Sunday, January 8, 2012

My New Year's Resolution

Today I went to a Pilates class. It's the first time I've been to a gym class with a lot of other people and a whole wall of mirrors since before I got pregnant with Thora and it was pretty shocking. The truth - which is that there's a difference between being able to wear an 8 and being able to wear an 8 - hurts. 

Back when the bee was conceived, I was going to the gym every day because I wanted to be in optimal shape to get pregnant. It helped that the gym I was going to was around the corner from my office and that half my coworkers were members. It helped even more that they offered personal training with the price of membership. I showed up because someone was waiting for me. But I got pregnant a lot faster than I expected, so I didn't make a lot of progress.

My exercise life has been a series of fits and starts. I am and have always been active. But on the other hand, I've never committed to a sport, to an exercise regimen. I've belonged to tons of gyms; had great bikes and all kinds of sporting gear; I've biked, run, and walked races. I've commuted by bike and on foot. If you know me, you know I never stop moving unless I'm asleep, but I've never focused on or stuck to anything that would help me get in shape and stay that way, especially since I've had a very, shall we say, healthy appetite all my life. I'm a good eater. And even though I'm vegan and follow a very healthy diet, if you're eating twice as much as you should and your gym membership is nothing more than a recurring payment on your credit card, you're going to have some extra padding.

I gained a little more than 50 pounds in my first pregnancy and it's not like I was underweight to begin with. I've always felt I could stand to lose ten or fifteen pounds and I've always hated looking at myself in the mirror. In fact, until I was in my mid-twenties I wore extra-large everything so I couldn't see myself at all. But there I was, snacking away during this pregnancy night and day. A friend of mine, R, who'd just had her second baby but who was already very slender smiled at me and said, don't worry, it all comes off fast. If I'd known, she told me, how easy it would be to lose the weight, I would have eaten more ice cream when I was pregnant!  

So I ate ice cream. I ate potato chips, bagels, cookies. I ate healthy things too: whole grains, greens, fruits, legumes. But I ate. And ate.  

Just having Thora, I lost almost 40 pounds in a week. I assumed the last ten or fifteen plus my additional fifteen would come off just as easily because I was nursing and because my friend said it would. But that didn't happen.  When Thora was nine months old, I joined Weight Watchers for the first time in my life. It was very flexible. Yes, it's easy to be vegan on Weight Watchers. It's also easy to be a nursing mom on Weight Watchers. I got into it right away and in a month I lost five pounds. But at the same time, we decided we wanted another baby. I figured it would take a while, but no. One month and five pounds in and I was pregnant again. Which of course got me kicked out of WW, which meant the habits I'd started to make in that month soon went out the window. 

With Freyja I gained the same amount of weight as I did with my first pregnancy, but since I was about ten pounds heavier at conception plus the ten or fifteen that I'd wanted to get rid of in the first place, by the time I was full-term I was looking and feeling like a hippo. I stopped getting on the scale when I got close to 200 because I couldn't bear to see that number and have to comprehend what it meant. I'm 5'4". So I wasn't just pregnant. I was fat and pregnant.

Giving birth this time, I shed only about 13 pounds. In the first four weeks, I lost another eight just from recovering. I started moving more and resisting desserts. I stopped baking every day. And when Freyja was four weeks old, on October 19, I joined Weight Watchers again. 

The paperwork tells you that it's safe to start between six and eight weeks post-partum, so I guess I was a little ahead of the game. But I started very slowly anyway. I sat in the meetings those first few weeks and listened and then got takeout. I read the materials while I ate. I tracked nothing. I calculated no points. I still ate my second breakfast, snacked on bread while cooking dinner. My food choices weren't entirely terrible, but I ate helping after helping. My portions, as they've always been, were out of control. 

Then I found a walking pal. I met A, a friend of a friend, who had a baby around the same time I had Freyja. She lives a ten minute walk from me, so she and I met to walk with the babies as often as we could. And not only did I start moving more, but I made a new friend!  Through Facebook updates, I realized two friends were on Weight Watchers too. I started emailing them for support and now we update each other regularly on our progress, for better or worse. We gripe a lot. We cheerlead each other. But I wasn't yet walking the walk and I hit a plateau. I had to own up: I wasn't really following the plan. My buddies encouraged me to track more carefully, to be honest with myself. I did, and something clicked. Soon I was in the zone, calculating and weighing and logging everything online. 

When J, one of my best friends who has always detested exercise of any kind, completed a Couch to 5K and kept running, I was inspired. I had an iPhone, I had a treadmill in my building and a path along the water just feet from my front door, and I had a pair of sneakers. I downloaded the app. I found a friend who wanted to do it too and we arranged a start date. But she changed her mind a week before, so I got cold feet.

I've run before. When I was in grad school, I tried it. I ran in Somerville on the bike path. I ran in Cambridge on campus. I ran in the gym between step and yoga classes. I was also biking pretty regularly: back and forth from school, and just commuting around Boston. But I needed more, so I ran regularly and worked my way up to a 10k. But honestly? I almost died of boredom running that thing. I was alone. I had no partner, no motivation. It wasn't long before I quit. I started and stopped again a half dozen times because running was so boring. A few years ago, I took a beginners' running class with another dear friend. I came up with excuses to skip: it was cold, it was late, it was Thursday. I forced myself to attend because I knew I would see her, got through the unbearable group run and treated myself to a giant NYC bagel (or two) after almost every class. I didn't run at all on my own between classes, which made the classes even more difficult. Then, a boyfriend was a marathoner: he inspired me to start again. He ran with me regularly but we weren't together long. When we broke up I stopped again. And started. And stopped. Each time I was comfortably running 3 miles a day. But you know what? I didn't stick with it any of those times because I hated it. It was dull dull dull. 

After grad school I was teaching. I had a job 13 hilly miles away from my apartment and I had a lemon of a car. My work day started at 7:30 so I was up every day at 5 hoping my car would start. Some days it didn't. I couldn't run that distance, so I got a bike. And I biked 26 hilly miles five days a week for a whole year. I did it through an entire New England winter and learned all about lobster claw gloves and frozen toes. I learned why you need to wear padded bike shorts. And I was in the best shape of my life. But the hunger - good lord I was so hungry. I ate a hundred times a day. I carried Clif Bars around and snacked around the clock. I ate so much I was actually gaining weight from all the exercise, not losing. It was too much. I got a new car and that was the end of that.

Two people in my life - my favorite professor in college and my birth mother - both scoffed at my efforts to run. If you ask me, they both said, I'd only run if someone was chasing me. They were right. I hated it too. I adopted the phrase for my own and forgot about running completely until I had 40 pounds to lose and my anti-exercise friend turned herself into a runner in 9 weeks by doing a couch-to-5k.

So there I was with my good intentions and my cold feet when one of my WW buddies decided to start running too. I saw her Facebook status update saying she'd done her first workout and I realized I was out of excuses. Johnny was ready to take the girls, the new sneakers I wanted were on sale, and the running path across the street was just calling to me. That was all I needed to get myself out the door. I went.

The first run wasn't that hard. The most challenging part was just getting out the door. But I plodded along and hoped no one was looking at me.

I did all the workouts that week and couldn't wait to get on the scale at Weight Watchers. I was shocked to find I'd gained .4 instead of losing anything. I was angry and discouraged. But I kept at it, and I tracked my food even more carefully. And the next week, I lost 3 pounds. Now, almost three months into Weight Watchers and a month into my couch to 5k, I've lost 18.2 pounds so far, at least 39 pounds total since the day before Freyja was born.

I've also had what Weight Watchers calls non-scale victories: I am paying closer attention to my body now. I listen for signs of hunger before I eat and I listen for signs of satiety so I don't overdo it. I choose healthier snacks. I think about portions. It's amazing to me now how much I could put away, just because it was in front of me. If I screw up, I get back on track instead of thinking that since I already screwed up I may as well just eat  more. But I think the biggest NSV for me is that I *like* running. I don't overdo it. I hurt myself by wearing shoes I didn't know how to run in but I figured out how to fix it and I kept going. It got cold: one morning this week it was 14 degrees and I just couldn't face the bridges I run between here and the Bronx, but I waited my turn at the indoor treadmill instead. I usually go first thing in the morning so even if I do absolutely nothing else all day (yeah, right), at least I got outside and got my exercise in. I spend a half hour a day alone. No kids, no colleagues, no one. I listen to music or podcasts and I just get out the door. It's over before I know it. But I go. This is a half hour of me time I don't otherwise get. I love it. And I am proud of myself!

But I still have a long way to go. I have set a goal that is 27 pounds from where I am now, and when all is said and done I will have lost at least 65 pounds from heaviest to goal (though goal is not the lightest I've been, it's a realistic stretch and it was a weight I was happy at.) And I am scared. I have quit running so many times before that I don't really trust myself to keep this up. So what if I'm running more frequently than ever before? So what if I even ran on vacation with family over the holidays? The week after next, I will be back at work full-time and it will be so hard for me to find that half hour a day. I am worried that I will have to give something else up: time with my kids, my sleep. It's only a half hour, but I'm going to have to find it somewhere.

I am writing this all down not because I want anyone to know (or care about) how much I weigh or how unhappy I am with my current shape or how thinking about losing weight gives me anxiety, but because I know that goals are far more attainable when you write them down. I am determined to do this so I'm coming out of the closet. It's my new year's resolution to go public with my plan so I have no choice but to see it through. Nothing fits me right and I don't recognize the person I see in the mirror. Today in Pilates I was mortified at myself and kept getting distracted from the exercises by my reflection. Is that really my belly? Is that how people see me? Ugh! Yes, I know I just had two babies. Yes, I know it's harder to lose weight after the second one. But I don't like myself like this. And I want to be in tip top shape. I want to feel good and look good, and I want to live a long healthy life with husband, my girls, and my family. Being overweight is a health risk that invites all kinds of other health risks along with it. So it has to happen. 

Of course I want to do it slowly, so that I keep the weight off. I'd like to reach my goal by Freyja's first birthday, but if that doesn't happen, that's okay. I am still nursing exclusively, so I am careful to eat all my points. Slow and steady. But now that I am paying attention, I am eating what one nursing mama should eat, not two! And I'm resting on days I'm sore and I'm building in other kinds of exercise like the Pilates class I took today. Continuing on this journey means I am taking care of my baby and my family and myself. 

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