At the beginning of the summer, I set the goal to lose the last 10 pounds of baby weight. Bethany was over a year old. My “it took nine months to put it on, give yourself nine months to take it off” mantra had long since expired. It was time.

About the first of August I did a progress check. On the positive side, I had achieved the goal of doing something about the weight. On the negative side, the something was adding three more pounds. As I commiserated with other post-partum friends on the agony of trying to simply get the weight off, I gained sympathy for my plight, picked up a few tips, and renewed my dedication to the goal. Since then, I have achieved some progress in the right direction. (Don’t ask how much — it’s not polite.) Here’s what I learned.

Do away with bite-sized snacks

It’s not the meals that kill you; it’s the food you don’t remember eating. The graham sticks, the fish shaped crackers, the three bites left on a child’s plate. Nursing can save us on some of these calories — after all, it uses an extra 800 calories per day. Yet, repeatedly looking down to see an empty plate that moments before held four animal crackers and realize I must have eaten them can add up to a lot of calories that don’t make it into the daily accounting. My only hope was to eliminate such snacks from the house. Somehow the children have survived, and I have a better idea of what I’m actually eating.

Eat regular, nutritious meals

Conversely, it has also helped to eat actual meals. With people going in all directions, it’s easy to make meals for the children as they need to eat, yet not find the time to sit down and eat myself. Then, to stave off hunger, I grab a handful of something quick — which usually means something caloric and low in nutritional value. Forcing myself to eat meals keeps me from justifying the five-cookie-snack because I skipped lunch.

Change exercise routine

Running 5 miles a day didn’t seem to be doing a thing for the number on the scale. I shifted to aerobics and began to see the weight go down. Running helps me stay in shape but not lose weight. It seems our bodies get used to certain exercises and that some exercises are better than others for weight loss. Exercise provides many more benefits than just losing weight. So, if you know the only exercise you can manage is the exercise you are doing — just stick with that. But, if you are trying to lose weight through your regular exercises and it doesn’t seem to be working, you might try shifting to another routine.

Remember that there are more important goals

Though feeling healthy and enjoying one’s clothes fitting again are goals many moms share, there are things that matter more. Enjoying each stage of our children’s development, having an intimate relationship with our husbands, and nurturing close friendships are all much more fulfilling. And, these are all things that can be overshadowed or missed completely if we are obsessed on how disappointed we are with our weight.

And we can be thin for all the wrong reasons. After the loss of one of our babies, I became very thin simply because I had no interest in life, much less eating. While wanting to be in shape is a healthy goal, it’s not the most important. We want to feel good so we can fully enjoy being with the people we love. We can still enjoy being with them, and probably enjoy it even more, if we don’t obsess over the lesser matters.

As summer comes to a close, I still want to get into those last few pre-baby outfits. So I’ll head to the living room for my exercises. Then, I’ll grab some cuddle time with the children — and probably a cookie.

Tess is the mother of eight and teaches parenting and marriage. E-mail her at tess@family-matters. us.

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