I grew up in a house where we had a fairly balanced dinner each night, save for our trips to beloved Taco Bell in between Tuesday’s dance and violin lessons. After-school snacks, however, were epic. Many afternoons I would come home from middle or high school and make and eat an ENTIRE box of Pasta Roni. I still love the stuff.
I didn’t calorie-count. If I was hungry, I ate what I wanted. It was glorious.
Fast forward to college days. Suddenly I was on my own. Jake and I would frequent the Curb Cafe for a random assortment of (mostly) junk food – burgers, fries, quesadillas, the usual fast casual fare. We would “grocery shop” (and I definitely use that term loosely) at the Harris Teeter near Belmont. I’m fairly certain I never once picked up a single item from the produce section. If I wanted to go out and buy 16 Snickers bars and eat them all in one sitting during a Lifetime movie marathon with my roommate, I could. ‘Cause I was finally an adult. And isn’t that what adults do?
Jake and I got married in March of 2007 and continued on our quest to eat anything and everything with no consequences. We exercised ZERO times a week. (Do as I say, not as I do). Little did I know this would all come crashing down once I started what would become an 8 year long pregnancy and nursing stint.
Ok ok. So technically there were a couple breaks thrown in there. But still. You get the idea.
Ask anyone who has ever been pregnant and they will tell you that losing weight post-baby is…errrr…interesting. Some have the pounds literally just fall off of them. Of these, a few attribute the phenomenon to nursing, while others say it was because they finally got their energy back and were able to work out like they did pre-pregnancy.
On the other hand you have a group of women who will tell you they lost nothing after baby was born, no matter how much they nursed on demand. I even have friends who say they seemed to hang on to those last 10 to 20 pounds throughout breastfeeding and it wasn’t until their child stopped that they were able to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight.
One thing we seem to agree on, though, is that as time goes by, it becomes more and more difficult to lose the weight. Shedding pounds after baby #1 was infinitely easy compared to post baby #5. I have no idea if this is due to maternal age (24 vs 32) or pregnancy number. Either way, it happens. Because #science.
And it’s lovely.
Tracking Like a Fiend
Anyone who has talked to me even for a few minutes knows that I am an ultimate “Type A”-er. I decided to take that
psychotic positive trait and run with it when it came to weight loss. Jake and I both started tracking everything we ate via the MyFitnessPal app. And I mean everything. Even 0 calorie Coke Zeros. I was mostly just curious to know how many calories I was consuming each day. I mean sure, I grew up reading nutrition labels (see type A issues above), but I could only vaguely tell you how much I consumed in a day.
MyFitnessPal was eye-opening. I could easily eat 2,500 to 3,500 calories in one day without a second thought. I’ll take the time here to thank my genes as that is the only reason I didn’t weigh 6,721 pounds by this point in my life.
But how in the world was I supposed to curb an appetite like that?
Enter Intermittent Fasting
I know what you are thinking…fasting?! WTF IS THIS CHICK TALKING ABOUT?! And yes. My husband laughed at the hilarity of it all when I told him I planned to try intermittent fasting. But weirdly enough, it seems to work for me.
I like that I can choose specific days where it is convenient for me to fast, and then I also love that I get to choose how long each time. I generally pick 2-3 weekdays where I know I’ll be busy. For me idleness is equivalent to “hunger” (and I use quotes, because no doubt I’m actually thirsty and not truly hungry).
I generally fast from about 10pm (sometimes 11p, because #fourthmeal) the night before to about 1p or 2p that next afternoon. To get ahead of any cravings, I like to drink at minimum 4-5 full glasses of water during this timeframe. This does two things: 1) keeps me (knock on wood) kidney stone free and 2) keeps me focused on a hydration goal as opposed to the obvious fasting goal staring me in the face.
Once I make it to the afternoon, I eat whatever I have planned for that day’s lunch, usually a low(ish)-carb meal of under 300 calories. I plan for a small snack (under 200 calories) before dinner. Dinner is also generally smaller (500 calories or less), but only because we are BIG dessert and after-dinner snack people in this house.
Should you probably consume lots of calories late at night? Most people say no. I say you do you. Don’t limit yourself unnecessarily until you figure out what works best for your schedule, your body, and your metabolism.
Is this the healthiest way to eat?
Have I found something consistent that works for me and produces results?
Even Especially Snacks
Meal and snack planning has been key to my success, another reason I use the MyFitnessPal app in addition to my PlantoEat subscription I referenced earlier in this post. I notoriously hoard calories for specific events or times of day. For example when Jake is on call, I always allow myself to binge on whatever awesome Cookout meal plus milkshake he brings back after leaving the hospital. Knowing this in advance allows me to look forward to something, even when I am eating only half of that sandwich for lunch.
I use some of the following snacks to get me through the afternoon, which happens to be the time I’m most likely to start stuffing my face with whatever I see.
- peanut butter & baby carrots
- tomato & bacon lettuce wrap
- Yoplait YQ yogurt
- deviled eggs
- Kraft Cracker Cuts & saltines
- tuna salad lettuce wrap
But What About Exercise?
Confession: I have not consistently exercised since I was pregnant with Zella in 2014.
I know I know. It’s bad.
When Jake and I started our weight loss journey last fall, I made myself a deal. If I could stick with counting calories and logging foods, I wouldn’t beat myself up for not working out each day. With the pressure off, I was able to put all of my focus into meal planning my days.
I won’t say I don’t have time to exercise, because I think we all have time in our schedule when it comes to the priorities in our life. Currently Zella is still not walking (but weighs a whopping 45lbs, bah), Penn is only just beginning to walk well, and we are on the go much of the day. Even with all of the lifting and carrying and walking and driving, though, I’m sure this only qualifies as a “lightly active” day.
The schedule is filled with ABA therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, aqua therapy, occupational therapy, violin lessons, cello lessons, Suzuki group lessons, golf lessons, audition trips to Atlanta, summer swim team, dance, and basketball. This upcoming school year we will add year-round swimming and an extra dance class.
I don’t say this to convince you that I’m busy. We are all infinitely busy. I say this because I’m currently in a season of life where I can’t easily head to the gym for a spin class…or hit up Pure Barre for a kid-free hour of barre work. Right now I need to use what free time I have recharging at home – I have found that this is the best way to stay sane.
I also know that this season, like all seasons in life, is not forever. This coming fall Zella will go to a new therapy school for a full day, Monday through Friday, and Penn will have Mother’s Day Out for the very first time once a week. Once I see this reprieve, I hope to add a barre class once a week and slowly build back up to 3 times a week.
Do what you can, when you can.
And the rest?
Grace. Lots of it.