When You Have To Lose Weight for a Baby, Not a Jean Size

The first time I ever weighed myself, the scale read 125 pounds.

I was twelve years old and beginning to notice that I didn’t look like everybody else. I wasn’t very overweight — more “rounded” than anything. I was tall for my age, and active in dance and softball. I was fine.

Yet, I was horrified at the number. I always assumed I was less than 100 pounds, because 100 was a huge, gigantic number. Only grown-ups could weigh more than that! And I wasn’t just a little over — I was a lot.

That year, I went on my first diet. I’d seen my mother on Weight Watchers over the years, and our house had already switched from whole to skim milk; from regular to Diet Coke. I knew about food diaries and weight logs and I figured I could do that. I carefully wrote out my first food plan in the back of a black and white composition book.

I’ve always been a perfectionist, and tended to throw myself full force into new things. I determined that if less food was good, even less would be better, and I always wanted to be better. I distinctly recall eating a small dish of Splenda for an afternoon snack. This was a fabulous idea of mine that didn’t cost me any calories in my composition book.

Luckily, I was so proud of my progress that I bragged to my mother that I’d eaten only 500 calories the day before. She was horrified. She started giving me her Weight Watchers literature, and trying to teach me about nutrition, and minimum daily calorie requirements. That’s the last thing I remember about that diet — I believe I lost interest. I don’t even remember if I lost any weight, but I’m sure I did.

Over the next 20 years, I embarked on many different diets and “lifestyle changes,” all in pursuit of smaller jeans and looking like everyone else. None of them lasted, of course. I could never stay motivated for long enough to really make a difference . . . until 2013. That was the year my cardiologist said that if I lost 18 pounds, she would give me approval to start trying to get pregnant.

Magic words.

I’ve wanted to be a mother my entire life, but always worried about my heart condition and whether I would be able to conceive. Finally, my chance was right in front of me. Finally, I had a real reason to lose weight. This wasn’t about the size on the label on my pants or how I felt in a bathing suit. This was about the chance to create life.

I joined a Weight Watchers group and found a wonderful leader. Over the next six months, I lost 25 pounds. I was exercising almost every morning and watching my food intake. I had my eyes on a real prize this time — motherhood. When I walked back into my cardiologist’s office, I was so proud of myself. For once, I couldn’t wait to jump on the scale.

I got the go-ahead and became pregnant the very first month we tried. I kept up with my exercise routine, and managed to keep my blood pressure down and my blood sugar in control. I was doing yoga until my 9th month. It was a surprisingly healthy pregnancy!

When my baby was born, everything went out the window. I was grabbing protein bars while nursing at 3 a.m., just trying to get by. I couldn’t have cared less about losing the baby weight. I managed to maintain for the first year at least, but winter came and my weight began creeping up. I half-heartedly tried to get back on track, but I could not find the motivation anywhere. As a stay-at-home mom, I could go entire days without looking in a mirror. What did I care about my waistline?

What was the deciding factor in turning things around? Another possible baby, of course. It seems the only way to motivate me to lose weight is to promise me a pregnancy afterwards. I am back in the game, trying to slim down before we try for Baby #2.

After that? Maybe this will just be how much I weigh. As the years pass and I learn more about myself and what is important to me, it gets harder to devote mental energy to dieting. I would rather aim to eat well enough to set a good example for my kid and exercise enough to chase after her. That seems like enough to me, no matter what I weigh.

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