There are certain women who, within a month of giving birth, will effortlessly revert to their pre-pregnancy selves. Maybe they never put on much baby weight to begin with. Or maybe they have bulked up a bit during pregnancy, but you can still spot the telltale signs that augur a quick postpartum slimdown: the slender upper arms, distinct collarbones, undistended joints and defined jawline. Those women are the lucky ones. From the front they glow; from behind, they don’t show. They’ll have their babies and, inside of a few weeks, will be buttoning blouses and zipping jeans from the good part of their closets.
I am not one of those women.
No petite delicate flower here. I am neither an athlete nor blessed with a genetic predisposition toward metabolic efficiency. When I got pregnant, I gained enormous weight. And after I gave birth, it stuck to me like glue and didn’t go anywhere.
I don’t know exactly what I weighed when we conceived, so I couldn’t tell you how much weight I actually gained as a direct function of pregnancy. But if we use the weight on my driver’s license as a fair baseline, and compare it to what I weighed on my due date (pictured above), I was heavier by a breathtaking seventy-three (73) pounds. Thirteen of those departed along with Natalie. The other 60 did not, no matter how long and hard I breastfed, how much water I drank, or how many Mommy & Me Yoga classes I managed to attend.
It sucked. Months and months after my daughter’s birth day, I still couldn’t squeeze my massive postpartum body into even the loosest of my pre-pregnancy clothes. I lumbered around in nursing tops, Pajama Jeans (no joke), and UGG boots, bitter and disgusted with my slothful and apathetic metabolism. The last straw came when I noticed that one of my toenails had turned purple and was about to fall off, the way runners’ toenails do. Only mine had died from nothing more than the constant burden of bearing my weight.
I had two options. I could give up: quit lamenting my state, and if not embrace it, at least learn to accept it as the price of motherhood. (Sure you’re back into plus sizes and frumpy shoes, but isn’t your beautiful baby girl worth it?) Or I could step up: grab my thorny problem with both hands, wrestle it into submission, and reclaim my self-image by brute force. So what if I’m not naturally thin? Turns out I wasn’t naturally fertile, either, but that didn’t stop me from having a baby. I owe no deference to nature.
Fortunately, there was a solution at hand. It was time to go back “on plan,” and re-embrace the only diet that’s ever worked for me.
(Yes, it’s the same one that advertises in all the banner ads. I’m not proud.)
They’re not paying me for my endorsement, so I won’t go on ad nauseam about how sorcerously effective Medifast is. But boy, is it. You eat five daily servings of spaceman food — instant soups and bars and suchlike — and one ordinary meal consisting exclusively of lean protein and green vegetables. Carbs are anathema; you touch no bread, no grains, no alcohol, no root vegetables, no fresh fruit. And somehow, magically, you lose two or three pounds a week for as long as you can keep it up. (& calls it a “body hack.”)
I went On Plan at the end of April, right after polishing off the last piece of Natalie’s christening cake. I’d done this program before, but never for so long. Shedding five dozen pounds was going to take months, months I knew I’d spend pining for my next allotted packet of food-powder and savoring a single piece of gum for hours on end. I would miss strawberry season. Then cherries. Then peaches, nectarines, plums. I’d have to beg off on countless brunches, happy hours, prix-fixe menus, and other occasions where everyone around me would be enjoying things that contained carbs. And all I’d have to sustain me would be my eyes on the prize, a hardboiled faith in the program, and another cup of coffee.
Still, my blackened toenail reminded me, it beats the alternative.
By the end of my maternity leave, I’d been on plan for roughly six weeks. My BMI had decreased from “obese” to “overweight,” but I still had to bite back the shame of returning to work in maternity clothes, six months postpartum. (My colleagues politely declined to notice. Thank you, colleagues.) Alas, it was what it was. At least I was doing something.
And would continue to.
The secret to a long haul, I’ve found, is frequent rest stops. On special occasions I’d give myself a day off — but never more than a day — from the diet (although I will confess that, as time passed, the definition of “special occasions” expanded from “someone’s wedding” to include “Restaurant Week” and even “the Groupon is about to expire”). More often, I thanked myself with carb-free, non-caloric rewards: massages and mani-pedis, body scrubs and wraps and Fancy Product, and even a few hardcore medspa treatments as prizes for major milestones. In times of duress, rather than look in the mirror and judge the progress I had yet to make, I instead would stand in my closet and let the size 6’s be my cheerleaders. Red silk skirt from Barcelona, I’m coming for you. Yellow seersucker Brooks Brothers dress, it won’t be long. And every Tuesday morning, when I stood on the scale, the numbers were just a little easier on the eyes.
The months wore on. Aside the episodic feast day, I stayed on plan. My toenail grew back. I eventually dispatched the maternity wardrobe to storage with gleeful relief. And my progress on plan, however slow, was punctuated with little private gasps of delight: The re-emergence of my collarbones, my shoulderblades, my waist. The disappearance of the extra chin. A return to “normal weight” BMI. My revived ability to wear high heels without agony. The day I noticed that my wrist was smaller than my daughter’s thigh. The day I finally fit back into my beloved Brooks Brothers dress, the one I wore to my bridal shower.
And today. The day I finally made it. As of this moment, I weigh exactly what my driver’s license says I do. Which is sixty (60) pounds less than I weighed when I went on plan at Easter, and seventy-three (73) pounds off my pregnancy peak. My goal was to lose the baby weight by Natalie’s first birthday, and with weeks to spare, I’ve done it.
Grab a glass of something that contains carbs and join me now in a toast. To six months of unremitting discipline. To Natalie, who is absolutely worth it. To &, my constant support in all things. To the miracle of modern science, without which I would neither have a baby nor look as though I hadn’t.
And to moving mountains. It can be done.