Two Years to Lose the Baby Weight

Before having my second child, I never stressed much about weight. For the most part, I was happy with my body regardless of the number on the scale. But after I gave birth to my youngest and breastfed her for a year, the last 20 pounds of pregnancy weight clung to my body for more than two years!

When I was younger–before I had kids–the two times that I noticed my weight and pant size creep up, it was pretty easy to shed five or 10 pounds and get things back on track. I would stop drinking soda or start packing my own lunch for work instead of ordering out and poof! I’d be back where I wanted to be.

Pregnancy #1

Even after I had my first child, the 34 pounds that I gained during pregnancy seemed to just melt off. I lost 25 pounds within the first month and then when I was around six months postpartum, I quit my full-time job where I would snack from the office kitchen throughout the day, and the last nine pounds disappeared within two weeks.

I was active and we took plenty of stroller walks, but besides doing 10 minutes of abs, or yoga or barre exercises at home a few times a week, I wasn’t doing anything to lose weight. In fact, by the time my son weaned from breastfeeding at a year old, I had lost 15 pounds more than I gained during pregnancy and was at my lowest adult weight ever.

It was actually concerning to me for a while–it didn’t make sense, and I totally wasn’t expecting things to happen that way. I lost so much weight that I needed an entirely new wardrobe and people commented on it at every social event I attended. It was honestly uncomfortable, because I had no explanation for it.

But by his second birthday I had slowly gained back about 10 pounds which put my body back in its comfort zone–I was pretty close to my happy weight. In retrospect, I think I may have had a case of postpartum thyroiditis, but because it resolved itself before symptoms became troublesome, it went undiagnosed though I was close to making an appointment for bloodwork.

Pregnancy #2

Then, when my son was almost three I got pregnant again. From the very beginning, things were very different. While weight gain happened at a normal rate until the third trimester when it sped up, my waist and hips grew very quickly and my baby measured large almost from conception. She ended up being born at nine-and-half pounds and 21 3/4 inches, and I gained about 40 pounds. I’m only 5’2″ so the changes in my body were drastic.

baby weight

Similar to my first pregnancy, I lost the first 20 pounds within the first two weeks postpartum. I just assumed the rest would come off within the first year and I was totally okay with it taking that long. I didn’t think about it for months–I focused on taking care of my infant, meeting our nursing goals and having enough energy to get through each day. Within four to six weeks of her birth, I was feeling strong and healthy again.

The Year Everything Changed

Then some major things happened in my life and threw everything off course. My mother passed away when Ada was just three months old, and my world went into a tailspin. All I could do was focus on mentally surviving each day and trying not to get so depressed that I lost my breastmilk supply completely. It doesn’t really need to be said, but it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with emotionally.

Just a month later, the baby’s weight gain stalled. We discovered that she had a mild tongue tie and a severe lip tie that were preventing her from removing enough milk to keep my supply up. She had the ties surgically corrected and we went through weeks of recovery followed by months of rebuilding my milk supply. For me, that meant eating tons of calories and minimal exercise.

Shortly after her first birthday, the baby weaned, I was doing better emotionally, and things went smoothly for several months. I decided to try a Couch to 5K program–I had never been a runner, but I knew cardio would help me finally drop those 20 pounds. I joined a cheapo gym and ran outside and on the treadmill on and off for a few months. I didn’t lose any weight–I wasn’t consistent enough at all.

mom cuddling newborn baby weight

And then my husband enlisted in the Army National Guard and was fast-tracked to basic training. That left me at home alone with the kids for roughly six months–getting up early every day to squeeze in my work as a freelance writer before handling all of the kid and household duties solo throughout the day and then working some more before going to sleep. It also meant there was no one around to watch the kids so I could workout. The first couple of months were pure survival mode.

Getting Back to Myself

I was not happy–like, not at all. I was incredibly lonely, exhausted and overworked. I was so fragile, anything was liable to make me cry. I desperately needed to find a way to tend to myself. I found out about the Revolution: 31 Days of Yoga program on the Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel, and I decided to go for it.

My work schedule had a cleared a bit and I no longer had to write after the kids were in bed, so I committed to doing the daily yoga practices every night before I went to sleep. It was a simple and doable way to tend to my own physical and mental health. Basically, it was my “me time.” I was diligent and only missed a day or two that I would make up afterwards. Within the first week, I felt changes.

I could feel myself getting stronger, and taking time for self-care–even on the nights when it was just 15 minutes–felt like exactly what I needed. I completed the 31 days and fell in love with Yoga–which I had not practiced since before my daughter was born–and though I didn’t lose any significant amount of weight, I could feel my abs again. I continued rolling out my mat and doing YWA videos every single night. That time belonged to me.

I also bought a used jogging stroller, and decided that I would start Couch to 5K again when my husband returned. Then I paid for and registered us both for a 5K–there was no turning back. By the time my husband got back from training, I was doing HIIT style bodyweight exercise a few days a week and Yoga daily. I added runs two or three times a week, so before long I was working out hard just about every day.

weight loss mother and son jogging together

But the scale still wasn’t budging and I started to get frustrated. My diet wasn’t terrible either. I mostly subscribed to the 80/20 rule–eating 80 percent clean, with some “treat” foods here and there, so I was totally confused about why I was still holding onto the weight. I was putting as much effort in physically as I could, but not getting the result I wanted.

What Finally Worked

So I decided to try tracking macros. I used the SparkPeople Web site and app and stayed within my daily calorie allotment most days. It worked! Within the first few days I had lost a couple of pounds, and I was four or five pounds down a week and a half later. I mostly focused on calories and I think because my diet was already in pretty good shape and I was working out a ton, I lost weight much quicker than anticipated.

For a few weeks, it wasn’t much fun at all. I would go to bed feeling hungry most nights, but I had gotten used to eating a snack before bed so my body expected it until it got used to not having it. Ultimately, I think my body was accustomed to eating a ton of calories while I was pregnant and nursing. My stomach stretched and even though it had been months since that stage of my life ended, I was still eating that amount because that’s what my body was demanding. I was eating about 500 calories more a day than what I actually needed to sustain me.

What I was eating wasn’t the problem, how much I was eating was. Tracking helped me to get control of portion sizes and return to eating an appropriate amount of calories for my petite frame. I came to realize that whether I was eating avocado or potato chips, it was all still calories.

I couldn’t eat a half-cup of guacamole and not worry about it because it was “healthy.” It was still hundreds of calories in a sitting. I continued eating healthy foods, but I cut the portion sizes of everything except greens and certain veggies, and figured out how much of certain things I could eat by sight.

I think my typical dinner plate was cut down by at least a third! I wasn’t depriving myself–that was literally just how much I had been overeating without even knowing it. After a few weeks I realized that I could drink wine or go out to eat or have dessert a couple nights a week and still lose about a pound a week. After waiting two years to start losing weight again, a pound a week was fine be me.

The weight continued to come off at a slow but consistent rate, and despite a few small setbacks after a weeklong Caribbean vacation and over the holidays, I continued to progress toward my goal of reaching my pre-pregnancy weight.

Though I struggled through it, I completed that first 5K. But I stopped running for about two months afterward because I had a bit of a heel injury and I was just kind of over it for a while. Then armed with a new pair of kicks and a new attitude, I started back up again. I wanted the chance to prove to myself that I could do better. I discovered that I was still in pretty good cardiovascular condition, which was really encouraging.

Where I Am Now

Once I was running again two or three times a week again, I lost the last five pounds–that was just about two months ago. So, actually it took almost two-and-half years to lose the weight after giving birth to my second child–it was a long, long road.

I learned so much, and I haven’t had any trouble keeping the weight off. I think because I lost the last 20 pounds slowly over the course of eight or nine months, my body actually had the chance to reset.

I’ve heard that losing weight gradually makes it more likely that it will stay off, and so far that seems to be the case. I’m not currently tracking calories or macros–I’m eating intuitively and in conjunction with a solid workout routine, it’s working well for maintenance.

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