I’ve been working out in a very public way since September of last year and I’m still struggling. When Charles was 13 months old, he was still nursing, as Jamie is, and I was about the size I am now. I wouldn’t lose most of the baby weight until after Charles weaned (he was fifteen months old) and so I don’t expect that to change this time around. But back then, it was a pretty private struggle. I ran, I worked out at the gym and the comfort of my own home, and I agonized over the incremental progress of getting back in shape after gaining fifty pounds just to birth a baby.
There’s something intensely private about the gym and running for me. I go to the gym at times when I expect it to be pretty clear of people. I run alone (well, with Buster, but he’s pretty non-judgmental). I do not make eye contact. I read on the elliptical. I wear sunglasses outside. I don’t feel underdressed when I sport ratty old t-shirts and well-worn jogging pants or shorts. I sweat a lot. Frankly, I don’t want to afford nice, expensive running clothes because I don’t see the point and really, I’d rather no one saw me wearing them anyhow. A tight running shirt just shows off my spare tire.
But I’ve been doing Baby Boot Camp for eleven(!) months now, and that means that I not only work out with other people, but also I have someone (a fabulous instructor) watching me, correcting my posture or technique, and encouraging me. It’s been a big change for me.
The good consequences are that I am stronger and more “fit” than I have possibly ever been in my entire life. I can do more than fifty pushups in a row without stopping. I can do a hell of a lot of lunges. I do squat jumps and bicep curls and leg throws and planks on a daily basis now. I feel powerful. I often feel sore.
I also still feel fat, because I still am. The baby pooch still curses my midsection, I have upper arm “wings” that appeared when I hit my thirties, and my butt? It jiggles. But the thing is that now, now, everyone sees my progress. Photos of me working out, sweaty and exhausted, inching my way down from that postpartum size 12, are posted on Facebook for the world to comment. It makes me feel vulnerable. It makes me feel examined. Judged.
Oh, you guys. I don’t want to feel this way. So sick of myself. So sick of the extra weight. I look at my closet and I can’t find anything to wear. I’m tired of billowy shirts to hide my midsection. I’m tired of these big pants that are nearly ragged because I wear them so often because none of my pre-pregnancy pants fit. I’m tired of not shopping for nice clothes because I keep hoping, hoping that I’ll eventually be back to my pre-pregnancy size again and I don’t want to invest money into something I hopefully won’t wear again. But I’m so scared. I’m scared that I’ll never get there, and the fact that I’m not there yet makes me want to hide from the world. I want to keep myself out of photos and away from scrutiny. The effects of children can be seen in my face, in my haggard appearance and tired, wrinkly, blotchy, acne-ridden skin and that’s enough. Enough to keep me indoors and away from social events altogether, but pair it with my body, these hips that won’t shrink and this waist that might never again be small enough for me to have curves instead of just a straight line between hips and chest, well, I feel like it is time to hibernate. I don’t even really want to try anymore. I want to stop working out, stop eating well, and just stop, stop, stop.
I was roundish in high school. I was fat in college. I had three years of being slim and feeling pretty good about my body between the ages of 24 and 27. I never quite made it back to pre-pregnancy weight after Charles weaned – I was always between five and ten pounds away from where I used to be, where I wanted to be. Is it so much to ask that I look good now, when I’m happy with my life, when I have beautiful children and a strong, loving marriage so that when or if I ever see all the guys who didn’t ask me out in college, they think “damn, I should have gone for her because she has gotten better with age”? So that I can stop being paranoid that people feel sorry for my husband? So that Charles won’t say things like, “mommy, you have a big butt”? So that I can wear cute clothing?