Sunday, January 6, 2013

Musings on My One-Year Postpartum Body

I'm sure you can tell from the title of this post that I've been meaning to write this for awhile.  I've wanted to talk about the changes that occurred in my body since Elsa was born, how long it took to REALLY get back to my former body and how my attitude toward my body has dramatically changed.  You might have heard the old adage "nine months on, nine months off."  That was pretty true for me.  I gained 30lb while pregnant and I didn't expect it to disappear overnight.  I've posted these photos before, but if you need a reminder, here is what I looked like when I first got pregnant:

Week 5

And I looked like this at 39w pregnant:

Week 39

By three weeks postpartum, I had lost nearly all the weight I gained, but my body was definitely not the same:

3w pp

I struggled to fit into my clothes for some time.  I had a major muffin top and it took just about nine months for things to settle back into place.  Here I am 10.5 months postpartum (in my industrial strength sports bra that I love) when I, for the first time, really felt like I was as close to my pre-pregnancy body as I was going to get:

10.5 months pp

It was right about that time that my milk supply tanked and I'm not sure if that had something to do with it.  I hear your body hangs onto those last few pounds until you wean (which hasn't totally happened yet).  It was also right around that time I developed a ravenous appetite and I could tell something was changing within my body.  I was new at my job and I'm sure bringing food rather than grazing all day at home helped too. 

Post-pregnancy, I didn't work out like I thought I would.  I was struggling to finish a PhD while taking care of a newborn.  I was very stressed out and tired.  I quit my gym last February because I knew I wouldn't have time to go.  I had about three months between finishing school and starting my job.  I did a few months of weekly pilates classes during that time, which was great.  Then I started my job and had to adjust to my new schedule and was lucky to work out one or two times a week.  Yup, I went from a person who worked out 5-6 times/week before pregnancy and probably 3-5 days/week during pregnancy to being almost completely sedentary.  Not even dog walking because Jason would cover that.  Who was this person?

I figured out that I had to change my expectations.  While I used to scoff at a 3-4 mile run, that's what I can fit in these days, so it's the norm.  My prime time to run is on my lunch hour.  I have just enough time to get in  just under four miles and to take a quick shower.  Luckily, I can eat at my desk after lunch, which allows me to do other things during my actual lunch break.  I am also trying to go to yoga more often and my goal for 2013 is to do some weight training and ab work in our upstairs sunroom off the bedroom.  Nothing crazy, in keeping with my changing expectations.  Twenty or 30 minutes a few times a week.  The room was my dissertation writin' room and I want to make positive memories in there now.

So, these days I can fit into jeans I couldn't fit into when I got pregnant.  But, I'm not toned anymore.  At all.  But I'm really okay with that.  I really don't expect to look like I did pre-pregnancy because I simply don't have the same amount of time to devote to exercise.  I mean, I feel pretty great about my body.  My priorities have completely changed recently.  I have so very little precious free time to spend with Elsa, I am not going to spend them obsessing about my body.  I work out when she's sleeping.  And I'm sure as hell not going to sacrifice sleep at this point to exercise.  I'm still really tired, dammit!

 I want to be healthy, not skinny.  As a female, Elsa will unfortunately be pressured to conform to what society deems an acceptable body type.  I want to be a positive role model for her.  I want to her to enjoy walking the dogs as a family, teach her that food is not the enemy, and that exercise can be used to feel good rather than to look thin.  I'm definitely not perfect and am insecure about some things, but I just try to keep in mind all of the things I have going on, all the people and critters I have a responsibility to, and cut myself some slack.  

I should also mention that I haven't dieted through any of this because Elsa and my breastfeeding relationship has been so important to me and I didn't want to do anything that might hurt my supply.  That doesn't mean I eat cookies all day (well, sometimes I do, especially these last few weeks) because I do enjoy cooking and eating healthy food.  But I definitely don't skip meals like I used to and I enjoy things like tater tots and ice cream more regularly than I would have allowed myself in the past.

I do have some goals this year.  Mainly, to run an average of 12 miles/week.  I think that is a manageable amount.  I could say I want to run 20 or even 15 miles/week this year, but I know that's unattainable for me at this point.  I want to run a few races and not expect to PR at any of them.  In fact, I ran a 10K in October in 56 minutes, a good five minutes slower than my PR.  But look at what I had waiting for me at the finish line!


And weekend trips to the zoo with this little munchkin are a lot more satisfying than two hours at the gym.  Thirty minute runs free up a lot of time to spend with this little lady.


Any other new moms out there have a new lease on life, so to speak, when it comes to body image?  Moms of girls, are you nervous about raising a girl in a thin-obsessed society?


Danielle said...

I totally agree that having a baby shifts things around. I've been back to my pre pregnancy weight for a bit but my clothes fit way differently than they used to. It took a while for me to get back to that weight too as I wasn't dieting at all with breastfeeding but rather stuffing my face constantly. You look great! And I love those pink pants.

Julia said...

1. You look hot and super skinny and fit.

2. Totally with you on not being a workout snob anymore. A 3 miler is just fine in my book.

3. And with two kids, just managing 2 days per week is like a freaking cause for celebration.

Love how level-headed you are about your bod. So refreshing to read!!!

homeless parrot said...

I worry about raising my daughter in a self-obsessed culture constantly. I have become very aware of how I talk about my body in front of my daughter (and really, anyone now). My body did an amazing thing. It grew that little girl, gave birth to her after 16 hours of labor without medications, and allowed me to be healthy and mobile afterwards.

Our society is obsessed with all the wrong things, and I want more than anything to raise my daughter to know that she is beautiful - inside and outside.

I also look at her frequently and realize that to her - I am the most beautiful thing in the world. Seeing yourself through the eyes of your child changes your perspective a bit.

I no longer call myself fat - even jokingly. I no longer complain about my thighs or my butt. My body is what I have. I can take care of it and accept that it is the way it is. It's mine, and I need to embrace it.