11:57 pm Jul. 15, 20101
Kirsten Gillibrand fits into her Red Tab Levi’s again. She hasn’t fit into them in years, since before she had children. Back then, she was Tina Rutnik, the Asian studies graduate from Dartmouth working as a lawyer in Manhattan. Now, she's a mother of two. Also a United States senator.
In between, she's been "every size between a six and a sixteen." She looks like Tina again.
She’s very happy about the Levi’s.
“On the weekend I love to wear jeans. Every mom likes getting into her old jeans,” she said.
After her second son, Henry, was born in 2008, she had gained twenty pounds of baby weight, on top of the twenty pounds she gained when her first son, Theodore, was born in 2004. Gillibrand started a diet after a year of nursing Henry. It took her a year to get back to form.
Last summer, mid-diet—and early on in what has been a sustained public effort to be the Senate's foremost champion of working-mom issues—she spearheaded a proposal to counter child obesity, and spoke at length about the evils of Chicken McNuggets. She is the sixth-ever member of Congress to have a baby while in office, and she describes her political agenda as "kids-first."
“All new moms struggle through the same things,” she explained. “Having helpful tools makes all the difference.”
That tool, in the context of her own physical transformation, seems to be Gillibrand's Herculean brand of willpower: no liquids beside water and decaf coffee without sweetener. She does not approach the bucket of candy in the Senate cloakroom. There are "no chips, no pretzels, no chocolate." Vending machines are invisible to her.
Carbs are only allowed in the morning, in the form of whole wheat toast and oatmeal (plain, no sugar). She will also have some fruit; berries or a banana.
She takes her lunch in the Senate cafeteria, which one frequent visitor recently described as offering "hospital grade" food to its patrons. There, she eats grilled chicken and steamed vegetables.
For an afternoon snack, she has low-fat cheese and an apple. Or, sometimes, non-fat, sugar-free yogurt and a piece of fruit.
Dinner at home, or at evening events: steamed fish, grilled chicken, or a different lean meat. There is no dessert.
Raspberries are her favorite food. “Our family splurge is buying raspberries.” A splurge, since they are “kind of expensive.” Theodore and Henry love them, too.
Gillibrand exercises between one and three times a week.
“My schedule is so busy that a workout is often sacrificed,” she said.
She tries to go running on the weekend: if she’s upstate in Hudson, she runs down her road. In D.C, she runs in a small park next to her house.
When she gets the chance, she plays squash with one of her work-friends, Al Franken.
“He’s very good,” she said. “He typically beats me. I’ve only won a few times!”
Gillibrand, whose incremental progress in losing weight has been a matter of public record for months now, says she’s only strayed from her diet once. It was barely a slip, anyway: at the Congressional Women's Softball Game last month, she ate pizza and drank beer after her team lost to a team of women in media. Gillibrand was a captain. She practiced with the team for three months, with practices twice a week at seven in the morning.
She makes the best of what her regimen allows her. Recently, Gillibrand finished some yogurt as she waited for the underground shuttle below the Capitol building. According to one eyewitness, her plastic spoon scraped the insides of the cup with such vigor that it sounded like “she was playing an instrument."
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