Two women in their late twenties, sitting on the train to work. One says to the other, ‘You know how it is: you start your first diet when you’re about 12 and you’re permanently on one diet or another forever after.’ The other woman rolls her eyes and nods enthusiastically.
It shocked me at the time and I felt so indignant. On later reflection I realised they’re, well, kind of right.
My own weight has see-sawed over the years.
I was a reasonably slim teenager. I put on weight in year 12 with the stress of VCE. Lost it again at uni.
Put on a bit when I started working full time, left home and could eat whatever I liked. Lost it again when I started smoking full time.
Gained a little when I quit smoking. Lost it again when my Nan died and I quit eating.
Met my future husband. We both love good food. Stacked it on. Lost weight for our wedding.
Put it back on during the honeymoon. Lost weight when the doctors told us it might help solve our apparent infertility.
And then there’s the baby weight.
There’s a general and pervasive pressure for women to be thin throughout our lives. But the pressure to lose weight and get back to our ‘pre-baby body’ ASAP after popping a baby out is positively breathtaking.
My youngest son has has just turned two. Despite a number of valiant attempts to shift the weight, I’m still 10kgs heavier than I was when I fell pregnant with my first son (who is now 4).
I thought it was about time I share my secrets of how to avoid losing your baby weight.
And explain exactly why I refuse to worry about it.
1. Have big babies
My first son was 4.75kgs (10lb, 7oz). He was born on his due date and no, I didn’t have gestational diabetes. We just make big strong boys in this family.
The average recommended pregnancy weight gain varies widely, but seem to range between about 11 – 14kg or so. The average baby in Australia is around 3.37kg (7.4lb). Given my baby was nearly 1.5kg heavier than this and I gained 14kgs I figure that’s pretty reasonable.
It took until my firstborn was 10 months old for me to lose the baby weight, helped out by a fabulous meal delivery service.
2. Work close to public transport
During my first pregnancy I had to walk 40 minutes every day just to get to and from work. It was tough towards the end but great for my fitness.
For my second pregnancy there was no opportunity to walk more than a few minutes each way, so the incidental exercise wasn’t happening.
I didn’t make the opportunity because I was more interested in making time to pick up my son from daycare as soon as humanly possible.
3. Have absolutely no natural interest in exercise whatsoever
People talk about getting back to their pre-baby exercise routine. Which is kind of hard to do if you never had one to start with.
I quite liked badminton at school.
I went to the gym for an entire semester at uni and even managed to develop a modest six-pack. Then I lost interest and never went back.
It’s just not something I’m into.
4. Develop Pelvic Girdle Pain during pregnancy
Any extra exercise I may have felt motivated to do was stymied by the onset of reasonably severe pelvic girdle pain during my second pregnancy.
The treatment was to wear a tight girdle around my hips at all times and shuffle along like a geisha. No striding, definitely no sustained exercise.
So when I managed to only gain 16kgs I was actually pretty impressed with myself.
5. Have a complicated birth
After 24 hours of labour followed by an emergency caesar with my first son I had no desire to repeat the experience. All indications throughout my second pregnancy suggested we were going to be blessed with another strapping young lad. The likelihood of a successful natural birth was minimal.
Of course, the problem with any birth, but especially a complicated one (such as a caesarean) is that you’re not exactly up and taking long walks on the beach any time soon.
6. Have a baby and a toddler who simultaneously believe sleep to be an optional and somewhat unnecessary activity
Research has shown that sleep deprivation is directly linked to weight gain.
My second son woke every two hours for the first 7 weeks of his life. Eventually I got an initial 3 hour block in the evening, followed by rolling 2 hour blocks.
Then he hit a stage, which lasted for months, where he would wake in the wee hours of the morning and just refuse to go back to sleep. For 2-3 hours. Every night.
Yes, I tried feeding him. Yes, I tried controlled crying (he protested for 4 hours one night before I gave up). Yes, I tried to get some sleep while he was, mostly, happily babbling away to himself in the other room. Any mum will tell you it’s futile. We’re biologically programmed to wake to the sound of our baby.
We’d been to sleep school and knew all the tricks of the trade. We just have crap sleepers. It is what it is.
7. Take anti-anxiety medication
A recent study showed that depression and anxiety in mothers peaks four years after the birth of a child.
I nodded along enthusiastically to the reports in the media, having already experienced the truth of this.
My depression and anxiety led me to comfort eat, which of course made it extremely difficult to lose weight to start with and led to further weight gain.
I eventually recognised it for what it was, sought help and started a combination of therapy and medication.
Unfortunately the anti-anxiety medication also contributes to weight gain.
A month after I started the medication I went back for a check up. The doctor stood me on the scales and congratulated me: I had only gained a kilo or two. Apparently that was a fabulous outcome.
Pregnancy changes our bodies in ways that cannot be undone.
Modern society has tried to convince us that it can, and should, be undone. That we should aspire to return to our skinny pre-pubescent selves at the same time as managing a household, children, paid work, relationships and life in general.
Well I say pooh to modern society.
I know it would benefit my health to lose that last 10kgs. I’m not disputing that at all. And I’m taking small steps towards making it happen.
But with a young family to enjoy and nurture, a house and job to maintain and a mental illness to manage, losing weight is not my first priority right now.
Nor should it be.
How’s your post-pregnancy weight loss going?
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