My son will turn three years old this summer. Nearly three years ago, I promised myself I would get back to my pre-pregnancy shape before his first birthday. It didn’t happen. Another year went by and I promised myself again that I would get back in shape by his 2nd birthday. It didn’t happen. I have plenty of excuses why I haven’t been successful at losing the baby weight—hormones, low thyroid, multiple back injuries and limited time to workout are just a few things that have made my fitness journey more of a challenge than I ever expected. I’m sure if I asked you what your excuse is for not accomplishing something important to you or doing something to benefit your own health you can probably give me a list too. Because when you’re a mom—you have a million other things to do and we usually leave ourselves at the bottom of the to-do list. But just because I haven’t reached my goal weight yet or look a certain way definitely isn’t for lack of trying—that I am sure of. It also doesn’t mean that I don’t care about my appearance or my health. I think when someone we know who used to appear fit gains weight or puts on a few extra pounds the majority of people are quick to notice and form their own opinions. Yes, I’ve been guilty of this too.
My body has morphed and changed throughout my life more times than I would like to admit. I’ve been the fit girl, I’ve been the bigger girl. I was once a bit of a chunk in my early elementary school and middle school years. Then, one summer I hit a growth spurt and everything changed. It was a miracle—I grew 6 inches and my chunky body turned into the body of a strong, competitive athlete. It seemed to happen overnight. Why can’t these kind of things happen to 30-something year old moms desperate to lose the baby weight? I have to remind myself that our bodies in our 30’s and 40’s are different than our teenage bodies. Eating healthy and working out consistently was much easier when we had less responsibilities and weren’t managing full-time jobs and families. Not to mention how much our bodies and hormones change during and after pregnancy.
I admire all of the real and inspiring photos I see of other women embracing their post baby bodies and accepting their new fuller figures with pride. I wish I had the confidence to strip down and post a photo of myself bearing it all to encourage other women. Here is the truth: I’m just not that confident and proud of my post-baby body—even though I should be. There, I said it. I can be extremely grateful and thankful for my body to be able to carry and birth our precious baby boy, but I am also allowed to express my insecurities and desire to get back in shape—for myself. Yes, I want to look good but I also want to feel strong and healthy.
For years I was at the top of my game when it came to health and nutrition. The first time I ever experienced noticeable weight gain was in college. I learned the “freshman 15” was much more than 15 pounds for some of us. However, I managed to get myself back in shape and maintained a healthy weight and lifestyle throughout my twenties until my first pregnancy when I gained 70 pounds. I think it’s important to mention despite the weight gain that I had a healthy pregnancy and worked full-time up until the day I had our son. I even managed to quickly lose 40 of those 70 pounds but I’ve struggled with the last 30 pounds. I’ve seen my weight yo-yo up and down anywhere from 5 to 15 pounds throughout the last two years. It has been a vicious and frustrating cycle. When I say I’ve tried nearly everything to lose weight, I mean it. I’ve tried it all. At one point I decided trying to lose the weight was too hard and inconvenient. I contemplated giving up losing weight all together.
I recently decided I owed it to myself to enroll in a 6-week challenge at a local gym. The requirements for this challenge were to attend 3 workouts a week, use the suggested meal plan (which included real, non-processed food) and weigh in each week. Making this commitment was terrifying and I dreaded the first weigh in! I did not want write down my weight or take any kind of progress pictures. Remember the excuses? I’m a full-time working mom with a toddler and my husband also has a busy work and travel schedule. I had no idea how this was going to go or when I would find the time to workout and meal prep. Well, where there is a will, there is a way. Was I overwhelmed in the beginning? Of course I was! Was I tired and sore the first couple of days? Yep! Was it worth it? Definitely! During those six weeks I lost 13 pounds and went down a dress size. To some people, this might not seem like a lot of progress, but to me it’s a huge step in the right direction and something I’m proud of. This was a learning experience for me as I conquered some personal fears in the process.
Why am I sharing this with you? I promise there’s a point. I’m sharing this because I wish I would have gotten over my own insecurities and fears and walked through the gym doors earlier—that is truly the hardest part. When I finally showed up and asked for help, I realized no one was judging me or my situation. In fact, it was the complete opposite. I became inspired and my defeated mindset quickly shifted to a positive one.
Before this experience, I hated the thought of other people seeing me workout. I didn’t want to be the out of shape girl struggling to make it through a tough workout, especially when I was once the fit girl. I didn’t want to walk in a place full of fitness fanatics and have them judging my appearance or wonder how I let myself get to this point. I don’t like to admit these things but I know there are so many other women out there that feel the same way. I’m also learning that lifestyle changes and nutrition are not a one size fits all. For example, I love the idea of working out at home but it wasn’t what worked best for me. I found that I am more successful in a group fitness setting for workouts and I hold myself more accountable when I have the help of a nutritionist. I’m also learning that losing weight the right way is hard work. I’ve tried all of the quick fixes in the past and they are just that-quick fixes. Even the calorie counting apps or programs that promise results if you stay under a number or points didn’t work for me. I was always starving by the end of the day and not seeing results. Since working with a nutrition coach, I’ve been eating more food, staying full, my energy levels are up and I’m seeing results.
So if you are feeling the same way I’ve felt for nearly three years—you desperately want to finish what you’ve started and lose the last of the baby weight but you aren’t sure where to start. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started.
Ask for help and make your goals known:
I think this is the hardest part for moms. We sometimes don’t feel like we need or even deserve the help. Let your spouse or support system know that getting back in shape is important to you and ask if they are willing to help. My husband recently started helping me grill food for my meal plan and we’ve agreed to more date nights at home instead of eating out. This also saves us time and money.
Don’t be afraid of the gym or nutrition coaches:
Although you might be insecure or embarrassed about going to the gym and talking to someone about your weight, you shouldn’t be. Just by discussing your daily habits and routine with a professional you might realize one or two simple changes in your diet could make all the difference. Also, many gyms will offer free passes and consultations. This will give you an opportunity to find a good fit without spending a ton of money up front.
Make a schedule that is realistic for you and commit to it:
Morning and evening workouts are not an option for me, but I am available for an hour each day at lunch. I found a gym that offers short and effective workout classes at lunch. I schedule each workout on my calendar and treat it the same way I would a work appointment or commitment to a friend.
Something as simple as taking a few minutes each evening to pack your gym bag can make all the difference. Getting ready for work in the mornings with a toddler is always unpredictable. If we are having a rough morning or are short on time and I didn’t pack my gym bag, I’m most likely to neglect my workout that day. If it’s packed, I grab it and go.
Be Proud of Yourself:
Be proud of yourself for every small victory because a little progress each day equals big results in the end. If you worked out for the first time in three years, be proud! If you didn’t drink a Diet Coke today, be proud! If you were able to lift your knees up off the ground and do a real push up, be proud! I found that when I celebrate the small victories it helps keep me from getting discouraged when I haven’t reached my long term goals and I stay motivated.
So to the Mom who hasn’t lost the baby weight but wishes she could, find something that works for you and your lifestyle and give it a try. Make a promise to yourself and treat it like a promise to a friend or family member. And lastly, don’t give up if the process is slower than you expected. You are stronger than your excuses and deserve to be healthy and strong.