I like birthdays less and less every year and 30 seems older and older the closer I get. I know 30 is supposed to be the new 20, but I'm just not ready to be that old! In much the same way I get stuck in November every year, refusing to come to terms with the fact that it is now
Anyway, instead of spending the rest of my twenties dreading getting older, I've decided to really work on becoming the best version of 30 I can be, at least physically. I'm going to try to lose 30 pounds by my 30th birthday next July. That would put me right in the middle of the healthy BMI range for my height. I haven't weighed so little since the peak of my physical condition as a high school varsity swimmer.
I've long been meaning to lose the extra pounds I've accumulated over the years. I had intended to do it before I got pregnant, so that growing a person and then losing that weight wouldn't be even harder than it already has to be. Last summer, it occurred to me that I should probably get started on this plan but didn't make a whole lot of progress before taking that positive pregnancy test. Now that I actually AM a mother, I think it's time to really make this happen.
I never had trouble with my weight as a child or teenager. Swimming (and youth) helped keep my metabolism nice and high. I never thought twice about what I ate, including the time I ate an entire box of Hostess Ho-Hos for lunch before a swim meet. As soon as I stopped swimming competitively, I started to notice the consequences of eating a 20pc chicken McNugget meal.
I went to off to college soon after I quit swimming and gained the obligatory freshman 15 (20?25?), thanks to the healthy dining options at SDSU. I lived and dined on campus for two years before spending a summer working outdoors at Disneyland selling popcorn, churros, cotton candy, and pretzels. Because I was on my feet all day there, sweltering in the pants I had to wear to cover my partially-removed tattoo, I dropped a good chunk of weight without even trying (I've never owned a scale, so I'll never really know where I started and ended up). When I say I didn't try, I mean exactly that. I ate WAY too many Big Macs and root beer floats that summer, and enjoyed subsidized soda, chicken tenders, and/or tuna melts during every shift at the various Cast Member restaurant locations in the park.
I returned for another semester in the dorms at SDSU and probably put some of those pounds back on before I left to study abroad in Paris for three months. Despite walking many miles and climbing many flights of stairs in "The City of Light," I ate many more croissants, crepes, cafe creme, and cheeses (and baguettes, and ice cream, and so on and so forth). I returned from Paris looking like I had enjoyed myself very much.
When I moved back to San Diego this time though, it wasn't to the dorms. A studio apartment just across the street from campus meant no more campus meal plan! In hindsight, I'm not sure I was better off. My unit was part of a questionably legal addition to a single family home. A screen door led from the living room of said home into a "sun room" which was to function as a kitchen for the four studio apartments behind the house, attached to the "kitchen" by a small foyer. Unfortunately, the landlord was a total a**hole and for most of the time I lived there, the "kitchen" was missing all the windows in the external wall that qualified it as a "sun room." The glorified patio was overrun with all manner of spiders, crickets and other pests that crawled or slithered up from the canyon we overlooked. Furthermore, instead of one appropriately-sized refrigerator, each studio had its own mini-fridge.
This awesome set-up (plus vermin) made food storage and preparation quite challenging. I ended up buying my own chest freezer (which I generously shared with the other studios) and limited my diet to easily frozen and microwaved meals - I called it the "poverty diet." While Hot Pockets, taquitos, hot dogs, and ice cream aren't the healthiest of foods, when you buy and eat them in the pathetic quantities a college student can afford, you're bound to lose weight. It worked like a charm!
As soon as that lease ended, I moved down the street to a 1-bedroom apartment with a proper landlord and property management situation. The kitchen had a black and white-tiled floor and my own apartment-sized appliances, including a real fridge with a freezer and a teeny, tiny oven. While my eating habits weren't completely improved, I was at least experimenting with fresher and healthier food items. I'm not sure I knew it then but looking back at the photos, by graduation I think I was the thinnest I'd been in at least 7 years.
Jon and I met during my last year of school. Two years after we met, we were married and living in a great 1-bedroom apartment in Burbank. We have fond memories of being broke that first year of marriage while I freelanced as a movie set lighting electrician, but we learned to manage our finances incredibly carefully. I'm still not sure how we managed to make three homemade meals a day on our $30 a week grocery budget. But we did, and I learned to cook, and slowly grew confident that some day I'd be able to feed a human child a more balanced diet than hot pockets, taquitos, root beer floats and Big Macs.
I started counting calories last spring and lost 10 lbs more easily than I ever had before, I intended to continue losing weight until I got pregnant. I gained most of that back during our Parisian vacation in the summer (damn those croissants) and then started suffering from morning sickness in the early fall. Morning sickness is a great diet for some, my solution to any malady is to find the perfect thing to eat. I gained more weight than my doctor would have liked (she admonished me at every check-up throughout the pregnancy) but I gained the exact same amount every week whether I counted calories or not. So I chose not and just kept eating like normal without worrying too much about it. Fortunately, breastfeeding has been the best diet I've ever tried and has already miraculously returned me to my pre-diet, pre-vacation, pre-pregnancy weight of last summer.
So here I am, 29 years old with a husband and a human child of my very own. In a matter of months, she and I will begin to experiment with home-cooked baby food. Then she will turn one and not long after that, I will turn 30.
In the last 10 years, and especially the last 5, I have learned to pay close attention to my body and how it responds to the food I feed it. I've learned to cook healthy and delicious food for two, that can someday feed a family. I've learned to plan meals and grocery shop weekly to make cooking easy and convenient, save money, and avoid unhealthy snacks and temptations. I've learned to auto-correct when my diet is too carb-heavy, or I'm not eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables. I've learned that I'm allergic, or at least sensitive to dairy proteins and that right now, so is my baby. I've learned that I CAN lose weight by counting calories. Now I'm going to put these puzzle pieces together for real and quit saying, "Someday..."
So 30, here I come. When I see you, I hope to be 30 pounds lighter. I hope you'll mistake me for that varsity athlete I used to be. We can celebrate with a cake - because, come on, I'll deserve it!