postpartum body adventures

June 6, 2014
I was going to finally do the long-promised planner post — I even took pictures in daylight today! — but both Laura and Ana wrote about weight loss recently, and I feel moved to add my current thoughts.  My relationship with weight is perhaps more complex.  Less than 4 years ago, I struggled with hypothalamic amenorrhea and ended up having to gain a few (undesired, but somehow necessary) pounds to get pregnant without having to resort to injectables or more heavy-duty interventions.  I was never underweight, but ran lots of miles and probably didn’t eat quite enough to compensate.

During the TTC process, I think I gained something like 7 lbs, bringing my BMI from something like 19.5 to 21.  This doesn’t sound like much, but I hated those 7 lbs on my (short, compact) frame.  They were SO worth it, don’t get me wrong!  I would have done it again in a heartbeat had I needed to.  But I never felt particularly attractive in those days.

After the pregnancy, I drifted back to my old ways, at least somewhat.  I definitely ate more than pre-Annabel, but got back into the swing of things with running.  By the time she was 3-4 months old, I had started training for my first postpartum half marathon, and ran it in October of 2012.  I don’t remember making any real effort to lose weight, but I was running, working, pumping — and it just happened.  Over the course of those months breastfeeding, I ended up back at my previously “infertile” weight, and even lost a little bit more after weaning.

By the spring of 2013, I was running a fair bit, even thinking about the Miami Marathon (or half) in 2014.  I was regularly tallying 25-30 miles a week, and just decided not to worry about fertility.  I felt good and just wanted a break from feeling guilty about what should have been considered a very healthy pastime.

THEN I got pregnant.  One ovulation, one month after my breastfeeding days ended.  And fast forward a few short months, and now we have Mr. C!  So I guess my hypothalamic amenorrhea was cured by pregnancy (of note, I know several women who have had similar experiences).  I consider myself so incredibly lucky to have had two healthy pregnancies, and thrilled that I didn’t have to experience a long TTC process (or any TTC process!) with #2.

SO, here we are, and Cameron is 3.5 months old.  It may be a short time span, but I am pretty sure that by this time with A., I was starting to feel ‘normal’, and even good about my appearance.  In this post, I went shopping when Annabel was 4 months and actually enjoyed it.  And so I am puzzled why right now, despite exercising and not eating all that differently from back then, I am not making any progress to shed those ~7 lbs.  I actually wore pants today that definitely felt TIGHTER than when I bought them over a month ago.  And to be truthful, I’m not any more comfortable with them now than during my TTC days.

I don’t care about weight as a number at all, as I’m in a healthy range.  This is pure unapologetic vanity, and I want to fit back into my clothes and feel ‘normal’ again.  I am not willing to be hungry all the time to get there, nor do I have lots of time to spend on additional exercise (obviously).  But clearly, something has shifted, and needs adjustment.  By my analysis, these subtle (or perhaps not-so-subtle) factors have changed:

* I am running fewer miles.  As I mentioned, I was training for a half marathon.  Now I’m getting in ~12 miles/week rather than 20-30.  I’m doing other workouts sometimes, but they are short (30 minutes) and I’m not always consistent with them.

* I COMMUTE now.  I used to have more time because I didn’t have to spent 30-45 minutes in the car each AM and PM.  This is completely sedentary time unless you count going on and off the brakes on stop-and-go I-95.

* I have an office.  I do go back and forth between said office and patient rooms, but it’s probably not that many steps overall.  Therefore, I’m more sedentary at work than I used to be.

* I eat in the cafeteria at lunch instead of bringing it.  I generally get salad and soup, or salad plus chicken or something, but it’s still not homemade food and I don’t know what’s in everything.  I also have a habit of bringing something less-than-ideal back to my office for an afternoon snack (pretzels + a mini container of pb = my current favorite).

* Our nanny does the cooking instead of me most nights.  However, I don’t really think this is a factor as she cooks similarly to me and often follows Cooking Light or Real Simple recipes just like I used to.

* I’m older.  Seriously, maybe 34 vs. 32 makes a difference.  It can’t be helpful.

I also have milk supply paranoia — I tend to want to eat every time I’m hungry because it seems like the right thing to do to keep my supply up, and I am obsessed really want to be able to continue to produce enough for Cameron right now.  I eat a coconut milk popsicle (150 calories, and with decent ingredients) during my nighttime pump because I feel like I deserve a reward.  But none of this is different than what I did post-Annabel, so I don’t think it counts.

I suppose I’m left with a few options:

1) Ignore the issue for a little while longer and hope it sorts itself out.  I don’t love this option because I really don’t want to gain any more.

2) Try to make some subtle changes and see what happens.  Things I am considering:  some healthier snacks to keep at work, perhaps lengthening some runs by a mile or so, etc.

3) Increase awareness.  I’m considering one of those fitbit/jawbone type devices that are all the rage these days.  And maybe I would benefit from writing down my intake for a while/trying a logging app.  But, I don’t want to become obsessive and I hate that the apps can be so inaccurate.  (Plus I refuse to measure every bite.  Or any bite, really.  I’d have to estimate.)

4) Go paleo.  Okay, not really.  But SOMEDAY — when I’m no longer breastfeeding — I just want to see what it would be like to eat more in that style.  I do think I eat too many processed grains and such. I could never give them up forever, but it would be an interesting experiment.



  • Reply Allison March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    I think you need to give yourself a break for the next few months and see what happens. After the birth of my son, I tried to lose weigh for months 2-4 postpartum, made zero progress, and blamed nursing . I decided to go back to my normal eating and exercise routine and at 6 months postpartum, the last few pounds just magically disappeared. It just takes time!

    However, if you really want to switch things up, I highly recommend interval training and sprints. My post-baby workouts are almost always 30 minutes or less (substantially less than the hour workouts I had pre-baby), and yet the 30 minute workouts have put me in better shape than I was before. I’m a huge fan of interval training!

    Good luck either way!

  • Reply Amy March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    I’ve been trying to lose some vanity pounds before my wedding and get back to where I feel healthier too. I ended up buying the fitbit to track my steps. It’s made me a lot more aware and gets me to move more at work. I like it a lot. Plus, if you ever want to estimate your food intake… it links up to the free my fitness pal app. I’ve been using the two together this week and have found it to be helpful to get myself refocused. I’m not sure I’ll track calories long term, but for now it’s helping me put a little more thought into how I’m fueling myself.

  • Reply oldmdgirl March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    I also think you should chill.

    However, if you want my opinion, for you it’s the reduction in physical activity without also decreasing food consumption, rather than an increase in food. You are burning roughly 1800 fewer calories per week just from running less. Then there’s the reduction in activity from all the commuting, and from working in an office. That’s probably 200-300 calories per day. So, add that up and it’s about a pound a week.

    Sarah — You were REALLY active before. Now you’re just like everyone else!

    I know that one day soon, you will have time to ramp up your running again. My suggestion is to chill a bit until then. Maybe don’t have that popcicle or those PB pretzels (~350 calories total?), but basically just chill. I know people go on and on about calories and milk supply, but I suspect your intake is more than adequate to sustain your supply. Even when I was down at a BMI of 18.8 or some such my supply did not suffer. You have a VERY healthy diet. You will be fine.

    And even if you never lose those 7 lbs, please be assured that you still look awesome. No, scratch that. You look hot. I certainly can’t tell the difference, and I doubt anyone else can either.

  • Reply Katie R March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    I lost my pregnancy weight several months slower with #2 (who happened to be a boy after #1 was a girl). It came off with no effort after 6 weeks the first time and I’d say probably 4-5 mo. after #2. Oddly enough, it melted right off after #3 (a girl…I wonder if the gender affects hormones in some way??).

    I say give it time and it’ll come off….just keep doing what you’re doing.

  • Reply nicoleandmaggie March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Ditto on the chilling. Personally I think as long as people have healthy habits they should completely ignore weight while breast feeding because everything changes with bf and again with subsequent stopping.

    Am I the only person on the internet whose weight regularly fluctuates 5-10 lb? These gotta lose small amounts posts are bad for my mental health. And no, I am not tall.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:15 pm

      7 lbs = a size in clothing for me. Or, the difference between fitting into things nicely and squeezing in (not pleasant!). I do tend to wear pretty fitted things, so maybe it’s why I’m in tune to this – who knows? I definitely do not fluctuate that much regularly.

  • Reply Sydney Shop Girl March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    I’m 17 months out from my first baby and have clung onto that last kilo or two like nobody’s business. I was 37 when bubba was born and thought I was fit beforehand but age was definitely against me as I tried to get back in shape post partum. I found it hard to lose weight whilst breastfeeding.

    I now run fewer kilometres per week but do a gym based workout under the guidance of a personal trainer. I am definitely stronger and more toned than pre baby but I definitely still look as if I’ve had a baby. I’ve been so busy with work, mothering and staying fit and healthy, I’ve started to let go of that ideal pre baby weight number.

    SSG xxxx

  • Reply Holly March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Yeah, gotta agree with the general consensus to chill! You are healthy and birthed TWO people. Nine months on, nine months off, right?

    Also, sorry if this sounds insensitive, but I just feel like if you are working out regularly, eating well, and your biggest splurge is peanut butter and pretzels and a 150 calorie popsicle…but you are still this weight? Then maybe this is the healthy weight for your body right now

    At a certain point, you just need to think about tradeoffs. Would you give up 30-45 additional minutes with A&C daily to be pounding the pavement more (because I’d guess that is the big difference this time around)? Not to shame you for exercising!! It is certainly important for both physical and mental health. But if it is just about vanity pounds? Meh, at some point you’ve just got to let it go.

  • Reply Chelsea March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    I don’t know if those were dry clean only pants, but could the tightness have just been a longer/hotter cycle in the dryer than normal? Or that you have a salty dinner the night before and were retaining a little water? Not to discount your concerns but the pants thing may have just been a one-time thing and not evidence that you are gaining weight.

    I, too, lost weight pretty easily after my first. The baby weight was gone after the first couple months and I was in great shape from 1/2 marathon training and pretty close to being back to my old (infertile) weight by the fall. (I did end up gaining some back during the winter though… stupid winter… I am so glad I NEVER have to go through that again – although I guess you should never say never.) Anyway, I got pregnant (happy surprise!) immediately after I stopped nursing even though I was still doing hard workouts (something I cut out during the TTC phase). Double anyway, I feel like EVERYONE tells me that it’s much harder to lose the baby weight after #2. Who knows if it’s having the second child to care for, being older, the second "insult" to your body?

    You may just have to be patient. Buy some clothes that fit you now and if you don’t have to wear them long, great! Donate/re-sell them. But thigh squeezing (other than some random one-time thing) is not good for anyone’s mental health.

  • Reply runner March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    I have a different suggestion. I think you should do strength training twice a week. It only takes 20-30 minutes. You can do it at home with some free weights (5lbs, 10lbs, 15 lbs and 20lbs) and you can do pull-ups and push-ups at the playground after a run. Once you build a bit more muscle mass, your basal metabolic rate goes up. Therefore, you will burn more calories every day even when you are just doing your normal stuff. Plus, muscle tone looks great, and it feels great to be strong. I love being able to do pull-ups =) I am obviously a running junking because of the endorphins, so I’d never give that up, but if I was looking to lose a few pounds, I’d focus on lifting. When I was in HA recovery, it actually took a long time before I started gaining weight even once I was eating a TON and barely exercising because my BMR was so high from all my lean muscle. Remember I did one of those metabolic tests where you breathe into the tube for 5 minutes or something and it measures your BMR? Mine was like 2,750 calories per day if I laid still in my bed at that time. Muscle burns crazy calories + makes you look and feel great. I say lift!

  • Reply Bethany March 10, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    Here’s my take – even though I gained less weight with pregnancy #2, there is a good bit of flub around my tummy that is hanging on. And you know what? I don’t really care. I just had a baby four months ago, It’s perfectly reasonable for me to not look like nothing has happened there. I bought some awesome flattering pants and drapey tops and am embracing it. That doesn’t mean I’m not doing things about my health and not exercising: I am doing Pilates 1x a week, modified Crossfit or MuTu Intensives 1-2x a week, and I do MuTu Core every morning (trying to close up diastasis recti). I just am giving myself permission just this once to look like I actually just had two babies, because being a working mother of two kids under two is hard and time consuming. As long as my blood sugars are in order (I’m MODY diabetic), I’m getting exercise and moving every day, and my diastasis and core are on their way to healing, I’m good. That being said, if you really want to take off a little more weight, I second the above comments that putting on some muscle would help immensely.

  • Reply Nan March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    I felt very much not like myself for the first year after I gave birth and that was very hard. While much of the weight came off quickly because of breastfeeding, I think, I probably also had those same stubborn five pounds or so until I stopped breastfeeding and then they came off. Isn’t it true that your body holds onto some of that extra weight in order to be able to breast feed? Am I crazy to wonder if your body is holding onto that extra weight simply because it needs it right now to sustain all that you are doing (which is alot!)? I know it doesn’t feel good when you dont feel like yourself. I feel like I keep popping up here and saying how much I love barre3 but I really really think it does wonders for toning up and it feels really good. Have you tried it yet?

  • Reply Erin March 10, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    The shifts between my body after the 1st pregnancy and the 2nd were definitely pretty stark differences. I think I literally lost the pregnancy weight by about 3 weeks post-partum the first time, and was at my thinnest in my adult life around when my daughter was 10 months old, which really can ONLY be attributed to nursing since I don’t exercise.

    After my son (born 25 months after my daughter) was born, I just kind of hung on to tummy weight differently. I still didn’t work out, so I fully realize this could be changed with some effort. Instead, I just bought new clothes 🙂 I also used to heavily favor tight/waist accentuating tops and with continuing to look approximately 4-5 months pregnant at any given time, those made me feel uncomfortable. I now tend toward wearing much looser tops with tighter fitting pants/skinny jeans/leggings or whatever. So I don’t feel frumpy but I’m comfortable. I know if I lost a significant amount of weight/exercised a lot, I could fit back into most of my old clothes, but I also knew that wasn’t realistic for me.

  • Reply Laura Vanderkam March 10, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Thanks for the link. I think I need to do some strength training. I have had a harder time losing weight after each subsequent pregnancy. I think it is getting older, and who knows, maybe a similar effect to yo-yo dieting. The more times you put pounds on, the more used to them your body gets.

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