I love food. So do my siblings, probably because there wasn’t quite enough of it to go around when we were kids. Free Candy Night — i.e., Halloween — was my favorite holiday. I dreamed of being able to eat all the Little Debbie Snack Cakes I wanted.
Once I grew up and had money, though, I discovered that I could not, in fact, gorge on Little Debbie. Not if I wanted to fit into my work clothes. And if I wanted to fit into the skin-tight costumes for competitive dance? Hell, no.
Some people are blessed with the kind of metabolism that allows them to eat a lot, exercise moderately, and not gain weight.
These people are called men.
Yes, yes, I can hear Mr. Well Actually’s comment already: “It’s because men have more muscle mass. Maybe if you increased your muscle mass, you could eat more.”
Stifle, dude. The guys at my gym surreptitiously remove weights after I’ve done legs and triceps. It’s not that simple. Scientists regularly discover new facts about weight gain and obesity. It’s a complex issue, involving factors from epigenetics to gut bacteria to psychology.
Basically, my body is evolution’s answer to famine. I have a big, powerful peasant frame. It’s perfect for working in the fields, bearing a passel of kids, and tossing around millstones like Frisbees — all on very little food.
How do I know? In my twenties, my day involved a trip to the gym before work for weights. I went back to the gym at lunch to swim, and then back after work for the crosstrainer — unless I was on the dance floor practicing for 3-4 hours. My diet consisted of oatmeal, hardboiled eggs, canned chicken, a piece of pita bread, lettuce, tomatoes, an apple, and a protein bar. My big treat was a strawberry banana smoothie or a single piece of chocolate from See’s Candies.
The best thing about dance competitions was being able to eat pizza after spending 20 hours on the dance floor. Winning a plaque was nice, sure, but eating pizza? Divine.
Meanwhile, my partner and future husband complained that his pants were falling off him because he kept losing weight. “I even hit the all-night diner after practice and get a huge breakfast and pie,” he told me, “but I still can’t gain weight.”
Readers, I did not crush his instep with my Cuban heel. Applause, please.
When Andy and I gave up competitive dancing to get married and get a house, the pressure was off. We had an “all you can eat honeymoon” and had to wear sweatpants on the way home. My new husband was a great cook. Our married life was delicious. Despite trading in my dancing shoes for volleyball and dog-walking sneakers, I gained weight. But I didn’t mind. Not living on a restrictive diet was totally worth going up several sizes.
There were perks:
Women Friends at Parties: “Wah! I gained five pounds! Never eating again!”
Me: “Then the rest of these See’s Candies are mine, right?”
When I found out I was pregnant, I was all, “Whoo-hoo! Now I have an excuse to eat whatever I want and no one can side-eye me for taking all the chocolates!”
I was ready to pig out.
Until I started throwing up. I threw up a lot.
I lost weight.
Unlike one of my younger sisters, my vomiting wasn’t severe enough to be classified as hyperemesis gravidarum. (Little Sis had to go on the very serious anti-nausea meds chemotherapy patients get.) Most days, though, I was throwing up or felt like throwing up. Just brushing my teeth made me puke. I’d had one filling in my teeth before I got pregnant; I had five fillings after being pregnant.
My OB wasn’t too concerned about my initial weight loss. “As long as the baby keeps gaining weight,” she told me, “it’s okay if you lose some.”
My older sister, Judgmental Genius Doctor, concurred. “Oh, don’t worry, ideally you should gain thirty pounds or less while pregnant.”
“Yeah, but the first trimester is ending and I’ve only lost weight.”
“It’s fine, you were practically obese anyway, it’s good for you.”
“You know, if you weren’t three thousand miles away I would puke on you for that.”
The second trimester wasn’t any better. Andy prepared scrumptious meals, most of them with the meats he loved. When I fled the table, gagging over brie-stuffed steak, he sulked for an entire day. Andy eventually forgave me and made pulled pork. I threw up for an entire day.
He quit cooking. Instead, he’d call on his way home from work and ask, “What can you eat today?”
Sometimes I’d ask for a muffin. One day he brought me a bean and cheese burrito. I ate the whole thing and didn’t feel awful. I spent the next two months living on bean and cheese burritos.
Dr. Sis checked in at about six months. “Feel any better?”
“No! I got a cold and now the postnasal drip mucus is making me gag, which is making me puke, and I can’t take any good meds because it will hurt the baby and I can’t even brush my damned teeth,” I blubbered.
She advised me to try a nasal spray like Afrin, then asked, “How’s your weight?”
“Lost another two pounds, which is making the OB a little nervous.”
“Oh, you’re still fine. You really only need to gain twenty pounds or so.”
“Last time you said it was thirty!”
“I said ‘thirty pounds or less.’ Twenty is fine.”
“How much did you gain when you had your daughter?”
“Oops, pager, gotta go!”
When I was seven months pregnant, Andy and I drove to Utah and surprised my father for his birthday. Current Stepmother made reservations for the one fancy restaurant in town.
Andy expressed reservations about those reservations. “You sure? Autumn’s stomach might not be able to handle it.”
“It’s fine,” I insisted. “I feel better.”
And I was better. For the first time, food smells made me want to eat instead of gag. Andy eyed me askance when I ordered filet mignon, but I ate the whole thing.
For dessert, I ordered and demolished a slice of cheesecake. Then I stared pointedly at Andy’s bread pudding until he offered me a bite. I ate the rest of it.
Current Stepmom couldn’t finish her strawberry shortcake. I ate it for her.
Dad left a considerable chunk of chocolate soufflé on his plate. I ate that also.
“The Night Autumn Ate Everyone’s Dessert” was a marvelous turning point in my pregnancy. I stopped puking (mostly) and was able to enjoy food again.
I finally began gaining weight. A lot of it.
Dr. Sis was horrified the next time we talked. “How can you gain thirty pounds that fast?”
“I don’t feel like shit?”
“Yeah, but that’s so much! Really, you should only gain about ten pounds while pregnant.”
“Good grief, woman! Stop moving the goalposts! First you said thirty, then you said twenty, and now I’m only supposed to gain TEN pounds?! Leave obstetrics to the specialists and go back to curing cancer already.” I nearly hung up, but then remembered a story Brilliant Blonde Lawyer Sister had told me. I said, “Besides, weren’t you the one who got so big during your own pregnancy that your gigantic Georgia boy husband made jokes about how he couldn’t even get his arms around you anymore?” (Unlike me, Dr. Sis is quite petite.)
The silence lasted a good five seconds before she grudgingly admitted, “Something like that. But it was only because we were separated while I finished my residency and he hadn’t seen me in months–”
“How much weight did you gain?”
“It’s only because I had to keep eating so I wouldn’t throw up or pass out during surgeries and they had these free Dove ice-cream bars at the hospital and then I got put on bedrest–”
I interrupted again: “How much?!”
Dr. Sis sighed and said, “I stopped counting after seventy-five pounds.”
“Yeah. So learn from me, okay?”
“Absolutely,” I assured her. “I’m already on it and texting Andy.”
“You’re telling Andy how much weight I gained?!”
“Nah, I’m texting him to pick up some of those Dove bars on the way home.
They sound awesome.”