I gained 80 pounds during my pregnancy. Yes, I know, that's excessive for a single birth. Whatever. Let's not dwell on it. The point is, for the past 13 months, I've been barreling down the long road back to my pre-baby size, like a truck wearing one of those big, yellow "wide-load" banners. But I've finally arrived (basically)! And while I knew it would be a difficult journey, I hadn't realized it would be such an expensive one. I've spent $7800 on weight-loss methods that I've read about in celebrity tabloids. That's nearly $100 per pound. Yes, I know. I know.
I have been stressing out about losing the baby weight since the day that I found out I was pregnant. Judging by the experiences of my mother and the other women in my family, I just knew that I wouldn't be one of those "you can really only tell from side!" kind of pregnant ladies. And I didn't do much to control it. I kind of let go. I had a laissez-faire attitude about eating in that it was "lazy-fare." You know, the kind of stuff that couch potatoes consume. It was kind of fun.
Me on my due date; miraculously no stretch marks after 80 extra pounds
But as the months passed, I was very aware that I was going to have to answer for every Butterfinger that crossed my lips. It didn't help that in the 85 weeks between when I discovered I was pregnant and my daughter's first birthday—the entire span of when I was packing on and peeling off the weight—30 supermarket checkout tabloids featured post-pregnancy body stories. Seventeen of those were published after Jessica Simpson had her baby on May 1, 2012. That figure, of course, only reflects print: Us Weekly, Star, Life & Style, In Touch, and OK!. (In the four months following Simpson's delivery, there were 109 headlines from very widely-read websites about her weight.) Additionally, in that time, at least one tabloid featured a story about weight loss or body shaming every week. Star dedicated a whopping 12 covers to body shaming/body ranking. So you could say that I got knocked up right when the media's post-baby body obsession was hitting a fever pitch.
Of course I don't base my life or self-worth on what stupid tabloids say, but they do provide a barometer for our culture's increasingly obsessive focus on women's bodies after giving birth. And there are typically two narratives: women who are applauded for losing the weight and posing in swimsuits just weeks after giving birth and women who are mocked because they don't (or can't). For me, both scenarios are untenable, frankly.
But I was immediately proactive about losing the weight (and I was lucky to be in the position where I could do so, let's just get that out of the way). Honestly, it was a mental health decision more than anything else. I feared that being unhappy with my size would spark a general unhappiness that could spiral into post-partum depression. With a screaming, colic-y baby, that was the last thing I needed. Taking control of my body was imperative for getting control of my emotions. While the first 25 pounds came off effortlessly (I delivered a nearly-12-pound baby), I still wanted to take an aggressive stance. Breastfeeding didn't help with the weight like I thought it would. It just made me more hungry. So I decided that I'd use some of the methods I've read that celebrities have used to lose weight, since it seemed to work for them, like personal trainers and meal delivery systems.
Because I had a C-section, I had to wait for about two months before I got the green light to start working out, so I began with Zone Manhattan. It's a diet delivery plan in which you receive five meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks) delivered to your door every morning. I stayed on the plan for 31 days for a total of $1282.33. In the first week alone, I lost 8 pounds, probably because it's a no-sugar, low-sodium, high protein diet. I have to say that it was great for a new mother—who spends her exhausted days nursing, changing diapers, and desperately trying to soothe a fussy newborn—to not have to even think about counting calories or planning meals. All I had to do was pop the freshly-made meal in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Overall, I lost 15 pounds with Zone Manhattan. While it was convenient for that first month, the cost just wasn't sustainable.
After the Zone diet, I joined Weight Watchers for a three-month subscription at $56.85, since it seemed to be doing great for Jennifer Hudson. I substituted my lunches with a Weight Watchers meals every day for convenience, thinking it was similar to what I'd being doing with the Zone. Unfortunately, because of all the sodium in those frozen meals, I ended up gaining 10 pounds in two months, so I quit.
By this time it had been six months since I'd given birth and I was no longer breastfeeding. I got freaked out about my backslide, so I went to a weight-loss doctor on the Upper East Side—the kind that services ladies who (liquid) lunch—who basically gave me a bottle of short-acting speed for $250. I thought for sure that I'd get instantly skinny. But I took the pills for three days and didn't like the way they made me feel. I'm sure I lost a few pounds on them, since they gave me diarrhea, though. I decided to just go back to eating sensibly, without any kind of gimmick.
When I was finally able to exercise (two months after giving birth), I joined a gym, much to my chagrin. I never worked out (consistently, anyway) in my life. So I had to purchase sneakers, clothes, a combination lock, etc. for the endeavor, which was about $200. While I was on maternity leave, I was able to attend midday mommy-and-me type yoga classes that added up to $150.
Because I know myself, I knew that if I was actually going to stick with this, I would have to get a trainer, if for nothing else than to just babysit me through the sheer, mind-numbing, boring, horribleness of it all.
After a few months my trainer, Paul Kostas, left my gym to work at a fitness studio, so I followed him there. It actually saved me the $85-a-month membership fee. He's cost the most out of everything I've tried ($5160 for 11 months), but I think that all of the results I've seen can be attributed to the work I've done with him. For example, the first few months were essentially just physical rehab for my body, which had been through major abdominal surgery. I couldn't even do one pushup when I first started seeing him. Now I can do 3 reps of 12. It may not seem that impressive, but I used to smoke a pack and a half a day, working from home at an incredibly sedentary job.
It sounds boring, but through exercise and common-sense eating (portion control and healthy choices), I've managed to get back into my old jeans, 13 months after giving birth. Sure, they're very tight and they make my stomach look like a butt and I wouldn't go out of the house in them just yet, but I got them buttoned and zipped up.
And seriously, I spent so much money. I did so deliberately as a sort of experiment on celebrity culture, and am fortunate enough to be able to afford it (for the brief period of time that I did). Generally speaking, it's a wholly unrealistic solution.
Overall, though, I learned that nobody can ever get their pre-baby bodies back! That's the biggest lie, when it comes to those tabloid stories. It's like taking a car on a cross-country road trip and expecting that a gas refill and oil change will make it look good as new. Pregnancy puts a lot of miles on your body. Even if you're the same weight and size as before, things are in different places.
So if you're ever feeling bad about yourself because you didn't fit into a bikini a few weeks after you gave birth like Bethenny Frankel or Kourtney Kardashian, just know this: those bitches' tits are fucked. Unless, of course, they get them fixed, surgically. Which they probably will/did.
Images by Jim Cooke.