Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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"That's Not Sweat, It's My Body Crying"

So I've lost some weight. About seven pounds, give or take a few depending on the day of the month. I began religiously working out and watching my calorie intake in January at 142-ish pounds and am now hovering around 135. Still about ten pounds above my ideal weight but, well, 125 was my pre-kid ideal weight. I don't know what my post-kid ideal weight is. And anyway, weight doesn't mean a whole helluva lot other than aside from trying on old jeans it's my only way to tangibly monitor progress.

Before Violet I was 125:

I gained 60-something pounds with Violet.

And got down to 133...

Then I got pregnant with Henry and everything went to hell.

Totally my fault. I have a very specific memory of ordering a fish burrito and then driving down the street to Wendy's and ordering a chicken sandwich, french fries and oh, wait! I'll have a cup of chilli too! And a Frosty! and then scarfing the whole thing down on my lunch break. Nobody to blame but myself. So I gained 65 pounds with him and got back down to the 140 area and never really went any lower.

Three months after Henry's birth.

Admittedly, I never really tried. 2012 was the worst year of my life. House fire, depression, marital drama. There was also The Great Steroid Weight Gain of 2012 (back fat pockets!) but still, I was kinda hoping the pounds would magically disappear. Alas, they are still here. Or were as of January 1st.

Slowly but surely the pounds are melting away. And when I say slowly, I really mean it. At 36 (in two weeks) my metabolism isn't what it used to be. Seven pounds in two-and-a-half months? Does that seem slow or am I impatient? Anyway, here is a photo Serge snapped over the weekend. Me at 135(ish) pounds. My lowest weight since Henry's birth. (I'm 5'3, by the way.)

If I'm going by the numbers I have ten more pounds to lose. But, I mean, shit. I'm never going to look like this again - and that's okay!

I might've been thin there but I wasn't very strong. I'm really focusing on strengthening my body so while numbers on the scale may stay the same hopefully I'll still lose a few more inches. We'll see how it all pans out. Point is, if I'm gonna get knocked up one last time I want to be in fighting shape. Need to be in fighting shape. As we all know, I'm not one of those glowing pregnant earth mamas. I mean, did you see the photo up there? With your eyes?


I have proven to be a ravenous, dangerous, puking, nightmare. This time I want to feel as good as possible while pregnant and I want to bounce back a lot faster than I did with Violet and especially Henry. If we get lucky enough to get pregnant sometime later this year I'll be 37 by the time I'm attempting to lose the weight.

I thought I'd share a couple things I've been doing each day to curb the snacking and also tell you about my workout. (I won't get into a whole food thing here although you can click on that link up there for my breakfast and snacking tips. I'm still pescatarian. Only fish for me. We have stir fry most nights. Shrimp stir fry, veggie stir fry, tofu stir fry. Serge gets his chicken fix when I go to yoga and he makes his own dinner.)

So, one thing that really helped motivate me was to stop trying to be a runner. There are a bunch of girls I grew up with that are big into running. They run marathons (while pregnant, even) and their bodies are in unbelievable shape (yes Marisa, I'm talking about you.)

I don't like running.

There. I said it. Running is not generally my thing. It made me dread the gym. So I switched over to the elliptical and I am making that thing my bitch for thirty minutes every morning. I'll eventually move up to 45 minutes and maybe longer but, for now, thirty minutes is doing me just fine. Some people like to do cardio at the end of a workout. I am not some people. By the end of my workout I am ready to die and so attempting cardio after lifting weights would be akin to trying to have tantric sex with Brad Pitt after giving birth. Not happening.

So kissing my bucket list marathon dream goodbye and no longer comparing myself to all the marathon machines I know was important. I'm not saying I'll never attempt it but getting my ass to the gym every day is more important right now and the running was bumming me out. Elliptical is great. Love it. It's a score for uncoordinated folks like myself who risk crashing and burning every time they step on a treadmill. I like to zone out while doing cardio. I can close my eyes and pump away on the elliptical. Try that on a treadmill and you'll be shot off the thing like a cannon in two seconds flat. Elliptical it is.

After that I do a three different ab exercises. Fifty repetitions each. Usually sit-ups, leg lifts while lying flat and the thing where you sit on your but with your legs in the air and swing a medicine ball from side to side. After that I do arms or legs, depending on the day. Arms one day, legs the next, Monday through Friday. I also try to get to yoga for an hour every Tuesday and Thursday night. And that's about it. I'm not being a maniac about it. Just doing some stuff to slowly burn off some fat and tone up my business. I don't want to push it or I'll start dreading going to the gym and so far, for the past three months, I've really been enjoying myself. For the most part. Let's not get carried away here. It's work. But still. I'm liking how I feel.

For the past two weeks, although I like how I feel generally, I've been really struggling. I feel sluggish at the gym. So, as inspiration, I thought I'd ask where you all are in your fitness routines? Mentally and physically. Feeling unhealthy and low? Working out but struggling? On an exercise high? What tips and tricks (like my switch to the elliptical) have you found in all your trial and error that has worked out for you? What's your routine? Do you do cardio at the beginning or end of a workout? Enlighten me.

Reader Comments (29)

I think it's hugely important that you have found something you like to do (elliptical and yoga). I think it's also as important that you're focusing less on a scale number and more about how you feel and your strength. Great job!

When I'm physically sluggish (I'm one of those annoying runners), it's always back to my food intake or how well I slept, or both. Usually food. I love my Tostitos, but they're not exactly good fuel for a good workout. If I'm mentally sluggish, it's usually because I'm overwhelmed with life or bored with running. I give myself permission to take a couple of days off without feeling guilty and then I'm usually ready to get back at it.

March 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKat

1- Do you listen to music while you work out?
2- Do you keep a workout log/journal?

#2 sounds cringe worthy, but it feels good to look back on your week/month/year and see how much you accomplished. Some websites (such as Daily Mile) tell you how many donuts you burned off, how many TV sets your expended energy would run, fun stuff like that.

Anyway, I answer YES! to both of these questions, and if a song really sounds great or my iPod gives me just the right thing on shuffle, I note that in my log. Then every once in a while I make a play list of all songs that I noted in my log. When I listen to that play list I remember how great it felt to to lift a new weight while that song was playing, or how a song made me want to run a little faster for 4 minutes while it played. Those playlists are great on days when you need to give yourself a little pep talk!

March 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterleah

You look bangin' sister! I feel like we could be friends if we weren't a continent away. (In a totally non creepy way),

I also just started getting back into the fitness game. I hate cardio period. Running, biking, ellipticalling...barf. I have found that splitting up my cardio makes it easier, don't know if I get the same results but it gets me through it.
20 on the arch trainer, then 10-15 on something else bike/treadmill etc. I usually do cardio after my workout as a sort of cool down, I'm already worn out so might as well keep going. I know that having awesome tunes to listen to really makes or breaks my workout. 90's hip hop or old school rock gets me going every time. Good luck losing the sluggishness!

March 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMrsLeyk

first, i love your attitude. i feel surrounded by women who are freaking out about 40 and killing themselves to look 20. not judging, i wish 'em luck, and they look great, and i admire them, but it stresses me out and it's not my bag. having also attempted to become a runner--and still half-heartedly trying--i don't enjoy it unless circumstances are perfect--the right temperature, the right time of day, the perfect shoes, blah blah blah. wasn't working for me. in your last workout discussion one of your other readers mentioned a program kettlenetics which i bought on a whim and LOVE. cardio with a small kettle bell. amazing. different DVDs for different time allottments or depending on what mood i'm in. it's amazing. i am getting close to 4 weeks and i see a real difference in my shape and the way my clothes fit (we don't own a scale, is that weird?). that said, i havent worked out in 2 days and i already feel ick. tired and sluggish and not motivated. i can easily see a backslide in my future if i don't get back in the game tonight. i would love to take a yoga class but i have trouble squeezing it in. thanks for asking and cheers to the raspberry lime polar water. it's the #1 alternative to beer in my house (ok, #2 next to wine).

March 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJodie

I do hot yoga. The sweat drips off and it's a cardio and strength work out. I've managed to lose 5 pounds this month! Only 20 more to go!

March 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJulia

This is great, Monica, I think we all wondered what you were up to with your gym time! It sounds like you have found your fitness rhythm, and that you are making a peace treaty with your rituals that you hope will carry you through your next pregnancy, which is smart, both emotionally and physically. Yoga helped me through find and expand my center during both of my pregnancies (one at 38 and the second at 40)and an adherence to fitness keeps me strong for both of my ehr, um let's just say...robust boys. The keys for me are to avoid boredom, set new goals every six to eight weeks, and to reach out to a pro every once in a while for tips and to avoid complacency. The last piece of the puzzle for me has been to finally get rid of processed food (nearly) completely over time and be present and mindful of every single morsel of food I consume. This has been THE difference for me in reaching beyond what I thought was possible in energy and stamina for just plain regular life stuff. I am wishing you acceptance, motivation, enlightenment and transformation on your journey. All that sweat helps with the fear (as it leaves the body)AND it is the mark of a woman who is willing to throw everything she has at what she wants.

March 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkatherine

I felt the same way - then I started to do yoga - at a real yoga studio - not the yoga at the gym and I took barre classes. I LOVE my workouts and on days when I don't think I will get one in my body craves it. I also got a heart rate monitor for the gym (spin bike) and love keeping my HR at the fat burning zone. Lets me know how hard I am working and keeps me in check. good luck and good for you!

March 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersara

I weighed 128 when I got married, low 130s when I got pregnant the first time. Within a year of when she was born, I was back down to 125, which I hadn't been since college. And I looked like hell -- my face was like a skull with skin. Not attractive. 125 looked great in my mid-20s and awful in my early 30s. Things had shifted and getting back to that weight was not attractive. Now I'm 135 (I'm 5' 6" and 42 y.o.) and love how I look.

Workout routine: always cardio first. I used to run, but had lots of hip pain in my pregnancies, so was afraid to afterwards. The elliptical became my friend and I did it for years. Then I was staying in a hotel and there was no elliptical, so I tried the treadmill. My hip pain had gone away, so I tried running on the treadmill -- worked totally different muscle groups than the elliptical, so I went back to the treadmill. Now I mostly walk fast on "random" with vicious hills. It's a great workout.

I save the strength training for last. That works best since I usually shower at the gym right after my workout, then head straight to work. If I shower right after my cardio, I come out of the shower still sweating.

You look amazing! Don't worry about the number on the scale. I would be so unhealthy if I got back down to my old number in the 120s.

March 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

First, you do not need to lose another pound! You look fabulous. Keep up with your strength training, especially as you get older, and you will be golden. I was once 125 at 5'2", before I hit my 30's, and I think that weight is just not healthy for my 41 year old body anymore. I think 135 at your height is easy to maintain, without going all militant about what you eat and feeling like you need to squeeze in 2 workouts a day. Second, you may be getting burned out, and that's why you're feeling a little lethargic during your workouts. You need to incorporate a week of rest every 3-4 weeks, wherein you scale back your workouts and let your body rest and repair. Then you can go back to your usual, and maybe kick it up a notch, so that you don't plateau. Third, not everyone is a runner, and while it is amazing exercise, it is not the only way to go. I'm glad that you finally came to that conclusion. I also hate running. Lastly, I'm with you on doing cardio first, or I do intervals of cardio, then strength and repeat, which is supposed to be the most efficient way to burn calories. Strength training, then cardio has never worked for me. Once the strength training is done, I'm done.

March 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

Good for you! I have always been more of a once/week exercise gal myself, so am feeling a bit intimidated by you and your commenters. When I have broken out of my weekly-yoga-and-daily-walks-with-my-dogs habit, two things have changed my shape dramatically: kickboxing and pilates. Pilates changed how I walked, even, and improved my posture a ton. Kickboxing gave me ab definition and and the big trick--the thing that may be affecting your workout now--is that we had to constantly switch what what we were doing in class. By that I mean that the whole class was literally split into 30-second and 90-second increments. We would switch between strength and cardio, sometimes kicking (or punching) a bag, other times doing dreaded mountain-climbers. The concept behind it is "muscle confusion" and it is supposed to help keep your body working as hard as possible. Doing the same workout stops challenging your body after a while and so you burn less calories, see fewer results. That's the thought, anyway, and it really worked for me. Hope this helps and good luck!

March 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteremilyo

I finally figured out something that works for me and am now addicted to the endorphins from working out for the first time in my life. At age 44.

In my teens and twenties I was always an ok weight, a little more curvy I wanted to be but I hated, I mean hated working out - so I did nothing, absolutely nothing. My weight control plan then was simply that I tend to eat reasonable healthy and I am a spaz who is always moving furniture around and stuff like that. And carried around my 40 lb preschooler.

The thing I figured out is that I like someone else to always tell me exactly what to do. And some variety. So yoga at an actual yoga studio for strength, and dance or kickboxing classes for cardio. All the teachers mix up their class plan a little bit so I don't get bored.

I spend all day every day at work and home planning things and telling everyone else what to do. I used to look at even something as simple as the elliptical and think - I have to choose the difficulty, and how long, and no one will notice if I'm lazy and quit after ten minutes. The mental break of teachers telling me what to do is fantastic.

March 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie

I hate running, too. Every now and then my husband tries to convert me, but I hate it. And I have mild asthma which makes it really rough. I have officially given up on it.

I want to get to the gym and start a routine exactly like what you're doing. But FFS gyms are expensive here in the big east coast cities. Insanely expensive. The freaking YMCA costs an insane amount of money. But I have visions of myself getting myself together because my baby is 13 months old now and I need to get on the ball.

I am hoping that kid-free time will be motivation enough. But what I'd really like is a walking desk so I could actually get some work done. This is never going to happen so I'll have to settle for elliptical and praying my stomach regains something like its former shape.

March 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Hats off to you! That third one is the scale tipper in all aspects and to be fit and ready is the key.

I love to run but pretty much suck at it. I can do four miles tops. Pandora has made a huge difference for me in terms of staying motivated. Knowing I don't have to listen to the same mix is fabulous. I also attend a couple of classes per week -balance ball and a boot camp class. In a perfect world I'd attend Bikram's yoga everyday and be all zen and at peace, but in the meantime Pandora, the balance ball and the treadmill are my companions.

Keep it up! There is nothing like exercise to keep the crazies at bay.

March 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHeatherC

I'm eating an ice cream bar right now, so, uh, I have no advice... But you look great so don't worry.

March 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChantel

I am seven months pregnant with a giant baby, so my workout routine is nowhere. But, I used to work out a lot and I loved it. One thing that helped me sustain longer cardio workouts was to switch equipment. I would do 10 minutes on the stair master, 15 minutes on the treadmill and 20 on the elliptical. By the end, I had done 45 minutes, but it didn't feel so long because it was in shorter increments.

March 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commentererose

I'm 5'3 too and that 125 zone seems like a movie I saw once. Excited that you might have another one - I totally got my ass in gear before getting pregnant this last time and then proceeded to lose more weight puking my guts out for the last few months. Being pregnant and recovering is so ridiculous. Too bad the ill people are so damn precious. Way to go!

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMartha

You look awesome!

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterElle

Oh! I forgot to mention something that's helped me as of late. I signed up with a charity website (the one I use is . I log my workouts and they earn money for the charity I chose. So whenever I don't feel like going for a run, part of my brain says, "But you're missing out on money for your charity!" Plus, I'm uber-competitive and want to beat the other people earning money for my charity and earn the most money so again, when I don't feel like working out, I remind myself that I'll fall in the rankings.

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKat

You look wonderful- and sounds like you feel it too. Randomy- my jaw dropped- I have always assumed you were a really tall girl- I don't know why- once upon a time I thought tom cruise was tall as well. The muscle tone in your arms makes me jealous- cheers to a healthy future pregnancy- cheers also to you for sharing your very real pregnancy photos with the world.

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterallison

I hear you. I’m not a runner either, but I still do it anyway. Why? Eh, it’s the best option for me out of a bad lot. I loathe exercise in all of its evil forms. LOATHE it. Wanna-shove-a-Bic-pen-in-my-ear, loathe it. It’s not fun. My body is irked by it, and it interferes with my couch time and I Love Lucy reruns. I’ve never once gotten a runners’ high or that healthy, dewy glow on my face after an intense workout session. I envy those that do, if, in fact those people actually exist. I grumble at the treadmill in the corner of my basement, flip it the double bird, yet hop on 3-5 times a week anyway. Unfortunately, no advice for you on how to make the exercise chore easier. I just tell myself it’s a necessary evil that must be done since I’ll be 39 soon and my metabolism has hit the floor like a safe. I know full well I won’t drag my ass to the gym since I’m a lazy mofo, so the treadmill it has to be. The ONLY thing that has helped me a bit is that I’ve stopped trying to run like a bat out of hell when I’m on it. For the longest time I was trying to up my speed and incline to prove I was improving my endurance. It just never worked. I have never been (and will never be) a fast runner. So I let go of that dream. Now? Now I simply jog. And this has been much, much better for me. I can occasionally get into a zone while listening to my iPod and get a good 5 or 6 miles in that way. I still work up a sweat and feel like I’ve accomplished something at the end. I set the incline at a perfectly respectable 3 or 4 and keep my speed at a relatively sad sack 4.5-5.0 mph. Sometimes that speed needs to be taken down to 4. Depends on whether or not I’m eating a king size bag of peanut M&M’s while I’m tooling along. Anywho, I think you look great. Whatever it takes us to zip up the jeans.

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMo

I used to be a runner, but whenever I take a break from it, I hate the ramp-up to get back into it again. Once I can get used to running over 5 miles, running is very meditative for me. But... I hate the first few miles. So a few years ago, I took up Bikram hot yoga. Love love love it. It's a fantastic strength and cardio workout. Bikram calms my mind too. But... now I'm pregnant and my dr (who also does Bikram) advised against it while pregnant. So I've been biking and going to non-heated yoga. Both are okay, but I miss Bikram! And you look great btw Monica. Kudos to you for sticking to a routine.

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSara

As I was reading this I was thinking back on jr high I believe it was and I had asked you what you were doing and said how amazing you looked. You told me you just started walking everywhere, all of the time. I remember thinking the infamous Monica looks even more fabulous than she already does and I need to get walking!! So I found it so funny to be thinking about this as I came upon my name. You give me too much credit. I only did that half marathon because it came with a girls trip and to see my sister in Cali! It was so hard preggo!! Silly girl, you look great and you always have!!
I Love to get up when everyone is still asleep in the morning and have coffee and surf before I workout. I love that everyone is still asleep when I get home. I love that its quite for 2 seconds and no one needs me. Im not a good mom or wife with out me time in there.
I love all sorts of exercise. Its kind of my hobby but I have to mix it up. I get bored really easily. I do pump 2X a week, yoga 1, STEP 1(LOVE), and maybe run 2 or 3 times. I really like to run but I love to run with my friends. Its the only time to discuss everything kid and hubby free. Plus working out means i get to eat lots of cookies. I love how I feel doing all of this but I have no desire to head out and run a half marathon or even a 3 miles by myself. The key for me is having a bestie to do it with and to motivate me on the days I just want to be done. Its the time that is so important to me. That is my best advice! Oh and lots and lots of caffeine! You have to do what works for you and it looks as though you have found it! Thanks BTW! XOXOXOX

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermarisa

Girl, you're only 5'3''? Sheesh, I remember your penchant for all things Nachos and now I can't believe you didn't turn into a blimp. I'm 5'8'' and I eat tons, but can sorta pull it off because I'm sorta tall. Some people say I "carry my weight well". I don't like gyms and find that if I pay for a class and have it on my schedule then I CAN'T miss it. Right now there's a Pilates place that's offering cheapie classes with apprentices for a fraction of the real cost. Then I'll switch back to the BARRE classes which basically have me squeezing my thigh muscles in a way that is a form of torture while standing on my toes like a ballerina.

PS Does this mean Serge is short too?

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBonnieLee

jazzercise, i know it sounds lame. But it's a good time and a good workout.

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercharity

"PS Does this mean Serge is short too?"

I'm 3'4". A goddamn Yoda.

March 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterserge

Dude. This is my story (same amount of weight gain with both pregnancies), although I was always curvy to begin with, so 60 pounds on top of that has been way not cool for me - you are loosing the weight faster than me the second time around! BRAVO! As for running - for some reason I am getting a slightly deranged amount of joy from winter running and I've become ADDICTED to yoga. Granted the studio I go to is posh (and worth every fucking penny), with huge windows that over-look the bay, with amazing instructors who kick my ass. Why wasn't I doing this earlier?!?! (The yoga.) I did pre-natal and after baby yoga mommy and me classes, but that was nothing compared to what I am doing / learning now. There's Hatha which is a good stretch and great for the body and mind a couple of times a week if one is doing more hardcore shiz. So I was doing weight training pre-suns and yoga a few times a week after my run (I would run from my house to the studio). Turns out I don't like conventional weight training, even though it's apparently how the body best benefits from running, helps you shed pounds faster, etc. In my slighter wiser (ever so slightly), older age, I've realized it's not about quick results, but rather a way of life, doing something that challenges me, but that I also get a modicum of enjoyment from so that I'll actually keep it up long-term. So no more weights. More yoga after my jogs. Hot yoga, warm yoga (that shit is HARDCORE), vinyassa flow (again ass kicking), and one called kickINyasa (imagine) and some spin classes. Some of these forms of yoga are basically weight training anyways, except using ones body as the weights. Apparently. So I'm told. Anyways - that's my new routine and I actually like it. Go YOU!!!!

March 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSelena

People who are smarter than me say to do cardio at the beginning of a work out - that your body will burn more calories while you are strenth training!

And I think you look great! But I know what you mean. I'm 5"6 and 138 (I've gained 6 pounds since starting Zumba...... all muscle baby!) So, I am thinner and people don't understand why I still want to lose 10 pounds. But what matters is not what people see, but what you think of yourself.

March 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndee

these are my tricks that work to up my energy:

eat tons of fruits and veggies
cut out bread, sugars, rice..all that man made stuff
...and eat more protein. i know you're not into meat, so load up on fish and other sea creatures if you have the stomach for it. Beans can also do the job

for better fat burn and getting more bang for your time at the gym increase your weights and put some high intensity cardio between your sets.

you're awesome

July 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkrisztina

I started spinning as a way to lose weight but now it’s become a part of me. I love it. Each instructor has a different approach, which makes each ride different. Spin is a way to challenge myself, break a sweat and clear my head. What’s not to love? Anyway, You look amazing! Such an inspiration!

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