Big goals require big plans: Losing weight after pregnancy

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The fact that good-looking people make more money is truer for women than men, which is especially unfair, because it is very hard to not gain a million pounds when you're pregnant; I gained sixty. This column is about my two-month quest to lose that weight, and the importance of making a plan for any large and difficult goal.

I happen to have a book deal that is predicated on a grand speaking tour, and the speaking tour is predicated on me not being overweight, and the bookings need to start in September. If I can't line up speaking gigs, I can't promote my book, and if I don't promote my book, it won't sell and I won't get another contract. So losing weight became my number one job.

This is what my agent said three days after I delivered the baby: “I don't mean to be harsh, but you look terrible.”

This is what my husband said two days later: “The stress of you having to lose so much weight so quickly will kill us both. Give back the money you got for the book.”

I did what works best for me when I'm in trouble: I wrote lists and schedules. I wrote a schedule for two visits a day to the gym and lists for what I would do there each day. I wrote a schedule for the babysitter, who had to come to the gym with me because the baby is not on a bottle. (Yes, I got off the treadmill to breastfeed.) I wrote a list of food — what to carry with me each day, and when to go food shopping, because if I'm starving in front of a bakery with no food in my backpack I'll do the bakery. Finally, I scheduled the date I would go to my agent's office to show her that I lost the weight.

It worked. I lost twenty pounds just by delivering the baby. But I lost forty pounds in two months. People are shocked to see me, and they ask me how I did it. First I tell them that if you had to lose weight in order to earn a living, you'd be able to do it, too. I gained insight into ultra-thin Hollywood; not being able to work if you take too many bites of cookie gives you a lot of self-discipline.

But the bigger factor here is that I came up with a schedule and followed it. And I realized that I could do this for any goal, not just weight loss.

Many times we are scared that we won't meet our most important goals. Decision points cater this fear— they open the door to self-doubt and inaction. But meticulous scheduling up front, and a belief in your planning abilities will allow you to relax; tune out your worries and just follow the plan.

You can't take this advice for everything in life. But making an extremely detailed, well-thought-out schedule to support an ambitious plan, is a great way to ensure you meet your most important goals — the ones that will make or break your career.

Some of you will realize that your career really is stalling because your weight makes you look out of control. For most of you, though, weight loss will not be all that important. But you might have other goals that you worry you won't achieve, such as switching careers, going back to school, or growing your consulting business.

Make a commitment to yourself and to your most important goals by reserving time in your day and space in your head to meet your goals. Great ambitions are not met haphazardly, and many times are not met at all. You can increase your odds tremendously by planning meticulously.

My next step is finding good places to book my speaking tour. I had been worried that this would not work out. But now I feel more confident. I am making a plan, as detailed as I made for the weight loss. And I know if I execute the plan on a daily basis, I will end up with a speaking tour that I like.

34 replies
  1. CJ
    CJ says:


    That’s great if you have nothing else to do but lose weight and take care of your baby and you can afford to have a babysitter follow you wherever you go, but what if you work, too, and are trying to finish your novel and you don’t have a huge advance? How do you lose that much weight in that short a period of time for the every day woman who can’t go the gym twice a day? What do you recommend? Not everyone is a Hollywood woman.

    * * * * * * *

    Wait. Is this a joke? First of all, I was trying to finish a book while was doing this. Second, I support a family of four and did not take any maternity leave (which I absolutely do not recommend to anyone). I do not have tons of money. This was an enormous expense to us. It’s about prioritizing. I did this while I lived in a 500 square foot apartment with two kids in New York City. I have written about all this on the blog. Take a look around. I’m a lot more like you than you think.


  2. Jennie
    Jennie says:


    Way to go!!! That is a major accomplishment and only hope i can pull it off. You see i have gained 37 pounds so far this pregnancy and will be induced in about a week and a half and have about 50 pounds i want to lose after the baby. You are an inspiration and i have to wonder how you did it in spite of all that was going on in your life. I have 2 other children, this is my third, and i have to go back to work at 6 weeks post-partum and am finishing my research paper for my master’s degree in nursing. Don’t take to heart the comment by the negative lady, many women have a hard time coping with the fact that they have so much weight to lose and when someone else does it they panic in fear that they may not be able to do the same. I am proud of you for doing it and thank you again for your encouraging words.

  3. Diet Plans
    Diet Plans says:

    Great stuff Penelope. Some very much encouraging and inspirational words. Way to go. Losing that much weight during such short time with other work is simply amazing. My wife and I are also expecting baby this article would be ideal for her. Thanks a lot

  4. Kristi @ Low Book Sales
    Kristi @ Low Book Sales says:

    Nice article Penelope. It’s such a great thing to hear. Me and my hubby are expecting a baby boy soon and your words are simply encouraging to me. Thanks a lot. Appreciate you writing this for mom’s like us to read.

  5. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    What you did was a great achievement and it illustrates how all you need is motivation. You needed to loose weight to make a living… so you did. I’m sure it was far from easy, but you did what you had to do. Great.
    A lot of people are just looking for excuses – they have slow metabolism and big bones and their work schedule doesn’t allow them to eat healthier or work out… But in the end it always comes down to motivation, determination and commitment.
    That being said, you probably shouldn’t gain as much weight as you did during the pregnancy. It’s hard, I know. Your appetite is at the all time highest and everybody’s telling you that you’re now eating for two. And yes, you have to gain some weight, it’s only natural. But still, forty pounds sounds a bit too much.

  6. Pam @ Soma Online
    Pam @ Soma Online says:

    You’ve got a really awesome blog here. Just thought to comment here as well. After pregnancy you gain a real lot of eight. i can almost 50 pounds. Which was really not a goo thing. It took me a very long time to bring my weight back to normal.

  7. apartments croatia
    apartments croatia says:

    Yes,It is really hard to loose the weight after pregnancy.I got 75 pound during pregnancy and after delivery it was very difficult for me to loose the weight but i worked hard in gym and lost weight.

  8. Mary
    Mary says:

    I think its disgusting and unfortunate that in our society you can’t sell books because you are considered “over weight” just because you had a baby. Obviously you are proud of your weight loss but are you proud of the noose that hangs around your neck all the time? I mean you might as well have just said “my credentials, intelligence and talent don’t matter, but my looks do”. I think its too bad that you felt so pressured to lose the weight so fast. Obviously you are motivated and that is great for you but I feel sorry for you that you live in a world that you feel you have to cater to in order to survive. I can see why a model or an actress would need to lose weight but an author? Seems a bit ridiculous. I wish as a society we could all cut the crap and stop expecting people (and ourselves) to be so perfect. Personally, I’d buy a book from someone whether they are 125lbs or 250+lbs.

  9. Chris
    Chris says:

    I can see why a model or an actress would need to lose weight but an author? Seems a bit ridiculous. I wish as a society we could all cut the crap and stop expecting people (and ourselves) to be so perfect.

  10. genf20hgh
    genf20hgh says:

    I found your weight loss story very inspiring. It reminded me of my sister who went through a similar experience. When I visited her in hospital after the baby was born I took a photo of her which I printed out and gave to her on my next visit. When she saw the photo she didn’t say anything but months later she told me how horrified she was at her appearance, and resolved to do something about it. She used the photo as inspiration and by dieting and exercising lost all the excess pounds. Motivation was the key factor in her situation and yours, but it is unusual to find people with sufficient motivation to reach their goals. Too many people look for excuses or want to take the easy way out, like pop a pill. It takes a positive attitude and hard work!

  11. Sauna Weight Loss
    Sauna Weight Loss says:

    That’s what im trying to tell people around me who have problems with weight loss: you gotta change your lifestyle. In other words, you gotta make your own schedule and stick to it. But some people are just being lazy expecting to get the results over night.

  12. Herbalife
    Herbalife says:

    Losing weight after pregnancy can be a really tedious task. Especially because you are used to a different diet as well. But it has to be done if you are involved a lot in the corporate world.

  13. Vacaville Chiropractor
    Vacaville Chiropractor says:

    I find this both an inspiring and a poignant post. Your discipline, will, and determination to move ahead will hopefully be an inspiration to many — to achieve goals they set for themselves.

    It’s also interesting how we foible-filled humans work — that we often can’t find ways to achieve our goals until we have an absolute need to do so (I’m speaking for myself here).

    But what is poignant is what other commentators have remarked on — the terrible, and IMHO destructive obsession with appearances that we have as a culture, particularly for those in the public eye. We have deified models and actresses and politicians, none of whom deserve this glorification in the slightest.

    We need to restructure our cultural values from worshiping outer appearances, blind ambition, and greed to truer, more substantial values of service, giving, community, and non-wasteful thrift — kind of like how life used to be. Is this a book idea for somebody?

  14. Commercial Office Cleaning London
    Commercial Office Cleaning London says:

    For me it's not easy to give time to lose weight trough diet after giving birth especially if you breastfeed your baby. But if you will plan on it before the day you will give birth then maybe you will have that time to lose your weight. Thanks for this inspiring article I've never been experience to have a child but I like what you wrote.

  15. Charlotte Simms
    Charlotte Simms says:

    Great job on your weight loss, i am curretly on a plan to loose weight, you have encouraged me, I am challeged by your success. Keep up the good work, you are truly awesome.

  16. gentrca
    gentrca says:

    Kudos to you breastfeeding (the best thing a mother can do for her child), and secondly for reaching you goal of losing weight. I don’t know your age Penelope, but I do know that age plays an enormous role in weight loss, esp after the age of forty. I gained 60 lbs w/ each of my pregnancies (5) also, breastfed all, ate well and exercised zip (no time) and still lost all 60 lbs (pre-pregnacy weight 115-120 lbs). It’s breastfeeding and eating right ladies, taking (proper) care of your family (doing what needs done, when it needs doing) and for me going to school (in otherwords staying busy busy busy). After forty, the eating right and staying busy didn’t quite cut it so I say give Penelope’s suggestion a go…good luck!

  17. Leah
    Leah says:

    In response to Penelope’s response to the top comment – Writing has a much more flexible schedule than a lot of jobs and you said yourself that your husband was not working at the time. Not all mothers have that luxury. They often have two working parents with more rigid schedules and it’s a lot harder to spend that kind of time at the gym when you do and still spend time with your children. Same for single moms.

    I’m not saying it’s impossible but it’s not the same at all. I’m sure it was hard enough for you to fit time in your schedule with a more flexible one- can you imagine how it would have been if you had a 9-6 job with a long commute on top of it to survive and you couldn’t even cart your baby with you everywhere if you wanted to?

    I agree with the whole sentiment that you are expressing. In order to achieve your goals, you need to write them down, get organized, and do them. I can’t remember the name of the study I was reading but you are 90% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. I am just trying to explain what that woman was asking.

  18. Michelle Rose-Daniel
    Michelle Rose-Daniel says:

    Breastfeeding–huge calorie burner right there, good nutrition, self-discipline, and support were the keys to Penelope’s success. She said from the outset that the timeframe was insane as did her husband but it was part of the plan. For the rest of use, combinations of the same variables will also work just not as quickly if you’re not breastfeeding. Congrats Penelope on having the drive to make it happen.

  19. Drmarcusamos
    Drmarcusamos says:

    I totally understand what is weight loss after pregnancy, but my gf has a great help form Dr Berg. If you haven’t heard about Dr. Berg, definitely check out his video on the weight loss after pregnancy – here’s the link…

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