If I have learned one thing this past year: having a baby around is not a predictable experience. I naively thought Lola would follow some sort of linear progression: birth, smile, roll over, crawl, walk, talk, etc. I was aware newborn babies don’t sleep through the night right away. They need to wake every few hours to eat, then they get bigger and slowly they start sleeping longer until they sleep all night long. Right?? This was a “story” I’d heard about babies and I assumed it would be true for my baby. Until this past few weeks (she’s 14 months old now), I could count the nights I got more than a 4 hour stretch of sleep on one hand since before. I hated to complain about it because
she’s such a perfect, happy, healthy baby….but at the 10 month mark I was really suffering from the lack of sleep. She’d finally been sleeping from about 7 to midnight. I usually made it to bed around 11 and she’d wake at 12:30ish startling me from that first REM cycle. I’d get her back to sleep and then she’d wake around 4 or 5. (Oh just in case anyone is wondering, my husband is not an uninvolved jerk, he was willing to take a turn, she just preferred me and it seemed easier to just get her back to sleep quick as possible.) When I got her back down for this round I had a really hard time going back to sleep knowing she was up again at 7 for the day. I always felt “I should get up and work before she gets up”, but I’d only slept a few hours…again. I was a cranky, tired, zombie. This actually wasn’t even as bad as it got though. Soon she started waking every 1-2 hours….just like a newborn again, ugh. Up until then we’d had a few, isolated nights where she slept a 7 hour stretch and we’d think, hey this is progress! She’s starting to figure it out. Then we found ourselves coming up on a year and her sleep was worse than at the 6 month mark. There were even a few nights where she just wouldn’t go back down and one of us would end up reading and playing with her for an hour or so in the middle of the night leaving us with just a hour or two of sleep. Around the 12 month milestone, she finally started doing a bit better. Still waking at 4am but generally sleeping much longer stretches with less night waking. Phew! We made it! Then we went on vacation….. Her new environment threw her off and it took us a week or more to get her back to sleeping longer stretches again. Then she got Roseola. 3 weeks more of up and down all night because she was sick and uncomfortable. Next, we had a week of sleeping from 7pm to 7am without a peep! Whew, we were back on track. Then she got a cold. She was back up at the 11pm/midnight mark every night, usually sorting herself out after that one, but usually up one more time in the early morning hours needing our help to go back to sleep. Here at 14 months she is sleeping straight through. But can I count on it? Will life always be like this? Have we finally “made it”? Will I ever feel rested??? Linear? Predictable? Not at all! Frustrating? Yes. Leaving me wondering, “What am I doing wrong?” Absolutely. Just like losing weight. How familiar does this sound: I was doing great, working out every day, eating well, then I got sick. I was really rockin’ on my plan, everything finally clicked, then a loved one need a lot of my help and support and I had to put my needs on hold for a bit. I do really great for a few months, then work gets stressful and I fall off the wagon. I did great, hit my goal and then I picked up one old bad habit, then another, now I’m heavier than when I started. Or these ones: I am doing everything right: working out, sleeping well, managing my stress, eating perfectly and I’m not losing any more. So forget it, bring on the ice cream! I was doing great, steadily losing then I gained 3 pounds. I lost 4 and now I’ve gained another back. I don’t know what’s going on I haven’t changed a thing in my plan! I will never figure this out… Losing fat and changing your body are not linear processes….just like babies learning to sleep throughout the night. There will be fits and starts, good stretches and bad, times when it all clicks and times when it all falls apart. Life circumstances throw us off over and over again. We have to continually right the ship and get back on track and trudge along, fighting another day. Life won’t stop just because we have a goal, there will be days or weeks when we just can’t pull it off. Our only option is to self-correct as quickly as we can and keep on going. And sometimes it has nothing to do with life or getting off track. The truth is that fat loss or even living a healthy lifestyle is often not linear – even on the best of plans with perfect execution. It tends to be on and off progress, sometimes all out stalls and even set –backs such as gaining 5 pounds or having old symptoms return. Our physiology is not on board with a steady, predictable, linear progression of shedding fat. But it always leaves us wondering, “What am I doing WRONG??” The answer may not be anything at all that you’re doing wrong, it’s just part of the process. A seemingly small sleep deficit, a little immune challenge (such a virus you picked up on the subway but you never got “sick” from, your body may still be working away at), female hormonal changes (big ones like pregnancy, menopause or seemingly smaller ones that happen every month), etc can all affect your progress – even if only for a week or so. All we can do is stop, take stock of what we think we could do differently and keep on truckin’! Don’t always jump to making yourself wrong. If you are living on M&Ms for lunch, than yeah, stop that. But if it’s a life circumstances that we can’t control, we have to just do as much as we can towards our goals every day- even if we can’t do everything. As I always say, if today can’t be our best, at least make it BETTER! If you can’t do everything, don’t do nothing, at least do something! When life throws you off, get back to it ASAP. If you can’t make it to the gym, find some stairs to sprint or do your own quick at home workout of body weight squats or squat jumps, pushups and sit ups. Do something. If you have to eat out instead of cooking your perfect fat loss meal at home, order the salad with fish or chicken (even if it’s not organic, free range chicken on organic lettuce), instead of saying “Ah forget it!” and having the slice of pizza. At least do BETTER And if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: using the scale as your measure of progress is insane. You really need to be tracking fat loss (although what I said above still applies, it isn’t always linear) to see if your actual results. Use a body fat scale, calculating body fat via calipers or by taking multiple tape measurements or at least waist measurements (since women don’t put on muscle mass here, changes up or down are fat or water and good indicators of your progress). Take these assessments every week under the same conditions (i.e. first thing Monday or Friday morning, without having had alcohol, etc.) If you’re not up to fat loss, but just trying to lead that “healthy, active lifestyle” or maybe just trying to stay gluten free: you’re gonna mess up. It’s OK, just get back on track –life isn’t linear and it’s not always easy. In case anyone’s wondering, Lola slept 12hours last night…..in a row….without waking….ahhhh. Could this be the start of many more nights of rest? Maybe, but I promise I won’t make too much of it either way 🙂 All we can do is deal with what’s so today. Today I’m well rested, have eaten great and will be hitting the gym. If I can’t pull all that off tomorrow, I will do as much as I can and at least be BETTER!