Penny, an online friend, had a baby nine months ago and has quite an inspiring story of fitness. Here’s her story to encourage those of you who are pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant, or recently had a baby. If you’re married to or friends with someone in those categories, read it too so you can encourage her.
Penny, what is your weight loss story?
I’m a forty year old mother of three children, age 15, 14 and 9 months old. After my now 14-year old son was born, in 1998, my weight became a problem for me. I couldn’t play with my boys the way that I wanted to and climbing stairs to do laundry took every last bit of energy I had. At his first birthday I weighed 180 pounds; 54 pounds more than I’d ever weighed in my adult life. I knew something had to change.
What changes did you make?
I set two goals for myself: I wanted to be able to run the length of a soccer field and I wanted to do that without my thighs rubbing together. I began small. I started walking for 45 minutes on my lunch break. Each day I would try to increase my speed, going further each time, and making a new goal to meet or beat that the next day. I also cut soda and coffee from my diet. In two months, I lost twenty pounds and, the rest, as they say, is history.
Six years ago, I joined SparkPeople to help me track my fitness and nutrition and, hopefully, lose a little more weight in the process. Shortly after I joined, I met Michelle in the Rookie Runners group. We’ve been online friends ever since.
Fast forward to your most recent pregnancy. What was your plan during this pregnancy with respect to your weight?
In December of 2010, my spouse and I decided to have a baby and within a month and a half, we were pregnant. My plan was to keep my pregnancy weight gain to a maximum of thirty pounds, which wasn’t easy as I had intense cravings for ketchup chips and Pepsi Retro. Thankfully, aside from eating “a little more” of whatever other healthy foods I was already eating, the cravings were pretty easy to deal with.
During my pregnancy, I tried to keep my exercise routine as “normal” as possible. I still trained for, and ran, half marathons, completing four in my first trimester. I also walked a lot, strength-trained and did yoga until month 7, including a workout with Tommy Europe. When running became too uncomfortable, I took up cycling with my running buddies. I continued walking and did my last 10 km “race” on Thanksgiving weekend, three weeks before Emily was born.
I had her on October 26, 2011, by Caesarean section. Not at all what I/we had planned but that’s the way she chose to make her entrance into the world. Typically, they make you wait six weeks before they even consider letting you do any post-partum exercise. I lasted two before I started walking with the stroller. At four weeks post, I was running (albeit very slowly), the shorter distances with my HM group. At six weeks, I joined the mommy/baby boot camp at my local rec centre. In March, I ran my first after-baby half marathon.
Were there any obstacles to eating healthy?
To be honest, the only obstacle was the mindset of having to eat more to support Emily’s needs too. While this is true, more does not equal eating her weight in sugar, fat and sodium. As she grows and the weaning process begins, my new issue is scaling back from the 500 extra calories I’d been eating for “us” to the regular 1800 I need.
How are you doing with your exercise post-pregnancy?
Since having Emily, I’ve actually ramped up my fitness regimen. I’m more diligent about going to the gym because I want my pre-pregnancy body back. I run three times a week, attend two to three gym classes, and walk with my stroller group once a week. Any activity above that is a bonus. I am five pounds away from my where I was in January 2011, and am back to wearing the jeans I wore then, too.
Do you have any advice for women who are either pregnant or have just had a baby?
Well, yes, actually, I do. If you are physically active before you get pregnant, stay physically active while you are pregnant unless it becomes absolutely impossible for you to do so. Then, after you have your baby, get back at it as soon as you can. Not only are you doing what’s best for you, your mental health and your body, you’re teaching your child that physical activity is an important part of life. If more parents lead by example, there’d be fewer cases of obesity in this world.