My skin fit like a glove today and I wore it with confidence.
Do you know what I mean? There are those days when clothes don't fit quite right or I'm feeling less than attractive, bloated, whatever and I'm tugging on my shirt and picking on my choice of clothes because I'm just not comfortable in my own body.
I have THOUGHTS to share on body image, but that isn't to say tomorrow I won't be a little bit upset about the stomach pouch I have leftover from pregnancy or SOMETHING.
But you guys, that pouch was inflated to the size of a beach ball. I have a little pouch (and some stretch marks) leftover as a reminder of an amazing thing I did. I can deal with that.
I can. Because here's the thing: our bodies are mostly vehicles for us to LIVE life. It took me a long time to get this; sometimes I still forget it.
I've been learning to appreciate my imperfect but kind of amazing body. I've been showing it some respect by fueling it with the stuff it needs to function well. I've gone back to yoga (just this week!) to help me out with some back issues.
All of that means more living and less sidelines. I've spent quite a chunk of my life pursuing lesser things (like numbers) at the expense of greater things . I've spent too much time taking the too many negative or useless comments I've received about my body to heart, like somehow they reflect on who I really am and whether or not I'm "okay."
"Skinny" shouldn't be a compliment and "fat" shouldn't be an insult. They are statements. Neither takes away or adds to the value of a life. Neither makes a person more or less beautiful.
The most beautiful women I know are so beautiful in spirit that it's hard to tell if it's their physical appearance I think is beautiful or if it's the inner beauty that's shining through. I don't try to hard to make the distinction.
I am a lover of food (for so many reasons! You might already know this.).
I appreciate healthy, satisfying meals.
I thrive on meals that are shared with others (even if they aren't the healthiest).
I think that food can be community glue.
I think there is more than one "best" way to eat because no two bodies are the same and because our bodies change in chemistry every few years.
Since the arrival of my baby boy and my new role as a mother, I've been experimenting with my approach to food. I need to marry my love of community-glue-meals, my adventurous palate, and my need for nourishing food that fuels days that include, but are not limited to, taking care of an active little boy.
I'm sharing what works for me right now because recently, I've seen that every time I share something that's is important to me or is a need, especially when it comes to something parenthood-related, there is always someone (often several someones) that come out of the woodwork to say, "me, too!" And usually me, too, and this is my take.
I love that.
How I approach food to fuel motherhood
- I don't eat any added sugar from Monday to Thursday. I do this to avoid sugar crashes and sugar "hangovers." Maybe I've become more sensitive to sugar with pregnancy, but those things are real. Most of the time, I can't afford them.
- By Friday afternoon, I kind of feel I've earned a real dessert (added sugar included) and I'm ready to kick back and relax. Tim will be with me much of the time, so I don't have to be so concerned with being on top of things constantly. This means dessert is a-okay.
- I allow myself to have whatever I want all weekend, including sweets. I'm still aware of how my choices make me feel, and I still make a lot of my usual healthy choices. I do say yes to the cake with the perfect icing that so many weekend parties seem to have and even eat dessert every day (if I actually want those things).
- I avoid sugar later in the evening on Sundays to avoid a sugar hangover on Monday.
- I drink coffee. I know a lot of moms don't, but this mom most certainly does...and I'm not looking to give it up any time soon.
- I eat a lot of plant-based fat. Peanut butter, avocado, olive oil.
- I don't subscribe to any one diet (as soon as I even try to, I am in mental rebellion), but my eating style is probably closest to Clean Eating during the week.
- I try to eat as much as often as I am hungry. Sometimes this is 3-4 times, and sometimes it is 6-7.
Now I'm curious- do you have a role you purposely fuel for? Nurse? Runner? Parent? Something else? What is it and what is your approach?
There are a lot of Body After Baby posts out there.
It's great, really. Happy, healthy mama makes for happy, healthy kids. I really enjoy reading those posts. I find them encouraging and inspiring more often than not.
But you won't find one of those posts here.
The main reason is I can't.
I can't pursue the same goals you'll find in those posts and stick to my "healthy, happy" goals.
I know because I was pursuing them. I was weighing in with a specific number in mind. A number, I might add, that is quite healthy for my body.
I knew that it might take me some time to reach that number. Months, maybe a year.
But then my thoughts kind of got taken over. If I didn't lose weight between weigh-ins, I was discouraged, despite all the good, healthy choices I'd been making.
When I was feeling particularly overwhelmed, my thoughts became, "who cares about the number? I want comfort eating NOW."
I was fitting back into some of my pre-pregnancy clothes and feeling good about it, but that number? It wasn't low enough. I was convinced that I shouldn't be able to wear those clothes at my weight. Parade dampened.
I made a decision.
Me and the scale? We're taking break. We need our space and we're not sure when we might get back together.
Now I'm working out with other goals in mind.
Strength. For me, there's a certain pride I feel in feeling strong. I have fond memories of cleaning out a storage facility with mostly guys. Those guys would ask me if I needed help with boxes that looked particularly heavy, and the thing is, I really didn't. I was lifting regularly, I was capable of participating in activities that required strength, and I was proud of that. I wouldn't mind feeling like that again.
Quality of life. I believe that spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental health are tied together. If one is improved, it is likely the others are, as well. If one suffers, the other aspects suffer. I want to squeeze every sweet drop out of life, and that means being prepared and doing what I can to have the energy and ability to take on opportunities as they come up.
Comfort in my own skin. If I pay attention to the above aspects and wear clothes that fit me well, this particular goal falls in place quite easily.
Right now, those things are more important to me than a particular number of pounds on my frame.
And since I don't have the ability to do both...
Well, I know the scale will be waiting for me should I choose to return.
Related posts that resonated with me:
A New Tool: The Zero Scale (Part of this post is a product endorsement. I have no plans or desire to purchase said product, but I appreciate the ideas and thoughts presented.)
I stuck to my plan of doing no physical exercise for 2 weeks postpartum.
I'm glad. My body had, and still has, healing to do.
But I've been itching to do some yoga.
During pregnancy, I attended a prenatal yoga class and practiced with Shiva Rea's prenatal yoga DVD.
(Does anyone have recommendations for post- postnatal yoga DVD's or podcasts?)
The day after Nolan turned two weeks old, I tried it out, with the expectation that I would follow along with the DVD until it was time for my body to stop. Yoga is very much about listening to and respecting the boundaries of the body, pushing the limits, but not too much.
I ended up doing the whole thing.
It felt wonderful.
It was the perfect amount of challenge without being too challenging. The next day, my muscles were sore in ways I haven't felt in quite some time.
I completed it again 2 days later. My plan is practice 3 times a week. At the 6-week mark, I'll start attending one studio class a week. (I still have paid-for classes, and I also found a great deal to carry me through March.)
I'm thrilled that my body didn't revolt after 50 minutes of yoga; it is so good for me mentally, emotionally, and physically.
I'm entertaining ideas getting back into running. A woman pushing a jogging stroller lapped me during the first 5k I ever ran, and I've felt inspired by her ever since.
I'm playing around with plans to work up to yoga teaching certification.
But for now, I'm practicing 3, maybe 4, times a week, and that feels really good.
Unemployment is a little strange to me.
I think I am happiest doing homey things. I am excited about the chance to spend more time getting the house "ready" for Baby Boy's arrival, experimenting with recipes that make both my husband and I happy (this is no easy feat, but I think I did quite well last night, and I'm spurred on to keep trying) and tending our yard and garden. I get a kick out of making my husband's lunch and coffee in the morning. I feel privileged to be available for a run to a friend's house for a last-minute babysitting need, a spontaneous catch-up session on my big, comfy couch, or a long walk with a friend to take care of my body and mind (although these have been a bit tricky with the heat recently. My tolerance for high temperatures and humidity is going down, down, down.)
I spent a good chunk of time reading some great posts and articles this morning, and I feel inspired in my own writing attempts. I've been craving some inspiration, as I feel like I've dropped my writing mojo somewhere recently. Maybe I forgot that both writing more and reading makes for a better writer...writing is another thing I want to do with this gift of time I've been given recently.
The one tricky part about having all these things I want to do (of course I have a list in my proverbial back pocket; I'm a lover of lists and am hardly ever without one) is that I get tired so quickly.
Friends and family tell me to be careful about doing too much because a baby is being grown inside of me. I've discovered that I don't have much choice but to take it easy with my ever-present to-do list. It's a strange feeling to know I'm going to be actively doing so much less than I would like to on a given day. It's a hit on my pride and a lesson that I'm still sorting out...but being Baby Boy's incubator seems to be one of my most important and honorable jobs right now.
About that baby.
-This is the first week he is considered medically viable, meaning if he were to be born now (which I'm not hoping will happen. At ALL.), he has a good chance of surviving and eventually doing well.
-He's moving! A few weeks ago, Baby Boy's movements felt like bubbles, but now? They feel like a person- like kicks, jabs, rolling around. It feels strange and miraculous at the same time. Recently, he seems to be into moving most obviously while I am eating and when I am settled down for the night.
-Baby Boy is about the length of an ear of corn, his brain is growing rapidly, and his taste buds are continuing to develop. His skin is still thin and translucent, but that will start to change soon. (source)
-He doesn't have a name yet- any suggestions?
I still haven't learned.
I've been eating (mostly) well, taking walks, reading, drinking lots of water, putting my feet up, and keeping up with my prenatal yoga classes...but sleep?
Well, I've been getting what I can, but I've been staying up late(r) to get some cuddle time with Tim since 1)I need that and 2)I sleep in a fortress of pillows. My body still wakes up in time to get ready for work, or earlier, despite the fact that I am now without a job. No big deal, right? I just take a nap after lunch to make up for the hours not slept the night before. Bada-bing.
Except I haven't been getting those naps in the last few days...partly because Baby Boy seems to want to break out his boxing skills whenever I lay down. I absolutely enjoy those little performances. I can't help but smile, but the lack of sleep caught up with me today.
I was pretty much non-functional. I was craving too much food, as my body usually does when it hasn't had enough sleep for too many days in a row. I was worrying about silly things (I'm going to get too big; my husband is going to think I'm boring) and really not wanting to do anything...and then around 6 pm, I got a half-hour nap and felt alive again.
Ready to put together intelligible (although likely uninspiring) words. Ready to make up an action plan for the coming day. To go to bed at an hour early enough to allow me to forgo a nap should Baby Boy choose to use my nap time to put on another show for me.
Because he probably will.
What do you do when you're out of energy? Do you stop and rest? Push through? Something else? Please share! I'd love to read any ideas you have!
I know it seems silly. It's a detail- a detail that's been true since my baby's conception, a detail that doesn't change my love for my child or the fact that I am now a mother or the path of change that life continues to follow.
But it's a big detail to me. Not because I was hoping for a son, or hoping for a daughter (I really had no preference), but because it is a detail that reminds me that my baby already has a personality, a frame, a set of genes. It's a detail that helps fill in the cracks that the movements, reading, the appointments, and physical changes leave behind.
Maybe I'm a little bit dramatic. I won't deny it.
But last Friday, I found out that I have a son. A perfectly healthy-looking son.
I saw him move. His hands in front of his eyes and behind his head. His knees tucked up to his belly . I was so glad that Tim was there because I couldn't have properly described what it was like to see our son no matter how hard I tried.
It was...it was as if I could see another piece of my world with Tim fall into place. My husband is a father to a son. I don't have the words yet to express what that is doing in my heart. But I can tell you this: similar to the way the love between Tim and I has grown over the last 6 (?) years, this whole becoming-parents thing is deepening it. A man who loves, takes care of, prioritizes, enjoys, and adores (I'm sure I'm missing some fitting verbs here) his wife and kid(s) is a treasure. And? Incredibly sexy.
I'm dreaming of watching my husband in action as a father and as the husband of a woman who is crazy about him. I'm dreaming of getting to know my baby boy. I'm dreaming of the adventures we're going to live out in life.
-Weight of my baby (according to the anatomy scan): 1 lb. 3 oz.
-Food cravings/aversions: nothing in particular (oh, except I want chocolate every.single.day...and I still am not into meat.)
-Crazy dreams: I have them almost every night (really ridiculous stuff), but never seem to remember them for long.
-Weight gain (total since my last appointment): 11 pounds
-Thoughts on who will be the stricter parent: My vote is me. Although I might like to say otherwise, Tim's much more of an adventurer/free-spirit than I am.
-Movement: I can feel my baby move more and more. In fact, while I was reading over this post, I saw my belly visibly move!
If you want to see pictures of my bare pregnant belly, scroll down a bit. (I have no shame.) But fair warning- I am blindingly white..and, well, pregnant.
Early on in my pregnancy, I decided that the kind of life I want to live as a mother includes feeding myself and my child(ren) lots of really healthy food, but also trips for ice cream, glasses of wine with my husband, picnics, and generally soaking up life. I decided that if living that kind of life- a relaxed, drink-up-the-moments life means I weigh 10 pounds more than I think I "should," I'm okay with that. I'm not saying I'm aiming to end up 10 pounds over that magic number; I'm saying that the number is not equivalent to health.
Health is so much more than food. I've had a very similar adage posted at the top of my blog for more than a year, and I'm still learning it.
In fact, even after making that decision, I was still learning.
Learning to live in and love my ever-changing carrying-a-baby body.
Learning to accept the fact that maybe everything will expand right now, but really...so what? I'm still beautiful. This whole process is still beautiful. I'm becoming some body's mother, and I have to learn to be ok with clothes fitting differently and coming up with strategies for getting out of bed.
I'll tell you what, though- I had some help with that process.
If you're pregnant and still working on a healthy body image (and it can be a process, so maybe you're already there, but need a refresher), here's what I suggest:
1.Choose to believe people-especially those close to you- when they tell you you're beautiful, adorable, glowing... It can be easy for those like you and me- when we're just feeling big- to dismiss compliments with a "oh, they're just trying to make me feel better." Probably not. You might feel huge, but face it, Sister, pregnancy is a miracle, and it is beautiful. Choosing to believe something good that's said about you when you believe the opposite does require some effort and repeated practice- but keep practicing. It'll come.
2. Keep in mind that those who make comments about your size are likely excited and wanting to participate in your pregnancy with you. This one was a difficult one for me to get over. I had the same person make multiple comments nearly every day about my size. I had people do the, "you're showing already? how far along are you? I didn't show until 6 months!" thing...and all sorts of comments along similar lines. It took me quite a while to realize that those people either don't know how to talk to a pregnant lady, are just excited that they can already "see" the pregnancy, just want to connect with you, or a combination. Most people don't mean any harm by the comments that upset you. Even after realizing this, I had some help...and when I've had a long day and get another "you're so big!" comment at the end of the day ,I still need some help some days. (Thanks, Tim!)
3. Wear clothes you feel comfortable and pretty in. It may take some time to find out what that is, and it may change, but the effort is worth it. For me, it's flowy dresses and skirts, cotton tank tops, and a pair of not-too-big-not-too-small maternity pants. I like to dress those things up with scarves or big necklaces.
4. Read things that help you get where you want to go. I'm a big fan of blogs, so when I say "things," for me I mean "blogs," but for you that could mean talking to people with healthy body images, reading a book, finding an appropriate online forum...One blog that's been especially helpful for me in my healthy body/mind/life efforts is Weekly Bite. Estela offers several articles in her "Nutrition Bites" section that have proven beneficial to me in the past, but the article I kept referring to-especially in the beginning of pregnancy- is "Pregnancy and Weight Gain Worries." That woman knows her stuff!
What am I missing? Is there anything you would add?
I recently added Weekly Bite to my list of favorite blogs. Weekly Bite is written by a Registered Dietician with a penchant for a no-diet approach to eating that is both delicious and creative, an eye for design, and taking fantastic pictures of her absolutely adorable toddler.
I discovered it a month or so ago. I was counting calories; she was saying, "don't count calories." And I thought I'm so out of touch with my body right now, I just have to. But then the novelty wore off. And something pushed me to stop pushing myself to run so many miles and do what puts me in balance. And I thought, ok, Estela, maybe you're on to something.
One week ago, I started following the no-diet series she wrote about a year ago (which is still completely applicable to today, of course). I resisted the urge to read every entry for weeks one through ten my first week in. It's pretty common for me to get so excited about a concept, try to take it all it, try to planplanplan, and then end up overwhelmed and hardly in a better spot than the one I started from. I didn't want that to happen to me.
I made myself take it one step at a time. What's the rush, really? I've been fighting with my body and my mind for so long; why, when I find something good, do I try to turn it all around at once?
It was worth it. I'm one week in, feeling great, AND.
Making positive changes that effect the mind and the body snowball in very good ways.
Why did I ever stop doing yoga? For a woman like me, whose internal compass seems set on "high strung," chilling the heck out for at least an hour a few times a week does wonders. Wonders. The benefits are physical, mental, and spiritual.
I am a professed lover of yoga.
I had grand plans of keeping up with yoga while training for a half marathon. Then I threw in classes and life changes, and it just wasn't happening. I thrive on yoga, but I also thrive on sharing cups of coffee, meals and child care with the people who do life with me. I was not wanting to give up time with people for a life of nothing but work, books, and exercise.
(And maybe I was a little unintentional along the way.)
Running 13(.1) miles got kicked to the curb, because guess what? I'm still working on getting healthy (in all capacities) and part of that is recognizing how I am designed and then honoring that. I have felt great many times after a 4 mile run, but a double-digit run? Doesn't make my body feel good at all. At this point in my life, honoring my composition seems pretty important.
I feel best when I...
...practice yoga regularly.
...spend plenty of time in the kitchen. (I actually rarely feel the old familiar urge to binge when I give myself plenty of time to create yummy things.)
...take the opportunity to walk in the sunshine with my husband, when maybe we both might just as soon collapse on the nearest couch.
...and spend some time writing every day.
...act on the occasional impulse to sing at the top of my lungs or dance in the living room.
...read books by people much smarter than me.
...find ways to celebrate and then follow through.
What about you? What do you do that leaves you feeling your best?