Today is the beginning of December. It also marks the beginning of what could be my final month of exclusively breastfeeding my 3rd baby, my final month of pumping, and my last time weaning. In years past, it meant it was time to start planning for another pregnancy, or at least start thinking about it. By this point I’d started to tip the balance with my calorie intake and my weight had returned to my “high normal” but I didn’t worry about it because I expected, or at least hoped, to be expecting again soon. I’m one of those rare and lucky preggos with a progesterone-fueled super-metabolism during pregnancy. I “gain” the prescribed amount of weight for my pre-pregnancy BMI, give birth to huge babies, and net about a 10-15 lb loss after delivery. As a bonus to the miraculous bonding experience of breastfeeding, and a reward for the hard work it takes, I eat everything in sight and lose another 5 or so pounds in the course of a year. Again, because I was planning for my next pregnancy, I didn’t worry too much about diet and exercise, outside of eating my usual mostly organic, low-processed, mostly-homemade diet and avoiding alcohol. My exercise regime was chasing after my kids and doing housework. But now that we’re done with baby-making, things are different.
Although I’m considering continuing beyond the 12 month mark (I went as long as I could with my first two – 13 and 18 months), my body is already getting the message it’s time to start weaning. When it comes to milk supply, my body is pretty sensitive to caloric intake. For my son’s first 3 months, I found the idea of water or vegetables revolting because my body basically rejected anything that wasn’t extremely calorie-dense. I had more cravings after than during my pregnancy; my body needed a lot of fuel to provide for a 10 lb newborn. The amount of food I craved made me nervous about my weight, but I happily obliged and my weight stayed at a healthy average all year. At times I tried cutting calories, but each time I suffered with bouts of fatigue, headaches, and mood swings, and my milk supply took a hit, but the scale wouldn’t budge. My body hung on to reserves to protect my supply, and Bub would start waking for frequent night sessions until balance restored. But now that we’re close to the year mark and baby is wolfing down solids and drinking from a cup at meals, things are winding down, and I can feel my metabolism resetting. And since I haven’t had a normal metabolism in the 6 years while I’ve been pregnant or nursing, I’m terrified of what my new, older normal is.
My pre-pregnancy normal was healthy, but I’ve never been naturally slim or athletic, and I haven’t been happy with my size and shape for a while, except when I was pregnant – I actually felt like a cute pregnant lady. I’ve always wished I was one of those people who is naturally and passionately into healthy eating and exercise. But reality is I love food, all kinds, mostly stuff you should consume in moderation but really don’t want to. And I hate the gym. But this last year, knowing it was my last to lean on breastfeeding to keep my weight down, I did make an effort to make exercise a habit, and it worked. Although I didn’t lose any weight, I improved my tone and shape. More on how I did that here. But I still want to lose a size, maybe two, and I know I’m going to have to overhaul my eating habits just to avoid putting on weight once I stop breastfeeding. And now that it’s almost time to start weaning my baby, I’ve decided to start preparing now by challenging myself to make good choices this Christmas season. Of course I plan to kick off the new year with a shiny new health and fitness plan like pretty much everyone on the planet, but I figured why not start from right here or maybe even at an advantage, rather than over-indulging on treats and slacking on workouts until Jan 1. And if I can make good choices a habit now, when temptation is at its height, making good choices the rest of the year should be a piece of cake walk run in the park.