Don’t wish for it, work for it.
Embrace your Mom Bod.
You’re perfect just the way you are.
Excuses don’t burn calories.
Does anyone else feel like we are being fed a diet of mixed messages?
We are coached to disregard the media-manufactured standard of perfection that stares us down in the grocery line as we try to keep our kids from grabbing fistfuls of candy, but the second we start to think we might just enjoy wear leggings as pants for the rest of our life, our neighbor invites us to Body Pump — and the guilty feelings strike because we have been sitting there just hoping the muffin-top would magically disappear while we actually ate muffins.
As if being a mom weren’t hard enough, I’m convinced the deck is stacked against us in the body image department as well.
If we decide to “embrace the Mom Bod,” we can’t escape the messages that we could be so much more, if we only worked a little harder or had more dedication. And if we decide to “stop wishing and work for it,” we are hit with the criticism that by investing in our body/health/fitness we are somehow saying that we were less than before we started hitting the gym or that we are self-centered or vain when we show excitement about a fitness accomplishment. Don’t believe me? Check out the Instagram comments of literally any fitness blogger.
And if you decide to pursue professional intervention to help with a particular insecurity — Botox, a breast lift, tummy tuck, etc. — you’d better bust out a ballcap and oversized sunglasses so that nobody ever finds out because the Mommy Judge Squad will be out in full flippin’ force.
So what is a woman to do if she doesn’t love her Mom Bod?
This is my story.
I was genetically gifted with what can only be described as a “sensitive metabolism” — as in, it is sensitive to each and every calorie, hormone, baby, birthday and environmental factor that can affect weight. I have bins upon bins of clothes ranging from a size 2 all the way to 16. I used to joke that “if I even look at a french fry, I gain 10 pounds.” But that’s what it felt like.
In high school, I struggled with what I thought was just low self-esteem and a severe lack of athletic ability, so I resorted to abusing diet pills as a way to get thin. I would avoid eating until I couldn’t take it anymore, binge, and then use the ephedrine pills to induce a purge. Repeat.
In college, I discovered that I could make a phone call and someone would deliver cheese sticks to my door at 2 am. The Freshman 15 was all too real in my world and I was working part time at Victoria’s Secret to help pay my way through school. On top of a full course load, I spent hours every week staring at the enormous images of how my body should look, but my diet consisted of late night cheese bread, alcohol and very little sleep.
All of a sudden I was a legit grown-up. I was married, sending out resumés, and trying to find the perfect blazer that made my waist look small.
Then the stick turned pink and my body ballooned to a size I had never imagined was even possible. At every OB appointment, my well-meaning doc would gently point out that my weight was “concerning.” I was working waiting tables and several people a day would ask me, “Are you sure you’re not having twins?” The stretch marks spread across my belly like a road map, my joints were swollen and I just. felt. awful.
A second baby came. Then a third. And before I knew it, I was at my heaviest non-pregnant weight ever. There was no embracing the Mom Bod, no celebrating the stretch marks. Instead, there were increasing bouts of depression, oversized sweatshirts and reluctant acquiescence to sex only on the condition that the lights stay off and my clothes stay on (as much as possible).
I remember rocking my baby to sleep on New Years Eve and crying as the clock struck midnight. The next morning, I woke up and I got to work.
24 Day Challenge. Fiber drinks that made me gag. Meal replacement shakes. Putting the kids to bed and going to the basement to exercise on the Wii Fit. 8 pounds lost in the first week. Couch to 5K. 30 pounds gone in 3 months.
And that’s when the comments started :: “You look amazing!” “Wow, Sarah! You’re looking great – keep it up!” “I’m so proud of you!” All well-meaning, all encouraging. But what they didn’t know is that their comments were doing more to feed my addiction and accelerate my dissatisfaction with my progress than offer encouragement. The high I got from the praise and admiration took me back to my younger days when I would get an immediate rush when I saw the number on the scale go down after a purge.
I became obsessed. If I ate a single cookie, I made myself run 3 miles. I would weigh myself in the morning and if I went up a pound by noon, I would skip lunch and add in an extra workout that day. Even after I reached my goal weight, it wasn’t enough. My arms weren’t lean enough, my thighs still touched and worst of all, I couldn’t get rid of my Mom Pooch.
I earned that pooch, carried three sons to full term and brought them into this world. Instead, it felt to me like the last remaining barrier that was keeping me from acquiring the body I deserved, even though I had lost 75 pounds.
My body was not an ally to be loved, but an enemy to be conquered.
That was four years ago. Eventually, my husband confronted me and showed me that I was just as unhealthy at 125 pounds than I had been at 210. The depression, dissatisfaction and dysmorphia still existed, all of which had more to do with my mental state than the number on the scale.
In the last four years, I’ve struggled to find a place where both my body and mind can be content. After I stopped counting every calorie and working out obsessively, I obviously put back on weight. Quite a bit of weight, in fact.
What I discovered is that my body is naturally happy to hover in a particular weight range. I really WANT to embrace my Mom Bod as it has settled into its “Happy Zone,” but I just don’t. I don’t like looking like I’m in my second trimester when there actually is no baby at all. I don’t like feeling like I need to position my arms to cover my problem areas in photos.
I also don’t like having to go into full-on #beastmode in order to make the scale budge. I have friends who are counting their macros and working toward achieving six-pack abs, but as much as I have tried…..this just isn’t who I am. I want my body to be healthy, so I stay active, but I’m just not made for daily workouts, food tracking and protein loading.
I like chocolate. And beer. And carbs. And quite frankly, I can’t go through the rest of my adult life lamenting the food I didn’t eat, but at the same time, I want to be comfortable in my own skin. I’m never going to LOVE it, but I do want to be more content and confident with my Mom Bod.
So rather than try to acquire someone else’s body, I’m going to work with what I’ve got.
- Regular exercise — at a level that is aimed at health rather than hashtags
- Mindful food choices — where moderation reigns and indulgences are allowed
- Counseling — making mental health a priority
It’s taken me a while, but I’m realizing that “health and wellness” isn’t just a euphemism for “lose weight.” The mind and body really do need to be cared for together. For one, I’ll be looking for a new counselor who understands my dysmorphia issues and for the other, I’ll be looking into Weight Watchers, as it’s the program that helped me lose the weight the first time with such success. The difference this time must be the mental health care component.
In addition to these important steps, I’m excited to be partnering with Quintessa Aesthetic Center to pursue CoolSculpting, a non-surgical procedure that freezes and permanently removes stubborn fat. CoolSculpting removes fat that is non-responsive to diet and exercise. Quintessa Aesthetic Center is unique in that their mission is to really enhance their clients’ confidence and help them to love the body they have rather than manipulating the body to achieve some sort of ideal.
CoolSculpting selectively freezes fat cells in targeted areas of the body and are gradually eliminated by the body’s lymphatic system. The result is a steady reduction in the thickness of the body’s fat layer. Each cycle permanently removes 20-25% of the fat layer. In essence, it kills the fat cells and gets rid of them. DEAD. Bye-bye gone forever dead.
Is it some sort of magic “Skinny Stick” that gets waved and you suddenly resemble a supermodel? Of course not. But, what excites me about CoolSculpting is that it helps stack the deck in your favor. With less fat cells to work with, clothes fit better, stubborn areas respond better to exercise, and its effects are permanent!
At the end of the day, I am taking the steps that work for ME when it comes to feeling confident in MY body. And I think that’s what “loving your Mom Bod” should really be about. Motherhood takes a toll on women — emotionally, mentally and physically. So let’s cheer one another on, shall we? As loudly as we applaud when we embrace the stretch marks and rock the bikini anyway, let’s also fist bump the mama who just increased her deadlift max at Crossfit and high five the mom who got some professional help to put her breasts back where they belong. Different moms, different Mom Bods, different approaches to self-care.
We all want to love our Mom Bods. Let’s help one another do just that.
Curious to learn more about CoolSculpting with Quintessa Aesthetic Center?
Be sure to follow along on my journey as I undergo two rounds of CoolSculpting treatments, including a Facebook Live Q&A during my first treatment on February 1st. Have questions to ask Katelyn, the Non-Surgical Coordinator and CoolSculpting guru at Quintessa? Leave your questions in the comments and make plans to join me for the Facebook Live at 9:30 am on February 1st!