Why I am proud to be a ‘Fit Mama’ – The Benefits of Fitness Postpartum
Childbirth is a beautiful thing. Everyday I am in amazement that my body was able to make a human being, a HUMAN BEING, do you know how crazy that is?! My body was stretched out and pushed to its limits during the 9 months of pregnancy and now it provides all the food and nutrients my baby needs to survive.
My body has taken a beating. My bellybutton will never be the same, my butt will never be as firm and my boobs never as perky (there is a lot to say for good angles and flattering lighting). Sure, I don’t have stretch marks but I have dealt with terrible hip pain, knee pain, back pain, stress incontinence and separated abs all due to carrying around my beautiful 9lb12oz baby! If any of you knew me before you know I have always been slender, so it’s not really a surprise that I bounced back after the baby. Before pregnancy I was a 32A and a size 4, and now at 6 months postpartum I finally fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes again. I won’t say that I didn’t have to try, of course I did, but I have always lived a healthy active lifestyle and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My motivation for getting fit postpartum is simple, I want to be healthy so that I can feel my best and be able to do the things that I want to do with my daughter and husband. Losing weight just happens to be one of the many benefits of exercise. I work in the health and fitness industry…I always have, and I always will. It is my job to motivate others to succeed and reach their goals. As an Occupational Therapist we encourage people to set goals that are important to them. I feel this is important not just from a health and fitness perspective but also to provide some organization to life. How do you work towards something if you don’t know what you are working towards?
So what are my goals? I want to be the best mother I can be, I want to be physically and mentally strong so that I may provide for my daughter in any way that I can. I also want to be happy and healthy, which for me go hand in hand. My definition of health does not include weight or measurements but rather how I feel. I FEEL best at my normal size. In all honestly, I felt AWFUL while I was pregnant. I vividly remember walking up the stairs at the beach one day (and I was only about 20 weeks pregnant at the time) thinking that I was glad this was just temporary because I never wanted to feel like this again. I didn’t see pregnancy as a reason to ‘throw in the towel and kiss my former body goodbye’ but rather a reason to strive to be fitter, healthier and stronger postpartum than ever before. To me health is not defined by the number that you see on the scale but rather by functional measures. These include how well you are able to do your day-to-day activities, how you are able to engage in leisure time, and how you keep up with your family and manage responsibilities at work.
Lately there is a new social media trend, particularly in the postpartum community. Women are encouraged to love their postpartum body and show appreciation for who they are and what they have accomplished (like making a baby!). I truly think this is fantastic. It is wonderful and empowering to see other women who are proud of being a mom, stretch marks and all. Check out the hashtags #takebackpostpartum and #takebackfitspo for a beautiful array of women showing love for themselves and their babies. Unfortunately this has spurred another movement that I don’t agree with. Women now feel it is okay to put others down for their lifestyle choices, particularly those who choose to workout and ‘get their bodies back’ postpartum. With social media it is easy to judge others, but it’s important to remember that there is a real person behind those pictures, and you can never judge a book by its cover.
Obviously I am an advocate for working out after pregnancy. Rebuilding your core and gaining back your strength is key for preventing injury and health conditions later in life. By exercising effectively now you decrease your chance of developing pelvic floor dysfunction, pelvic organ prolapse, back pain and incontinence later in life. Have I been doing all this for a flat stomach? No. Sure It’s nice, but rebuilding my core strength after pregnancy has improved my low back pain and healed my diastasis recti so I can avoid complications in the future. Most people become deconditioned during pregnancy, which can also cause injuries and pain that interfere with your ability to care for your child(ren). Did you know that people gain on average a pound a year after the age of 20? Add 5-10 pounds retained after each pregnancy and that would put an average woman at 30-40 pounds overweight at age 50 after 2 kids. This additional weight puts you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, injuries, chronic pain, mental health issues, and shorter life expectancy. Having a baby is tough, it is exhausting caring for another little human all day! But by finding 30 minutes a day to engage in physical activity now you can help prevent so many health conditions later.
The words thin and healthy are not always one in the same. People can be very unhealthy but still be thin (take a look at some drug addicts or heavy smokers), and people can also have a large build and still be healthy! It is important to see people as individuals rather than quantifying others based on their weight or appearance. It is extremely frustrating to see derogatory comments to others online implying that if someone looks good on the ‘outside’ they must be rotten ‘inside’ or vice versa.
I workout 5 days a week, I eat healthy, I work hard, and I take care of my family. In return I feel happy, I have increased energy, I have more patience, I suffer from less injuries and pain, I have decreased stress and anxiety, I have no major health issues, and hey, I fit into my skinny jeans again. For me, the link between physical health and mental health is strong, and one cannot exist without the other.
Does this make me obsessive? Possibly… exercise is addictive. When I do something, I strive for 100%, that is my personality and that will never change. I crave exercise, I crave the fresh air, I crave the sweat on my face, I crave the adrenaline rush and I crave the feeling of accomplishment when I get through a tough run or crazy Crossfit workout. I crave the feeling of being alive.
Does this make me vain? Maybe…but people who look better often feel better, so if this is counteracting depression then I’ll take it.
Does this make me a bad mother? Absolutely not. I spend quality time with my daughter and husband everyday. I workout with her or I workout at home or sneak to the gym while she’s having a nap. My husband and I share delicious home-cooked meals every night and he appreciates all that I do in order to take care of my family and myself. Everyone has their own priorities and it’s important to respect that. By doing the things that make you feel alive, whether it be working, playing with your kids, cooking, eating, or spending time with family and friends, you are living your life to its full potential and fulfilling your own personal goals and aspirations.
So call me vain, call me selfish, call me obsessive, what’s important is that this little girl can call me Mom.
In fitness and good health,