5 Tips to Get Active, Get healthy, and Improve Your Postpartum Body Image!
I recently wrote a blog post about how it took me 17 months to return to my pre-baby weight and size, which got me thinking more about how I did it. I have been teaching about body image and health for so long that sometimes I forget the critical moments that I work through mentally that make a huge difference long term for my health. Having a baby and then returning to being physically active was mental, emotionally, hormonally, and physically challenging. I remember going to the gym at three months postpartum, after gaining around sixty pounds during pregnancy and feeling this overwhelming feeling of insecurity. I wanted people to know I had just had a baby. This was one of those moments for me that in the past I would have never even questioned, but when it popped up this time around for me, I immediately noticed. Why do I need other people to know I just had a baby? I had to ask myself then, are others judging me or am I judging myself? Of course, it was me, and I have done some thinking about why.
It is funny being pregnant because you will never receive more praise and love for having a giant and round belly in your life. People love it, so much so that they even want to touch your belly. I loved being able to sit and let it all hang out. Sucking in? Ha! Yeah right, it was so beautiful just to let it all hang out and for the first time in your life have people appreciate your body for being something other than small with perfect proportions. The irony here is that as soon as you give birth to your child, it is like you are immediately sucked out of that world of appreciation, beauty, and comfort, and you are thrust back into the world you remember. The world that has no love and appreciation for you or your body and only has eyes of judgment you can feel on your skin. In one day you go from one extreme to another, and as soon as you give birth to your baby, you are expected to look as though you never had a baby. That beautiful, big, round, belly that they thought was so beautiful one day carries shame and judgment the next.
One of the things I teach in my workshops and classes is conditional love vs. unconditional love. We learn from a young age that love has many conditions and it isn't something we deserve as we are now but something we must earn by altering our true selves. For women, perfecting our bodies has been the most powerful way we strive to earn love. Understanding this was extremely helpful in battling my own judgment, body image, and sad days. Here are a few tips to help you get active, healthy, and improve your postpartum body image from someone who has been there.
1. Give yourself a reality check!
Yes, I said it. After having a baby we don't always think rationally, and rightfully so. We have a shit storm of hormones, a helpless infant that really only needs its mother, we are sleep deprived, our nipples hurt, we are wearing sweatpants, probably haven't showered as often as a normal human should, and our entire world has been turned upside down. When I receive messages from women who are feeling guilty about not getting back in shape two or three or even five months after giving birth, I like to give them a friendly reminder: YOU JUST HAD A BABY BASICALLY YESTERDAY! It took almost a year for your body to make a baby so it is important that you allow your body at least that amount of time to heal. You have to remember that what you just experienced is traumatic for your mind, body, and spirit. It is beautiful but traumatic and you need a reality check to remember what your body has been through and to not be so hard on it. It is time to let go of the conditions you have set for yourself in order to feel lovable. Especially if unconditional love is what you want for your baby, it has to start with you.
2. Keep it simple, start by walking.
As I have shared before, the first time I went to the gym at about three months postpartum, I peed my pants and left feeling defeated. My hips still hurt, and it was clear I was overdoing it before my body was healed and ready for that kind of physical activity. I gave myself a reality check and then started with something simple; walking. I hated being away from True anyway, so it was a perfect way for me to be with her and get my body moving reasonably and healthily that was not counterproductive to my healing process. If it weren't in the stroller, I would strap her my chest and go for a little hike or walk around the neighborhood. Being outside, getting fresh air, and comfortably moving my body improved my overall mood and outlook on my health.
3. Cook healthy options in bulk.
The most important thing we can do is feed our bodies nutrient-rich foods. No that doesn't mean you can't have chocolate or pizza. But when you have a baby, food is the last priority, and it shouldn't be because you as the mother needs to fuel her body that is working overtime to feed her baby and heal from pregnancy. What I found to be the most helpful was to make a few (or have your partner, family member, or friends make them for you) healthy recipes in bulk. For me, it was pots of soup, chili, salads, and anything I could pop in the microwave and heat up quickly. Knowing you have healthy options on hand when the hunger hits is going to be a game changer for you. Not only will it help balance hormones and mood, but also will assist your body in using the stored pounds from pregnancy as energy.
4. Whatever you do, do not try on your pre-baby clothes.
I am serious! This is something we all do and wonder why the hell we put ourselves through that. I tried on my favorite pair of jeans, and they went to just over my knee, and I burst out crying. These kinds of experiences are not going to be productive, and if I have another child, I am going to hide all my pre-baby clothes in boxes in the garage. Buy new clothes at the size you are currently and as those become big overtime, buy a size smaller. You will know when you are close to your natural size and when the time is right to give your favorite pair of jeans a try. Don't worry about clothes fitting right now and don't live in fear of them never fitting again. If you are kind to yourself, focus on being the best mom you can be, eating well, and loving your body in a way that is productive for it's healing and health, you will get back down. And if you don't, so what! Buy a new pair of jeans and know that your body is a "bad-ass MF" that created a human being. Don't let a few inches of size diminish that power or your ability to love yourself and your children without conditions.
5. Understand that you will never be the same.
I want to tell you something that no one said to me about becoming a mother; You will never be the same. I know your initial reaction to having a baby is to "get back to your old self." The truth is, your old self is a caterpillar, and you are now a butterfly. You can't go back, and you need to know that you don't have to hold onto that desire out of the fear of not being enough. Your child chose you as it's mother for a reason and you also need to choose you. In case no one has told you, you are allowed to love yourself as you were then, as you are right now, and as you will ever be in the future. For me, pregnancy was such a powerful experience because I was forced to relinquish control to my body. No matter what I thought about it, my body was making a baby, and to experience that kind of universal intelligence tapped me into something different. I felt connected to something otherworldly, beautiful, powerful, and spiritual. They say that a pregnant woman is a connection between heaven and earth and I think women are simply that connection. You bring a little bit of heaven to this world. How you love and mother your child creates paradise in this world, and because of that, you will never be the same. You are apart of an evolution of love on earth it is ok to let your old-self go. Love her, appreciate her, thank her, and shift your focus to the life and world you want to create for yourself and your child. You are allowed to make that a priority and True and I will be here rooting you on! You got this Mama!
Thank you so much to Zappos for sponsoring this post and important message! My entire outfit and shoes are from The North Face because they want you to #neverstopexploring and like motherhood, life is all about the journey.
I saw these shoes and had to have them! The color was so amazing. I love wearing all black workout clothes but I wear lots of colors when it comes to my day to day outfits. These shoes just make the best of both worlds and keep me happy. I am a size 9.5 shoe.
These leggings are high-waisted and perfect for postpartum tummy support! I am wearing a size 10 or 12 and ordered a size medium and they fit perfectly.
This sports bra is a size large and fits snug. I am a 38 D and I like that it is a little on the tight side so that it holds everything in place.
Zappos is amazing for new parents because it ships asap! Whoop Whoop! If you want to check out more styles from The North Face click the button above and remember to shop the size you are now! Enjoy!