“You Look Great!” and other lies I want to believe

I don’t gain weight when I’m pregnant. It’s one of the only happy side effects of pregnancy I get other than the baby at the end. I spend a lot of time either barfing or feeling like barfing.  When I’m not sick, I just don’t feel like eating. When I do feel like eating, it’s almost always fruit I want.  Or peanut butter. When I crave junk, I let myself eat junk because at least it stays down.

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All that to say, after my baby is born, I am lighter than when I got pregnant with said baby. Every time. It was most drastic this last time with Alice. I think I was even surprised because she was my first baby who gave me junk food cravings (“fried” is a food group that can be craved, yes?), and because I knew she was the last, I really let myself just eat whatever I wanted because I was so SO sick the first trimester.

I knew it would bite me in the butt later, but pregnant women care not for “later” when it comes to food.

After Alice was born, I lost a LOT of weight. A lot.

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In fact, I was almost 40 pounds lighter than when she was conceived. After “she’s beautiful!” the very next thing people said to me was, “you look great!  Really! So great!”

I thanked them and blew off the compliment because I died a little on the inside every time.

Because I know you meant the compliment in all the wonderful ways possible, but I also knew that the weight loss was temporary.

You see, after I have a baby, I am completely uninterested in food. Nothing really tastes good to me except coffee. So for a good 2-4 weeks, I live on almost nothing but coffee and the occasional peanut butter sandwich. The weight falls off because I’m not eating or sleeping well and my hormones are still all out wack. When you tell me how fabulous I look, I know that as soon as food tastes good again and my hormones start evening out, the weight will pile back up, and no one will tell me I look fantastic again.

Here I am, almost five months postpartum, and the weight is all back.

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I’m disappointed in myself.

I had high hopes of keeping it off this time. Of getting into a work out routine. Of eating healthy.

I have all the excuses: hormones are still acting dumb (my hair is all falling out, my complexion is under the impression I am thirteen again, etc.), I am tired all the time (baby + two active boys = not enough sleep), cardio makes me wheeze (yes, I need to talk to my doctor about this because it is a new turn of events that I need to know if I need to work through or what), I’d rather read a book.  You know all the typical stuff.

The thing is, five months ago when everyone was complimenting me, I knew my aspirations to do better this time were empty. I didn’t want to accept those compliments because I didn’t feel that I did anything to deserve them. I didn’t work on myself or take care of myself to earn a healthier physique. I had a baby and lost a bunch of blood and water and a human from my body. And I didn’t eat.

Back then, I felt that if people knew what I knew, they wouldn’t be telling me I look great because they would also know that given a few months, I would not look great anymore.  Or at least not the “great” they were currently complimenting.

Now I struggle with my body image daily, and I feel that I have somehow let people down.

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I always said, once my last baby was born, there would be no more excuses for not getting my body back to feeling great. But here I am again.

I know it’s not “too late”. I know what I have to do.

I also know thinking about starting makes me want to cry.

Not just because it’s a lot of work (well, that too), but because it overwhelms me. I know I need to start by making an appointment with my doctor. I need to get blood work done and check my thyroid and all those good things that haven’t been checked. I need to talk to him about the wheezing (because DUDE. That never happened before) and find out if my knee is good for some brisk walking (and hopefully more).

I know I need to eat more spinach and less bbq potato chips, more water and less lemonade.

I also know that more importantly, I have three kids watching me. I have a daughter now who will be determining what looking “great” means, and I want her to associate that with “healthy”.

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But most of all, I want to believe that I will do these things because I want to believe that I look great, and I am not in that place yet.

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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. I think you look great because of your happy smile and the warm, welcoming vibe you give off. Definitely talk to your doctor to make sure everything is functioning as it should but give yourself a break on everything else. Everything we know we have to do doesn’t have to be done all at once. Enjoy that baby girl and let the rest bubble to the surface of priority when you can. Hugs.
    Denise recently posted…Chronic Migraine is a BitchMy Profile

  2. Looking great also means looking happy, and if there’s anything that stands out in your photos this summer, it’s that you look so radiantly happy with your three kids.

    It IS overwhelming, and it IS easier to not do the work. BBQ potato chips taste good, dammit. I love you.
    Leigh Ann recently posted…coming home and getting realMy Profile

  3. As someone who has struggled with body image and self-esteem issues all my life, I can totally relate. I also had a similar situation with my pregnancies in that I was sick for the first few months and didn’t gain much weight at all. I would gain weight after. Over the past few months, I resolved to not be so hard on myself and to concentrate more on how I feel rather than solely on how I look. It’s helped me focus on feeling my best and being healthy rather than beating myself up all the time. Beating myself up stinks.
    All this to say, I think you should check in with your doc to make sure everything is OK physically and then, like Denise said, take it easy on you.
    Kim recently posted…How to Plan a Successful Camping TripMy Profile

  4. It doesn’t help to say “I think you look great! In every way and at every size!” but I’ll say it because that’s how I see YOU.

    I was so skinny after the boys and have gained it all back in seven years. I’m not always happy with my body but I have learned to dress it and feel good in it even if I’m not the weight I’d like to be.

    I’m glad you wrote this, that you let it out. But sweetie pie, you in that adorable flower dress…is just perfection. Keep going, one day at a time, one less cookie…not 12, just one less and see how that feels. Then 2 less (if you want to). You’re a great role model for the boys and Alice because you don’t shy away from these feelings or discussions.

    You’re beautiful!
    Kir recently posted…Pour Your Heart Out: 10My Profile

  5. There’s so much pressure on us as women…my best words to you are love every bit of yourself as much as your babies love you. Treat yourself well, inside and out. Start slow and make changes that make you feel good. Focus on you, not your weight, and you will be on a path for wellness- that’s what your kids need from their mom.
    Jennifer recently posted…Let’s Start A Reading RevolutionMy Profile

  6. Huge hugs. I lost the weight very quickly just like you did with my last. Then I gained it all back and then some. Take baby steps. Try to change one meal or one snack at a time. Get all your levels checked out. Babies wreak havoc on our bodies and our alignment. It took me a long time to build up strength and endurance. Even a 10 minute walk can work wonders for your mind and your body. You can do this. I believe in you.
    Jenny recently posted…Traveling Anxiety and the Warrior Mom ConferenceMy Profile

  7. I SO feel you. I was heavy my whole life, and then I lost 100 pounds and was SKINNY for 10 years. Then I got pregnant. Now, 4.5 years after giving birth, I’m at nearly my heaviest weight. And every single day I berate myself over it. I know what needs to be done because I’ve DONE it. And yet, doing it now, with a child and working full time and etc etc etc it feels completely overwhelming. I’m working on saying positive things to myself when I look in the mirror. But it is a constant struggle.

  8. I think you look great all the time. Because you look happy. And to me happy is the most important of all the things. But I know what you mean. It doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks. It matters what you think. We’re here for you no matter where you are.

  9. I know just how you feel. I see pictures of myself a few months after Erv was born, and I cringe. I feel so much better now after I worked so hard to get weight off but it was a struggle. You’ll get there. In the meantime, you do look great, seriously. You’re adorable in that dress!
    Greta recently posted…#KC Starlight Broadway Series: Mary PoppinsMy Profile

  10. I’m the same. My family all associate beauty with being skinny (not healthy but skinny). My sister calls me to complain about those pesky two kilos she can’t loose and the humiliation she feels when hanging out with her friends at the beach (she’s 40 for christsake). I get crazy sick when pregnant. I get ketonine poisoning from starvation because I’m vomiting so much. I’m in and out of the hospital. I’m exhausted because I can’t have a full night’s sleep. My best friend is a bucket and sometimes I take it with me when I leave the house because I’m so sick. And then baby comes and I’m two dress sizes smaller off the bat and more drops off due to the breast feeding. After three months the weight piles back. And it’s stubborn. We eat healthy at home. Lots of steamed veggies, minimum fried food (ugh! Don’t like fried stuff), we avoid simple carbs etc. I eat less then fourth carbs a day and my saturated fat levels in my blood are low. Yet looking at me people assume I eat pizza every night with stuffed crust and extra grease and don’t know the meaning of excersise. It’s frustrating to be given “dieting advise” from people who eat worse then me. So I just stopped caring. I look the way I look for whatever reason. But I’ve got a great husband who likes curves and I’m raising two boys who I want to look beyond superficial beauty. I want them to marry girls (or boys) because they are intelligent and funny and sweet not because they are great arm candy. I want them to understand nutrition and be able to feed themselves and their eventual families with healthy food. And I want them to look at me as an inspiration rather then a overweight depressed middle aged lady who always struggled with her weight.

  11. You deserve all the compliments in the world and it would be nice if as many came for things like mothering and taking care of yourself. Those are struggles too.

    So many of us are hard on ourselves about our bodies and my body changed profoundly after I hit 45. I share your struggle and the only thing to do is to take that first step – see your doctor. Then take the next and the next – not because you want or need to fit some unattainable idea of beauty but because you want to take care of your body.

    Love to you.
    Vikki recently posted…This Is My Brain without Diet CokeMy Profile

  12. “A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.”

    You’re beautiful regardless of your insecurities or frustrations. Period.

    I’ve always had a complex and exasperating relationship with food. I had gestational diabetes with my pregnancies and it was amazing how much self control I could have when the food I ate so directly affected another person. I just try to keep in mind that what I do now still affects another person (those dang kids that watch everything I do — they don’t care what the number on the scale says or what dress size I wear, but they do model what I do, how I eat or whether or not I’m active). I started with one small goal each week (drink more water, carrots and hummus instead of chips and dip, etc.) Building up all these small changes, they eventually became a habit. My walks with friends eventually turned into running marathons. (Not that I think that has to happen to be healthy, but the running “bug” bit me — and I was definitely one of those people who considered people running marathons to be nuts and said I could NEVER do THAT).

    I recently read a great article on changing the way to think about food. Instead of thinking “I can’t eat that”, you shift to “I don’t eat that” — it becomes your choice, not an external voice.

    Anyway, I could talk about this all day since I’ve ready pretty much every book/article on the psychology of eating. Martha Beck has some great perspective on it if it’s a topic you’d want to read about too.

  13. Oh, Katie. I get it, sweetie. I so do. I’m kind of there with you at the moment (depression and med-related weight gain).

    Keep Alice in the front of your mind and you’ll keep your mind in the right spot. Aim for feeling great and the looking the way you want (because you already do look fabulous, even if it’s not the way you want) will follow.
    Love and hugs.
    Angie Kinghorn recently posted…Today, I’m at BonBon BreakMy Profile

  14. I struggle with these types of feelings too, so I get you. But yes, go to the doctor. I did recently and found out some changes I needed to make. Love you and think you are beautiful always.
    Elaine A. recently posted…I Don’t Know.My Profile

  15. I know the curse of “You look great.” It makes me wonder “Compared to what? When I didn’t?” It’s no fun to feel bad about what other people see.

    I hope you can feel better soon. I echo everyone’s comments – go to the doctor, get yourself checked out. And in the meantime, be kind to yourself. You ARE great. xoxo
    Andrea recently posted…And Nothing MoreMy Profile

  16. I love this post so much. I get it.

    Oh, the things we do to ourselves. Can you imagine if we spoke to our best friends the way we (secretly) speak to ourselves? We wouldn’t have best friends – at all – I bet!

    I know that you will get to a place where you are happy with you and it won’t matter what anyone says – strangers or otherwise – because you will love you and know you are fabulous.

    I am a stranger. I think you do look fabulous. I also know (because we all have a something!) that my words don’t matter much because only you can tell you that you are fabulous and know its the truth – when you are ready. 🙂

    Parenthood is very trippy. Be kind to yourself.

    P.S. Gorgeous baby! Gorgeous! 😀
    Peady recently posted…Too Much Looking. Not Enough Leaping.My Profile

  17. Did you know that we share this trait? Every bit of your journey is the same as mine, except that I start to crave food again sooner after the baby is born than you do. Have I told you that I was 4 pounds less right before giving birth than I was before I even got pregnant? And my baby was 9 pounds. My last one was drastic too (the change in me).

    I’m just saying all this to say that I understand everything, including the transient emotion of weight loss “success” and the heart-sink that goes with it.
    Lady Jennie recently posted…How to Cut BrieMy Profile

  18. I did lose the baby weight and a bit more. I haven’t been this light since before any of the four children. My body is not the same though. I have bulges where I never did before. Everything sort of sags. There are stretch marks and a belly pooch.

    I can hide most of it under clothes so I do get the “You look great!” as if they expect postpartum women to look a certain way. So, do you mean because I’m thin or because my face is glowing or because I look happy? Why do you need to comment on my body? Why can’t you say, you look content or happy. Those are the thoughts in my head whenever I hear compliments.

    I’ve been working very hard in the past couple of months to embrace my body as it is now. I don’t know how to make the belly pooch go away or get my breasts back to perky again, short of surgery or a damn good bra. I can do the latter, but I won’t do the former. I realize that the change needs to happen in my head first.

    You know that you need to address the health stuff first. Do that. The rest will fall into place, and dude, it will take time. Even once you’ve lost the weight, keeping it off is work. Don’t talk yourself down or out of it.

    I will say, your smile is always beautiful, your mind, always fabulous, your heart, always warm and generous. Love you. xo
    Alison recently posted…Dining Out with Kids: We Deserve KindnessMy Profile