Sunday, August 17, 2008

Infertility, loss & weight

Back from vacation, to a pile of unread e-mails & blog posts! I did manage to read & comment on a few blogs while away (and finish "Eat Pray Love" for the book club next week), but there's lots to catch up on!

Until I do, here is a pre-vacation post from my drafts folder that I finally managed to finish up this morning. I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

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Dh loves to watch diet/fitness makeover shows, like "X-Weighted" (on the "Slice" network in Canada). What happens on these shows is they take initial weights & measurements, run the person(s) through a fitness test, inspect their refrigerator & cupboards, & then start them on a diet and fitness regime. Often, there are psychological issues that need to be tackled as well. Three to six months later, they run the subject(s) through the same fitness test, weigh and measure them again, to see what progress they've made toward their goals, and give them a makeover.

The Globe & Mail's Kate Taylor, recently wrote an article about diet shows on TV. And there was a paragraph that struck me:

"One recurring theme on the shows is recent bereavement: On Stuck, Mary is grieving the death of her brother just like Tammy on X-Weighted, while the recently divorced Margaret and her daughter lost their son and brother when he interrupted a break-in at their house. These women don't need tae kwon do; they need therapy. When Tammy, now suffering from the added blow of her grandmother's death, finally calls in a grief counsellor on tonight's episode of X-Weighted, I could have cheered."

I was never "fat" growing up -- although of course I moaned over my weight all the time (silly girl!!). I'm not sure whether I gained the traditional freshman 15 when I was in school, but I did gain weight over my university years, and then more after my marriage. When I turned 30 in January 1991, I was a good 30 lbs over my pre-marriage weight. I looked at the photos of me with my birthday cake & realized there was nothing I could do about growing older, but I could do something about the way I looked.

So I joined Weight Watchers, and by October, I had lost over 30 lbs, reached my goal weight and become a lifetime member. (WITHOUT doing much in the way of exercise.) I was a size 10, and even got into a size 8 Gap denim mini-skirt for one brief shining moment.

I managed to keep the weight off for several years before it slowly began creeping back on. By the time I got pregnant in early 1998, I was almost 20 lbs over my goal weight. I gained another 15 or so during my pregnancy. After my daughter was stillborn, the weight eventually shifted and I lost that "pregnant" look, but it did not come off, & I actually gained several more pounds. I went back to Weight Watchers, knowing that any weight I lost would only help my efforts to conceive again... but my heart just wasn't in it.

In January 2007, I got on the scale & realized I was at my heaviest weight ever. Even my size 16 pants were getting tight on me. Back to Weight Watchers I went. I did manage to lose almost 15 pounds (& get back into size 14s) by the end of that summer by attending meetings & keeping my food journal, eating better and doing lots of walking. About half of it crept on again during the winter (when I'm under more stress and find it harder to walk regularly) -- but I'm almost back to where I was last summer now, & hoping to lose another 7 or so to reach my WW initial 10% goal before winter hits again. Needless to say, developing high blood pressure over the past year and being put on medication recently has been a real wake up call & motivator!

I don't think I'll ever be my original WW goal weight again (which would mean losing at least 40 lbs more)... but getting back within the goal range for my height (which works out to a healthy BMI) is certainly do-able. It would mean losing about another 25 lbs. It's easy to brush these things off when you're younger & feel invincible -- but it's true -- it really does become more difficult to lose the weight when you get older & your metabolism slows down. And you really do start to see the impact the extra weight has on your health, never mind the way you look.

Perhaps, too (after 10 years!), I'm finally starting to gain some emotional distance from my pregnancy. I remember another bereaved mom once writing on a board or e-mail list I was on that she thought her inability to lose weight was her body's subconscious way of trying to hold on to the physical memory of pregnancy. I thought there might be some truth in that.

What do you think? Have you found weight to be a struggle since infertility &/or loss became part of your life?


  1. Welcome back!!

    Yes, I would definitely say that I started to engage in emotional eating for the first time in my life. And during the months following a failed cycle, my inability to motivate myself to move at all has definitely taken its toll on my body. This year, I began to look my age for the first time.

    A year after stopping TTC, I am finally able to exercise again. My plan is to get into excellent shape. I suppose that it represents to me a commitment to my life as it is and will be. And to find any enjoyment in my life, I need to be fit. And I need to look in the mirror and like what I see, rather than feel a tinge of disgust when I see the roll of belly flab I injected all those meds into.

    And I hope that I will benefit from the fact that regular exercise elevates one's mood - I do find some happiness on the elliptical trainer!

  2. This is a wonderful post, Loribeth. I don't struggle with my weight, but if I hadn't modified my diet significantly over two years ago, I might now be at my heaviest ever. There is so much going on with these issues, though - the external voices telling us how much we should weigh at different times in our lives (as women, pregnant, post-pregnant, etc.), our own ideas about how our bodies should look and feel, our family history, our health, our sexuality, our emotional connection to food, and on and on. It's such a complicated thing that is different for everyone, and it's made harder when we're dealing with the intense emotions of infertility.

    You're right about those TV shows, though. The few I've seen don't really seem to address the emotional or psychological issues, and certainly not the political/social ideas around weight. I wonder how many of the people who participate in those shows actually keep the weight off or change their lifestyle significantly after going through the process of the show - I know for me, when I had to change my diet, there were huge emotional issues that I had to deal with, and am still dealing with. If I didn't have proper support for the grief and loss I felt over my situation, I probably wouldn't have been able to sustain the changes I've made.

    Anyway, very interesting post and I hope to pop back and check on the discussion, cause there's really a lot to discuss! Glad you're home and hope you had a good time.

  3. Absolutely. I managed to get into my pre-pregnancy clothes after losing C, but those clothes were post miscarriage where I was already over my "normal" weight. I've struggled with losing about 10 lbs (15 lbs even) ever since the stillbirth and I feel even more desperate to lose it now, after this latest miscarriage. My heart is just not in it. I lack the motivatation or drive. My age isn't helping much either, but I don't want to use that as a crutch.

    I don't know what the future holds for me. Another baby? More loss? I do know that trying to gain back control of my life has recently focused on losing weight. Being successful in this vein means so much to me and nothing to me all at the same time.

  4. Right after the stillbirth, I dropped weight like it was going out of style. We went to the gym regularly. Then I started to break out of the haze and feel emotionally alive again (some days) and I couldn't lose weight. I stopped going to the gym regularly. I can't pull my shit together. Maybe that quote is right. But that, along with the conventional grief, is shortening my life. I wish I could get motivated enough *everyday* to do something about it.

    Welcome back :)

  5. Oooooooh, loaded question Lori!

    I completely eat my feelings - literally, eat them. Happy, sad, bereft, angry - all the same. I like food and when things are going/feeling crappy - I crave something good, something rich, something indulgent in an attempt to "feel better". Only, I usually don't feel better and then I start hating myself for being "generously sized."

    As you say - age makes it tougher. It also irritates the you know what out of me that my dh can lose 20 lbs by giving up ice cream after 7pm and I have given up ice cream since 32 and I am larger than ever . . . SOOOoooooo not fair!

    My other obstacle is the fact that I think exercise should be fun or why bother? All day workouts every day are not only NOT fun, but also cause my middle aged body to protest - loudly! I did start walking again at the begin of the summer - waiting for, looking forward to the benefits. Well - I lost weight, all in my bra and I never felt energized or happier. UGH. That makes it tougher to want to continue - that and the ankle that turned out to be broken after all from my car accident last December.

    The very biggest thing that is aggravating the most is - to lose any significant weight, I am going to have to deny myself(or give up eating entirely) - variety, quantity, etc and after so many years of disappointment and denial of my dreams, that is not something I am going to willingly do without a lot of mental work first.

  6. This post is very interesting to me, Loribeth. I started baby girls A pregnancy at exactly the weight I was at M's birth. I lost A's pregnancy weight, but not M's, which has now been on me for 2 and half years and is about 30 lbs where I should be. Even though I am fairly unhappy with the weight, I have not been able to make myself buckle down and do anything about it. In fact, I still refer to my extra weight as "M's pregnancy weight". I never really examined my "emotional connection" to my weight in regards to M. But I guess it is there, isn't it?

  7. "What do you think? Have you found weight to be a struggle since infertility &/or loss became part of your life?"

    Yes, yes, yes. I am currently 20 pounds heavier than before IF became a part of my life. True that some said I was too thin back then (108# and I'm 5'3") but 20 pounds is nothing to sneeze at. I think the weight started to come on in effort to be at the perfect weight for conception -- to "put a little meat on my bones". But now? Well, now I'm just stuffing my face in hopes the food will "fill me up" in both the physical and emotional ways. There have also been times when I stopped my exercise routine in effort to allow my body the rest in hopes of conceiving ... so more weight went on.

    I've yo-yo-ed up and down from 110 to 135 over the past five years. One of my goals now that I have my answer and know that pregnancy isn't going to happen for us is to get about 10 pounds off me and keep it off. I no longer feel the need to be super thin and fit looking, but fitting into my clothes again sounds pretty nice. :)

  8. I absolutely relate my weight woes with infertility. It all started with the crazy hormones, and then adding more.

    I have thought of WW. I will have to look at it closer.

  9. Yes, it does influence it--but differently. I eat very very poorly when I'm upset, bad nutrition all around, OR I starve myself.

    As in, some people start to get worried about me because I get so skinny. So skinny in fact that I can get sick and weak.

    I'm trying to change that now, maybe get some muscles back but who knows?

    I do know that food and emotions go hand in hand.

  10. Thanks Loribeth. Food for thought. (No pun intended). I have always been somewhat on the overweight side myself but, thanks to WW have lost it (and gained most back). I struggle with committing to ww but must say my darkest days were when I was in the thick of fertility treatments and since deciding to stop. I have lost all motivation even though, as I get older, the reasons to lose are more and more compelling. I have about 25 lbs to get to a healthy weight also. But they cling on like my hope for a child.

    I kind of see purging this weight as part of the process of being the woman I try to envision -- post trying to get pregant and trying to create another vision for myself/ourselves. I don't know if that's giving myself more to deal with than I need to but it kind of makes sense to me. Right now.


  11. Just catching up on posts and felt compelled to comment on this one. The best size I've ever had has been a size 10 with occasionally a size 8 pants thrown in there. I too gained weight when I met my husband - cooking meat and potatoes catches up on you. Then after years of TTC and heartache, I had gained almost 35 more pounds. I basically ate my way through grief. And hopelessness. And rage. I ate to keep away the pain that threatened to envelop me. And when I realized that my marriage was in trouble, I finally got motivated to join Weight Watchers and lost weight. Cause I realized that at the end of the day all I had was me and I wanted to feel healthy and young rejuvenated again. I wanted my old carefree life back. The one without tragedy and disappointment and heartache. And now suddenly I have become "visible" again.