Cheers to the post-baby body!

This week, I posted something on Facebook that clearly resonated with a lot of mamas. It wasn’t my intention to strike a chord, but I guess I did, and I couldn’t be happier. Here’s what I wrote:

“I have decided I really dislike the phrase ‘get your pre-baby body back.’  Partly because my body is different now, plain and simple. But mostly because a post-baby body can be pretty amazing too. What no one tells you is this: after giving birth, it’s like you have a required rest period and then a blank slate. You have a fresh start to make your body what you want it to be. Never in my life have I been able to do pull-ups, and now after working with some amazing trainers, I am *thisclose* to being able to do them unassisted. So do I have my pre-baby body back? Nope. But look at what my post-baby body can do!”

Eighteen months ago, when I was in the throws of pregnancy, I never could have imagined how I would look or feel at this point, almost one year exactly after giving birth. Looking back, this is what I would say to my pregnant self:

1)  Stop worrying. Easier said than done, of course. It’s hard to relinquish control over what is happening to your body as it grows to accommodate human life. But you need to take a deep breath and let go. Let go of your self-judgment. Let go of your comparison. Let go of your need to control your body. As long as you are making healthy choices, eating smart, and still moving, you will be fine. In the meantime, you must allow your body to do what it needs to do for your little one. If that means gaining 50 pounds- the healthy way- then so be it.

2) Let go of expectations.  And while you are at it, let go of timelines. You have not yet met your post-natal self, just as you haven’t yet met your baby. Becoming a mom will change you, and it will change your body. But how you change is not just chance. Part of it is up to you. Cross that bridge when you get there. For now, respect the wisdom of your body. It knows what it is doing.

3) Set yourself up for success. Start practicing now for an easier recovery later. Keep your body strong. Work on proper posture. Use your breath to strengthen your deep abdominals by pulling the baby to your spine with each exhale. Keep reminding your neuromuscular system how to hold yourself in space. Eat healthy food and avoid excess sugars. These things alone will jump start your postnatal routine.

4) It will all be ok. Sure, you will probably have to work to meet your goals. Sure, it could take a year before your feel like some semblance of yourself again. But you know what? You won’t be worried about it as much as you are now. You will have something (someone) else that will occupy your thoughts, heart and emotional space more than anything else you’ve ever experienced. Meanwhile, you will be on the downhill slope as pounds drop when you aren’t even looking. Take a deep breath. It’s not that bad, I promise. Before you know it, you’ll be doing pull-ups.

 

 

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A Letter to Maria Kang

Dear Maria,

I’ve seen your “What’s Your Excuse?” photo all over the news and facebook today, and it got me thinking. A lot. So, I’ve decided to get some things off my chest. What good is a blog if you can’t air your thoughts, right? Well, I’m here to weigh in (terrible puns aside).

First, CONGRATULATIONS! Getting back in shape after having a kid is NO JOKE. I am learning this now. I too am a 32-year-old fitness professional, and I am 6 months postpartum. For one, witnessing our bodies go through unprecedented changes to spawn a child and then experiencing the recovery process is equally humbling, fascinating and awe-inspiring. Couple these crazy changes in our physical bodies with a crazy lack of sleep and free time and I commend ANYONE and EVERYONE who is able to fit in a workout – six pack or not. But the fact that you do, in fact, have amazing abs after three kids is fantastic. I know how hard you’ve worked to get there.

Now here’s where it get’s a little dicey for me. When I first saw your No Excuses photo, these are the thoughts that immediately went through my head:

1) Wow, she looks great.

2) Wait, how old is her youngest?!

3) WAIT, why is she doing the Sexy Straddle over that child…

4) “What’s your excuse….” {UGH. CUE MOMMY GUILT.}

5) I’m only six months out. Still have 2 more months to look like that. {CUE UNHEALTHY COMPARISON.}

6) Why am I feeling GUILTY? Good lord, I’m sore from my last workout and I’m already planning how to get one in today.

7) Actually, on second thought, I’m not really making excuses. I AM making time. I AM getting healthy. I AM losing weight. I’ve lost almost 3/4 of the baby weight already!

8) But still, I don’t look like this yet…..

9) I wonder if she’s nursing?

10) I wonder if she works full time?

11) She probably doesn’t eat. Yeah, they said she used to be bulimic. She probably doesn’t eat.

12) I wonder how long she works out each day? What does she do with three kids while she works out?

13) Is this a professional photo? Yep. Definitely photoshopped. She’s prolly a model anyway.

14) Well. She probably just has a… (insert appropriate superlative here)… life than me.

15) For the love of God,  I’m now LOOKING for excuses why I don’t look this way!?! I’m one of the full-time-working, no-sleep-getting, boobs-out-ALL-THE-TIME-moms that IS ACTUALLY WORKING OUT CONSISTENTLY!!!!

16) ….Was this meant to be inspirational?

So, as you can see, that tagline really got to me. I imagine this train of thoughts is not that far off from what a lot of other moms felt when they read “What’s Your Excuse?” – even if they aren’t making any.

But, I was nothing if I wasn’t intrigued. So I went to your facebook page. I went to your website. And what I found really, actually, inspired me.

I found your fitness evolution page, and learned that you aren’t all that different from me: A fitness enthusiast who, despite continual exercise through pregnancy, still gained 35 pounds (for me it was more like 38, but who’s counting). A wife. A mom. A woman with a social conscience. A blogger who tries to keep it somewhat honest and real.  I found your FAQs page and realized you, too, had struggled with breastfeeding. You actually have stretch marks. You also have the confidence to post photos of what you looked like right after giving birth, muffin top and all. And you sometimes still indulge in a donut.

These are the facts that inspire me. It’s not your photoshopped photo. It’s certainly not the “What’s Your Excuse?” tagline. It’s not the hot-mom status that you’ve been granted – in fact the same media that crowned you queen of the MILFs is also the media that has plastered your No Excuses photo everywhere, taking it out of context, offering you up for dissection by people who are sitting on their couches, more comfortable judging others than finding out the truth.

But I want to ask you a favor. Please, can we maybe alter that motto a little? I get it, I do. I understand your well-intentioned point. But here’s the deal: the last thing any of us mommies need is a second helping of guilt or shame. What we desperately need is a dose of encouragement and truth. Like I said in an earlier post:

There are too many people giving too much advice and too many women feeling too badly about themselves.

Please, for God’s sake, let’s support one another. We are all passionate about our children. We all want the best for them. We are all doing our best for them. Our choices may be different, but our motivation is the same. What works for one will not work for another. Please, be forgiving of yourselves. Please, be compassionate to others. Please, stop telling each other they aren’t doing it right. All we can do is all we can do.

If all of us, as mamas, come together and support one another, think of the mountains we could move. The choices you make aside—formula or breastfeeding, cereal or vegetables, cloth or disposable, daycare or stay-at-home—our children look to us to lay the groundwork for their perspective on the world. We directly have the power to make a cultural shift. If we begin by tearing others down, what example are we setting? Let’s welcome everyone to the table.

I’m ready to change the dialogue. I’m ready to help women realize that every body is different. When we focus on the perfect, idealized end result, we fail to recognize the truth: the fact that you woke up at 5am to work out despite the fact that your little one woke you every hour before that. The fact that your skinny jeans still didn’t button until four or five (or more?) months out. The fact that last night you were just too damn tired, and you decided you could only muster ten pushups on the living room floor and called it a workout. And yet tomorrow is another day. Fitness – especially as a mom – is a journey. One that is not consistent, nor always progressing. Sometimes there are setbacks and sometimes there are plateaus. No two people are exactly alike. But we can all strive for and achieve our best versions of ourselves.THIS is the truth. And yes, THIS is the inspiration.

I’m starting today, by posting pictures of my 6 month postpartum body. I took these in my hallway this morning. I hadn’t shaved my legs. I hadn’t even showered. The photos sure as hell are not photoshopped. But, this is my truth.  This is where I am, today. I don’t have any excuses. And I have a few more pounds to lose before I’ll be comfortable. It might take me 10 months, a year, or even longer to get my body where I want it. But it will happen.

honeymoon2

A Before Photo – our honeymoon

pregnancy

37-38 weeks pregnant

6months

6months2 6months3 6 months postpartum

I am guessing, based on what I read on your facebook page and website, that you actually are a pretty inspiring person. And that you got the short end of the stick with all the negative comments you are getting. I’m sorry – haters will hate. I hope they do a little more research and look you up before they dismiss you. And yet, I hope you will join me in changing the message we are sending to moms everywhere. Instead of focusing on what they aren’t doing right, let’s focus on ways to help them do what they can. It’s not enough to say “I did it, so can you!” As fitness professionals, we need to show them how. Let’s be honest. Let’s give our vulnerabilites and our weaknesses as much air time as our victories. Let’s be REAL PEOPLE. And let’s celebrate the journey. Crossing the finish line is so much sweeter when you can look back at how far you’ve come.

Thank you for sparking this dialogue, and blessings to you and your beautiful family.

In health,

Saralyn

The journey from BURN! to Birth

Five months ago, I. Was. Killing it. By that I mean: I was a fitness fiend. A day without some type of workout was all but unheard of; some days I might have even doubled down. Now, I should mention that I work in fitness – I’ve worked at gyms since I was 16, taught Pilates and group fitness for 9 years, and certified new instructors for 6. A large part of the last 15 years of my life has been spent inside of gyms, studios, and clinics… so I’m lucky that “getting to the gym” isn’t usually that difficult. Even still, I was especially driven in the last few years to really push myself: to reach for new goals (running half marathons when I HATE running), to be more aware of what I was putting in my mouth (a pumpkin spice latte has HOW many calories?!), to add to my list of “tricks” (Peacock pose. Look it up.).

To a certain extent, I believe I was not only competing with myself, but with that omnipresent, addictive beast: the Facebook Newsfeed. Yes, that’s right. When you work in fitness, and if you are friends with your colleagues, your newsfeed is a log of incredible feats of super-human strength. Well, ok, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration. But there’s a lot of “I just crushed a 50 mile run!” and “Try this super amazing juice fast!” So, when you are eating an ice cream sundae in your sweats and checking Facebook, if you HAVEN’T worked out that day, you may feel a little…well, lazy.

Then, one week, things were completely different. Monday I set my alarm for my normal 5:15 am workout time… and slept right through it. Tuesday, I did the same. Wednesday came and I thought, ok, maybe afternoon hot yoga is a better option. And as I lay face down on my mat, dripping sweat, in a room heated to 97 degrees, I felt it coming… that moment when you KNOW you are about to puke…

That Saturday I bought a pregnancy test. And let me tell you, that little blue line did NOT need 3 minutes to process. It was there immediately. My husband and I had just decided to start trying that month… so we were both in a bit of disbelief. There’s no WAY it happened so quick! So I took the second test in the box. Same result. I even bought another brand of test, and still, the same result. I was pregnant.

There are very few things I’ve known with certainty in my life,  but knowing I wanted to be a mom was one of them. I have always wanted this, as far back as I can remember. Even as a toddler, I named my baby dolls after my newborn cousins, as a child I begged to go visit the newborn unit of the hospital, and as a teenager I spent my Friday nights babysitting. That’s probably why, in my head, I always thought getting pregnant would be nothing but rainbows and butterflies. But no one really tells you the not-so-shiny part, do they? The first trimester got underway, and though we were thrilled, I suddenly found myself feeling miserable, and freaking out.

Suddenly my workouts were much harder, if they existed at all.  I could barely find an ounce of energy. When I forced myself to work out and did my regular cardio, I started bleeding…. WHOA, that was scary (after visiting the doctor, I found out it was not the baby, thankfully). I felt so conflicted – I didn’t know what was safe or what was normal, when to push and when to back off. My doctor told me to do 15% less of what I was doing before… but even with that in mind, my body wasn’t having it.

So I did what every health and wellness geek does when she doesn’t have the answers. I started researching. As much as I could. And wow, was I disappointed. Everything I found seemed to be very generic, written for women who were not active before pregnancy. Most consumer articles approached pregnancy and exercise from an one-size-fits-all, overly-cautious standpoint; which makes sense, since it is a risky situation to write guidelines that apply to everyone when every woman- and every pregnancy- is so different. Even the scholarly articles – the very, very few that I found, were somewhat vague, and rarely discussed the woman who was fit and active before she was prego. Or, they addressed a broader subject than what I was seeking – like, does exercising while pregnant result in shorter labor times? But what I wanted to find was specific fitness information based in research: a what-to-expect-when-you’re-expecting for the fitness fiend who already had some basic knowledge. Of course I didn’t want to start anything new or push myself too hard. But, I had questions none of these articles seemed to answer. For example, what was it  about jumping rope that made my cervix bleed? Is it true that deep twisting is contraindicated even in the first trimester, and is it due to a risk of diastasis recti? Is a drop in testosterone levels the reason why my muscles feel soft all over, even though I’m still including resistance training? Is it normal that I have a little extra cushion-for-the-pushin’ even in my BACK?  These are the answers I was seeking.

I still continue to research, and would welcome any suggestions from any of you who may have answers. In the meantime, I decided to start this blog in an effort to share my own experiences, knowing that there are women out there like me who want to remain active and healthy during pregnancy, while making educated, smart decisions. Furthermore, I find it silly that women don’t talk about the not-so-good, the bad, and the sometimes ugly parts of being with child… sometimes, it’s laughable. And if we can all laugh about it together, then it will make it that much more enjoyable.

I hope you find something here that inspires you, motivates you, and makes you smile. I hope you join the conversation,  and tell your friends. And I hope that throughout your pregnancy, you remain Fit to Glow.