I’m sure many Mums find themselves struggling to manage their weight after they have had their little ones and I am one of those Mums. I am very conscious about how much I exercise, I think about what I am eating and I have had to buy new clothes in the last year because of my change in size.
If you don’t know me or haven’t seen me recently, you are probably assuming at this point that I have put on a bit of weight, which is a perfectly normal assumption, but I haven’t. A few weeks after giving birth I was a stone lighter than when I got pregnant and at least a dress size smaller. I was even lighter at one point and I am still more than half a stone lighter and a dress size smaller.
Many of you are probably thinking, so what’s the problem? The problem is I am 5’6″ and was a size 10 beforehand. I didn’t have much room for manoeuvre and losing the weight I lost meant I looked unhealthily skinny. At first I thought this was just my perception of myself but every time I saw my colleagues at least one of them would say “have you lost more weight?” or “how much do you weigh now!?”. Then when I saw one of my best friends, who I hadn’t seen for a while and he started to say “you look…” then he paused, looked at me properly and then said “skinny”, I knew I really had a problem. When he left he told me I needed to eat more, but I was eating loads!
How I looked wasn’t the only problem, I also spent a lot of time feeling weak and dizzy and after going to the doctors and having blood tests to make sure I wasn’t anaemic, diabetic or that my lupus (another story, perhaps for another post) hadn’t returned, none of which were the case, I knew it must be my weight.
I have always been into exercising. Since I was 16 I have gone to the gym, before then I played Volleyball and represented my school in gymnastics competitions and so naturally I got back into it after I had my little boy. Not straight away, with everything else that as going on (see Becoming a Mum) but once he was about 8 months old I think I was properly back into exercise, walking, running 5Ks, light weights and some gym sessions. I realised that a lot of this exercise was fat burning and needed to stop, which was extremely frustrating as it’s such a big part of me and a part of me that I desperately wanted to cling onto. I felt a lot of what made me, me had already changed since becoming a Mum but I knew I had to be sensible.
The exercise stopped and the diet changed. I had been eating whatever I wanted to pretty much since giving birth. While breast feeding I was careful about alcohol intake, nuts etc, but apart from that I was eating whatever. Probably more cookies and muffins than ever before because I spent a lot of time in cafes either because I was meeting up with other Mums or because I needed somewhere to go and feed the little fella while I was out and about and clearly I couldn’t just have a coffee! So it wasn’t like I was trying to be careful but after reading up on gaining weight I wasn’t really eating the right weight gain foods so I changed my diet. I started eating cereal and two slices of whole grain toast for breakfast. Then throughout the day I’d make sure I drank some grape juice, ate dried fruit and nuts, peanut butter and sweet corn. It worked.
Gradually I started putting on the weight. To start with it was only perhaps a couple of ounces in a week but I took every gain as a positive then it was a pound in a week. Now I weigh just under half a stone less than I did before I was pregnant and I’m happy with that, well at least I am most of the time. There are still times that I catch sight of myself in a mirror at a certain angle and I still think I look a bit skinny or my husband lets me know that when swimming there were bones showing where perhaps they shouldn’t be and it reminds me I can’t forget to keep up with eating those special weight gaining foods. I’m glad my husband keeps me on track with it because I think it could be very easy for me to start getting used to looking so small and think it’s normal and then I could quite quickly be back to my weak, dizzy days, which aren’t fun, especially now my little toddling monkey takes a lot of energy to keep up with and he is not light when he needs or more likely, wants picking up, so I need all the energy I can muster!
I am exercising again now but not to the extent I was before, now it’s more of a social thing, going to classes with my Sister-in-law and friends. It’s something I really like doing to have that much needed bit of me time and to keep hold of something that has been such a key part of my life. If the weight starts falling off again though, I know I will need to put it on hold again and that’s ok if it’s what I need to do to stay healthy.
I don’t think many people realise how hard maintaining or gaining weight can be for some people. I know it’s not just me who is going through this. I’m often told by people who would like to lose weight that I’m so lucky that I don’t even have to try to stay slim but struggle to feel lucky. It really hurts when other Mums look at me up and down, focusing on my flat stomach, when I say I have a little boy or when I have him with me and they look at the pushchair then me. This makes me feel incredibly self-conscious and almost apologetic for how I look. This has stopped now that my little boy is a bit older, almost like it’s acceptable for me to be slim now.
I know there will still be people reading this thinking boo hoo, poor slim Mummy and I’m sure there are many other people out there going through battles with being heavier than they would like and I know there is more stigma and judgement in society linked to being overweight. I just wanted to put it out there that the struggle can be felt both ways.