My relationship with food has had its ups and downs. In high school, I thought I was “fat” but was actually pretty thin, and I never watched what I ate or exercised much. In college, I continued to not exercise and basically binged and gained 25lbs in 3 months. I went on Weight Watchers that summer, lost weight, and from then until my mid-20s, I fluctuated 5-10 pounds depending on my “motivation”. I’d be strict with my food and exercise, and then I would “free for all”. It was a very all-or-nothing attitude- pretty much exactly what I now preach against! As a first time mom, this all changed.
I continued fluctuations with a slow increase after I met my husband and up until we got engaged. I lost for the wedding, gained it back, and the up and down continued.
At some point, I started working on my body image instead of my weight. I started to realize that dieting was just not the answer. My body needed nourishment and enjoyable exercise instead of restriction and beating myself up.
Becoming a First Time Mom
By the time I became a mom, I had already started to improve my relationship with food. I knew that I would not want my kids to see me diet or to hear me complain about my body- regardless of what size I am.
It helped that I had already started working on this, but what didn’t help was the weight I gained. I struggled with my body image more than I ever have before. Not an unusual thing for a new mom! But I was so mad at myself. I had worked so hard to accept myself and here I was beating myself up for the amazing and beautiful thing that my body just did!
I also really struggled with the idea that I felt I needed to lose weight. I thought “If I love myself and accept my body, shouldn’t I NOT be trying to lose weight??”
I did a lot of soul searching. And I decided that it was OK for me to both accept my body AND want to lose weight. I had a lot of reasons to want to lose the “baby weight”. I felt unhealthy, weak, out of breath, and achy. My feet hurt all the time, my hips, my back. Sure part of all of that was being postpartum. But part of it was that my tiny frame was just not used to having that much weight on it.
I started to look at gradual and healthy weight loss as part of my recovery from pregnancy and childbirth. And NOT something that was tied to my self-worth.
No More Dieting
I realized that losing weight as a mom would be different, and that I would have to make sure I had boundaries of what I would and wouldn’t do to lose weight. I had to make sure that anything that was done for the sake of my weight loss would align with my core values and who I am and what I believe. It had to fit with the big long term picture and with what my REAL goals are. In the above paragraph I stated that I wanted to lose weight. But I also stated that I felt unhealthy and weak- those are my real reasons.
Those are the things I really wanted to change- my health and overall functional strength. Focusing on those things as the primary objective and my weight as the secondary objective is my new mindset, and how I knew I could get through this without damaging my relationship to food.
Dos and Don’ts of Weight Loss as a First Time Mom
- DO set nutrition guidelines that make you feel good about what you’re eating
- DON’T stress or feel guilty when you don’t meet those guidelines
- DO nourish your body with nutrient dense foods so that there is less room for low-nutrient foods
- DON’T restrict macronutrients or calories
- DON’T deprive yourself of what you need
- DO stay hydrated
- DO listen to your body and hunger
- DON’T ignore your hunger
- DO stay active on a daily basis and gradually progress as your fitness improves
- DON’T beat yourself up for missing days (especially when the baby isn’t sleeping!)
- DO give yourself days of rest
- DO take care of your mental health
- DO take time for proper meals and snacks for yourself instead of only thinking of the baby’s nutrition
- DO set good sleep habits to optimize whatever sleep you can get
- DON’T weigh or measure yourself regularly
- DO measure progress based on how you’re feeling physically and mentally
- DON’T obsess over your weight or body
- DO count your blessings regularly and find peace and happiness at home with your new little guy or gal amongst all the chaos. (It is important in order to keep yourself feeling whole and positive about your life instead of focusing on something you want to change.)
- DO focus on the positive feelings associated with proper nutrition and regular exercise. Pay attention to how much better you feel and how much easier and less stressful your days are.
My Current Relationship with Food as a First Time Mom
Believe it or not, these guidelines really worked for me. If I said I never struggled with the slower progress, I’d be lying. But every time I struggle, I check in with my core values again. They remind me of what’s really important to me. It’s not the number on the scale. It’s showing my son that he is worthy and beautiful at any size. And teaching him to feel a sense of freedom in his food decisions balanced with wholesome nourishment. What’s important to me now, is showing him that our bodies are amazing and not to be taken for granted. And feeling healthy and strong is important so that I can be the amazing mom I aspire to be.
This is the kind of relationship with food and with himself that I want for my son. So this is the kind of relationship with food and myself that I need to have. And so this is what I continually work towards. With gratitude, happiness, and success! My weight isn’t always moving, and that’s ok. Sometimes I lose a little, sometimes it stands still. Either way, I’m still meeting my real goals- I’m feeling healthier, stronger, and in so much less pain. Best of all, I feel confident, happy, and fulfilled.