Losing Weight While Having Kids

We’ve heard a lot from parents who have packed on some extra pounds after having kids. We were both determined not to fall into that trap, and not to let having kids be an excuse to not be healthy. And you know what? It’s worked! Let me go through a few of the things we’ve done to manage our much busier lives in a smarter, healthier way. Note: This certainly is not to say that losing weight is the only, or even the primary component to being healthy. It’s one of the things we needed to do for ourselves, but please consult your doctor before attempting any kind of methodical weight loss program.

One of the tools we use is the Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale. It automatically syncs weight and body fat percentage to the Fitbit app, so we can have a real-time record of our progress. Some people definitely don’t do well with daily weigh-ins, since weight can fluctuate in the short term, and those fluctuations can get discouraging. For both of us, though, there’s something very rewarding in looking at a graph charting our weight over the course of 3+ years and seeing a fairly steady decline (pregnancies excepted, of course, for both mom and dad). More than just keeping track of our weight, looking critically at this data helps us see patterns we might otherwise not be aware of. Does our weight tend to go up around a certain time of the week? A certain time of the year? What can we do to combat that?

Above is Tim’s weight for the last 4 years or so, with the birth of each child noted. It’s easy to see the weight gain during each pregnancy as well as the weight loss after each birth.

So how did we do it? We lost some weight after each child was born, but as you can see above, we really kicked into high gear over the last 8 months. The answer is 90% healthy diet, 10% exercise. When we say healthy diet, we mean four things:

1 Portion control
2 No added sugar
3 No dairy, with small exceptions
4 Tons of vegetables

Let’s take these one at a time. First, portion control. One way to eat healthy is just to eat less, as long as you’re still getting what your body needs, but it’s way easier than anybody realizes to just eat a whole lot of food in a sitting. We’ve been combating this by planning meals pretty rigorously, and by not keeping snacks around, especially at work. If you know you’re a person who can’t have a big barrel of hard pretzels from Target sitting on your desk without eating the whole thing in an embarrassingly short time, then maybe just don’t get the big barrel of hard pretzels from Target in the first place, to use a totally random example that’s not at all derived from real life.

Second, no added sugar. We’re not religious about this particular rule, but as a healthy guiding principle it’s served us well. A lot of stuff is really delicious without making it sweeter than it needs to be. One side effect of lowering the amount of sugar we put in stuff is that we tend to want less sugar in stuff. The habit of not eating so much sugar is affecting our tastes so that we don’t actually want as much sugar. There’s a part of us that’s a little sad that a donut doesn’t taste as good as it used to, but on the other hand, if that means we eat fewer donuts, then it’s a win.

Third, little to no dairy. When Vivi was little we thought she had a lactose intolerance, so we cut dairy out of our diets (it was easier to just not have it in the house at all, rather than just have one or two of us cut it out). We learned to take our coffee black. Once we found out that Vivi didn’t have lactose intolerance, we had gotten used to a scaled down reliance on dairy, and it’s helped us like crazy. There was a whole lot of less healthy fat we were getting through cream, butter, milk, and cheese, and which we generally don’t miss. We’ll still allow ourselves some indulgences now and then, like a small latte or some feta crumbles on a salad, but this is another one which, once we cut it out, we’ve been shocked by how little we’ve missed it. We eat mostly vegan now, and no longer relying on dairy has really opened us up to a lot of different techniques and ingredients that we never would have considered before.

Fourth, tons of vegetables. This one mostly speaks for itself, but I want to emphasize one thing: even if you think you don’t like some vegetables, give them another try. Cook them a different way. See if you can figure out a way to love them. We used to loathe broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts, until we discovered the heathy, life-changing magic of roasting. Now when one of those comes in our Hungry Harvest, we practically jump for joy. We could eat crispy brussels sprouts and cauliflower tacos all damn day.

There are a couple of other little things we do around the edges. We’re vegetarian, which we feel helps us, but isn’t necessarily for everybody. We still have eggs and fish occasionally, but by and large our diet is plant-based and mostly vegan. We try generally to stay away from gluten, not because there’s anything wrong with gluten for us, but because foods with gluten tend to be more calorie dense, so it’s a bit easier for us to have a blanket rule.

Is there anything you’ve done to successfully lose weight since having kids? Let us know!

The Stories We Tell

This article¬†from Eater is a really illuminating look at the ways that food culture tends to erase the credit and long history of the foods we eat and prize. We don’t want to summarize it too much, because we’d rather you go and read it. But it’s important to know that the shameful treatment of minorities in this country continues in ways both big and small, and we need to be mindful of how the stories we tell can erase their true authors.

This is a really important thing to keep in mind in parenting, both in how we talk to our kids about the world, and in how we talk to our kids about themselves and their accomplishments. Nobody gets by purely on their own initiative, and we can gain a deeper, richer understanding of the world by having a real understanding of the shoulders we had to stand on to get where we are.

Proper attribution doesn’t diminish what good we’ve put into the world. It honors others for helping make us able to do that good work. We needn’t fashion ourselves and our kids as solitary geniuses for our lives and our work to have value. Understanding our place in our society is as important as anything to raising compassionate, caring, kind children.

A Favorite Book

The news can be very scary even for us as adults, and we know that our kids hear some scary things on the radio or overhear us talking. We want to make sure that they understand what they hear and aren’t scared but can learn from what’s happening. We want to protect them, but we don’t want to shelter them.

What happened in Charlottesville over the weekend was terrible, and quite honestly terrifying for a number of reasons. The continuing existence and ascendance of white supremacy is a stain on our country, and one we can only attempt to wash away with love and acceptance and inclusion. It’s important for us to instill in our kids a sense of kindness and justice. As parents we worry about the world they’re growing up in, and we can’t help make it better by hiding it from them and them from it.

It can be hard to explain these concepts to adults, let alone to sweet little children who have never known anything but love. We’ve been reading a book recently to the kids Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester and Karen Barbour. We like that it talks about race in a way our children can understand. It addresses not only the meanness of racism, but how little it makes sense. Even Watson hears us explaining that some people think they’re better than other people because of the color of their skin and just shakes his head.

There’s only so much we can do, and someday our kids are going to go out in the world and make their own choices. Teaching them the value of other people of every race, religion, gender, and nationality is important to us because we hope to see them carry kindness, love, compassion, and justice with them out into the world.

Race

Our Parenting Philosophy

Before we even get going, I want to say this: our parenting philosophy is ours, and we don’t want to claim, explicitly or otherwise, that we’re doing it right and others are doing it wrong, or that doing things differently from how we do them is somehow less right. In fact, that’s a pretty good summation of one of the main points we try to keep in mind:

  • We’re all doing the best we know how to do.

It’s easier than it should be to get down on ourselves about snapping at the kids when they’re being tough and we’re having a rough day, but that happens to everybody, and dwelling on it doesn’t help anybody. Parenting is tough, and while we shouldn’t let that control our actions, we shouldn’t forget it either.

  • Kids changed our life, but we need to teach them how to be part of our lives, not just be subsumed into theirs.

Between visits to children’s museums, birthday parties, diaper changing, story times, etc., parenting can make it can seem like our lives barely exist anymore. But we do have lives, and wants, and desires, and it’s not wrong to want to exercise those. It’s not easy to do, but it’s important to assert our right to our own time and our own preferences. Too often we hear parents complaining about TV shows their kids like, but that they’re forced to endure. It’s struck us that we can make those decisions, and let the kids join us in what we like, as much as we let them develop their own tastes and try to share their enjoyment. Letting parenting get in the way of doing anything we enjoy seems like a recipe for resentment down the road.

  • It’s important to be kind.

Underlying everything, we try to stress at every turn that it’s important to be kind. Think about how other people feel, how you’d feel if they’d done to you what you did to them, etc. We live in a world where it’s not always easy to have empathy, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

  • Take our own advice.

Our kids are just doing the best they know how to do, and still trying to figure everything out. They also need to be allowed space to live their own lives, and to have us be open to being invited into those lives and interests. As parents we need to be kind and empathetic to them, and understand how they might be feeling, and meet them where they are, rather than where we’d like them to be.