I gave myself nine months to get my body back after having a baby. I wasn’t going to be a crazy person, and try to get back to my fighting weight after three months. I am not a celebrity and I do not have 4 nannies, a personal trainer or a cook. I am a normal human being, doing the best I can. And it took me nine months to grow this baby, I figure, nine months to get my body back, sounds fair.
Here I am at 9 months. Not bad, eh? I’m actually 3 pounds under my pre-pregnancy weight. I’ve never been more proud of myself than after having a baby. B/c it is the hardest job out there. You don’t get paid, you don’t get performance reviews letting you know you are on track, you don’t get weekends off. It is seriously tough. The best job, but also the hardest. And holy crap, what a toll on our bodies!? So, yes, I am proud of my mom bod. And I didn’t technically get my body back. It’s a different body now (a couple of battle wounds), but it’s mine and I am owning it.
And here’s how I did it.
It boils down to 3 simple things. But the work and commitment that goes into each is anything but simple. It’s a matrix of ever shifting priorities, time, money, and complex emotions. But it’s worth the balancing act, b/c the end result isn’t just a healthy body…it’s also my happiness.
Do something that you enjoy, but maybe hate a little bit because you aren’t perfect at it, and you have to push yourself. Do something that kicks your ass. Do something that is yours and yours only. For me, that is Bikram Yoga, three times a week. Maybe for you, it’s cycling 30 miles up the Pacific Coast Highway. Maybe it’s running up the entire island of Manhattan. For me, it’s Bikram Yoga. I get cardio and strength training and I sweat my ass off. It absolutely breaks me down until my brain stops obsessing about grocery lists or an argument I got into last week. It’s so hard that you HAVE to concentrate. It’s a kind of mediation for me. And I’ve also gotten to see real progress by sticking to it faithfully three times a week for the last six months (I didn’t do any exercise until after 6 weeks post birth). I can actually balance in poses I used to fall out of. I can stretch farther. I used to huff and puff through the class. Now, I am breathing steadily. I feel stronger in mind, body and spirit.
Now to the inevitable question of time & money. How do you fit in time for yourself if you have a full time job, and children and thirty other priorities? I feel very blessed to have a partner who understands the value of working out and self-care. This allows me the time and freedom to do Bikram three times a week. I asked him for that time, and I give him the same opportunity back. We support each other in this way. Even if it feels like you are being selfish or a bad mom or whatever ugly story we women tell ourselves, you HAVE to ask your partner or a family member or a friend to help support you in this way. For the good of the relationship, your sanity as a woman and the sake of your child – do something that is just yours. This is as good for your mind as it is for your body. The positive natural endorphins, the sweat, the mental reboot. We need it all. And deserve it. Oh, and how about the pure bliss of the class being over? It cannot be described. You climbed that mountain! Even if you are crawling at the top, you did it. God, that feels good. If classes or a gym membership are cost prohibitive, you might choose instead to go for a run outside, or do yoga in your bedroom, while watching free YouTube instructional videos. There are always solutions, even with the toughest circumstances. Maybe it’s getting up at 5am before everyone else is awake. Believe it or not, there will come a time when it feels worth it. You are worth it. Prioritize yourself. To be the best version of yourself. (Addendum: And for God sakes, don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day here and there. Life happens. Vacation happens. No biggie. Start again the next week.)
Get busy doing something you love. Not busy with deadlines and conference calls for work you don’t give a wit about. Trust me, you will always make time for a big fat lunch, when you hate your job. In that moment, it’s the only joy. I don’t blame you. What other sources of joy can you find? Food can be incredibly satisfying, that’s okay. However, it cannot be a way to fill up a giant gaping hole in your soul. It might assuage the pain in the moment, but long term, it isn’t a solution. And often it’s is a double whammy b/c it inevitably leads to self-loathing (especially if you’ve overeaten). I say this with no judgment. I get it. All too well.
Right now, I am managing a baby who I’m madly in love with, and demands so much of me that my own needs have faded to the background (and I do it happily, as long as I get to take a yoga class now and again!). Plus I have work I enjoy, that fulfills me. In my job as a coach, I get to help people. I get to be there as clients have A-Ha moments, or make giant leaps in their personal growth. That feels great. Between making sure Kaia is cared for, and my (other) job…of course I forget to eat! But more than anything, I don’t have the time or even the inkling to make food central to my pleasure. It’s simply fuel. (And I have always been someone who LOVES food. All food.) When I do have a rare moment of sitting down to a quiet dinner after the baby is asleep and work is done, I absolutely savor every bite. Because I earned it! And I have the time and space to enjoy the simple pleasure of food. If you live to eat, it’s worth looking at the other pleasures and pain points in your life. You deserve more pleasure, and less pain. We all do.
Ok, so this is obviously not a tip for those of you who aren’t postpartum. And it’s a bit of a cheat in terms of the hard work that goes into traditional “dieting”. But I’m taking whatever help I can get, and you should too.
I committed to breast-feeding for a year, so I’ll do a follow up blog after I hit the year mark, to see how things have changed, b/c WOW! Right now, when this baby nurses, she takes all the calories from me. Isn’t that terrific? It’s a hell of a diet. I eat (mostly) whatever I want and she takes the calories. And you know what, babies look super cute with chubby thighs and a big old belly! If only I could package and sell this as a fad diet, I’d be a billionaire. I’m breast-feeding b/c I believe it’s best for my baby, and WOOHOO, I got the unexpected fringe benefit of watching the weight fall off.
What’s your path OF happiness?
I’ve had a lifelong relationship with food and my body (sometimes good, sometimes bad). There has been one consistent insight, and it was thrown into glaring relief when I had a baby. When I am feeling fulfilled at work and in personal relationships, and have a sense of purpose (my place in the universe), food becomes something I appreciate, rather than a balm to soothe pain. And without fail, when food is not a focus or a fix, my body reflects it. My body settles to its most natural state. And no surprise…from the inside out, I am happiest when I’m most myself. When you feel your best, you look your best. But it doesn’t come easy. You have to commit to the steps that put you on your own Path of Happiness. (notice I didn’t say TO happiness. The Path is all we have. The destination is ever changing and often not in our control, so keep your eyes on the Path OF happiness, rather than TO happiness).
For me, right now, the path is: busy (with things that make me happy!), Bikram, and for two more months, breast-feeding.
What’s your path?