When I was in my 20s, I was a Weight Watchers Leader. Yes, really. Being a Leader meant I ran easel-style meetings all over New York City in florescent-lit building basements, high-rise corporate offices and in people’s homes, teaching members tricks and tools for losing weight and keeping it off.
As a member who had successfully just lost 25 pounds (!!), I had the opportunity to be a meeting room receptionist, weighing in other members, and then, a Leader. Most Leaders were middle-aged women who had lost 50-100 pounds. I showed up to my meetings with my straight brown hair blown dry in a bob, wearing a Theory pantsuit (size 2!!!) and heels, and tried to help women who, like me, struggled with their weight. I mean honestly, when I look back at myself then, all worried about 0.8 of a pound, my stomach flat, I could punch myself in the face.
Look how tiny I was! I can't even remember feeling so small...
Tons of moms used to come to our Upper West Side location. There was a constant parade of yoga-pant-wearing stroller-pushers, lamenting how hard it all was.
“There’s always so much tempting food at kids’ birthday parties!”
“I snack on their meals and never eat my own!”
“I don’t have time to cook or plan healthy meals!”
“Come on, you can do it!” I urged them, not truly understanding. “Plan ahead! Make weekly menus. Log what you eat. Just don’t eat at birthday parties — save it for later. Who needs cake at 4 pm anyway?”
I’d give my little spiel about how easy weight loss could be (“I mean, look at me!”) and they’d just stare back at me with a mix of disgust and exhaustion. And never come back.
At that time — newly married, out of grad school, about to try to have children — losing weight was something that felt firmly in my control. My environment was calm, quiet and controllable, so I could focus on losing the pounds that had crept up on me, working out daily, cooking nightly.
Fast forward to now: 15 years and four kids later. I don’t think those suits would even fit over my left leg. I weigh more today than I did in my “before” pictures when I joined Weight Watchers.
What I really want to do is apologize to those Upper West Side moms for being so completely naive.
I get it now.
It’s friggin’ impossible.
I’m so sorry!
What I didn’t understand then was that eating cake at kids’ birthday parties would sometimes be the highlight of my day. A victory was actually when I didn’t also eat my son’s cake and the kid’s next to him when no one was watching.
Meal planning? Yeah, right. It’s all I can do to not feed the kids the same thing every evening. I never want to see a taco again. And dinner happens every night! I can’t cross it off the list! Plan my own meals, too? Puh-lease.
I tried recently to do Weight Watchers Online but every time I went to track my food on the app, I’d get distracted and end up dealing with one of my 86,000 kid-related emails. Plus I couldn’t even remember what I’d had for breakfast. Did I have breakfast?
My environment now is the opposite of what it was. It’s noisy with four kids, people, family and friends going in and out all day. It’s fast-paced and hectic. Someone’s crisis always needs dealing with. Someone’s usually yelling to someone else about something. Something needs finding. I’m constantly sleep-deprived (a huge cause of over-eating). But, like many moms, I don’t see a really clear path to changing any of it other than time simply passing.
But now even my larger size clothes are getting tight. I stand in the kitchen after bedtime, pantry cabinet door open, mindlessly eating (hand into animal cracker bag, food into mouth, repeat) to just decompress from the day. To have something just for me, the moment, the time, the treat. I want to lose weight, but I can’t bear to give that time up too. And I’m not replacing it with something unrealistic that experts recommend, like a soothing bath. You think I want to deal with another bath and confront my naked body after getting four kids bathed and Paw Patrol toys scattered everywhere? No. I want a hit of sugar. Pure white. Now. Bring it.
As moms, we care for everyone else all day. And all night. There’s no “time off,” really. There’s no space to just relax and get our needs met, no laying on the couch watching “Gossip Girl” and “24” nibbling on four cups of carefully measured microwave popcorn.
But what I’ve realized is that unless I find a way to do a tiny bit more for myself, I won’t be as a good a mom. I’ll waste my most precious commodity of mental headspace worrying about my weight when I need to be focused on, say, not sending my daughter to baseball on the wrong day or figuring out which kid still needs a flu shot. I need to find time, somehow, to work out, even for a few minutes, and eat maybe a little bit healthier just until my clothes all fit nicely enough so I can stop thinking about it.
If I could go back to that Weight Watchers meeting, I’d tell those moms: it’s okay. It won’t always be this hard. You’ll eventually have time again when you’re in control, when you can work out and eat right. For now, just get through it. Enjoy the time with your kids when you can. Celebrate that your body produced your children. Buy clothes a few sizes bigger than what you want and don’t freak out about it. Eat cake at birthday parties. And don’t beat yourself up. We all need a little something. We deserve it. And when you’re ready to lose weight, you know how to do it. And if not, I’m here to help you.
After all, the most important point is to raise and love our little ones.
But tonight, maybe two cookies instead of twelve.