pregnancy

How I Returned to My Pre-Pregnancy Weight

Not once in my 27 years of existence have I ever set foot inside a gym. I’ve never been decent at any sport, and I barely passed my physical education classes. Needless to say, every time I needed to lose some pounds, I did it purely through adjustments in my diet.

This placed me in quite a pickle after giving birth. I wanted to lose weight fast, but I also wanted to breastfeed exclusively, which meant that I couldn’t go on a diet while my baby was entirely dependent on my milk. Going on a diet could result in lower milk supply, a risk I did not want to take. And so I decided to take it slow and not go on any drastic diet for weight loss. To my pleasant surprise, despite eating normally, I lost weight steadily, and by the time Wolf turned six months, I was back to my weight before getting pregnant. How did it happen? What sorcery took place? Looking back, I can say that the weight did seem to magically melt away, but it wasn’t actually an unexplainable phenomenon. It wasn’t magic; even better, it was science!

A combination of factors, which I shall discuss below, led to my successful weight loss. If you desire to lose baby weight without exercising, here are some tips for you.

  1. Breastfeed exclusively. This is the most important tip I can give. Breastfeeding exclusively burns up to 500 calories per day (equivalent to around two hours of brisk walking), and is therefore a very effective workout for your body. Honestly, caring for a newborn uses up so much time and energy that I don’t think trips to the gym would have been feasible, even if I were so inclined. Enter breastfeeding! Ta-da! Moms CAN have it all — “all” being bonding time with their babies alongside a fabulous weight loss program. Breastfeeding is actually nature’s wonderful solution to helping moms get back in shape. Not only does it burn tons of calories, but it also speeds up the shrinking of your uterus. Hello again, flat tummy!
  2. Eat normally. Think of how you ate before you got pregnant and try to eat similarly. Of course, this is much easier said than done, because breastfeeding makes moms hungry round the clock! What I did was I made sure that my meals were healthy and full of veggies. I limited my rice intake to one cup per meal, but I ate huge servings of vegetables and protein. I also did not deprive myself of sweets, but I ate these in moderation (average of one serving per day). So the key is balance. I would think of my meals by the day (for example, I’d eat a light lunch if I knew we’d be eating out for dinner, or if I’d eaten a heavy lunch, I’d hold off dessert after dinner).
  3. Drink a lot of water. Breastfeeding makes moms extremely thirsty all the time. It’s very important to stay hydrated throughout the day. I would make it a point to drink a lot of water before meals, to ensure that I don’t mistake my thirst for hunger.
  4. Avoid junk food. Being constantly hungry, it’s very tempting to munch on chips or crackers in between meals. However, food low in nutrition and good fat will seriously derail you from losing weight. Go for natural, whole food like fruits and nuts. When I felt like snacking, my default food would be pistachios.
  5. Weigh yourself regularly. I weighed myself every morning, because I enjoyed seeing the number steadily decrease. I also was better able to keep myself in check, bouncing back quickly from cheat days when I saw no improvement in my weight the next day.
  6. Be slow but sure. Remember that it took nine months to gain all that weight, and so losing it in a healthy manner should take around the same time. Don’t rush, because the goal is not to lose weight fast (this isn’t healthy, and more often than not, the pounds will come back with a vengeance). The goal is to lose the pounds for good, which is best done through lifestyle changes that are sustainable.

Before getting pregnant, I was 110 lbs. My heaviest weigh in during my third trimester was 132. After giving birth, I weighed 119. By Wolf’s sixth month, I was back to 110, which is an average weight loss of 1.5 lbs per month.

Eight months pregnant:

pregnant woman eight months

Two weeks after giving birth:

mom with newborn baby

9 months after giving birth:

mom with baby 9 months old

Wolf is almost 11 months old now, and I’m still breastfeeding him. Despite eating whatever I want, I’m continuing to shed weight! And when I say whatever, I really mean whatever! Last week, I had my favorite Malted Milk ice cream. The other night, I had a giant cookie. Yesterday, I had a cinnamon roll. Despite all this indulgence, I’m now 105 lbs, which is just around the corner from my weight during my wedding. Ahhh, breastfeeding is just awesome. ❤️

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Musings, Parenting

December Baby Birthday Blues

Wolf is turning one on December 27 this year. Every time people find out his birth date, they smile and comment how unlucky he is, because he’ll get only one gift for his birthday and Christmas. I would always smile along, but deep inside, I’d feel bad for my baby. It’s not his fault that his parents lacked foresight when they decided to do away with contraception! Haha.

frowning baby with mom

I imagined what his birthday would be like every year, squeezed in amid all the Christmas festivities, like a little footnote to the grandness of the Yuletide season. I imagined him at seven, wanting a big party like all his classmates, while I would fret over how to break it to him that his friends would be out of town on his special day. I imagined him opening his joint birthday and Christmas presents alongside his cousins, his face falling because even if it were his birthday, all the other kids had lots of presents too.

We originally did not plan on celebrating his first birthday with a party. We were going to have a simple family vacation a stone’s throw away from the metro, just the three of us. But then I realized, this year might be the first and last chance for us to plan a birthday party for him. I don’t want to have a huge party every year, because it’s just not practical. After the first birthday, the next big birthday is the seventh, but a party on Wolf’s seventh may not be in the cards. As I mentioned above, I imagined the heartbreak he’d feel at not being able to have his friends at the party, thus making the possibility of a seventh birthday bash very slim. As for the birthdays that follow, people unfortunately tend to become even busier as they get older. His chances of partying on his birthday seem quite bleak indeed.

tearful baby with dad

And so we decided that we should have a party for his first birthday, at the very least. As I began inviting people, sure enough, several regretfully told me that they’d be out of town. This early in Wolf’s life, it’s no big deal. He’s not yet aware. But later on, he will be. And that’s why we’re jumping at the chance to celebrate now that he’s still too little to feel rejected.

When he’s much older and more emotionally mature, he will laugh along with his friends when they joke about the inconvenience of his birthday. He will gladly accept that the Christmas spread will inevitably double as his birthday feast. Perhaps he will even jovially invite everyone to partake of the “birthday treat” he prepared. But as a child, he will not be able to help himself from feeling the sting of sharing the gift-opening spotlight with everyone else.

Casey and I will try our best to help Wolf still feel special on his birthday by making it distinct from Christmas, especially when it comes to opening gifts. Wolf will have two piles of gifts to unwrap — his Christmas gifts and his birthday gifts. We have pledged to each other that we will always make an effort to get Wolf two gifts every year. I think that no matter how nice the gift is, reading “Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday!” on one card will make any kid feel down. I would like to appeal to our immediate family and closest friends to try and do the same. If you will get Wolf a Christmas gift, please get him a birthday gift as well. Getting two gifts doesn’t mean spending more. Wolf is a very happy, easy-to-please child who busies himself with the simplest of items. Don’t trouble yourselves with getting fancy toys or gadgets. The gifts don’t need to be extraordinary. They don’t need to be expensive. They just need, ideally, to be two.

happy baby with mom

Travel

Budget Travel: Ten Ways to Spend Less When in Japan

Japan is known to be an expensive country, but there are ways for tourists to stretch their cash when visiting the Land of the Rising Sun. Casey, Wolf, and I visited Japan last month for ten days, and we enjoyed our trip immensely. Based on our experience, here are some tips I’ve come up with to help fellow travelers experience Japan on a budget.

  1. Score airplane tickets in advance at a seat sale. Traveling has been made affordable by the rise of budget airlines that frequently have seat sales. Keep an eye out for the sales, which from Manila to Japan can go as low as P4,000 one way!
  2. Stay at an Airbnb. Hotels in Japan tend to have small rooms and are also quite expensive compared to the rooms you can rent via Airbnb. I was able to get nice apartments for us in Osaka and Tokyo for less than P2000 per night. airbnb in Osaka JapanAirbnb in Osaka JapanAirbnb in Tokyo Japan
  3. Purchase unlimited train passes. Japan offers unlimited transportation passes to tourists who wish to explore the country. Many of the passes even come with discounts or free entry to numerous tourist attractions. You can purchase passes online at Klook.
  4. Buy any additional clothes you may need when already in Japan and not before your trip. If you will visit during autumn or winter, you will need cold weather clothes, which are expensive here in the Philippines. It’s cheaper to buy once you’re in Japan and wash them at your apartment (many Airbnbs have washing machines). You can visit second hand clothing stores, or you can go to GU, which is a budget clothing chain under the same group as Uniqlo.
  5. Cook breakfast instead of eating out. Many Airbnbs are equipped with basic cooking needs. You can buy groceries from the nearest supermarket and have breakfast at your apartment. Don’t worry about missing out on new food experiences, because even Japan’s staple food items are several notches above what we have here. In particular, their bread is excellent. The slices are thick, and the texture is soft and chewy. Just lightly butter and toast them for a great start to your morning.bacon, eggs, and toast in Osaka, Japan
  6. Avail of lunch sets when dining in sit-down restaurants. If you want to try fancier restaurants than the usual fast food or ramen joint, plan to visit during lunch time. The lunch sets are way cheaper than dinner fare. Kobe beef lunch set in TokyoKobe beef lunch set in Tokyo
  7. Eat at Japanese fast food chains. You don’t have to go to the fancier restaurants to get a good meal in Japan. There are many fast food chains that serve delicious Japanese fare. The best beef bowl for us is at Matsuya, which has branches everywhere. For burgers, there’s Mos Burger and Lotteria. For chicken karaage, you won’t go wrong with 7 Eleven, Family Mart, or Lawson. Pair those tasty thigh fillets with onigiri and you’re good to go at less than 300 yen (around 135 pesos). You’re welcome. Beef bowl at MatsuyaBeef bowl at Matsuya
  8. Visit Universal Studios during an off-peak day to avoid the need for Express Passes. If you schedule your visit on a Wednesday or Thursday that’s not a school break, the lines are manageable enough for you to be able to ride the major rides without using Express Passes. This will save you more than P2000 per head.
  9. Avoid dining inside Universal Studios. The food inside the park is overpriced. Eat right before entering, and bring a few onigiri to munch on while inside. Just pack it well inside your bag, because outside food isn’t actually allowed, but they’re not strict with their bag check. Bring a tumbler also, which you can refill with water from fountains around the park. The bottled water inside is crazy expensive, so you want to avoid buying. See some of our overpriced (around P1000 per head) food below:Halloween platter in Three Broomsticks, Universal Studios JapanBurger in Universal Studios Japan
  10. Walk, walk, and walk some more. People in Japan are used to walking long distances. That’s why so many of them wear sneakers, and that’s why so many are slim. You will need to walk a lot when transferring trains, visiting parks, and basically trying to find your way around. The cabs in Japan are extremely expensive, and besides, it’s more fun to experience the country on foot. Pack your best pair of walking shoes and explore the streets of Japan. The streets of Japan The streets of Japan

So there you have it. I hope these tips help you make the most out of your Japan experience. Are you excited yet? You should be! Japan is beautiful! Be ready to feel exhausted. Be ready to get lost. And be ready to fall in love.

Musings

A Letter to my Ex-Best Friend

I don’t expect that you will get to read this. But I am writing this for myself. You know how my thoughts need to get written down so I can make sense of them, and then preserved, so I can learn from them.

I saw pictures of your wedding posted by a common friend. The pictures made me think two things simultaneously, one quite shallow, and the other worth pondering:

  1. If I were still your best friend, I would have advised against the size of your hair accessory. You would have taken my advice.
  2. I would have been happy to be there, but I’m just as happy not being there.

The second thought warrants elaboration. I have let most among our common circles assume that the reason we stopped being friends was my fault entirely. I guess that could be argued, because although it was you who burned bridges, from the moment I made the decision to begin dating your crush, I knew that you would interpret my actions as a betrayal you could not overlook. Never mind that he never reciprocated your feelings, and, more importantly, that you yourself were seeing someone else at the time (consequently, your husband now). That circumstance should have made our friendship survive my “betrayal.” It’s like how in Riverdale, when Veronica and Archie told Betty that they were dating, Betty was totally cool with it, because she was with Jughead.

Alas, you chose not to remain friends. I believe that at the time, although you were very happy with your boyfriend, a part of you still clung to the possibility of ending up with “Archie.” Why else would our relationship have affected you so deeply? As long as he remained available, you were not ready to give your heart fully to anyone. But you would have been such a bad match. Opposites, much like the two of us.

I watched you harbor your feelings for so long, and I always knew as much as he did that you ending up with him would have spelled disaster. I watched you turn resentful as your feelings remained unreciprocated.

Then one day, you asked me out to lunch, and I knew that day was different. I remember how you brought me to a fancy restaurant that I hadn’t tried before. You could hardly contain your smile, and as soon as we had placed our orders, you broke into a full grin and said, “I met someone nice.” I could tell he was different from the previous guys you dated. I detected no trace of settling for second best, no hint of a subconscious desire to be distracted from the one you couldn’t have. It was apparent from the beginning that you were really into this guy. Even then, I could imagine you one day marrying him.

It’s funny how at first, we may think that our story has taken a turn for the worst, only to realize later on that the conflict was needed to ensure our happy ending. I remember how as schoolgirls, we would spend hours after class, conjuring up our own fantasies, exploring all the what ifs.

Well here’s the biggest “what if” of our lives. What if I had not begun dating Archie? Would you have ended up married to the love of your life? Or would you have clung to the hope of feelings finally reciprocated? Would you have spent more years asking “what if?” We will never know now. But it was a solid possibility. After all, it’s the “what ifs” that are difficult to forget. Had I not dated Archie, had there been a tiny shred of hope that you could end up together, you may have missed your chance to experience love with no skeletons.

I dashed all hope that we would remain friends. It was a sad ending to a truly beautiful friendship. But inadvertently, I also cleared the rubble from the path leading to something even more beautiful–your ultimate happiness. If we were still friends, I would have been at your wedding, maybe telling all the guests about how giddy you were when you told me you had met such a great guy. But if we were still friends, you might not have had that special day at all. Who knows? It’s not a cookie cutter world. So I am happy I was not at your wedding. You deserved that day of pure, boundless joy.

I wish you all the best.

All the love of a stranger,

Veronica

Food

Our Breakfast Date at Refinery

Now that I have a baby, one thing that I miss sorely is mobility. I used to be able to do whatever I want and go wherever I pleased. Spontaneous road trips were something that Casey and I used to do a lot as a couple, but now, I need to consider whether places are baby-friendly, and activities need to be spaced out so that Wolf doesn’t get exhausted.

I used to go to great lengths to come up with surprises for Casey during all the special occasions. I remember that even when I was six months pregnant, I charged through a heavy downpour to buy him a gift for his birthday.

However, for his birthday this year, which was last August 26, I could no longer prepare extensively, because with Wolf, I had less time to sneak around. I had to go back to the basics, scale down, and think simple. What would Casey enjoy that would be easy to plan? The answer was glaringly obvious–breakfast! We both adore breakfast food. So I searched online for nearby restaurants that serve great breakfast fare. Thanks to the Zomato app, I stumbled upon Refinery. As soon as I saw their menu, I placed a reservation without a second thought. Bacon? Pancakes? Coffee? Check!

We went to the branch in Promenade, Greenhills. We ordered Pancakes and Bacon, Angry Pasta (sausage, bacon, mushrooms, and tomatoes), and Bacon French Toast. Yes, all dishes had bacon. Bacon is life. Haha.

The pancakes took long to come out, because they had run out of batter. The waiter said that their stocks are low because demand is not that high for pancakes. This was a red flag, but we ordered pancakes anyway because they are a favorite of the birthday boy. As predicted, the pancakes were nothing to write home about. The waiter also informed us that they had run out of portobello mushrooms for the pasta, and so we opted to add more bacon instead. And since Casey doesn’t eat mushrooms, he had no complaints. The pasta was pretty good, al dente and tasty with just the right amount of spice. It was a tad too rich, but most likely that was due to the absence of mushrooms. But the star of our brunch was the Bacon French Toast. Served as a sandwich, it was the perfect balance of sweet and savory. Highly recommended!

We also enjoyed our drinks, a cappuccino for him and a matcha latte for myself. And of course, Wolf was happy with his bacon milk!

THE VERDICT

Peso Damage: P650 / head

Value for Peso: 4.5 / 5.0

Refinery is a relaxing place with great breakfast food and good coffee. We visited at 10 am on a Saturday, and the place was half full but not noisy. A bit more affordable than Wildflour and less crowded than mainstream coffee shops, Refinery is perfect for leisurely breakfast dates. With an impressive selection of alcohol, Refinery also seems like a nice option for nights out with friends.