I’ve always been a little bit obsessed with “health.” And by health I mean exercise and weight management.
So not really health.
Growing up my parents were always training for one race or another, oftentimes a marathon. And I was always training for the next tryout. Soccer, diving, ultimate.
As a family we were almost universally on a diet. A healthy, balanced diet. But still, a diet.
When high school sports came to a close it was the Clark University gym that I became friends with. Dragging my self up and down the StairMaster, running backwards on the treadmill and winding my way through the dreary winter streets of Main South, Worcester. Running off the calories from Sunday brunch or last night’s keg party.
I was happy, for sure. Definitely healthy. But never thin.
Of course looking back I was enviably thin. But it’s all relative I guess.
It wasn’t until my first year out of college that I realized I was not, in fact, healthy.
Physically, yes. Mentally, no.
I was counting every calorie that touched my lips. Punishing myself at the gym. Losing sleep over lists of the food that I ate and the guilt that followed every minor offense to my self-imposed health regiment. I was 133 pounds, and hardly a fan of the mirror.
Finally, I found help. In the form of a psychologist specializing in eating disorders.
Two words that always felt far too extreme and relegated to the rail thin models whose bodies were literally shutting down from potassium deficiency.
But also, me.
I was desperate to change but sure that I would not. If I couldn’t control my mind, some guy in expensive loafers and a mock tee certainly couldn’t either.
But, luckily, I was wrong.
It took a long, long time. Months turned into years. I turned my mind on itself and redirected my obsessive energy into blocking the habits that were hurting me. No more counting. No more listing. No more running for anything except enjoyment.
I stopped racing. I stopped weighing. I stopped anything and everything quantitative in my life.
I was healthy AND happy. I was 137 pounds.
Then I got pregnant.
I gained 33 pounds while pregnant with Mia. A healthy amount, according to the textbooks. Textbooks that do not suffer from eating disorders.
After she was born I lost a grand total of 13.
13 pounds. Despite a year of breastfeeding and working and running and keeping another human alive.
I started running just 6 weeks after she was born. I went for a run the day the doctor cleared me at my postpartum check up.
It felt like my organs were bouncing around in my stomach. And they were.
Surviving on 3-5 hours of broken sleep, and furiously power pumping and supplementing to revive a diminishing milk supply I struggled to maintain a regular exercise routine. It wasn’t until Mia turned 7 months old and started sleeping with some regularity that I managed to join a local running club and get back in the groove. I woke up at 530am 5 days a week and ran with the group or completed exercise videos in the dark of my empty living room. I still didn’t lose any weight.
I ran a 4-mile obstacle race that spring and 5k that fall. I eventually went back on a diet and lost 7 pounds over the course of a couple months. Then I got pregnant again.
The second time around at motherhood has been life changing for me. In so many ways.
I have gained a confidence, and an acceptance that I just couldn’t seem to find the first go-round.
I gained 27 pounds with Lucy and lost 17 in the week following her birth.
I’ve nursed her since day one but as my milk supply (predictably) tanked after returning to the stress and pumping regiment of work, I’ve relied on my freezer supply and accepted the possibility of formula, if it comes to that. I’m not going to spend hours pumping that I could be sleeping.
I’ve also exercised fewer than maybe 15 times in the 6.5 months since Lucy’s birth. Every once in a while an opportunity comes up for me to go on a run and those runs have been wonderful. But most of the time I choose sleep. Or ice cream. Peanut butter mixed with banana is my favorite.
I weigh 160 pounds. 23 pounds more than my pre-pregnancy weight and likely even farther from the number that the chart on the doctor’s office wall would say is “ideal.”
My stomach is soft, and overwritten with long, silvery stretch marks. My hips are wider than before and there is no thigh gap to speak of in this house.
My children are strong and beautiful, though. Mia is a badass gymnast and Lucy is crawling at 6 months old.
We eat delicious meals – a wonderful perk of being married to a chef – and we all go to bed before 9.
I am happy.
For once in my life my body kicked ASS at something.
Do you know how empowering that is?
After so many years of feeling like my body was not good enough, it managed to get pregnant (on the first try, twice!) and birth two beautiful, incredible, and fairly sizable kiddos (I’m lookin’ at you Lucy).
My body literally rocks at making babies.
Do I feel sexy? Not always.
Would I like to be thinner and sans stretch marks. Absolutely yes.
But right now, in this exact moment, I am healthy. For me.
Amongst mothers, after giving birth, there is so much talk of how much we’ve lost. Or of the things we’re trying to get back.
But what about all the things we’ve gained?
Children, confidence, boobs, tattoos – to name a few.
There is so much more to healthy than the number on a scale.
Sometimes healthy is binge-watching Bachelor in Paradise while the babies nap.
Sometimes it’s taking a long walk (or run) outside – by yourself.
Sometimes it’s buying new clothes to flatter your new body, or eating all the Butterfingers out of your kid’s Halloween bucket and blaming it on the “Candy Ghost.”
Some day, maybe some day soon, I will feel ready to tackle the weight loss.
I will fall back into a regular exercise routine and I will make physical health a renewed priority.
But right now I’m just enjoying my babies. Holding on to these moments that disappear so ridiculously fast.
I have the rest of my life to be fit. Right now I’m enjoying being full.