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How Having a Baby Changed My Body

Posted by Heather Pellegrino
Heather Pellegrino
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on Monday, July 23, 2012
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Let me start off by saying that for the first 29 years of my life, I was skinny. Skinny and lazy. Life was good – wake up and eat Lucky Charms for breakfast, have a burger for lunch, BLT (don’t you dare hold the mayo) for dinner and never even think about working out kept my 5 foot 3 inch frame at about 105 lbs.

Before you start hating me, I will tell you that living a life with absolutely no will power does not bode well for someone who eventually finds themselves in the position of having to lose weight.

 

In May 2009 I was thrilled to find out that I was pregnant with my daughter. Over the course of 9 months, I gained over 50 lbs. At 6 months pregnant, my doctor told me that I had gained all the weight she would recommend for an entire pregnancy (oops). At that point, I figured “who cares”? Once I have this baby, I’ll drop all the weight and be skinny again, like I have for my entire life...right?

Pregnant LifeIn January, 2010 I delivered a beautiful, healthy little girl. Considering she weighed over 8 lbs, I figured that losing weight would be easy – after all, I had just lost at least 8 lbs easily (OK, so 24 hours of labor and 2 epidurals isn’t so easy, but you know what I mean). Over the next 3 months before I returned to work I managed to drop about 25 lbs without doing very much. In addition to the calories burned while breast feeding, the fact that my child didn’t enjoy sleeping and constantly wanted to be held led to a diet of “shove whatever you can get in your mouth whenever you can” and it seemed to be working.

As life settled down over the first year and we settled into a nice routine, I started to follow my daughter’s cues in terms of eating. For anyone who has a young child, you know that they eat often. Our meal schedule became breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. While this was fine for my toddler, it was not okay for Mommy. My husband gets home later from work, so I’d feed my daughter dinner at 5 (and eat with her), then I’d eat when my husband got home (you know, so the poor guy didn’t feel lonely!) By the time my daughter was a little over one, I’d gained back about 20 of the 25 lbs I lost – I was back to my weight at 7 months pregnant!

My role models to whom I was comparing myself to during this time were Gisele and Heidi Klum....both
of whom were in runway-model shape within 4 weeks of having their child. 4 weeks after having my
daughter I was just happy if I remembered to shower and change out of my pajamas every couple of
days....forget modeling a bikini in front of millions! I didn’t think about the fact that if I had a personal
chef, personal trainer and full time Nanny, I could probably be back in shape quickly too (although not
THAT quickly...that’s just not right).

During my annual physical, I talked to my doctor about my weight gain. I tried to blame it on lots of
things (have you checked my thyroid levels, doc?) but he (gently) explained that as we get older, it is
more difficult to maintain a healthy weight by eating poorly and not exercising. He recommended an
app for my phone called Lose It! where I could track everything I was eating and when I was working out. Considering at this point I wasn’t working out at all, I had a sneaking suspicion that I was going to have to start.
Eating healthier wasn’t that hard. My husband (who looks amazing even when he does nothing) was
beginning the process of training for a 5k and a Tough Mudder race, so he was making better choices
and we made sure that we had mostly healthy foods in our house. Dinner went from chicken with
potato salad to grilled chicken on a salad of lettuce and other vegetables.

Working out is another story. I’m not the most coordinated person in the world. My early workouts
included attempting to ride a bike (I made it 2 feet down the driveway, fell off and broke my wrist and
elbow which resulted in a visit the ER and having to wear a brace and sling for 6 weeks), and jogging through the neighborhood (I ran into a granite mailbox post while admiring a neighbor’s new paint
colors and got bruises in places I didn’t know you could have bruises).

As the Mother of a toddler, it was almost impossible to find the time to exercise. I work 3 days a week,
and I don’t work close enough to a gym that I could make it on my lunch break so that wasn’t an option.
On the days I work, I’m out the door at 6:30 so waking up early to exercise was out of the question
(and to be honest, I am not good at working out in the morning). I was home at 5, but I had to feed my
daughter and do all the things around the house that needed to be done. By the time she was in bed
and asleep at 8pm (and my husband and I still hadn’t eaten dinner), I was completely exhausted and
when faced with the choice of going for a run on the treadmill or sitting on the couch watching TV only
one option seemed particularly appealing.

On the days I was home, the only time I had to myself was nap time – and I had always considered this
to be sacred “me” time – I didn’t want to ruin it with exercise. It was the time in the day when I got to
take a breath, maybe read a book, sit outside or do something that I found relaxing for an hour before
my daughter woke up and I was on “mom-duty” again. Some friends suggested that I join a gym and
put my daughter in daycare for an hour on the days I was home. My Mom-Guilt kicked in big-time.
The whole reason I had two days home was to spend time with my daughter, not drop her off at another
daycare!

I found a Zumba class locally that I enjoyed, but it started at 6pm, and to ask my husband to be home by
5:30 wasn’t fair to him – he works really hard and he already goes in late 3 days a week so he can do the
daycare drop-off.

My problem seemed to be that I was an “all or nothing” kind of gal. If I wasn’t going to be able to work
out 7 days a week – why bother working out at all? I had another appointment with my doctor and we
talked for a long time about the difficulties of finding time to work out when you have so many other
obligations (children, work, home, friends, family). He encouraged me to do whatever I could whenever
I could. He explained that if I had a week where I only worked out twice, not to beat myself up over it
and to just move on and try again the next week.

Things started to change when I found a local yoga studio that offered a class that didn’t start until 7
(and it was close to home so my husband didn’t need to be home until 6:45). I made a commitment
to make it to class and it started making a big difference. Every Monday, I went to yoga and it was an
amazing way to start my week. In addition to the strength and flexibility benefits, it offered me a way
to release the stress and tension that goes along with being a parent (and to work through the guilt that
every Mom feels when she takes time to herself). Starting the week off on a healthy note tended to
make me want to continue for the rest of the week. I also started to get exercise in my routine in any
way possible. When I was outside playing with my daughter and she wanted to run up and down the hill
in the back yard – I joined her rather than watching. I never realized how much of a workout 5 minutes
pumping your legs on a swing could be. Granted, my neighbors probably think I’ve lost it when they see
me climbing the ladder to the tree house but so far they’ve managed not to call the cops on me (I do
refrain from doing pullups on the monkey bars without my daughter there!)

So this brings us to today. I have lost 30lbs of the 50 I gained (and because I was underweight when I
started, this is actually a more healthy weight for me). I am not perfect (or even close to it). My yoga
studio is in the process of moving so I’ve been a little off-track lately but they open again in August and I can’t wait. I don’t have a formal workout routine because I’ve discovered that it doesn’t work for my life
(or my personality). I try to fit exercise in whenever I can – go for a walk with my daughter, sit ups while
watching TV, playing tag, and even the occasional jog (although I try to avoid the mailboxes).

AfterI’ve also come to accept that my body is different since having my daughter. No matter how much I work out, I will never look like I did when I was 21...and I’m starting to be okay with that (and let’s face
it – convincing my husband that plastic surgery is a good investment in the future is sort of difficult when he’s a financial analyst). Now, when I look in the mirror and see that my belly button looks a little
sadder than it did pre-child, I try to remind myself that this body cooked a human being! I took 2 cells and transformed them into an 8lb 3oz gorgeous, strong, smart little girl – and that is an amazing thing!

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