With the trick or treating just a day or two behind us, I got to thinking about treats….
I made it until my 8th month of pregnancy before I uttered the words, “It’s OK to just eat that, after all I’m pregnant!” Not bad if I do say so myself. Around month eight I was still exercising as best I could but finally gave into the ice cream cravings. It was 100 degrees and humid as heck here in NYC! I’d refrained from no more than the occasional treat during my pregnancy, so I didn’t feel too bad finally giving in at the end and I was really happy with my 17 or so pound weight gain. But right now I don’t feel so on top of it as I deal with breastfeeding and sheer exhaustion – a terrible mix for trying to keep my eating in check. Needing about 500 extra calories a day while breastfeeding, I have a bit of wiggle room in the calorie department – but if you follow me, you know it’s not that simple. This math totally ignores my hormones. If these extra calories come from sugary treats and starchy carbs, I will be fueling my fat storing hormones and stay in the craving cycle. And knowing those buffer calories are there I’m giving myself excuses to behave badly….I’m being tricked into thinking these treats are “not as bad” as I know they are. My craving for ice cream or other treats have kept up at full tilt after I had my baby. As if a craving alone isn’t hard enough to manage, I am completely exhausted from being up every 2 hours all night – sometimes for 3 hour stretches – to feed my baby and I’m not sure 7 weeks is long enough to recover from pregnancy and the athletic event that ended it: 27 hours of labor and birth. And I’m always hungry! My appetite with breastfeeding is off the charts. Top that all off with being in fight of flight mode since I brought my baby home. Those first 2 weeks especially were sheer anxiety and pure adrenaline as I realized a 7 pound little bundle can terrify me with her every cry….or moment of silence. When she cried we jumped, “What’s wrong??” When she slept quietly we worried, “She’s so quiet, is she OK? Is she breathing??” Add that to the hormonal haywire my body is going through as I go from being pregnant to not, adjusting to feeding a growing baby and the crazy demand I’m putting on my adrenals to keep me going on no sleep, and well, I’ve got a bit of a mess on my hands. Needless to say, I’m having a seriously hard time laying off the carbs and sweets. And it’s not just during the day, I’m wanting to reach for something starchy or carby in the middle of the night to keep myself awake as our little one still has her days and nights backwards. My hormones hate me right now….or I hate them….I’m too tired to tell the difference.
I did get back to exercising 2 weeks after my delivery, but honestly, some days I’m just too exhausted to do even what feels to me like a cakewalk (yum….cake….) workout compared to what I’m normally doing. Now, I know this is nothing unique to me and every new mom can relate to the stress and chaos of those first few months with a newborn – especially for us first timers. But I do not want to come to in 6 months or a year and say, “What the heck happened to my body? I sure wish I would’ve reigned it in before I had this much damage to undo.” I certainly held that belief while I was pregnant, and what’s more, I felt great while I was pregnant and totally in control of my diet. But this is hard, I deserve a treat don’t I? We’ve all been there: tired, stressed and needing to give ourselves a little something to feel better. We deserve it right? We met the deadline, we survived the breakup and after all, we were soooo good all week – we deserve a treat! Preferably one that’s covered in chocolate. Treats are tricky territory because rewarding ourselves with food opens up a Pandora’s box of issues for many of us. If you’ve got insulin resistance, PCOS or the like (such as I do) sugary and carb laden treats can lead to craving more treats. Throw the adrenal/stress issues in there and the cravings will just build and build on our unbalanced blood sugar. For others, the guilt and berating after an indulgence makes the treat ten times worse than it was on its own (I do this one too). So did this “treat” really do what I’d intended it to? Make me feel rewarded, satisfied and happy? Sometimes, sure. But when it’s less of a choice and more of a coping skill that’s gone off the rails, um, not so much. So what to do when you’ve got both the mental and physical cravings for foods that you will likely enjoy during the moments you’re eating them, but make you feel guilty and bad moments after knowing you’re one step further from your goal? And to make matters worse, set you up for even more cravings and bad eating? It’s different for everyone, and the place I try to get all my patients to is where a treat is just a treat. Have it and move on, get back on track right away and skip the guilt. Right now though, I feel a little out of control of both my hormones and my habits. My hormones are doing what they need to do right now to adjust post-pregnancy, feed my baby and keep me functioning on very little sleep. That leaves me to deal with my habits. I love when my blogs end with a great “ah-ha” and a foolproof plan to dealing with an issue…sorry, I’ve got nothing of the sort for ya’ll today. And there are times when an intense plan is not the answer. A strict diet is not a good idea for me now with no sleep and trying to maintain a good milk supply – but without a fancy pants new plan, you can ALWAYS just go back to the basics. I know there are many things I can do right now to take a step in the right direction and know I can adjust this plan as soon as later today if it’s not working – or when I’m ready to take it up a notch. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated thinking, “But I’ve got to have the perfect plan or it won’t work” or “ I won’t lose weight or make progress if I can’t do it all.” Sometimes this black and white thinking keeps you from just doing something, anything to get you moving in the right direction. You just have to start, do what you can even if you know it’s not enough – you can perfect it in time. Make lots of little good decisions all day, every day and they will add up to big results (Make lots of little bad ones and they add up to a big butt). OK, so what’s my plan? Simply get back to basics: Get as much exercise as possible for the next month (we’re at 8 weeks now and everyday gets a little easier…). Remind myself, that I can’t always control how much time I’ll have trying to be mommy and take care of my patients and my business so I may miss a workout here and there despite my best efforts, but I can control what I put in my mouth. I will have a large glass of water before I eat anything – giving myself a minute to decide if this is hunger or a craving (not to mention, I am certain I’m not drinking enough water right now!). Cooking is a huge challenge when I’m home alone with the baby, but I can cook several protein servings every time I get the chance to cook (chicken breasts, hard boiled eggs and bison burgers – all easy, all edible days after cooking). I can munch on raw veggies to get my fiber intake up and stabilize my blood sugar. I can choose sweeter ones like sugar snap peas and baby carrots as snacks when I’m looking for something sweet in the middle of the night. I can up my healthy fat intake to account for those extra calories I need and further manage my blood sugar – nut butter and avocados here I come. I can be nice to myself as I try to do better despite the challenges I’m facing. I’m hormonal and tired, but I know many of you out there have your own challenges keeping you from sticking to your plan right now…so be kind as you try to do better. Lastly, whatever I do today I can feel good about and believe in myself enough to know I will do even better tomorrow. Wait, I think I’ve heard that somewhere before….. I can also remember my “why” as in, “why bother not eating cake?” Why do I want to eat healthy and be fit? Well it feels good – and I’m looking forward to having my “better” body back. Also,
life is simply fully of challenges and obstacles to doing what we need to do. Life will always get in the way if we let it, and while now I can’t be “perfect” I can do better. Remember, when we fall off the wagon, we simply need to get back on….even if we fall off several times a day. Before you know it, we’ll be ready to string days, weeks and even months of those perfect days together. If there are any of you out there struggling to stay on track or wrestling with those tricky treats, hopefully this post helps!