One evening when my daughter was 2, I pulled out a duffel bag I’d been storing under the bed since I got pregnant. It was my secret stash of clothing, the ones I’d return to when I lost the baby weight: my favorite jeans, my pre-breastfeeding-sized t-shirts, my thongs. But I wasn’t taking it out to try the clothes back on. I was taking it out to give the clothes away.
There came a moment, I don’t know exactly at what point, when I realized I just wasn’t going to return to my pre-baby weight. It dawned on me slowly and then—BAM!—it was clear as day.
I assumed I would lose all the baby weight quickly because I shed a chunk of weight early on, simply out of circumstance: I had gestational diabetes, so because of a strict diet during the last trimester of pregnancy, I gained almost no weight. If I stuck to that same diet post birth, maybe it would all be gone soon!
But then it slowed. Because I was back to my old eating habits and worse given that I was breastfeeding and sleep-deprived, chocolate at 10 a.m., burgers and fries, muffins and cookies, and more meant I never got rid of the last bit.
Now it’s been almost five years, and I’m quite sure that unless I get very strict with myself, I will never return to those pre-baby looks. But honestly? I’ve learned to not care so much.
I mean, of course I do care. Don’t we all want to look the way we did at our most fit? I was a dancer and a yoga teacher. I could eat whatever I wanted and still burn the calories off. I could have fries and wine for dinner and fit into my size 26 jeans! And I thought it was all genetics! Ha!
No longer. The problem is not that I can’t. The problem is that I’ve been told that I should: that I should be able to return to my old weight, that I should want to, that I should care about no longer looking that way.
In fact, for many women, their primary obsession once the baby comes out is losing weight. But is this really fair? Does this make us feel good about ourselves?
These days, whenever I have a negative feeling about my body, I try to stop myself from going down a rabbit hole. You grew a human, I whisper to myself. You fed her. You’ve changed. And: You’re getting older. Letting go of being my “ideal” weight is a little like letting go of the fact that I’ll never be 32 again. It isn’t sad—it’s part of growing up.
Now, I’m not saying throw in the towel! No way! I work out multiple days a week. I eat well. I want to look and feel good. But “good” (or “skinny”) is different now than it was then—and not just because of my weight, but because of all sorts of other things: lack of time, more self-confidence (regardless of what the scale says).
I could, of course, work super hard and get super skinny. But at what cost, exactly? Not enjoying my food? Not indulging once in a while? Working out when I could be writing, or spending time with my family, or—heaven forbid!—resting?
After years of obsessing about whether I’d ever lose that last 10 pounds, I’ve decided it’s not worth it to me—and this isn’t the same thing as not caring about my appearance. It means that losing the last 10 pounds cannot be the anchor around which I rule my life.
Here is my advice for dealing with your (beautiful) post-baby body:
Eat well. A fabulous nutritionist once told me to think of it in these terms: 80/20. 80 percent of the time you eat well: healthy foods in healthy proportions; 20 percent of the time, though, you indulge, so you don’t feel deprived and “act out,” eating half a box of cookies at 11 p.m. when the kids are in bed.
Enjoy your kid. You’re amazing for having grown her inside your body.
And as a wise shrink once said to me, “Enjoy your life, sweetheart.”