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Getting It Just Right

I thought I had a textbook-perfect pregnancy -- I only gained 20 pounds, taught aerobics and worked out until the day before I delivered my daughter. Almost immediately after delivery, I began suffering from depression. I had no desire to take care of my newborn child, eat or get out of bed.

My mother-in-law moved in to take care of my baby, and I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, for which my doctor prescribed antidepressants. The medication didn't help me control my depression; instead, I felt like the only thing I could control in my new life was my weight. At one month postpartum, I returned to my daily workout schedule, which consisted of teaching three aerobics classes; 30 minutes each of running, biking and stair climbing; 60 minutes of walking; and 30 minutes of calisthenics. I allowed myself less than 1,000 calories a day in the form of fruit, yogurt, energy bars, tea and juice. By following this strict regimen, I tried to burn as many calories as I ate.

When I went to my doctor for a checkup two months later, I was shocked (even though I met all the diagnostic criteria) when I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. I was 20 percent below my ideal body weight, my periods had stopped and I was terrified of becoming fat, even though I was emaciated. But I wasn't ready to face the fact that I had an eating disorder.

When my daughter was 9 months old, I reached my lowest weight of 83 pounds and was admitted to the hospital for dehydration. I hit rock bottom and finally realized the damage I was doing to my body. I immediately started an outpatient treatment program.

With the help of group and individual therapy, I started healing from my eating disorder. I went to a dietitian who designed a nutrition plan that I could follow. Instead of focusing on calories, I focused on getting the vitamins and nutrients my body needed. I gained weight in 5-pound increments, and when I became used to being 5 pounds heavier, I added another 5 pounds.

I cut down my aerobic activity to one class a day and started strength training in order to build muscle. At first, I could barely lift a 3-pound dumbbell because my body had used its muscle as fuel. After working at it, I began to form muscle in places where I was skin and bone. In seven months, I gained 30 pounds, and my depression began to lift.

I remained healthy for two years until I had problems with birth-control hormones. I gained 25 pounds and suffered from severe mood swings. My doctor immediately took me off the hormones, and we explored other methods of birth control. Over the next year, I ate healthfully and added more cardio to my routine until I reached 120 pounds. Now that I've been through both sides of the weight spectrum, I've learned the importance of doing both in moderation: exercise and eating.

Workout Schedule
Aerobics instruction: 60 minutes/5 times a week
Walking or biking: 20 minutes/3 times a week
Weight training: 30 minutes/3 times a week
Stretching: 15 minutes/5 times a week

Maintenance Tips
1. Health and happiness are much more important than thinness or a number on the scale
2. All foods can be a part of a healthy diet. Moderation and variety are the keys.
3. Keep a food journal so you know how much you are (or aren't) eating.

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