This post is pretty personal. It talks frankly about my experiences and I may express strong opinions in places, but please try to remember, we are all entitled to our opinions. I’ve actually decided to extend this into a series chronicling my awful pregnancies, my birthing experiences, my weight loss journey and how they all came together.
For those who know me, you’ll know three things. For those who don’t, here they are:
- January of this year I had my beautiful second son.
- I had a shitty pregnancy; horrible in many, many ways
- I was unhappy with my weight and appearance after my exhausting ordeal was over, so I decided to make a change.
I decided I needed to get back into shape my own way, so I downloaded the Spark People app*, set my calorie count to between 1,200-1,500 per day and slowly began reintroducing an exercise routine, starting with yoga on the Wii Fit.
(*This is not an affiliate link, I actually genuinely just want to promote this product for how amazingly it helped me!)
Over 22 weeks I lost 2st/28lbs. For some this seems huge, for others not so much, but for me it was exactly what I needed to recognise myself again.
That’s the thing about pregnancy people don’t really tell you; afterwards, you probably won’t recognise your own body.
Some people deal with this pretty well, they get back into shape easily enough or are happy with their new body. This wasn’t the case for me. Every time I looked in the mirror I felt like I was looking at a stranger. One who was overweight, frumpy, weak and miserable.
I had such an awful experience, often I feel like I can’t express myself in this area. Mothers are supposed to love being pregnant, right? Labour might suck, but you’re glad you got to experience it to have your baby, right? Looking back, you would do it all again, right?
HA HA NO.
Not all mothers have wonderful pregnancies; with perfectly rounded bumps, that healthy glow and wacky cravings.
Why mine sucked? Well:
- With both of my pregnancies I had a condition called Obstetric Cholestasis, which I will be doing a post about in the near future. (Basically your liver goes nuts, starts pumping bile salts into your bloods at obscene levels, makes you itch all over and can seriously compromise both you and baby health wise.)
- With my second pregnancy; I had my hip go out of place which required physio, Sciatica in my legs and SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction). Combined with the OC these meant; by the end I could hardly walk, felt tired all the time and was in pain constantly. I was thoroughly miserable.
- I had to return to the hospital for several extra scans and observations due to baby measuring too small, stopping moving and so on which was extremely stressful.
By the end of the second pregnancy I was absolutely certain I never, ever wanted to go through that again.
- Thanks to the OC, I had to be induced at 37 weeks both times. This is due to the OC putting an increased pressure on Mothers Liver as well as possibly affecting baby’s health or even, in rare cases, causing stillbirth.
- Both of my labours were what I’d consider the most horrific pain I will ever experience, and both I had to endure with only Gas and Air as pain relief. By the time I was begging for an epidural, I’d already dilated too far and they wanted me pushing!
- Both were natural births but left a good deal of damage I won’t describe. I’ll drop the word ‘stitches’ and let you imagine the rest.
After my second, the thought of having another made me literally sick with dread. I do not, ever want to be subjected to that again.
And while yes, it was worth it, and yes, I’d do anything for my kids, that doesn’t mean I have to pretend I enjoyed it.
But all my pregnancy horror stories deserve their own posts and believe me, there will be several.
The thing is, after having your body grow a person whilst losing your ability to stay mobile, while also becoming steadily more stressed and miserable, well…
The first few weeks after my second son was born, I hardly recognized myself.
I remember climbing into bed one day and just stopping and staring at my thighs. I didn’t recognise them at all. Suddenly I felt like I was in a complete strangers’ body.
I literally must have stared in horror for over ten minutes, trying to bring my vision of myself in line with what I was seeing. I just couldn’t do it.
After Gray I only put on a stone/14lbs. Nothing really, but I didn’t bother to get back in shape even though I felt a bit… meh, because I thought ‘I’m having another one anyway, why bother?’
I then put on more weight with Rhyd, leaving me staring at my thighs while weighing 10st 7lbs. The heaviest I’d ever been in my life.
This may sound like nothing to some people, but you should know, I’m just 5’2” and built like a pixie, any extra weight just doesn’t look right on me.
My goal weight, which I am now, was 8st 7lbs, 2st lighter. I knew that at that weight I remembered feeling confident in my body.
For reference I’m going to show you my before and after photos. These are pretty hard to share, but I feel they’re necessary.
Such a small amount for some, actually looks like a huge difference on me, right?
You can see just by the look on my face how important this was.
It wasn’t really about the weight, it was about my health and well-being, not just physically.
Body Dysmorphia is a very real and very dangerous condition, it causes many eating disorders. I have never been diagnosed, though I know people who have. But I do know for a fact that when I look in the mirror I see something different to what the rest of the world sees.
Getting back in shape was about boosting my confidence by dropping some weight, yes.
But! It was also about getting fit again.
I had become so weak over the past few months, I couldn’t pick up my eldest, who was just over three when his brother was born. He was just too heavy for me. My husband on the other hand, could bench press him for an hour.
I felt an utter failure.
I had already spent more than half the pregnancy feeling like a failure as a parent. Because I needed to nap almost every day, I was having to rely on the TV to keep him happy while I simply couldn’t function.
All I wanted was to be my old self again.
I wanted to love what I saw in the mirror and be able to run and play with my son at the park, being able to lift him onto swings and spin him round by the wrists in that universal way all kids love.
When I first started my Wii Fit routine, I was doing about 15 minutes of yoga and muscle exercises. It was a very gentle routine, mostly stretching and low reps of twists and things. I had one exercise that required standing on one leg and swinging the other.
My first time left me breathless, shaking and in pain. From 15 minutes of stretching. That is how weak and battered my body was.
It took the entire 22 weeks but by the end I was able to do Wii fit easily, and much more vigorous Zumba dance routines, at around 25 minutes each. I was sweaty by the end, sure, but I felt strong.
I know there are a lot of women out there in the position I was in not long ago. Your weight, fitness level, self-image etc are squiffy, and perhaps you just don’t know how you’ll ever feel comfortable in your own skin again.
Well, I made it, so you can too. It isn’t a piece of cake (no pun intended!) but it is a lot easier than I bet you’re imagining it to be.
The simple fact is, you can still eat your favorite things, just in moderation. You can also eat the same meals as your family, just make healthy swaps (for example I often eat courgette/zucchini noodles instead of spaghetti pasta when we have Bolognese.)
The changes you need to make are actually quite small, but they do start with you.
Here’s a rundown of my journey, from the start (7 weeks postnatal):
- Downloaded the Spark People app
- Set my daily goal at 1,200-1,500 calories (the average woman is considered to require 2,000 per day to break even with what she burns and maintain the same weight)
- Made healthy choices such as smaller portions, brown bread instead of white, healthier snacks such as fruit instead of chocolate, healthier side dishes such as salad instead of chips etc
- Started walking everywhere again instead of driving, I had to do this a little at a time as I was still getting a lot of pain in my hips and pelvis at first (still causes problems to this day, but only after excessive exercise)
- Started gentle Wii fit routines (Yoga and muscle exercises), about 15 mins every other day, working up to a 20-25 mins advanced routine every day
- After I began to feel stronger, I alternated Wii fit every couple/every other day with a more intense Zumba dance fitness routine. (I have several Zumba games on Wii, I’m no good at public lessons!) These worked up from about 15 mins of intermediate to 20-25 mins of advanced.
It took me 22 weeks, about five months, to reach my goal. I lost about 1.5lbs a week. I could have done it much sooner, but I didn’t want to go extreme and sacrifice the things I loved to eat.
It was clear it would also take a gentle reintroduction of exercise to fix the damage my body had endured.
Realising how physically weak your body has become, for any reason, can be a terrifying thing.
But each day/week/month you look back on your journey and see that you can do something a little better, a little longer, with a little less breathlessness than before, well; that’s one Hell of a motivator.
Even if you’ve got a long way to go, even if you think 2st looks like no difference when you lose it, I promise you it will make a difference. People will notice all the hard work you’ve put in and the new strength and better health you have physically, for one reason.
At the end of the day, no matter how big or small a difference physically, it will shine through you as you grow more confident and feel more energetic. It will surround you as you find the strength you’d lost and start to recognise yourself in the mirror again.
In the end, your journey is for you, as mine was for me. I now stand taller, smile wider and step lighter, not because I lost weight, but because I gained back what I had misplaced along the way. Myself.