Finding Kindness and Forgiveness
10/14/2014 4:41 PM
Make no mistake, this post will not be about how much I love my stretch marks, deflated breasts, and other things that come along with growing, birthing, and nourishing a baby…or two or three. This post is, however, about being kind and forgiving when it comes to our bodies and the changes we hope to make.
With my first two children, the weight gain was minimal at 26 and 28 lbs, respectively. It fell off, and my muscle mass and strength returned simply. I worked hard but my work paid off quickly. I was back down to pre-baby weight at 3 months postpartum and 21% body fat by 6 months postpartum. Because I breastfeed, I choose not to alter my eating habits beyond simply eating healthy foods. Calorie counting isn’t a part of any training program I develop anyway. I just make sure I am diligent with strength training and repairing my abdominals (read my Core Connection post if you’re unfamiliar with abdominal separation).
Here is the first of 2 blog posts recording my postpartum journey back to my fitness goals after Baby #2. And Here is the second installment of that experience, for comparison to my current frustration.
This time has been markedly different. I don’t know the exact amount of weight I gained because my midwife and I agreed weighing had no value given my healthy total-body wellness. It was affecting my psyche negatively when I was already up 25 lbs in the first 25 weeks. I take care of my body and my it just needed to gain differently this time, even though my eating habits were the same, or even better, than my previous pregnancies. Based on the 30 lbs I was still carrying at Thanksgiving (2 months postpartum), I suspect I gained 50-60 lbs.
Here are the photos I shared from my first postpartum blog post at 6 weeks post-birth:
Here is the blog post for the next set of measurements and pics, if you care to see more.
Now for the good part.
The part where I treat myself like I would treat my personal training clients. The part where I change my self-talk.
I had an honest conversation with and took a step outside of myself. “If a postpartum client were struggling with the pace of her changing body, how would I respond?” This is what I say to friends, family, and clients:
Be kind to yourself. It took 9 months to grow a baby and it is a LOT for your body to adjust to and process. It actually isn’t ideal for you to gain a large amount of weight, go through the physical strain and demands of pregnancy, recover, and then jump in to taking care of a family AND expect your body to just go right back. It can be very harsh on your body to experience drastic changes in such a short amount of time. Slow change is healthy change. Slow change is normal change. Slow change is forever change.
What’s the hurry?
Everyone loses at a different rate and intervals, and with different programs. You are unique. Put in the effort and you WILL reap the benefits. Do workouts that you enjoy and stop thinking of them as workouts. Go for a walk; don’t put on workout clothes and do a walking workout. Train your muscles effectively; to be stronger; don’t lift weights and do an hour of cardio everyday…you’ll never be able to commit long term. Start small, use what you have, do what you can.
So there you have it. The answer and attitude change I needed. I needed to treat myself with some kindness and forgive my body for needing something different this time. I needed to work with goals and passion but stop working out because I hated my body. I decided to workout because I LOVE my body. It feels good to exercise. I have more patience with my kids, I’m less snippy with my husband, and I get more done because my energy increases and my information retention is higher (I am notorious for my terrible memory). My naturally low blood pressure regulates which makes me feel more balanced, and I make healthier choices all around. Health begets health.
For me, this meant taking a break from my typical high intensity, heavy weight training. I needed to do something easy and less traditional. I put focus on healing my body from the inside out. 2 green smoothies a day was a fast and easy way to get healthy calories, cut my sugar cravings out almost completely, and even boosted my breast milk supply. I cut my workouts down to 30 minutes a day and began walking with my boys in the stroller every morning just because it was a nice addition to our day. I didn’t walk fast, I didn’t walk far at first even though I was physically capable. My youngest hadn’t spent any time in a stroller since I wear him when we’re out and he needed time to acclimate. Since I started this in July, we’ve increased our walks from .87 miles to 3.97 miles. I still don’t do it for exercise…we just go for a walk. As for my strength training and cardio focus, I did a large variety of programs. I used my own Trim in 10, MuTu System, my large library of Cathe Friedrich DVDs. I only did workouts I enjoyed and I rarely did an entire DVD. I wanted to stop internalizing the idea that just because I am a fitness professional that I had to do every workout to the extreme. It’s more about variety, moving your body, and consistency in movement.
(Please excuse my wet hair...with the baby sleeping in my room, I can't get to my dryer without risk. Oh, and my husband didn't tell me I had a tag sticking out of my sports bra! Hey, I'm a fitness specialist, not a model or photographer. ;-)
Back to all seriousness, my arms/shoulders/back are SO much better than I thought they were! I love a defined upper body. It just screams, "I'm strong!" My stretch marks are pretty much unnoticeable, and things are narrowing. I'll take it.
I could probably continue talking about this forever but this post is already long enough.
Good for you for making it to the end! ;-)
I am now 1 year postpartum and I still have work to do; and that’s ok! My body IS changing, just slowly. My slow change will be forever change and I won’t sacrifice my love of fitness (aka, getting burned out) to be 21% body fat again. It will happen and I am letting go of any made up expectations I placed on myself simply because of my job title.