“As a Hospital Nurse and New Mom, I Had to Give Myself Grace”
*People following the WeightWatchers weight-loss program can expect to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. Kaitlyn lost weight on a prior program and is continuing on WeightWatchers.
As told to Katerina Gkionis
My “why” for signing up: I thrive with structure in my life—this is something I know from years of learning to manage anxiety. When my husband and I became parents to our baby daughter, Brooklyn, in 2019, my anxiety spiked. There I was, home from the hospital and feeling completely clueless about caring for this little human. My usual coping strategies, like going to the gym, seemed out of reach. Brooklyn was the center of my world.
I had gained about 50 pounds during my pregnancy—more than I had hoped to. WW had been with me in years prior, so I knew the program offered the structure and security I craved. About five weeks after Brooklyn was born, I joined WW as a Digital member.
My biggest challenge going in: Developing routines for my new life as a mom wasn’t easy. After my husband’s month of paid parental leave, I was on my own for eight more weeks of leave from my job as a psychiatric nurse. My main focus was keeping Brooklyn healthy and happy. Parishioners from our church were gracious enough to set up a rotating meal-delivery service so my husband and I didn’t have to worry about what to cook in those early weeks. I felt so taken care of by our church family. At the same time, I knew I’d have to figure out more sustainable ways to keep myself healthy. I missed making meals and experimenting in the kitchen. I wanted to feel like myself again.
How WW set me up for success: From my previous experience with WW, I knew that tracking my food was a habit that came naturally to me. Sure enough, I settled right in and started feeling more in control once I downloaded the WW app. This time around, I focused on getting back to the basics of meal prepping, which made a huge difference. Making a batch of overnight oats meant that I could easily have a filling breakfast when I found a free moment in the morning. Having all the ingredients in my fridge for a quick turkey sandwich or yummy Greek salad meant that I was less likely to snack on random foods. Meal prepping got me on a kick of pre-tracking everything I planned to eat. Having my meals laid out for me was really helpful.
What Kaitlyn ate then vs. now
|Breakfast||Fast-food breakfast sandwich on a bagel;|
coffee with cream and sugar
|Chia seed pudding made with unsweetened cashew milk, vanilla extract, and brown-sugar blend, topped with blueberries;|
coffee with sugar-free creamer
|Lunch||Fast-food burrito with steak, rice, beans, sour cream, and cheese||Greek salad with mixed greens, turkey kofta, pickled red onions, cucumber, tomato, kalamata olives, and cucumber kefir dressing|
|Dinner||Mushroom pizza||Turkey-and-beef meatloaf with roasted broccoli and potatoes|
|Snacks||Granola bars, chips, ice cream|
Protein bars, Greek yogurt with sugar-free pudding mix, berries
My mental health realization: My nursing specialty means I’m trained to care for people who are living with anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. So when I developed signs of postpartum depression, I recognized them right away. There’s an isolating feeling that comes along with childbirth; sometimes you don’t have the energy to get out of the house, and everything feels like too much effort. While I didn’t see a therapist, I focused on making small, healthy choices to keep myself going and create positive momentum.
I also decided to harness the power of the WW community by creating an Instagram profile dedicated to my journey. Connecting with other new moms helped me feel less alone. I also invited my friend Shannon—a new mom, too—to join me on outdoor walks. We’d strap our babies in their strollers and just take off. One time we walked 6 miles without even meaning to! Now I see activity as getting outdoors, moving your body at whatever intensity you can, and enjoying quality time with your friends and family.
The strategy that got me through 2020: I was back at work and steadily losing weight when the pandemic hit in March of 2020. At that point, I decided to temporarily go into maintenance mode while I navigated the stressful demands of that time.
There were so many unknowns back then; I had to give myself some grace. For instance, some days I’d experience empathy fatigue from long shifts of providing care to others, so I implemented meditation to help create separation between work and home, taking advantage of the meditations in the WW app. I also limited my screen time. I needed to stay mentally healthy so I could continue to care for my family and patients, who were all depending on me.
By summer 2020, the situation at the hospital had stabilized and the weather had improved, so I got back into weight-loss mode to continue toward my goal.
What balance means to me today: My journey has been about creating structure in my busy life while learning to stay attuned to my needs in the moment. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, or if I feel I’m about to turn to a negative space, I think to myself, “What can you do for yourself today?” Maybe that’s cooking a bougie meal, or working out on a treadmill, or taking a walk. WW has helped me find balance in my life, and I’m grateful for that.