As my daughter’s first birthday approaches, lots of numbers have crossed my mind. 12, the number of months since that beautiful day she was born. 2, a special number that represents my sweet girl as she was born on 2-22 at 2:23 PM (we tried to get the doctor to fudge her birth time to 2:22 but she wouldn’t). 4, the answer I give now when people ask how many kids I have.
But one number I’m trying very hard to ignore is my weight. With each of my other pregnancies, I was back to my baseline weight by their first birthday. As this approaches once again, I’m coming in about 5 pounds above my baseline. It was 4 pounds, but Girl Scout cookies were delivered last week. Kidding. Sort of.
But something is different for me this time around. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years studying health independent of weight. Meaning, what does it mean to get healthier measuring things other than weight. For example, if you implement more fruits and vegetables in your diet, begin exercising regularly when you weren’t, and start consistently sleeping enough hours, but don’t lose a single pound, are you healthier? How do you measure health in these situations? What about energy and mental clarity? How are these measured?
I’ve also spent a lot of time researching body positivity. There’s so much information available now on this topic. To idealize a specific body type as “healthy” is so counterproductive. When you shift the focus INTERNALLY instead of EXTERNALLY, amazing things happen.
Think about it. Have you had days, at your current weight, where you’ve felt sluggish, bloated, or weak? But had other days, at the exact same weight, where you’ve felt energized, focused, and strong? If weight is the only marker you’re using, you’ll ignore progress. This is exceptionally damaging because when you can’t see progress, you give up.
I had my first child at 27, and my 4th at 34. The latter recovery was much different. I considered myself to be in probably the best shape of my life prior to my last pregnancy. I had been exercising for about an hour 5-6 days a week very consistently, doing a mix of strength and cardio. But that didn’t prevent me from feeling much weaker postpartum than I ever had before. I’m talking my low back was so weak I couldn’t sit up and get out of bed without rolling over and using my arms to lift myself for almost 2 months. Slowly walking a half mile took all the energy I had. It was months before I had the strength and energy to do a full pre-baby workout.
Previously breastfeeding helped the pounds melt right off and supply wasn’t an issue. This time anytime I cut back on eating to help speed up the weight loss, my supply dropped. It wasn’t worth it.
I’m so thankful for what I’ve learned these last few years and that I’ve been able to apply it personally. Because here’s the thing, there’s a 100% chance after having a kid that your body will change. There’s a 100% chance your body will age and change with time. Not accepting this is ignorant. It leads to false hope and false expectations.
I’ve toned up a little in the last several months and am back to the weights I was able to lift before having Aslan, but I know my body will never look like it did prior to having kids. It just won’t. Even if I become stronger, faster or smaller, I still won’t look the same. But my perspective has been completely transformed. This no longer bothers me.
The mental energy we spend trying to fight this reality is such a waste. How much more brain space would you have if you never thought about your looks? Or your weight. This energy could be spent on much more productive things like creative ideas or reflecting on blessings in your life!
You may be thinking that’s easy for me to say, 5 pounds isn’t a big deal. Maybe you’re 10, 20 or 50 pounds heavier than before you had kids. But I promise you the number doesn’t matter, the concept is the same. It’s a state of mind. When the focus shifts towards how you FEEL and not how you LOOK, the number doesn’t matter, no matter what it is.
Yes, some numbers matter like your blood pressure or cholesterol levels. Because these numbers often improve with weight loss we assume weight loss is the measurement of health. The truth is behaviors improve health, not weight loss. Eating better, exercising, and getting enough sleep improve these numbers. And sometimes, weight loss results as well.
I could probably go back to working out intensely 5-6 hours a week after my kids go to bed, monitor my food closer, and lose a few pounds and tone up tighter. But why? Not for my health, I can work out much less and still reap the same health benefits. I wouldn’t be healthier because I’m 5 pounds lighter, I just had my health markers checked and they were pristine. Instead, I head to the gym for a cardio workout like spinning 1 or 2 days a week because I enjoy it. I use dumbells at home 2 or 3 days a week and workout with my kids around. I go for walks during my lunch break if I have time because it gets my heart rate up and gives me energy to finish the day strong. Maybe in the future, I’ll train for another triathlon or race because I like the challenge, but it won’t be to prove anything. And if there are days when my “mummy tummy” really bothers me, I wear high waisted pants and fake it till I make it!
I’m choosing to get better sleep so I’m not exhausted and short-tempered with my family in the morning. I’m choosing a little spontaneity and taking my kids to the park instead of getting worked up over missing a workout on a Saturday morning. I’m choosing health over weight.
Every part of my body that pregnancy changed is a battle wound I’m learning to wear proudly. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I’m getting better at it. My belly is soft because it expanded 4 times to carry a human being. My bra size is different because I’ve spent 4 of my 35 years, more than 10 percent of my life, breastfeeding. My skin has stretch marks because guess what, skin stretches with pregnancy! Why should I or anyone else be upset by this?
Our bodies change. Especially with pregnancies. But seriously, who cares. Focus on what’s important, for me that’s faith, family, and health, not my weight or looks.
I hope this helps you embrace your perfectly imperfect post-baby body.