on.
So I ate! And I ate a lot. And what did I eat a lot of? Carbs.
I tried to eat healthily. But in the beginnings of my pregnancy, all I wanted were bagels and cream cheese, crackers and pasta. I wanted nothing to do vegetables, fruits or anything that didn’t pack a hefty punch. I needed something to weigh down my insides so they didn’t come gurgling up at inopportune times during the work day.
I gained eight pounds by my first doctor visit, and I was weighed at every subsequent appointment with strict instructions to “watch what you eat” at every appointment. First I ate carbs and salty foods, but then my ankles swelled up. So then I was relegated to eating fruits and as little sodium as I could, but all of the sugar from the fruit made me gain more than I should have. Then I was only allowed to eat vegetables. I felt like a bunny rabbit.
My total weight gain during my pregnancy was 36 pounds. My grand total of weight gain from my ideal weight before I quit smoking was 47 pounds.
Postpartum and Weight Loss Struggles
I gave birth to a happy, healthy and hefty little boy at 4:55 p.m. on October 7, 2009. He came into this world weighing 8 lbs, 2 oz.
In the days following my son’s birth day, I shed almost all of the weight I had gained. I had heard breast feeding would take care of the rest of the weight, but when that didn’t work for us, I started exclusively pumping. Apparently pumping does not expel the same amount of calories as breast feeding does, because I never lost any additional weight.
I sat around for months being unhappy. First it started with being a new mom, then it transitioned into being stuck inside for five months during the blustery, cold Cleveland winter, and then when the weather finally broke, I was ultimately just unhappy with who I was and how I looked.
I spent the entire summer fat, uncomfortable in my own skin, and without any clothing that fit appropriately. 90% of the summer I was still sporting maternity clothes even though I had given birth 8+ months prior. I finally gave in and bought a few pairs of capris and one pair of jeans for the new “plus size” me. I was displeased.
At the end of the summer we received a wedding invitation from my dear friend, and we were ecstatic and excited for her upcoming nuptials. It was at this point in time, upon receiving the invitation and realizing that not only did I have nothing to wear but that I looked grotesque and I was embarrassed to see my old friends in my current form, that I decided something must be done. I could no longer continue on in this vicious, self deprecating and self destructive cycle of being overweight and being so depressed that I could do nothing about it.
It was time for a change.