This isn’t the first article to be written about embracing your body after childbirth and it won’t be the last…accepting the way your body may look or feel after child birth is a struggle that many moms face. Sure, we’re all proud of what our bodies accomplished in growing and birthing our children; that doesn’t make trying on bathing suits any easier!
I’ve been pregnant ten times. I’ve delivered five babies by C-section, one naturally and a stillborn daughter after 26 hours of labor. I have also had three additional miscarriages. My body has gained and lost nearly 250 pounds collectively, I’ve nursed each baby for a minimum of one year and I’m now nursing our adopted son…which means I haven’t slept through the night in years! If anyone can empathize the toll motherhood takes on a body, I can promise you it is me.
So while I’ve abandoned the idea that my abdominal skin will be as taught as it once was, I still remain committed to my fitness routine. I have made my physical and emotional health a priority. Accepting my baby pooch isn’t an excuse to eat poorly or stop exercising, it is understanding that bodies change as we age, they change after children. I can’t recapture what I once was but I’m determined to work graciously with what I have now.
I admit that I’ll never be a meal prepper. I would like to be but my reality is that I cook for a family of nine where no one eats the same thing. Making one more large meal just for me isn’t going to happen. The thought of eating 3-4 day leftovers isn’t appealing either if I’m being honest. I’ll also never give up an entire food group, forgo Eggos for dinner on busy nights or think a gimmicky shake for lunch is enough for me. However, I do commit to my health and fitness by embracing these four strategies that work.
1. SCHEDULE YOUR WORKOUTS LIKE YOU WOULD ANY OTHER IMPORTANT EVENT
Make time for you. This is the most important piece of advice you can take from this post! I schedule my workouts just like I schedule a parent conference, my hair appointment or a doctor’s appointment. I would normally not cancel a much needed highlight or a visit with my child’s teacher so I try not to cancel on myself. I have a child in high school, a child in middle school, two in elementary school, two preschoolers, a baby at home and my husband is a pro athlete gone the majority of the year…I get what it means to “not have time." I look at my calendar every Sunday and choose a minimum of three fitness classes to attend for the week.… I then write them on our master schedule and work around those times. I prefer group classes because I can change up my workout, I will push myself further and my results have been better in a group. (I know many women don’t feel confident to join a group class because of their perceived body image. Please know that working on your health is one of the most respected things a woman can do for herself! I always am so proud of the women who feel out of shape but finish a class. Truly inspirational!)
2. ADD RESISTANCE TO YOUR WORKOUTS
While walking or hammering it out on the elliptical burns calories, you will NEVER CHANGE THE SHAPE OF YOUR BODY UNLESS YOU DO SOME RESISTANCE TRAINING. This means you have to use body weight, bands and/or light weights to change your shape and tone your body. If you hate your saddle bags, walking will not get rid of those but side legs lifts will. Now that I have relocated from Florida to Nashville, I will be teaching barre classes again, specifically my “bikini barre” routines that really help with all of the areas affected by pregnancy or general aging. ANYONE can do this class. I taught it until the day before I delivered my sixth baby and it was the only pregnancy that didn’t result in being wheelchair bound due to back pain. As you can see from the photos in this post, my best mom body came after all six babies and only after including cardio and my resistance training barre class. I also love any type of body sculpting class, dance class or kickboxing. I recently started increasing my cardio with kickboxing and Tae-Bo using light weights and the changes have been noticeable in just a few weeks. The more lean muscle you build, the more calories you burn outside of exercise.
3. IF YOU CAN’T GET TO A GYM, DO HOME WORKOUTS.
If you just can’t get to a gym, get in your workouts before the kids get up. I once worked three jobs as single mom, I understand all of the reasons why it sometimes just doesn’t happen. Schedule three 5:30 am workouts in your living room each week. I know how unappealing that sounds but once you start, you don’t want to give up on yourself. Create a library of DVDs, get Pure Barre or another workout ON DEMAND or join a program like Beach Body. My sister has four children under age four, including a special needs child, so she does not even have the gym daycare option…but she gets up at 5:30 am to finish her workout at home before her kids’ feet even hit the floor. If you want to feel and look better, you have to commit to it.
4. MAKE SMARTER DIET CHOICES.
Eat in moderation. I eat everything but I eat it in moderation and in small portions. If I want pizza, I’ll have once piece and a salad. If we’re eating out, I order off the kid’s menu or ask for the lunch portion. Stop eating three pieces of pizza or double cheeseburgers…be reasonable in your portions.
Don’t drink your calories.
Juices, sodas, fancy coffees and alcohol add a TON of added calories to your diet. This can add HUNDREDS of extra calories a day. I try to drink one class of orange juice in the morning and water the rest of the day. I don’t drink coffee or wine (freakishly weird I know) because I just don’t like the effects of either of those in my body.
Eliminate one bad food a week from your home.
Foods like chips, French fries, sugary cereals and sodas offer zero nutritional benefit and will only add more calories to your diet. You don’t need these and your kids don’t need these. Save these for treats on family dinner nights but don’t keep them in your home. A general rule of thumb is that the better and healthier foods come from the outer aisle of the grocery store where the high sugar and highly processed foods are in the inner aisles. Stay out of the middle aisles!
You don’t have to be a size 4 to be the best version of you! Start to enjoy taking care of yourself and the feeling that accompanies getting healthy. Your children, your work, the husband that says he doesn’t know how to go to the grocery store with children (or is that just mine) are the REASONS to work out, NOT the excuses. Success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally, it comes from what you do consistently! Commit to your best mom body because taking care you is part of taking care of your family!