I have been wanting to write a post about body image post-twin pregnancy FOREVER now, and I’m afraid if I don’t just start it, I will never get it up here. So when I’m done writing tonight, I’m going to click “publish post” with the intention of coming back to edit, possibly a few times, until the entry is finally what I want it to be. And if it never gets that far, at least I’ll have something.
Body image is a complicated topic for me. Until I hit about 15, I LOVED my body. Most of my friends at that age (and maybe things haven’t changed that much) were incredibly self-conscious and extremely worried about being fat, even if they were far from it. I never was. I had always been thin, and not for any healthy eating on my part. I got plenty of exercise through gymnastics and other activities with my family, like hiking, bike riding, and skiing, and that probably helped. But I ate TERRIBLY, and I didn’t see any reason to fix it because it wasn’t showing up in my body.
During my sophomore year of high school, I suddenly gained about 10 pounds. I found myself instantly put into the same mindset all of my friends had been going through for years. OMG, am I fat? Do I look fat? Do people think I’m fat? I wish I could lose weight! And although it bothered me, I didn’t really do anything about it until my senior year.
New Year’s Eve of my senior year, I vowed to make some changes, not just to try and lose weight, but to actually be healthier. I stopped eating sweets except on rare occasions, and I started running three or four days a week. This had an effect almost instantly, and I dropped about 14 pounds. I can still remember standing on the scale spring of my senior year and thinking, “Wow! I’m below 120. I can’t remember the last time I was below 120!” and feeling SO happy about it.
I spent the next 2.5 years mostly loving my body. I started running longer distances in college and hiking a lot more frequently. My weight stayed around 120, and as long as I stayed away from sugar, I didn’t seem to have trouble maintaining it.
Fast forward to moving in with Will, my then fiance. All of my healthy eating habits went out the window for a couple of reasons: 1 – I have almost no will power when sweets are present in my home. 2 – I went from living in the dorms in Missoula where I ate mostly at the cafeteria to living in my own apartment and having to buy all of my own food. While people often blame the cafeteria and the unlimited trips you’re allowed to make for gaining weight, I found it easy to eat healthy because there were always healthy options available. I just avoided the pizza and the dessert area, and all was well. In my own apartment, when I had to use my own money to buy vegetables, I discovered it was a lot easier not to buy them.
Poor eating combined with much more irregular exercise caused me to gain 10 pounds, and then gradually more. I pretty much spent ages 21-28 not feeling terrible about my body, but definitely not feeling great, and wishing I could lose weight.
To shorten this up a bit, I went throguh several weight gains and losses during this time, getting as high as 155 pounds when I was working at a very stationary job and not exercising, and as low as 135 pounds, which is where my weight hovered when I was active and eating healthy. This is what I weighed during the summer of 2009, the year of my high school reunion, when I was probably in the best physical shape of my 20s. I had started running reguarly again in the summer of 2008, as well as lifting 2 or 3 times a week. I pretty much maintained this weight over the next year until I started training for my first marathon, at which point, surprisingly, I gained almost 5 pounds because I was ALWAYS really hungry, and I didn’t take as much care as I should have to make sure the extra calories I was consuming were healthy foods.
I started my pregnancy around 140 pounds. At the time I was lifting regularly, running 2 or 3 days a week (I was taking it easy on running because I had finished the marathon July 11. I got pregnant around July 31.) My mindset was in a fairly typical state: for the most part, I was okay with my body, but I definitely would have liked to lose about 10 pounds.
Fast forward to today: I look back at the pictures I took on the day I found out I was pregnant, and I miss that body, terribly.
The confusing part is that it’s not a matter of weight. Today, I weigh approximately 140. I think I was 139 when I stepped on the scale this morning. I lost my pregnancy weight very quickly, within a month after the babies were born. Maybe if I had actual pounds to lose, I would have been more motivated to get back to working out. What bothers me is the overall appearance of my body. I’ve lost nearly all of my muscle-tone (although lifting two babies constantly throughout the day has helped keep some of the muscle in my arms). I don’t have any good current pictures of my body and what it looks like today, but I’ll try to get one up eventually. To describe it, I feel like a bigger, squishier version of my former self, and I wonder if I’ll ever get to a place where I’m feeling good about my body again.
So what’s getting in my way? Besides the lack of time between being a mother, trying to hold the house together, and all of the extra work that comes with teaching? One big thing: energy. If I do find myself with any “free” time (i.e. time when there isn’t something else that I absolutely MUST do RIGHT then) all I want to do is go to bed. I’ve given up T.V. I’ve given up (for the most part) being on the computer. I’ve given up reading. Yes, I check Facebook on my phone while I’m feeding the babies at meal times, but since practically I can’t use this time to fall to the ground and pound out repetitions of push-ups, I don’t really consider this time I could be using to do something more productive. I feel like I’ve basically given up everything that I used to like to do in my free time. Any time not spent doing chores or work for school is spent trying to make up for the 3+ hour sleep deficit I’m accruing nearly every night. So on Friday nights when it’s 7:30 p.m., and the babies are finally in their cribs, and I could have an hour or two to myself, I go to bed instead, because I know that when the babies wake up at 6 or 6:30 the next morning, I’m still going to be tired.
And since I’m technically at my pre-pregnancy weight, I haven’t let this bother me too much… so far… but it has been bothering me a lot lately. If you’d asked my 28-year-old self if a year after having a baby (she never would have believed BABIES, plural) she’d be back to her exercise routine, she would have given a strong YES! She would have bet money on it. And it bothers me terribly that she would have been wrong.
And yes, I understand that there are things I COULD do. I COULD control what I put in my mouth, even if I’m sleep-deprived and have no energy. I COULD try to do some toning exercises in between grading papers at night, or while I’m playing with the babies. I COULD take them running in the stroller after their nap and before dinner (although running with them and the dog by myself is super difficult and not much fun) But all of this feels so HARD right now… strike that… IMPOSSIBLE right now. And maybe it’s just an excuse. Maybe I need to stop wasting energy feeling bad about it and just start taking some action, but I can’t find that motivation in me right now to make myself do it. And I’m not sure when I will be able to again.
This is where I have to stop for now. If you’re reading this now, know this post is not what I want it to be, much like the body it is describing. So for now, they are both works in progress.