posted 03/29/14 at 3:44am
on Looking ahead to the Sweet 16
posted by anngaff, a Women Talk Sports blogger
Monday, September 7, 2009 at 8:53pm EDT
Chief Technical Officer, Women Talk Sports. I competed in Track & Field and Cross-Country in college at the University of Nebraska and competed professionally in Track & Field (3000m Steeplechase) fr...more
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How vain am I: my second biggest worry when I found out I was pregnant (the first being "How do I tell my parents?") was "Oh no, I'm gonna get fat and stay that way forever."
When I found out I was pregnant, I looked like this:
(photo credit: Eric Naslund)
Geez, it's still hard to comprehend that I looked like that only a year ago. Look at those cheekbones! Look at the muscle definition!
I'll be honest, I liked the way I looked. I was pretty proud of myself for sticking to a solid nutrition plan that, coupled with the intense track workouts I was doing in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Track & Field Team Trials, got me pretty lean while providing me with the nutrients and protein I needed to maintain my strength and fitness.
It had been a long road up to that point. Like many female athletes, I had struggled with my body since somewhere around junior high. I would either be too heavy and in need of losing some extra weight in order to optimize my performance OR I would swing the other way and lose too much weight in an unhealthy manner, thus enjoying some brief success on the track before weakening from lack of proper nourishment. While I wouldn't go so far as to characterize my behavior as a disorder, I certainly didn't have a handle on how to properly fuel my body so that it would work WITH my training, not against it, and result in lean muscle mass that was powered by my diet, not hindered by it.
Overall, I've always been large "for a runner." Mind you, that's not very large. But even in the picture above, I was still on the larger side compared to many of the distance runners I competed against, as the sport favors small-framed, thin and very lean athletes. So it's as though no matter how lean I get, I'm still big relatively. That's tough to swallow year after year, especially when you are a Type "A" perfectionist.
I really hate that I can be so controlled by my weight; my positive outlook on life unfortunately is inversely proportional to the number on the scale. When I like what I see in the mirror, nothing can bring me down; my self-respect is up, my confidence is up, I'm more focused and motivated, etc. I hate this, but it's a fact.
In the year or so leading up to the 2008 Olympic Trials, I got very fit, athletically and visually. I realized that in order for that to happen, I didn't need to starve myself (which was detrimental athletically), but I did need to be very careful about the foods that I ate. It confirmed my belief that many people maintain their weight much more easily than I can. Maybe it's genetics, I don't really know. But it just seems like I have to work really hard to stay lean, and other runners can do so without watching what they eat - the running takes care of keeping them lean.
This belief is what scared me about being pregnant. I was going to gain weight inevitably. What I feared was that I wouldn't be able to lose it because I just don't lose weight very easily. All that hard work was going to be lost! It took me until I was 26 to be happy with how I looked while also leading a healthy lifestyle...and now it was going to be ruined!
On a side note, it's pretty difficult to be this honest about my thoughts in this case, and as I type them, I realize how crazy I may sound. Let's see if I actually publish this one.
How much weight did I gain during pregnancy? A whopping 55 pounds. Fifty-five pounds. You're "supposed" to gain 25-30, apparently. I'd heard that runners who start out lean gain more than that because they need the body fat, but 55 pounds? The number on the scale just kept going up every time I went to the doctor. I had to fight myself about it often because in my mind I knew that my baby needed it; I wasn't gorging on a lot of junk food and I was still working out, and yet I gained that much weight - she must have needed it! But it was hard to handle. Very hard. I found myself thinking nasty thoughts that I hadn't had about myself since high school, thoughts that I'd fought hard to protect myself from...
"You're so fat! What is wrong with you, you slob?"
I'm not a slob! I'm pregnant, leave me alone!
"You'll never lose all of this weight! You're going to be fat again, and for forever this time!"
Maybe she's right? Maybe I'll never lose it. How do you lose 55 pounds? I've never done that before.
Well, I've still never lost 55 pounds before. But I have lost about 40. Yup, I've lost 40 of my baby pounds in 3 1/2 months. I thought it wasn't possible for me - losing baby weight was for celebrities with trainers and maybe moms who don't have to work. But that's not me. I'm no celebrity and I took a grand total of three days off of work (I work from home) - the three days I was in the hospital delivering. The rest of the time, I've been nose-to-the-grindstone so we can pay these bills that show up every month.
Somehow, I found the time and motivation to get outside and run. I signed up for the Chicago Marathon partially because my sister and a couple friends are doing it and partially because I knew it would get me back into shape QUICKLY (the marathon is October 11, less than 5 months after Jaelyn was born). Here it is, 3 1/2 months after delivery, and my longest run is up to 17 miles and the number on the scale is down 40 pounds. I honestly didn't know if this was possible, but I guess it was.
I still look at pictures from a year ago like the one above and wonder if I'll ever look like that again. Most of my clothes from that point are still unwearable. I'm not sure if all of them will be worn again; some of them may eventually get taken to Goodwill and bid farewell as "clothes I could wear when I was in the best shape of my life as a professional athlete." That doesn't mean I won't look good ever again. I just might look like I'm in shape but also have other concerns in life besides myself: a baby, a relationship, a business, a women's sports website. No longer is my life 99% about me and my fitness, athletic and visual, as it once may have been.
Most days I'm OK with that. More than OK. I've never felt so fulfilled as I do now, with a little girl that depends entirely on me and her daddy. What a change in perspective from the vain "old" me who only had herself to worry about. When my thoughts start to lean back to that old self and I look in the mirror and wonder why I don't look like her yet, I pull hard on the reigns to make sure I keep perspective on what really matters in life and remind myself that I'm doing a pretty darn good job with it all, if I do say so myself.
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