A Better Body After Baby
“Empowering Mothers to Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle”
Even on a good night’s sleep mommy’s can have bad days. But take away a steady stream of shut-eye (and by “steady” I mean, like 5 straight hours at this point) and the virtues of patience and joy can be far from being practiced. Add a life of carpooling and errands galore and it’s a potential keg of crazy. Not to mention the fact that the beloved stress relief known as “exercise” is far from regularity since the aforementioned “sleep” is not happening. Basically, the infancy stage and sleep deprivation can create stress in ways you never imagined.
Enter, prioritizing. And re-prioritizing.
It really, REALLY stinks that there is a steady stream of dishes, laundry, toys underfoot, dirty diapers and feedings when all you really want to do is get a little rest, play time with your kids, and adult conversation and what you really NEED is exercise. And, if you’re like I am this go-round, you have an annoying injury which means you need to work out to help it get better but you can’t work out in all the “easy” ways (like, “Hey my husband is home I’ll go on a run or walk or bike ride… oh, wait, those are three things I can’t do because of my AWESOME injury.”) So how can you work out when you’re constantly needed or needing to do chores and/or sleepy? Basically, you can’t NOT be a mom and you have to rest so, guess what needs to suffer now and again? The house work.
I know, I KNOW… if you are a person that feels you live in a house of swill this will be a hard sell. Or if you are the type of person who needs all their ducks in a row and all their rows at 90 degree angles then this will be a hard sell. But, after years of seeing moms who do not take care of their bodies and the repercussions of that, you need to understand – taking time out of EVERY day to take care of your body IS taking care of your family AND taking care of your “house”. It isn’t about weight loss at this point, it’s about stress loss. And sanity. And feeling good.
Add that feel good, de-stress action to good eating and you have a recipe that will morph your potential “keg of crazy” into a keg of crazy-awesome.
So, skip the laundry or the vacuuming for now and turn on the latest Jillian video or ride your stationary bike or get OUTSIDE and run! Trust me, that cyclical life of chores will not stop any time soon, so take a break from it for an hour and do your body, mind and soul some good. Learn to take care of your kids’ mom as well as their house.
Okay, it may seem harsh, but sometimes I think of my former self and get annoyed. Not my chubby teenage self but my “self” three years ago. The self who had two kids and seven mornings with a spouse at home to get up and exercise. Now I have more on my plate – a child in school, two days of running a preschool class, an infant who I hope so desperately to get on a sleep schedule, a four year old who is shy and a bit overwhelmed at going into a large class area with 25 kids, and and SI joint that won’t let me run, ride a bike on the road, do sit ups or most of the usual exercises I was accustomed to doing. I want to say to my former self:
“Screw you, lady. You can get your kids to the Y first thing. You don’t have to wait around until school starts, past the ‘happy window’ for your infant. You can get in a work out because you have a three year old who LOVES it there. MY four year old is shy and cries when I leave him for too long. Or he sits in a chair and waits for 45 minutes telling the workers that he’s waiting for his mom to come get him. And it’s hard for me to see him unsure of himself and genuinely sad. And my baby gets a crappy nap. One more day he’s not at home or on a set schedule. You live in Groundhog day – each day is basically the same and predictable so that your kids know what to expect. My day is varied depending on the day of the week. And it sucks a little bit. So, take your workout advice and ‘Better Body’ and stuff it”.
(Sigh). But the truth is, I’m just annoyed. At myself mostly. And my body. (I’m not used to having a body that won’t do stuff. And I forget a bit the squishy body you have for months. And this body is even more squishy because I haven’t been able to do consistent workouts at ALL in months). And the in-between wardrobe that still doesn’t quite fit. Or look cute on me.
And, so, with violins swelling I join 99.9% of all other mothers in the world as we, united in frustration, wish we had an hour a day of awake-ness and energy to get in a workout and the self discipline to NOT use that hour on the internet or flipping through magazines or getting some time to think of thoughts other than what is needed throughout the day. And a bit of cynicism enters into my brain as I look at women who got six pack abs in “just four months”. (Must be their first kid, I think snidely… remember how much time you had with your FIRST kid?)
But, the truth is, I could do a better job. I COULD prioritize better. And I COULD do a better job of paying attention to if I’m hungry rather than just wanting to eat. I just get annoyed that I’m not further along. I wanted to prove that you can lose all of your baby weight in 20 weeks. I’m 17 weeks in and I’m still 10 pounds from my goal. Ugh.
So, although I maintain the mantra “you can do this!” I also have the mantra – do it at the pace that keeps you sane. Just keep moving! Even with a stupid SI joint and adorable baby who likes to wake up several times a night. Even if you can’t get to the gym and have to figure out the ins and outs of good and… uh… not very good workout videos. You can do it.
And even if you’re not Jessica Alba with her flat belly in four months… your a good mama. And a mama who is setting an example. Even if your winded doing workouts that used to be warm ups for you. Keep going. Your day will come. (And that tankini – needed now because of stretch marks – is around the bend…. a longer bend, perhaps, but a bend none the less).
I’ve spent several years now writing about how moms can get healthy and have an even “better” body after having a baby (or two or three!). I love seeing women feeling their best and using that to fuel the way they parent. But, to be honest, there are tons and TONS of resources out there on weight loss and fitness tips other than mine. And I don’t really want to be blindly slumped into those camps. Although they are also doing good things, I want to use my unique voice to go beyond the normal “health and fitness” world. I want to be a human being fumbling around like everyone else. Not just a pulpit or soapbox. I want to always be honest, real and vulnerable.
Being honest isn’t as easy to me as being vulnerable. Although they go hand and hand you can be honest with many things without really shedding any light into your soul.
Being vulnerable can feel scary. It’s as if you are opening yourself up to judgment and opinions galore. And you can seem a bit unstable. At least, that’s how our society seems to promote vulnerability.
We live in the world of surface living. We enjoy people seeing the outside of us more than the inside. Facebook (although useful in many ways) is a sea of “here’s my great life, look at me” and not a lot of “life is really hard today, somebody send me a virtual glass of wine and a joke”. And, those who dare to say “Hey, I’m having a hard day” seem desperate, needy, or immature. When in most cases they are just lonely and in need of someone to validate them and their struggles.
Moms are the most susceptible at being sucked into this way of thinking. Saying “I’m having a hard time” is usually frowned upon. Much less saying things like “my marriage is struggling”, “I feel like my dreams are dying inside of me” and “I’m having a hard time finding the high points of being a mom… this isn’t what I thought it would be like”.
Accepting our deficits is a large part of accepting where we are in life and who we were created to be. It leads us to the knowledge that we need others. And they need us. We aren’t meant to live this life alone. Only showing surface details will lead us into incredible loneliness. And our nation is plagued with only showing surface details.
So, in future (as the British would say) I promise not only to encourage and teach what I know, I promise to show my vulnerable side more and ask for help when I need it. And I ask you to do the same. I want this site to be a site of those wanting to grow and change by admitting they need others. That we are NOT perfect be we are all important and have something to bring to the table. God made us all unique but He didn’t make us all complete unto ourselves. And that is a comforting thought when you really let it sink into your soul.
I have never really taken much time to look at my back, but I can tell you this: I never remember it hosting fat. I’m sure it has. I have been very roly-poly in my day but I don’t think I ever looked at my back. However, getting into the shower the other day I took note of my back as I turned. And there it was. Fat. Clear as day. I have fat on my back.
Now, I know, technically, we ALL have fat on our back. But I don’t remember seeing it so clearly. And, it made me feel many things – chubby, out of shape, older. Ugh.
Now, I can go on and on about aging and fat placement and “the average womanly shape isn’t skinny” but none would be as honest as saying – I don’t like that I have a fat on my back. (Ignoring impulse to insert a joke about “fat back” beef cuts here).
If you haven’t ever taken note of your back and if it has fat and how that looks I plead with you: do not do it. Resist the urge. Seeing fat on your body in places you usually can’t see is not encouraging. It is depressing. And, I don’t think depression is a good motivator. I mean, being depressed makes me sad and sleepy, not raring to go and get some good workout time in. Or it makes me want to watch a movie… and be a little angry at all the skinny actresses.
But, what’s done is done.
Now that I have this knowledge, what do I do with it? What do I do with my “fat back”? Still pondering that.What does one do with news and information you simply wish you didn’t have? You can’t “undo” the awareness that the fat is creeping up behind you wherever you go. It may not be easy to see… but it’s there. Oh, it is there.
In a few weeks as I do another weigh in, I might see if it has lessened. MIGHT. After all, I would assume if I am losing fat other places my back is in the running, too. But, in the meantime, I will try not to think about it. It’s too depressing. I figured the back fat would come one day, but… it seems that day is today.
So, off to not think about it. And to get my bike on it’s trainer since I have been released to ride a stationary bike (yea). Steer clear back fat. I’m onto you and your sneaky ways!
Okay, so, working out at home is has never really been my scene. And now I have to make it work for me… for many reasons.
I have a 900 square foot two bedroom house where the living room is the center of the universe. It is also the only room with enough space to workout in. WHEN toys and other baby objects aren’t taking up the majority of the space. And when this is the case, I really only have a few options on workouts inside.
First, I can put my bike on it’s trainer and ride for 45 minutes to 1 hour. That is IF my baby is asleep and other boys are occupied. Which means the baby must sleep at least one hour (getting on and off the bike takes a few minutes, plus the workout itself) and the older boys can’t be sleepy, tired, hungry, getting ready for school or bed, fighting with each other or needing me to get the water, a kleenex, a toy up on the shelf, batteries or anything else.
Secondly, I can do a workout video. These are a bit more lenient since my baby COULD be awake for part of the video… playing on a mat or in his chair. But workout videos require total consumption of the video machine (in my case the computer) so I can’t do it during the older boys “video time” per se. And, videos make noise. Which draws attention. Which isn’t all together a big deal… but I might have to field a plethora of questions as I try to burn some calories and build some muscles.
Finally, there is my trusty pull up bar and weight resistance bands. I can put together a routine which integrates these along with stretches, core strengthening exercises and yoga. These are forgiving on the time crunch scale, allowing for interruptions, but are hard to get back to once interrupted. AND they aren’t much for cardio or feeling the “burn” as it were.
Most likely I will opt for a combo of things… half a video until the baby is restless then the pull up bar and resistance bands for 20 minutes a bit later. Then my bike for as long as I can do it after the big boys are asleep (watching West Wing – as I’ve never actually watched West Wing before – or listening to podcasts).
I guess the bottom line is this, I admire women that thrive on at home only workouts. I prefer getting outside with a jogging stroller (or before the kiddos are up!) or to the gym. But I’m learning that this stage of infancy and the schedule of the other boys makes it very, very hard. However, the lure of less stress and toned muscles is much greater than the need to stay “comfortable” with my daily routine and veg out rather than workout. So, with that, I embark on a two month hiatus from the gym, until my life is a bit less busy and my baby is (please Lord!) sleeping through the night and on a more predictable schedule. During this hiatus I hope to find some fun workouts that even my boys can join in with me and try some new things (like Zumba!).
After all… I have 9.3 weeks before my “10 weeks to get my body back (on track)” challenge is over. I need to mooooove it.
If you have suggestions for workouts, I would LOVE to hear about them!
Do you ever wake up, planning to work out then you go about your day and finally realize at noon the morning is gone? Then re-plan your workout based on the activities on your afternoon “to do” list and realize at 4 you’ll have to stay up and workout after the kids are in bed? Then continue cleaning, cooking, organizing, packing lunches, feeding the kids, talking with the hubs and feel the predictable call of sleep cover over you as you think to yourself “I’ll just get up early in the morning and get a workout in”?
Working in a workout is hard. VERY hard if you have a child under 6 months and you actually try to get outside the home everyday. Even for women who crave working out like most people crave chocolate, babies, kids’ schedules and work hours don’t allow for much time to workout.
Now, the idea that working out is beneficial to you as well as your family is not a new mantra in my blogging world. However, all the encouragement in the world doesn’t give you the basic building blocks of how to actually do said workout.
Personally, I’m having to re-train myself on how to work in the “infant factor” into my very busy schedule. And that factor makes steady exercise hard given that I already have one child in school and one at home needing interaction and things to do. AND I teach twice a week, have meetings, help friends with their kids, cook homemade meals, desire a social life of SOME kind, work freelance jobs… on and on and on. Much like most of you.
Babies don’t seem to care that you need a workout (or alone time for that matter). They need what they need when they need it and you are the only person to get it for them. So, you have to be willing to sacrifice their nap time (read YOUR time they don’t need you) and work on yourself. Opting to work on muscular sanity and less stress rather than on your Facebook socializing (can I get a witness?).
The bottom line is this: there will be days when you reach bedtime and simply have not had legitimate time to fit in a workout. And there will be days that you arrive at bedtime and realize that you wasted time doing other things in lieu of a workout.
In any case, realize that sacrificing some veg time for some workout time is ALWAYS worth it. A-L-W-A-Y-S. In fact, mixing your veg time and your workout is optimal as it means you’ll do it more regularly (i.e. watch T.V. from your stationary bike or at the gym instead of just sitting and watching T.V. and not moving at all).
In addition to nixing some veg time for body investment, staying up a bit later (say, 40 minutes) to get in a workout rather than having day after day pass without one is also worth it because you will never attain a healthy body without movement.
Most people (about 80% of us in the USA) need to move (much!) more than they already do. And most people need to lose weight. However, I would rather see people exercising and eating real food rather than simply concentrating on losing tons of weight. With exercise and a “real food only” diet people’s hearts, minds, souls and muscles will improve and fully work to their best ability. Most excess weight they need to lose will follow.
Bottom line: you can’t improve it ’til you MOVE it.
This recipe is tweaked a bit from Mark Sisson’s book “Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy”. It’s Paleo, detox, and gluten-free friendly. Enjoy!
1 1/2 pound chicken tenders (or chicken breasts cut into thin strips)
3 tablespoons coconut oil
3 tablespoons tamari
2 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes (Bob’s Mill are available in most stores!)
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup water
1 garlic clove
2 teaspoons ginger, minced (or dry if needed)
1 teaspoon tamari
3 teaspoons sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Mix the tamari, coriander, cumin, shredded coconut, and sesame oil in a bowl. Roll chicken tenders in the seasoning and place onto a plate.
Gently place chicken into the pan and let the oil cook it thoroughly on one side (about 3-5 minutes). Flip chicken and cook on other side. Remove when done.
Put the dipping sauce ingredients into a bowl (or food processor) and mix with hand mixer or whisk until smooth.
Serve chicken with dipping sauce.
Hurray for week 3!
This week I will add a few more fruits back in (raisins will taste like candy now!) but be sure to limit them as suggested below. Oddly, sugars will make you suddenly crave food throughout the day as it makes your blood sugar levels flux more than other foods with less/no sugar and more fat and vitamins (think avocados, raw nuts, etc).
Also, you will again notice that I use meals more than once by using dinner leftovers for lunches. This is a way to not waste food, save on prep time, AND keep your food budget low.
Enjoy! You’re half way there.
Breakfast – Smoothie: 1/2 cup “lite” or carton coconut milk, 1 cup frozen mixed berries or blueberries, one banana
Lunch – Salad with 1/2 can tuna (strained from the can, no mayonnaise), EVOO and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Snack – 1/8 cup raw nuts, granny smith apple
Dinner – meatloaf, roasted veggies (whole carrots, parsnips, sliced sweet pototates with coconut or olive oil and salt)
Breakfast – frozen berries and full fat coconut milk
Lunch – leftover roasted veggies
Snack – banana or apple slices with almond butter
Dinner – 6 Detox meatballs *,
Breakfast – banana/almond meal pancakes
Lunch -Smoothie (coconut milk, 1/8 cup canned pineapple, banana) and salad topped with tuna salad
Snack – 1/8 cup raw nuts, granny smith apple
Dinner – Carrot salad and Coconut Chicken tenders
Breakfast – Steel cut cooked oats with 1/8 cup raisins, 1 teaspoon coconut oil
Lunch – Salad covered in 1 teaspoon EVOO and 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, topped with leftover coconut chicken
Snack – 5 detox meatballs
Dinner – Shredded Cauliflower
Breakfast – Frozen berries with full fat coconut milk
Lunch – Carrot salad and 5 detox meatballs
Snack – Granny smith apple with 2 tablespoons almond butter
Dinner – Moroccan Lamb Tagine
Breakfast – Cooked Steel Cut oats with 1/8 cup raw nuts (chopped), 1/8 cup raisins
Lunch – Leftover Moroccan Lamb Tagine
Snack – One banana with 1 tablespoon almond butter
Dinner – Tomato Basil Soup
Breakfast – Banana with 2 tablespoons almond butter
Lunch – Leftover Tomato Basil Soup and a small salad
Snack- Handful of raw nuts, granny smith apple
Dinner – Rutabaga Bacon Hash
*Make the meatballs small in size (a “medium” cookie scoop size) and you should get about 20 if you double the recipe. These will last you the week!
1 small onion finely chopped
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 head of cauliflower chopped or grated
1 pound of ground beef or venison (alternative: 1/2 pound ground beef and 1/2 pound ground sausage)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 head of green cabbage (optional)
Saute onion and cauliflower in coconut oil for a few minutes, then cover with a lid and cook for three minutes to steam cauliflower. Remove the lid and add meat, salt, pepper and parsley. Saute for 6-8 minutes. Add tomatoes. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
While meat is cooking, cut cabbage into fourths, removing the inner core. Separate leaves slightly. Steam in a pan with steamer or in microwave, covered in a loose lid, for 5 minutes. Flavor with salt and butter.
Serve shredded cauliflower with a side of cabbage.
If you know me personally you might have noticed my radical gait the past six weeks or so of my pregnancy and the even more extreme gait after my third son was born. Well, without going into too much song and dance it was due to yours truly not realizing she injured her SI joint and thus irritated and hurt her lower back and a few other choice areas of her body. This resulted in a pirate type walk and a LOT of pain. Doing just about everything… walking, getting on and off the bed, kneeling, bending (as much as a 9 month pregnant woman CAN bend) and just getting around in general.
Well, baby is here and I went to PT to investigate the “I-thought-this-would-get-better-when-my-baby-got-here” walk. Alas, it turns out I have messed up my back and SI Joint leaving activities which require separate use of my hips (walking, running, biking, lunges…) on the “not allowed” list. As are things that would irritate my lower back (sit ups, laying flat on my back at all, really). So, exercise as I have known it most of my adult life needs to be completely revamped.
Now, I’ve been told that swimming (of which I am not very good AND which means getting into a cool pool at the Y then showering, changing, etc… a 45 minute ordeal for a 25 minute workout) and the row machine are options. And there is the good ol’ pogo stick (pointed out by my good friend Tim). AND squats. Dozens and dozens or squats. But, other than those options I am left to figure out what to do. This means research, asking questions, and trial and error. It also means doing things that are repetitive and perhaps even boring. But staying still is not an option… so, here I am. Off to figure this crazy new world of limitations out.
I will say, as a side note, it’s humbling to have these limits put on my body. It makes me realize that I want even more to invest in my health so that as I grow older I will have use of my muscles and joints rather than having to adjust so much of my life to accommodate for what I can not do.