When you hear about a mom losing 80 pounds during her mat leave, the first thing you’ll want to know is, has she kept the weight off? Yes. In fact, nearly a decade—and two more kids—after she lost 80 pounds while on mat leave, Andrea Grau recently ran her first 10K road race…and is gearing up to tackle a half-marathon this fall.
The Toronto mom’s journey started in 2001 when Grau, then 30, was pregnant with her first child. She gained 65 pounds on top of the “extra 15 or 20 pounds” she’d struggled with throughout adulthood. Late in her pregnancy, she had an epiphany: She didn’t want to be that mom huffing and puffing her way up the stairs. She also didn’t want to be the yo-yo dieting mom transferring weight issues to her daughter.
“I decided I was going to be healthy for my child,” says Grau. Two weeks after Mercedes was born, Grau joined a Weight Watchers program geared at breastfeeding mothers. Eschewing numbers, Grau focused on the process. “I took things day by day. It was really challenging, especially when you’re nursing! That was the hardest part because you have to make the right food choices but you’re so tired. I also hadn’t expected the emotional and hormonal changes that follow a baby. If food’s an emotional outlet for you, it becomes even more so,” says Grau.
Mercedes was colicky and Grau had the baby blues. Walking soothed them both. “She’d sleep in her stroller and I’d walk everywhere: to doctor’s appointments, to meet friends. I walked two or three hours every day,” says Grau. The weight melted away, and within six months she’d hit her pre-baby weight. And kept going.
“Eating well, exercising regularly and taking care of myself became a commitment I made in order to best take care of my child. Two months later, I lost the final 15 pounds,” says Grau.
Although mat leave may seem an unlikely time to tackle a fitness challenge, for Grau it was ideal. Away from her high-pressure job, she had time to plan healthy meals (she ate out a lot more pre-baby)and exercise. Breastfeeding made her conscious about how she was fuelling her body—and her baby’s. The endorphin rush she got from exercise made her feel better. “The baby blues were part of it for me. I knew I had to get healthy and strong, in every regard. Becoming a mom has a domino effect: ‘Where do I fit in this new life, how does my health fit in, my sense of well-being?’”
And she adds, “With each child, I’ve realized how important my health is. I have three human beings I want to take care of until I’m very old.”
Although she keeps physically active, bike riding and swimming with her husband and kids, Grau’s workout time is hers alone: “Exercise is about putting yourself first. That’s hard for moms—we feel selfish. But if I take an hour a day to run, I’m a better mother, a more patient one, and I have way more energy. I get more done at work and home. It improves my well-being. And I’ve never heard a guy say, ‘I can’t get to the gym, I have to bake something for school tonight.’ We have to stop being martyrs.”
Originally published September, 2011