THOSE OLD JEANS AREN’T GETTING ANY BIGGER!
A little bundle of joy has just entered your life and your life has changed forever . . . .for the better. Suddenly, you have another whole being to focus on and it’s the most fulfilling endeavor you’ve ever undertaken. You make sure the baby eats right and gets plenty of love, fresh air and stimulation. You’re getting the hang of this parenting thing.
Some days (ok, some fleeting moments) you feel like Super Mom! There should be a large “S” scripted across your stained shirt! Wait a minute, where did that stain come from? Not to mention that shirt isn’t fitting quite like it used to. You stop and look in the mirror and you realize you’ve been hit in the gut with Mommy Kryptonite! But what the hell —your priority is the baby now. You can’t do a great job of taking care of the baby and yourself, right? Wrong. (We’ll come back to that.)
First, a brief detour on how we got to this point. Why does your body look so different than it did before the baby? Even if you’re just a few pounds up from pre-pregnancy, your body doesn’t look remotely the same. The reasons are pretty obvious —most pregnant women have a hard time maintaining the proper levels of nutrition and exercise they need to maintain their muscular system. Medically speaking, that little miracle growing inside of you is essentially a parasite (no offense). It takes what it needs and, if it’s not coming from the food you’re eating, it’ll come from you, especially your muscles. By eating away at your muscles, the baby slows down your metabolism. So, after the baby is born, no matter what you eat, it seems to go straight to your thighs.
You have to eat, especially if you’re breastfeeding. It’s a “catch 22.” In addition, your lifestyle has changed dramatically. I hear a similar refrain from lots of new parents. “I used to pay attention to what I ate. Now I don’t even know what I ate for lunch today, much less dinner last night. I used to live in the city and I walked everywhere, but now I drive to the corner. I used to go to the gym, now I drive my kid to gymnastics. I used to be energized and now I’m exhausted from getting up at all hours. I used to be pretty hot, now....not so much.”
Let’s get real, that GAP sweatshirt you wear every day is going to be pretty miserable come June. I know you think there isn’t enough time to do anything about it and you don’t want to shortchange that little bundle of joy. “The heck with me! I can suck it up, right?” But for how long? That’s the question, isn’t it —how can I justify taking time for myself? How can I do it and still dedicate myself to my baby the way I need to? I address these questions every day, for myself and my clients. These questions are not easy to answer, but I’ll try.
For starters, you are the center of your little world, your family. You are the “host” that supports the lives around you. If you don’t take care of the host, how’s that universe going to thrive? Taking care of the host does take time. And babies take a lot of time. Even if you have resolved to step up personal efforts, time is in painfully short supply. Maybe you figure, “If I’ve only got a few minutes of free time each day, give me another scoop of Chunky Monkey and let’s call it a day. What’s the point?” There are a lot of points, but here’s the basic one: 20 minutes of really taking care of yourself is a lot better than 20 minutes of sitting on the couch eating potato chips. Trust me, twenty minutes is plenty of time to make a difference in how you feel. You’ll oxygenate your red blood cells, improve your cognition and feed off the endorphin energy for the rest of the day. Not to mention, you’ll do something proactive for yourself and your once-size eight gluteus maximus.
Now about that twenty minutes. Maybe you can give it more time, maybe an hour. If twenty minutes is good for me, an hour will be even better, right? Well, maybe eventually, way down the road, you’ll become an exercise junky and dedicate lots of time in your schedule to your body, but let’s start with a little realism. How much more is twenty minutes than what your body is currently used to? For many, it’s about twenty minutes more, so that’s already a whole lot of change to which to adapt. I’ve never seen anyone really get in shape faster by overdoing it. In fact, all I’ve seen is joint injuries or maybe a good solid case of the flu, but never drastically increased fitness. Remember this one simple rule:
one part change in regimen = ONE PART CHANGE IN BODY
five parts change in regimen = ONE PART CHANGE IN BODY
So, why use up all your valuable time, energy and bag of tricks, dietary and exercise-wise, to affect one part change? Make small changes and make them gradually, giving your body time to adapt and you’ll see plenty happen. “What’s the best way to get started?” is usually the next question. Well, maybe a trip down memory lane is the answer.
Still have those Tae Bo videos from the 90s? How about some Jane Fonda tapes from the 80s? If you still have a player for them, dig them out of that crate with your college yearbooks and get to work! What the hell, throw on those leg warmers! It’ll be fun! Got any friends you can drag into this with you? That’s a great strategy .....the days you feel like bagging it, maybe they won’t and vice versa. Maybe you never really got into exercise, haven’t ever really liked it?
I’d start by trying a few things that don’t sound totally repulsive. Swimming, perhaps, or walking with your workout buddy, who knows — maybe your partner has the answer. Or, you can always send those questions to me care of The MotherHood (firstname.lastname@example.org.) I’ll be happy to try to help you find that perfect fit, just like those pre-pregnancy jeans.
COMING THIS WEEK:
TAKE YOUR MEDICINE by Dr. Donald Cotler
DoulaMomma by Kim Collins
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