• Archives

  • Categories:

50 pounds

I’ve been overweight throughout my 30s. There were a lot of reasons for this, but it was mostly because I was comfortable and happy. I ate whatever I felt like, but I kept reasonably active, and when we lived in the city I regularly went out for a couple miles of running. I thought I was mostly healthy, but I did end up with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which I’m genetically disposed to. Still, I’m sure my diet didn’t help.

A lot changed when I had kids.

My first challenge was breastfeeding my first child. I was hungry all the time. After losing my pregnancy weight pretty quickly, I gained it right back within four months of his birth. I was also exhausted all the time, so exercise beyond short walks with the baby in his stroller were out of the question. I put on even more weight over the year I was breastfeeding him, and there was only two months between stopping breastfeeding and getting pregnant with my second child!

I found myself at 237 pounds at the beginning of my pregnancy, the heaviest I’ve ever been. At my high pregnancy weight in October 2020 was at 246. I wasn’t going to let this get to me though, I was having severe pelvic pain during this second pregnancy, and I figured I’d worry about my weight after I had the baby.

Then I developed gestational diabetes. I’ve written about this a few times, including soon after I was diagnosed. Ultimately I needed to take insulin to control my fasting glucose levels, but I was able to control my daytime levels with a drastic change in my diet, and exercise. For the rest of the pregnancy I adhered to a strict diabetic diet, and under doctor supervision I lost about 10 pounds during my third trimester and gave birth to a healthy baby!

During this time I also watched a couple older family members get diagnosed with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. This was a wake-up call. I suddenly had a family history of Type 2 diabetes, and with my own history of gestational diabetes I was already at high risk of developing it myself. After experiencing the diabetes diet during my pregnancy, along with glucose tracking and insulin injections, I knew it wasn’t a path I wanted to go down.

Upon my return from the hospital I was down to 228, and by April I was down to 187, 50 pounds from my high before I got pregnant!

For my own reference, here’s what I did.


This is my magic bullet, and unfortunately the one that’s impossible for most people to replicate, including me in the future. Popular wisdom says breastfeeding burns about 500 calories a day, which means if I lose weight by sticking to a 1200 calorie per day diet, while breastfeeding I can succeed at 1700 calories. I’ve always found 1200 to be impossibly restrictive, so weight loss has always been a miserable process. 1700 is not an easy target either, but it is possible.

My biggest challenge moving forward will be when I stop breastfeeding and lose this 500 calorie deficit bonus!

I did it during my maternity leave

Another troublesome one! Like breastfeeding, we’re not all going to be in a position of not working. I discovered that when I went back to working, this all became tricky again. I’m a stress eater, and I’ve effectively stopped losing weight since going back to work because I stopped trying so hard all the time, and I was happy with my progress.

Food tracking

I hate food tracking. Even the most comprehensive databases don’t have every possible food in them, and I’d get stuck on finding the perfect entry, get frustrated when I had to add something myself, and in general I found it to be stupidly tedious. But during my pregnancy it was necessary. I was working with a nutritionist who would review my food logs and help me with fixes if I was struggling with my levels.

How do I manage it?

1. The big one: Let go of tracking perfection. There’s an eggplant wrap that I love, but the food databases don’t have it and it’s sold by a local shop with no calorie information posted. Based on my knowledge of calories, I picked an eggplant sandwich from the database to log in place of it. It’s close enough. It’s fine.

2. Log as I go. At every meal, I’d log my food right then, so I wouldn’t find I had a backlog and forget. It took discipline, but it became a habit after a while.

After my pregnancy, I didn’t have to log anymore! But I’d actually gotten kind of used to it, and good at it, so I kept going. I didn’t have to review it with a nutritionist anymore, but it turns out that logging my food made me more mindful of what I was eating. I am less likely to have a snack if I have to pause and think about whether I’m really hungry, or just bored, and consider that I won’t meet my weight loss and health goals if I eat when I don’t need to.

All that said, I learned a lot with food tracking and stopped it in April. The key for me was both accountability (which I can do by myself now) and education. There’s one sandwich I’d regularly get that was over 1500 calories! For just one meal! Yikes! I now either avoid eating it entirely, or I cut it in half. And most importantly, I now mark it down as an indulgent meal, not just another lunchtime sandwich.

Becoming aware of sugar

It’s now cliche to blame “carbs” on the obesity epidemic, and even worse to call sugar deadly, but in my case, it was a problem. I unintentionally ate a tremendous amount of sugar and leaned into breads, pastas, and other carb-filled favorites. During the gestational diabetes episode, I was forced to look very closely at my sugar consumption, and it allowed me to discover just how much I was eating. A big realization? Breakfast cereal like Raisin Bran, which I had been eating as a “healthy” breakfast, very much was not, it’s full of sugar! I’ve cleared all breakfast cereal out of my diet now, and my breakfasts tend to be eggs and lean meat (usually turkey bacon), and a single cup of coffee with half and half.

Ditch the fast food sides

I still eat fast food, but I’ve changed up how I do it. I’ll order a single burger or chicken sandwich, no fries, no soda, no milkshake, just the sandwich. It turns out that the sides are just as full of calories as the sandwich or burger, and I’m perfectly satisfied just eating the sandwich. I still get my fast food fix, but I can stay within my calorie budget.

Daily weigh-ins

I got a FitBit scale so I have a fun new gadget! It automatically uploads the data, so I don’t even need to think about it. Weight fluctuates a few pounds every day, so being clued into trends is important. If I notice the graph starting to trend upwards, I take note and refocus to get control over my eating again.

Pushing past thought distortions

Most of us do this weird thing where we “give up on our diet today” if we eat something “bad” or over-do it for one meal. Obviously, calories don’t work like that and they don’t care about how you feel about the day. More calories is more calories, and you can indulge at lunch and then regain control with the next snack or meal. I don’t know why we’re like this, but I had to get over this silly behavior.


This is hard, but I had to remember my goal: I want to be healthy for my kids. I can’t do that if I’m eating unhealthy foods. This week I’ll order the salad, but next week maybe I’ll treat myself to that pizza I love, the shop isn’t closing, I can always get it later! I’ve also started adding salads to some meals like pizza so I’m not tempted to eat more pizza than I should. My parents did this growing up, too.

Eat dessert, moderately

Don’t touch my cake! Part of why I struggled with the diabetes diet while I was pregnant was because I really couldn’t have my beloved sugary treats. Life is really hard for me when I can’t enjoy my favorite foods, part of avoiding type 2 is so I can still enjoy things here and there without having to take insulin. So I just need to do it in moderation, and be very specific about what I enjoy. Is that cookie really worth it? It better be a good cookie. And I really don’t need a dessert with lunch, let’s save that for dinner tomorrow. Do I mess this up? Yep. But I also don’t give myself a guilt trip over it, I just do better next time.

The end! Or not?

I’ve been hovering around 185 for the past couple months. At this weight, I can fit into most of my old clothes, I’m back in the jeans size I wore for years, I’m pretty comfortable, and my doctors are happy. I would still like to hit my goal of 175, and getting back to 155 would be lovely, but it’s hard and I’ve had to focus on other things lately, like getting enough sleep while having an infant. However, my hope is that everything I’ve learned, and the habits I’ve changed, will stick. I am perfectly happy to continue maintaining this weight.

You will also notice that exercise is not on this list. For me, exercise is a part of a healthy lifestyle, not a key to weight loss. In fact, when I exercise, I eat more. So I have been exercising more for the general health benefits (mostly walks with the kids, and walk-runs on my own when I can make time), but it’s not part of how I’m losing weight, it’s kind of the opposite!

Ultimately this really is your standard calorie restriction diet. I’m no expert and I don’t expect this to help anyone else, especially since my circumstances are very specific, and my breastfeeding experience differed so much between my first child and second. I’ve mostly written this so I can refer back to it if I need to get back on track again. In case I need a reminder of how important food tracking and daily weigh-ins were. Also, to keep skipping those sodas and french fries.