The baby is eight weeks old, and that is how long I promised I would wait before buckling down to trying to lose the weight I put on to support my pregnancy.
Some people advise waiting six months. That does make sense -- often the work of mothering a baby takes the extra weight off without conscious effort, so why not enjoy that while it lasts? And self-starvation is not good for milk supply, itself doubleplusungood for newborns. I am not planning on self-starvation. I am planning on being intentional instead of mindless, and on attention to portion sizes, and room for ice cream after dinner and a beer with Mark after the kids go to bed, and on a great deal of roasted Brussels sprouts. Also on adapting as I go along.
One thing I have already figured out and adapted: the daily rhythm that felt best and most sustainable before I got pregnant (light breakfast, medium lunch, afternoon snack, hearty dinner) now makes my blood sugar go haywire. Distributing my calories more evenly throughout the day keeps me from falling over. I need medium breakfasts and medium lunches and medium dinners now.
And so -- I resisted it for a while -- I have had to hang up my good old mantra "one egg is enough eggs for breakfast." Two-egg veggie and cheese omelet, please. (Technically I hung that up while I was pregnant and eating a lot of steak and eggs specials. But I really thought I would be dusting it off again after the birth. Not quite yet, I guess.)
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I put on about 40 pounds while pregnant, and about 25 remain. Here at the outset, I feel fairly confident I can deal with the problem; already I am practicing waiting till mealtime, and hitting that happy spot where I feel confortably satisfied after a meal, but still reliably feel good and hungry a little while before the next one.
Getting hungry several times a day seems to be the key. Not "eat when you're hungry," as if hunger is a serious problem that must be immediately corrected; nor "hungry all the time," which probably isn't good for me or the baby; but periodically hungry for a little while before each meal.
I find that going to bed just a little bit hungry is effective, too, but it is possible to overshoot; if I am lying awake at 2 a.m. listening to my stomach growl, I probably need some peanut butter toast, and that is okay.
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So, what are the habits I am concentrating on right now?
- Watching portion size and sticking to one helping
- Vegetables or at least fruit at each meal
- A scoop of ice cream for dessert after dinner (instead of second and third helpings)
- A beer or a cocktail right before bed (instead of an endless Bedtime Snack Binge)
- Weighing in every five days or so "officially," but also weighing in the evening to strengthen my resolve against the Bedtime Snack Binge
- Preferring fruit, cheese, and nuts over bread- or cracker-based afternoon snacks
- Asking Mark to select snacks for the children that don't leave behind a quarter of a package of leftovers
I am generally aiming for 450-calorie meals, plus a smaller afternoon snack and the aforementioned ice cream and cocktails, but I am not really counting the calories up just yet. That is something to save for if I hit a plateau later on.
Here's a handy resource with 400-calorie meal plans in it. I ignore the word "low-fat" wherever it appears, so my meals are typically more than 400 calories, but they won't be crazy off the charts. It's 400 Calorie Fix by Liz Vacciarello and Mindy Hermann. It contains a refresher on estimating portion sizes, numerous recipes, a two-week meal plan, and suggested side dishes. This is particularly useful for a household that, like mine right now, is relying on shortcuts like packaged meals and takeout, because it rather nonjudgmentally makes suggestions for how to eat 400 calories' worth of movie theater junk or vending machine snacks or fast food burgers, right alongside 400-calorie homemade meals like Couscous and Vegetable Salad (with a side of tuna and mayo) or Speedy Fish Tacos or Lentils with Zesty Tomatoes (with a side of pita bread).
Not that I am saying one ought to substitute vending machine snacks (e.g., Wheat Thins and a Snapple) for a meal, but at least this particular book is light on the Good Food/Evil Food dichotomy, which I appreciate right now. And it's good for practicing the habit of learning to have reasonable portions of things, and for accepting tradeoffs like, "if I want extra meat, I will get more calories unless I take less rice." Which I am rusty on after the ravages* of pregnancy.
*ravages (n. pl.): state of having to eat cheeseburgers or steak-and-eggs whenever one wants, because iron.
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The psyche rebelled at first, but I am already remembering what it's like to have self-control, and that peculiar satisfaction of being able to notice that I am kind of hungry, while also knowing that Disaster will not befall me if I wait till lunchtime. It is satisfying because I know I did not always have that ability, and I learned it, and I still have it now when I wish to call on it.
I get hungry. I think to myself what I know from experience: "This is my body telling me it's about to switch over to burning the stored calories. In a little while the sensation will go away, and then after a while it will be time to eat again." And this message works, I find, as long as the things that I eat are generally real food with a decent amount of protein, fat, and fiber.
So, for example, today for breakfast I had
- Fresh-baked berry muffin
- A half cup of plain yogurt with a sliced banana and a bit of toasted coconut
- Coffee coffee coffee
And for lunch I had
- Homemade Niçoise salad with half a can of oil-packed tuna, a boiled egg, a potato, green beans, olives, tomato, and lemon-mustard dressing
- Another one of those muffins
- Fajitas with chicken (3 oz) and peppers and onions and a bit of guacamole on 1 whole wheat tortilla and lettuce
- Some good pilsner
And try not to think about how in October I need to get a new drivers license.