December 6, 2012

It's a...

On Sunday night, I was reading an article on one of my favorite websites, Mental Floss, that discussed "pieces of folksy wisdom that are actually true." Most of them I'd heard of, until the last: eating bananas will make you have a baby boy. The last banana I ate gave me such bad heartburn that I've temporarily sworn off them, but still, I read on.

The article explains the logic behind the claim: while a baby's sex is determined genetically and not by dietary intake, it appears that a woman's diet may affect the success rate for certain chromosomes. While the cause is uncertain, the cited study observed that "high levels of glucose encourage the growth and development of male embryos while inhibiting female embryos." In industrialized countries where lower calorie diets have been more common, there has been a slight increase in the birth rate for females. The author also points out that this is not only the case with humans, but wildlife as well: higher-calorie foods lead to a higher birth rate for males.

The article, like pretty much anything these days, made me cry, especially as I thought back to late July/early August when we became pregnant. The weeks before, during, and most likely after I got pregnant, I was binge eating like crazy. It was after our 42+ mile bike ride and the ensuing sunburns so severe, we probably ought to have gone to the hospital. And it was after getting rejected from a fantastic job at a French-speaking high school in Chicago, my confidence shot after being told, interestingly enough, that they needed someone more self-confident. And it was after dozens of other job applications went ignored and unanswered.

I had intended to run the Chicago Marathon, and stopped because I was so exhausted and uncomfortable when running - pregnancy side effects, I realize in retrospect, but at the time, I just thought I was lazy and suffering the result of my binges. Though they certainly didn't help the situation, there was a lot more going on than I was aware of. And in my sad ignorance, I continued to binge. The job I was supposed to come back to was taken away. The apartment I was supposed to move into burned down. And now, I wasn't going to run the marathon after all. I felt like a failure. And I ate every single one of those feelings.

If you recall, this was around that time that I joined Weight Watchers in order to try and get the binges under control. I'd weighed 189 the day I left California, maintained 188/189 for several weeks, and then found myself back at 198 for the half marathon and 208 the day I signed up for Weight Watchers. I followed the program for two weeks, until we got the positive results on our pregnancy tests.

Since finding out, I've had days when I ate a lot - either because I waited too long to eat or because I was just hungrier because the baby was growing - but I haven't binged. Still, as I read this article Sunday night, I was terrified, and shared the article with Matt. Walking to the train station on Monday morning, headed to the hospital for our anatomy ultrasound, I told him, if this baby is a boy, I'm going to feel guilty for the rest of my life. He tried to calm me down, but I couldn't let go of the thought. You were in the healthiest shape of your life before you got pregnant, he offered. But my mind trailed back to the study - the participants' BMI had nothing to do with the outcome, just their diets. For the month or so before conceiving, both my eating habits and I had been absolute messes.

Then, the ultrasound. The technician measured the baby to check its progress. Arms, legs, head, spine. Do you want to know the sex? she asked next. Yes, we did - and there, lo and behold, was our answer.

It's a boy.

And I cried. Tears of joy, first and foremost - regardless of what condition I am in right now, our son is healthy (though already stubborn) and growing perfectly. We love him so, so much, and there are so many other people who love him and who can't wait to meet him. But also, tears of guilt and remorse - I can't shake the idea that his sex is a permanent reminder of my own downfall. I screwed up, I reacted to sadness and stress and anxiety in an inappropriate way, and unlike the countless binges of my past, the July/August 2012 ones I'll remember forever.

I'm trying to see this baby as nothing less than a miracle. I was told I couldn't get pregnant, then I did. Now, I find myself gaining much more weight than I would like - given my current "all-I-can-afford-slash-tolerate-is-walking" exercise mode, it's clear to me that I'll be spending the rest of my life very active, or I'll end up back at 345 pounds or higher. But, the baby's second miracle - Matt was right, we became pregnant at a point when, despite a few weeks of poor eating, I was in a very good place health-wise. My doctor has remarked that even though my weight is high, all my vitals are perfect, and I owe that to 2 years of living well. I may not have gotten pregnant at my goal weight, but at least it wasn't at my starting weight. And you know, I lost these pounds once, and in a few months, I'll do it again. I have made mistakes, and now, with our little one on the way, I'm even more motivated than ever to get to my goal weight. I want to be a healthy mom, a self-confident role model. I want us to run races with Baby at the finish line, and eventually, with him by our side.

December 2, 2012


I remember how stressful the first December was when I first started losing weight. From Thanksgiving through Christmas is a horribly tempting time, with all my family's major overeating holidays packed into one stressful month. I made a plan before heading home for Christmas, and stuck to it as well as I could. I returned to Chicago a few pounds lighter and without any of the typical self-loathing that followed up after a holiday meal.

This year, we'll be doing Christmas in Chicago, just Matt and me. It'll be nice, I'm sure - we're still talking about what we should do, but we want to find some unique tradition of our own. The best part, though, will be that our eating should be on point because we won't have any of my mom's wonderfully tempting Christmas treats around. No huge meals, no trays of baked goods.

I don't know what kind of challenge it would be if we were there for the holiday. I've been lucky in that I very rarely desire sweets - with the exception of fruit, especially oranges and grapes, I've been mostly craving savory things. But the past week or so, I've had a bit of a sweet tooth, and have given in to the cravings more often than I should have. It isn't every day, but even twice a week feels like too much when I have the guilt of what-I-eat,-baby-eats on my mind. (Not to mention the looming stress of knowing that in six months, I'll be able to work out again, and whatever I eat now will contribute to the weight I need to lose then.)

The challenge I'm imposing on myself, then, for December: stay focused with my eating. I'm trying really hard to keep my eating as good as possible. It's a lot harder than I would like it to be, because so many things are unappealing to me these days. One way I've found it fairly easy to get both meat and vegetables down is via soups, and I've either made or bought several in the last month: turkey sausage/kale/potato, tomato, tomato basil, chicken/turkey noodle. When buying or making soup, I do whatever I can to make it as low in sodium as possible - I usually use 1/3 of the broth they recommend, subbing water for the rest, and what broth I do use, I make sure is reduced sodium. It's still plenty salty for our tastes.

So: I'd like to try and avoid any sweets until Christmas - and same for going out to eat. I want to get back into cooking more, not only for the health benefit, but for my wallet - with the holidays and all, this is going to be a very tight month financially. It's all too common to work a long shift and then, exhausted, want to grab something quick and easy for dinner before heading home.

I know that achieving my goals is not hard when I set my mind to them - right now, it's just a matter of setting my mind to them!

What about you? What are your December goals? What is your plan of attack for the upcoming onslaught of holiday temptations?