It’s time to be honest. I’ve packed on a few pounds since saying “I do”. I’m a little embarrassed because I’m the healthy eater – the gym lover – the just say no to bread and dessert girl. But, I haven’t been saying no lately.
It’s not terrible , roughly 8 pounds, but my jeans are too tight, my face is puffy, and I just don’t feel healthy. The term “letting yourself go” makes me roll my eyes. I’ve always been body conscious. I generally watch what I eat and put in my time at the gym. I know what works for my body. When I’d put on a few pounds in the past 5 years, I knew exactly what I needed to do to get back into my skinny jeans. But for the past five months, I just can’t seem to find the motivation.
As it turns out, mine is a familiar story. Research shows that the average newly married woman piles on about nine extra pounds over five years compared with a single woman. She is also exercising less.
This common weight gain, known as “the newlywed spread” hits in the similar fashion as that pesky “freshman fifteen”. Like that big transition to college, hello midnight pizza and binge drinking, that causes weight gain in freshman, newlywed weight gain is all about the shift in lifestyles and relationships. Since the wedding, I struggle to balance “me” time and “we” time. If Ryan wants to sleep in on Saturday morning, it’s far too easy for me to say “yes” whereas before I’d be attending my 8:30 a.m. kickboxing class. (and please note that Ryan and I do go to the gym together, just not as often as I should). Our time together is so limited, so I find myself choosing couch time with Ryan over treadmill and weight time for me.
Marriage has also influenced me in picking up a new hobby – cooking. Before marriage, I could live off of veggies, fruit, chicken, and pretzels. I now love finding new recipes to find and making Ryan happy with special treats and making sure he is well fed for his 13 hour days. Long gone are my single dinners of green bean. I can’t resist eating the same food that I’m spending all this time preparing and cooking. I’m cooking and eating creamy pasta dishes and desserts that I would never even imagine eating before. When Ryan goes back for seconds, I think, “well, why can’t I have seconds too?”
Looking back, transitions and weight issues have always gone hand in hand for me. I did gain the freshman fifteen. I couldn’t resist the ability to eat anything whenever. Not to mention, I never touched alcohol before college and then it became the norm almost overnight. After adjusting to the transition, I lost the gained weight the summer before my sophomore year by eating in moderation and working out.
My weight problems snuck in again when my life during senior year when I was preparing for another major shift – living in the real world.
I aspire to be an open book on this blog, so I will be brutally honest here.
I was under a ton of stress trying to finish my creative writing thesis. I had no idea what I was going to do after college. I felt like I had zero control over my life so I took control of my weight to the point of developing a border line disorder. I survived on plain ice burg lettuce rice cakes, pickles, and carrots. Instead of battling my fears of life in the real world, I decided to make myself model thin.
Ignoring my worried friends and parents, I continued this way of life after my college graduation. I cut myself down to a mere 500 calories a day and also spend an hour a day on the treadmill running my heart out trying to burn off double the calories I consumed. I got down to a sickly 116 pounds on my five foot eight frame and it did not look good.
I was not happy with my life. I had no idea what was in store for me. My boyfriend was still floundering away in college and I was using my expensive English degree working at a vintage clothing store and as a nanny. I was not living the life that I expected. I thought I wasn’t good enough and strived for perfection. Somewhere deep in my twisted mind I thought that “perfecting” my body would make me a better person. It was consuming my life. I remember bunching up any skin on my hips and thinking “if I could just cut this off”. I was addicted. I was addicted to losing weight and exercise. I was lost in my own little world and had zero self-awareness of how I was treating my body, not to mention my soul.
As I moved forward with my life I began to outgrow my addiction. As I got more settled into adulthood, moved to beautiful Annapolis, got a fun job, and began to accept life more, I started to maintain a more healthy weight. I let myself enjoy food. I ran because it kept me healthy and was a good source of therapy. I learned how to eat and exercise in moderation and I learned how to care and listen to my soul. A year later I was at a healthy weight and living a happier life.
I’m not reliving this hard time in my life to say that I’m scared of slipping back into this unhealthy lifestyle, I’m writing this because it made me aware that I fully understand how transitions and weight gain/loss go hand in hand. I understand that I have to be mindful. I can’t imagine ever going back to the lifestyle of my 22-year-old self but it has taught me that I have to be careful with my choices. But it has also taught me that this shift in weight has a lot to do with brain chemistry.
During my “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels days” I was miserable and felt worthless. I strived to be perfect in any way that I could. Now, 9 years later, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m content with my life and my body and excited for the future. Research shows that when you relax into a deep attachment to a mate, you have increased levels of oxytocin, the chemical in your brain that promotes bonding, maternal instincts, and arousal (oh hey!). This chemical will make you want to nest and bond with your loved one rather than follow-up your Pilates class with a 4 mile run.
This is why it’s the norm for waistlines to expand, mostly in women, after the honeymoon. I’m simply happy sitting at home with Ryan, building our home. I no longer feel the desire to turn my body into something unrealistic. I see thin girls and think that while it would be nice to know what it’s like to not have my thighs touch, I know that my body will never look like that.
But, there is a difference between unhealthy expectations and living a healthy lifestyle. I mentioned last week that I’ve been in a little bit of a funk. I’m also recovering from being sick and frankly I miss my almost daily “therapy” sessions at the gym. I’m ready to jump back in to my routine of being a warrior at the gym 4 days a week. I need to re-center and do what makes my mind healthy. I need to find healthier recipes to make at home.
Just like I had to learn in my early twenties, it is all about moderation. I have to learn to balance my happy nesting time with my “me” time. There is no doubt that this will lead to even more high levels of that “happy drug” Oxytocin. Let’s find out!
How do you balance living with a partner and maintaining a healthy lifestyle?