Getting back to our pre-baby weight is seen as some sort of accomplishment by society, the fitness industry, and the media. I’ve come to realize how backward this is, but I had to first become a mother to really get the extent of its ridiculousness.
My priorities today are different than they were in my 20s. I have a child who needs my attention, curiosity, patience, energy, and compassion. Exercise, good nutrition, and self-care help me to tap into the best parts of myself. My purpose in eating healthy and exercising is not to make my body acceptable to whoever may be looking and judging.
About 15 years ago I entered into the field of health and fitness, because exercise has always been something I’ve enjoyed and really needed to feel balanced and strong. Unfortunately, there came a point when I had to step away from it because the “skinny,” “lean,” and “fat-phobic” culture among the trainers and clients was not something I could buy into. I didn’t enjoy spending hours in the gym and eating nothing but boiled chicken and steamed vegetables to obtain a physique that would earn me approval from my peers. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with that lifestyle; it just wasn’t fun or motivating for me. I will not blame the fitness industry for creating these messages, but I will not perpetuate them.
First comes baby weight…
“Wow, you look great!” What is this phenomenon of strangers touching our pregnant bellies? Isn’t it weird that to most people, a pregnant belly means it’s totally OK to observe, judge, and offer commentary on a woman’s body? I became even more self-conscious about my body during pregnancy, because it felt like people were really paying attention. I continually had to remind myself of what was important to me — overall health, strength, and balance. So I ate when I was hungry, walked and lifted when I had energy, and nested like hell. Pregnancy was when my body image issues really came to the surface, but I’m thankful it gave me the chance to work through my “stuff” so I didn’t pass it on to my daughter.
Then comes baby…
In the first few months, the fat melted off my body due to breastfeeding. And yes, people commented. At around six months postpartum, I was still sleep deprived, had very little time or motivation for exercise, and was craving comfort food. A LOT. During the baby’s nap time, I would do the next best thing to sleeping. I would eat. I ate potato chips and Oreos and watched episode after episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” This was how I was managing my sleep deprivation, stress, isolation, and overall adjustment to my new life.
Guess what? My body fat increased, and I had to buy the next size up in jeans because I was so sick of wearing maternity pants and sweats. New motherhood is a huge adjustment. Throwing a baby into the mix changes the dynamics of relationships we have with others as well as the relationship we have with ourselves. I knew I was doing my best, and I felt OK with that.
Baby becomes toddler…
Today my daughter is 20 months old, and I don’t have tons of time to exercise. Some nights we sleep; some, not so much. Some days I eat a salad with chicken, and some days I polish off a bag of chips. Some days I do a weights circuit in my living room, and some days I lie down on my living room floor.
Embracing my curvy post-baby bod
I remind myself that my body’s shape and size reflect my hormonal profile, genetics, lifestyle, and daily choices. It does not reflect my value as a woman, mother, trainer, or human being. I do believe this in my heart, but, sadly, it is not yet as ingrained in me as the whole “fat is bad, skinny is good” way of thinking. This way of thinking has invaded me to my core from a very young age. It will take work and constant vigilance, but I am changing this narrative for myself a day at a time. I’m doing it for myself, my daughter, and the generations of children to come. We have to change this narrative, and I believe we can, one child at a time.