Overcoming a health challenge: baby weight and postpartum depression
Nikki Romero speaks with a smile and excited eyes. She radiates positivity and tells her story with the kind of intensity and wisdom gained from a tough, self-reflective experience.
As Romero, a medical staff coordinator at Children’s Colorado, begins her story, it’s hard to believe that this inspirational woman was once a self-proclaimed “bad person.” Two years ago, during and after the pregnancy of her first child, Charleigh, the former Miss Colorado contestant, gained significant weight and slid into a deep depression.
“I had never been that kind of person before,” Romero says, almost in disbelief. “I didn’t know how to deal with it. I had always been really happy.”
Behaviors during pregnancy – like eating fried food and sweets – continued after she gave birth, which exacerbated her depression and encouraged emotional eating. She was so out of shape that merely going for a walk left her out of breath.
By the time Charleigh was born in May 2012, Romero weighed 223 pounds, a number that concerned her doctor. After the baby, Romero’s weight decreased to 198 pounds, where it lingered, seemingly indefinitely.
Struggling to break bad habits
As an overweight mom, Romero struggled to find the energy to meet the demands of an infant. She felt perpetually exhausted and exuded negativity in all directions.
Romero tears up as she remembers what she was like a year ago. “I was a bad, bad person. I would look in the mirror and I didn’t recognize who I was. It was a continuous battle, speaking negative words to myself. I would tell myself, ‘You’re a bad mom.’”
During this time, Romero tried unhealthy diets, “putting everything into [her] body.” She even tried Phentermine, an appetite suppressant. “I wanted to find an easy way out,” she recalls.
She knew she had a problem, but feared judgment from friends, peers and family. Nevertheless, Romero made an appointment with her PCP, realizing this was about more than just her body; she needed to address the mental and emotional issues.
Finding comfort in others
A nurse practitioner at her PCP’s office challenged her to confront her fears. She recommended the book Bringing Down the Rain, by actress Brooke Shields, who recounts her experience with postpartum depression.
“I read that book entirely, cried right through it,” Romero says. “It was nice to know that someone in the spotlight was a normal person.”
Around that time, Romero returned to work and began to open up to her co-workers, many of whom had experienced postpartum depression too.
“You feel so ashamed as a mom to feel this way. No woman should go through this alone. When I started to talk about it, I started to feel so good.”
Making a commitment to life changes
But it would still take something bigger to motivate Romero to make a change.
“It really did come down to the fact that my husband and I were going to separate – I was that negative and mean. I saw that and finally said, ‘I have to make a change.’ For me, it took dedication; a life change.”
Romero’s friends then introduced her to a meal replacement system that also educated her on healthy eating. Although it took some time to see progress, Romero persisted. She soon saw the weight coming off and her attitude changing. Her marriage and her relationship with Charleigh improved.
Having lost more than 60 pounds, Romero, at 135 pounds, no longer uses meal replacements. Instead, she and her family have switched to a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables and complex carbohydrates, and they refrain from eating processed foods and simple sugars.
Romero cautions that success doesn’t come overnight – even while she was on meal replacements, she still was working out four to five times a week. She also encourages employees to face their health challenges, to seek out help and ask friends to listen.
“I think it’s so important with us working at Children’s Colorado to be healthy,” Romero says. “People count on us to take care of their children…we have to be a good role model to patients and parents. That’s the reason I started working here in the first place.”
If you have questions for Romero or would like to speak with her about a personal challenge, contact her via email at Nicolle.Romero@childrenscolorado.org.
“I don’t want anyone to feel afraid,” she says.