Baselines

Well, I keep trying to write a blog post and failing. I guess for the same reason that I keep trying to go take a walk and failing – today, only my arms or the swing will do for the baby. No baby wrap, no stroller, no car seat, no bouncer or bassinet – not without screams, anyway. Some days are easier than others.

But while the swing is still acceptable, let me get this out.

The baseline

Starting weight: 179 lbs

Waist: 35.5″

Biceps: 12.5″

Thigh: 26.5″

So there it is. I was a little conflicted about whether or not to post numbers. I don’t feel particularly embarrassed about them, but I am aware of the fact that society in general has an idea of how much a woman should weigh, and it’s a lot less than that. My concern is that I’m actually validating that idea by sharing these numbers in the context of an attempt to lose weight. I really hope I don’t make anyone feel bad by doing this. An ideal weight is deeply personal. I find that I am most successful – and happiest – when I fully accept my body as it is. My body is amazing! I just carried a baby to term and am now breastfeeding that baby with it. And in my case, apparently, it needed some extra weight to do those things. But there are some other things I want to do that I don’t need that weight for – climbing, in particular, is not well-served by extra body weight. The less I have to pull up, the better I will climb. Pre-pregnancy, I weighed around 150, so that’s my current goal.

The plan

Since being cleared to work out last week, I’ve gone to the gym, gone for a run, and done a session of yoga. I found that my cardiovascular fitness and strength need work to get back up to snuff, but my mobility isn’t too compromised, which I was glad to find. Yoga is generally a really good tool to improve pressing, core, and lower body strength to baseline, as long as I’m not struggling too much with mobility. I’m also incorporating some pulling movements using the lat pulldown and row machines at the gym, for climbing. For cardio, I’m just using the elliptical or running. Not far. Fifteen or twenty minutes is hard enough for now. Going back to my tendencies and habit strategies, making sure I do some kind of workout every day is the best goal I can set, as long as I keep it realistic. At this point, fifteen or twenty minutes of athletic activity every weekday is the goal.

I’m hoping to get back to climbing soon, but it’s still quite tough for me to be away from the baby for very long if I don’t have to be, and it’s hard to get in a good gym climbing session in less than two hours. I’m sure we’ll get there, but I’m not going to push it.

So for now, aside from my daily(ish) walks and stretching when the mood strikes, my general workout plan is:

Monday: run

Tuesday: yoga

Wednesday: gym (elliptical and pulling work)

Thursday: yoga

Friday: run

Saturday/Sunday: rest, stretch whenever able

Eating strategy

Last time I lost pregnancy weight, I used a combination of the Slow Carb diet and intermittent fasting. Here is a description of the Slow Carb diet – it’s basically a low-glycemic diet. No white foods (dairy, grains, sugar), no fruit, and eat the same kind of meals over and over (this is more of a psychological rule than physical). It’s similar to paleo, except that eating legumes is recommended to compensate for the reduction in calories that comes from eliminating the starchy part of the plate.

The Slow Carb diet works well for me, first because it appeals to my Questioner tendencies – there is good theory and support for low-glycemic diets in general and the Slow Carb diet in particular, from a physical and psychological perspective. (Psychologically, it keeps cravings to a minimum and satiety to a maximum by keeping fat and protein intake high.) It’s also great for an Abstainer/sprinter like myself, because it completely cuts out sweet and starchy foods for the week, EXCEPT one “re-feed” day – aka a cheat day – wherein you eat as much as you want of anything you feel like eating. This is theoretically necessary in order to prevent the body from slowing the metabolism in response to the caloric restriction and reduction in carbohydrate that the diet entails, and it didn’t seem to slow me down last time, so I’m fully on board with it.

My addition of intermittent fasting is more controversial, and I probably need to throw a bunch of disclaimers all over it. A lot of people use it with great success, especially men, but its application for women is disputed. I was successful and did not experience any weird side effects, but it isn’t right for everyone. If you have PCOS, endometriosis, other ailments, a history of disordered eating, are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding, there are probably risks, and I don’t really want to sound like I’m recommending it or anything. However, if it’s practiced, I do think it’s much more doable when you’re eating lower-carb or low GI, because insulin sensitivity improves and you are less likely to experience the blood sugar spikes and drops between meals that give you that light-headed sensation that sometimes accompanies hunger.

When I did this a couple of years ago, I basically implemented an 8-hour “eating window” three days per week and a 4-hour window once per week. What this means is that I would eat as much as necessary for 8 hours per day (typically 11am-7pm or 12pm-8pm) and on one day just 4 hours (usually 4pm-8pm) and abstain from calories for the rest of the day. Non-caloric liquids, such as water, coffee, and tea, are allowed and encouraged all day, and I ate as much as I wanted (within slow-carb rules) during the eating window, to satiety. My weight loss was a fairly reliable 3-4 pounds per week while practicing IF, and I really didn’t mind skipping breakfast a few times per week, especially since I knew that Saturday I could eat an entire pizza if I wanted. Fasting was actually something I really enjoyed – it felt like I got a lot of time back, especially on my 4-hour window day, and I learned to deal with the hunger sensation without panicking. Humans didn’t always have a fridge full of food to raid for their three square meals per day, after all, and we have the capacity to deal with a little hunger, as long as we’re generally healthy.

Now, I won’t be practicing intermittent fasting until I’m no longer breastfeeding. As I mentioned, I don’t think it’s a great idea to practice fasting during the first six months of breastfeeding if it’s not necessary. While the research suggests that short-term fasts do not impact supply or the macronutrient profile of breast milk (i.e. calories and the ratio of carbohydrate, protein, and fat in milk), micronutrient content does decrease, including zinc, magnesium, and potassium. I would also posit that the metabolism is likely affected differently than it would be in a person who is not breastfeeding, since the body is producing breast milk, which is estimated to require approximately 500 calories of energy. At minimum, I’ll wait until we’re in the weaning process, when the baby is getting nutritional value elsewhere. However, I experienced the biggest weight loss results from IF, so I do plan on incorporating it eventually.

Edit: I just came across this good summary of the benefits of fasted training, which I also practiced during my last round of weight loss with great results and plan to incorporate at a later stage of this round.

Bottom line: Slow Carb Diet starts Monday. Here we go (again)!

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