I’m still walking to daycare when the weather is nice. It’s just about two miles. I’m working on getting my body back to a place I’m comfortable staying. After I had Grey I realized that my body wasn’t going to miraculously return to prepregnancy state. Nursing, my normal amounts of exercise and food, none of that was going to get me back to where I used to be. I was convinced that it must be hormonal or thyroidal or otherwise not because of my actions, but before I called my doctor to discuss the possibility I figured I’d track my calories to prove just how virtuous I was.*
This was, shall we say, eye opening.
So I spent several months tracking what I ate and how much I exercised (doing a lot less of the former and a lot more of the latter) and I got back to what I consider my “set weight”.
Well, Thane is almost 9 months old. In another few months I’ll be into Thanksgiving and Christmas and the cold, dark times of year. It’s a lot harder to diet/exercise when it’s freezing out and there’s no fresh fruit to soften the blow. So I’ve resumed running an intentional calorie deficit. By Thane’s first birthday I hope to be back at my set weight, and from here on out only make sure I don’t gain weight.
But man, the reason people don’t usually do this successfully is because it’s hard. When you eat fewer calories than you burn, you (shockingly) end up hungry. Your body tells you that something is wrong. You get grumpy, cranky and fragile. My worst time of day is when I’m preparing dinner — I often haven’t eaten since lunch 6 hours ago and the kids require patience and handling and there’s traffic and I’m like-as-not on some sort of deadline and several times a week I’m doing it alone. Not only that, but I’m trying hard to make sure Grey doesn’t notice I’m dieting, because I do not want him to think that it is normal or necessary to count calories on everything he puts in his mouth.
Anyway, this is less about the woe of dieting than it is about today’s walk. My quest to return to pre-pregnancy has been working. I’m wearing the jeans I wore pre-Thane. Today I have on a rather fitted shirt which shows off my, uh, nursing-supplemented assets. And I got no fewer than four friendly catcalls during my two miles. Including one “Hey, you’re gorgeous!”
I know that I’m supposed to mind catcalls and find them 1) degrading 2) insulting 3) threatening. I must admit that I’ve never managed to do so. Here on my walk I find them … welcoming and appreciative. Welcoming because the guys (usually young to middle aged Latinos) doing the catcalling don’t seem to see me as outside their community — not some stuck up gringa, but a part of their town and their warm summer days. Appreciative because they’re usually saying NICE things. Their comments feel quite friendly. They are an invitation with no hard feelings if I don’t take them up on it (which, obviously, I don’t).
And I have noticed that certain outfits are much more appreciated than others.
Now that I’ve managed to terrify my mom and horrify my husband (“Are you sure it’s SAFE to walk to daycare?”), I’ll move on. It’s very hard, after you have had a child, to find yourself in your own skin again. I used to be a blonde. Now I’m truly a brunette. I’m a brunette with silvery threads wending through my darkening hair. The dimensions of my body shift and change with the demands put upon it. Very few of my blouses, for example, can contain my abundance, even though most of my pants fit. I haven’t been able to wear a regular summer dress in two years. My body has been swollen, shared, deflated, inflated, strangely hard, shockingly soft, blurred around the boundaries. And now it is coming back to me, to be mine again. I am the sole occupant, again. I may control my body with concern only for myself, after a long period where that was not true. (Well, coming up. I’m still nursing so there are still constraints, but they are more limited than they were.)
This requires a re-understanding of how I relate to my body — how it works, what it looks like, what I see when I look at myself, what others see when they look at me. This, too, is hard work.
*I know that intentional weight loss and dieting can be controversial. I know plenty of people cannot lose weight for good reasons, ranging from eating disorders to hormonal imbalances. I have also learned that I do not have any of the conditions that would make losing my pregnancy weight unusually problematic.