Breastfeeding, Weight Loss and Body Positivity

By Abby Theuring, MSW

I have been reluctant to blog about this topic, but so many people have asked questions that seem to come from a genuinely supportive place that I have come around to the idea.

I have lost 25lbs this year. Many of you have noticed as you have made supportive and positive comments. I really appreciate it. It certainly does feel good to have hard work noticed. (You all have done this so many times with all things related to this blog and my life.)

I hate talking about bodies. I am so uncomfortable right now. I can’t stop backspacing. I don’t hate my body. I don’t think I have ever in my life had that issue too bad. However, I do live in this culture and, therefore, no matter how healthy I think I am about my body, it’s still pretty fucking unhealthy.

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But anyway, in January of this year I realized that I weighed exactly the same as I did the day Exley was born 6 months earlier. With Jack the weight just came off. I ate a ton of food all the time and I dropped to about 4lbs less than my pre-baby weight. I was a bit younger, he was my first and I was really coming out of my shell as a new mom so I was walking everywhere around the city. That had a lot to do with it as well.

Now I am 39 years old. I have had 2 children grow inside my body. Getting exercise is a bit harder now with 2 kids to wrangle. I also found myself eating for 2 when I was very much just 1. I told myself, “I’m breastfeeding! It’ll just come off on its own like it did with Jack.” It didn’t. I was wearing the same pair of sweat pants every day and I wasn’t feeling too great about myself.

I had previously fallen in love with running. Before Jack was born I maintained a pretty rigorous exercise routine. I ran about 30 miles a week, lifted weights and paid great attention to what I ate. This was after losing 40lbs of extra weight I had been carrying around basically my whole adult life. I was much happier, healthier and previous ailments like stomach aches and acne had gotten much better. And I discovered that I love running. I am not fast. I am not a talented athlete. But I dig running.

So when I found myself 35lbs over my ideal weight I wasn’t at a complete loss. I had been here before. I knew what to do. But here’s the thing. We all know what to do. I knew what to do before too. I knew when I was eating crappy food, I knew when I wasn’t being active and I knew when my body didn’t feel good. I do think that there is a ton of misinformation out there about food and exercise (just like breastfeeding!), but we can maybe agree that vegetables are better for us than pizza or that soda isn’t a health food or that moving around is better than never moving around. But that motivation is a bitch.

I did what many of us do which was decide to lose 35lbs in 3 months. I guess this is possible, but I just simply cannot maintain my motivation for that extended period of time and set myself up for a feeling of failure. I found motivation, lost some weight, the motivation went away, I lost none, I found it again and lost some more. Now almost a year later I am down the 25lbs with about 10 more to go. I know myself and I am sure when I lose the other 10 I will think I need to lose more, but even at my healthiest and most active I did not weigh less than that. I am not trying to set myself up for disappointment again.

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So what did I do? I invested in a jogging stroller. A Bob Flex to be exact. I was trying to run on the treadmill a couple of times a week when my husband got home. But that just wasn’t cutting it. I needed a way to create a daily routine. It has a hefty price tag, but we figured this was an investment in our mental and physical health, we can both use it and the boys are learning how exercise in an important value of ours. And so began our morning jogs with Bob. They have become so routine that when they don’t happen Jack gets all loopy. And winter is really going to throw us off, but I hope that our new routine can lend itself to more regular trips to the treadmill.

I also stopped eating for 2. I stopped eating the boys’ leftovers. I tell myself every day, “My body is not a garbage can.” I also cut the crap. I cut out the simple carbohydrates. I traded in honey sweetened tea for sweets. I traded comfort foods for whole foods like chicken, steamed vegetables and fruit. I started to make cauliflower substitute recipes. (I’ll link my favorites at the bottom.) I eat a lot of eggs and smoothies. I generally take whatever meat is for dinner and throw it on a bed of lettuce and veggies.

I know this sounds super boring and you’re probably like, “I will never be satisfied with that.” I feel that way most of the time too which is why it has been pretty slow going. I allow myself to eat the pizza when we are out or have a cookie when they are in the house. I do my best not to beat myself up. Stressing too much about this stuff isn’t healthy either. Extremes never work. I refuse to follow a diet because this is not a realistic option for me long term. I choose only to do things that I think I can make a permanent habit.

So here’s the other thing. Body positivity isn’t about weight loss. Body positivity is recognizing that your body is the vessel through which you get to be a part of this life. Your body is your temple. It is you. It grew babies, birthed babies and nourishes babies. The way you feel about your body has nothing to do with what your body looks like. Recognizing the value and power of your body is what gives us body positivity.

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I am not a nutritionist or a dietician. All I can say is from my own experience. I try to alter my thinking about my body.  My body does not exist to look a certain way. My body is my vehicle for living. After I was able to really internalize that then I came up with health goals. They are realistic goals built around new routines and habits based on what I like. I feed off of that motivation when it shows up. I don’t stress when it leaves, it’ll be back.

All your child sees when they look at you is the most beautiful goddess. They are the only ones with uncolored glasses. I know that my boys don’t see anything different about me. I have weighed everything from 135lbs to almost 200lbs since being Jack’s mom and he has no idea. Everyone’s goals are different and should be based on health and not trying to attain some unattainable photo shopped magazine cover. Now if we can just get some real looking women on the covers of magazines we might be headed to a slightly healthier place as a society.

Ideas for cauliflower instead of carbs:

Cauliflower Not Carbs

Cauliflower Substitutions for Unhealthy Foods

And my personal favorite: Mock Mashed Potatoes

About Abby Theuring

The Badass Breastfeeder is a mother, writer, social worker, attachment parent, proud breastfeeder and advocate. Her career as a social worker has shown her that gentle and connected parenting is vital for life-long emotional health. You can find her blog at www.thebadassbreastfeeder.com and Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheBadassBreastfeeder.

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2 comments

  1. In body positivity there are parallels with badass breastfeeding (and badass parenting in general.) It conflicts with society’s expectation of obedience to a cultural standard that has far more to do with subjugation and control than health. (I think of Naomi Wolfe: ““A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.”)

    For me, it’s harder than issues having to do with my children. When it comes to them, I’m a warrior. When it comes to myself, I find myself caught constantly between self-love and wanting please and be approved of and accepted, and I find those two things sometimes really difficult to tease apart. Am I eating a salad or going on a walk because of the former or the latter? I’m never really sure. It’s maddening.

    At this point (after decades of attention to “health”) I feel like I’ve had enough but still don’t know exactly how to completely extricate myself from it. The enjoyment I used to get from food and body movement has been crushed by so many years of managing it, and that sucks. I feel really pissed off at this point, actually, like I’ve been taken for a ride. I suspect strongly, intuitively, that body advocacy and true well-being requires a different path, and I’m trying to find it.

  2. Thanks for such a great post. It feels so real. Life with kids can be so tough sometimes. My motivation comes and goes and even though I love to be active some days and weeks my bones are just way to tired. I am learning to pick myself back up and get back on track faster each time and as you say to always be kind to my temple. After all it gave me two beautiful children!!

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