Hating Your Post-Baby Body Is Not An Option

Do you cringe when you see photos of celebrities’ post-baby bodies? Do you love your post-baby belly or do you only see your flaws? Well, a group of blogging moms over at the CT Blogging Moms Group decided to bare their bellies to protest perfection. It all started when one of the moms saw a link to a photo of a post-pregnant Beyonce and was too frightened to click on it because she knew Beyonce would look perfect, like all celebrities do 2 minutes after giving birth. This sparked a conversation in the group and they all decided to do a photo shoot in order to embrace what their bellies and show people what real women without trainers, chefs, and photoshop look like after having a baby. These are their inspiring photos…

They have an amazing challenge that I want you to embrace. Whether you’ve had a baby or not, get a group of friends together and hold your own photo shoot. Embrace what you look like and stop wishing you were perfect. Your body is capable of amazing things and just because you don’t have the perfect stomach, thighs, or boobs, it is still amazing.

My Baby, My Body, My Craziness

I recently read an article called the Top 5 Regrets of the Dying and must tell you that not one regret had to do with looks or weight. I read this article a week before I went to the doctor for my 6 week post-partum check up, which was also a week before I stepped on the scale post-baby. If you know me or have read anything I’ve written while I was pregnant you will know that I never felt as good in my life as I did during my pregnancy. I never was so confident and radiant about my body. Pregnancy did something to me that made me feel beautiful and amazing – big belly, weight gain, and all. It did occur to me however, that once I gave birth to my baby, and then had no excuse for the weight gain or belly, that I might revert back to my old habits and start judging my body and the way it looks harshly. (Seriously, sometimes we can be harsher than a Russian Olympic’s coach!)

So, fast forward to my checkup where I had to step on the scale… I told myself before I even walked into the office that no matter what the scale said I need to be ok with it. I need to remember how good I was feeling during my pregnancy and that I now have an amazing baby that is so much more important than how thin I am. It’s just a number.

And so, I stepped on the scale and must have fallen into a deep amnesia, because I immediately looked over to the nurse’s chart to see what weight I was before I was pregnant. I knew that not only would looking not make me feel better if it wasn’t the number I was hoping for, but there was nothing I could do about it right then and there. Still though, I was compelled to look.

Of course you want to know what it said, right? I’m ashamed to tell you the number, because I know so many of you are going to roll your eyes and say, “is she crazy?!”, but if you struggle with your body image than you need to understand that it’s not the number that indicates a problem, but your reaction to it that does.

5 pounds. Yup, you heard that right, 6 weeks after I gave birth to my baby I am 5 pounds over what I was before I got pregnant. I’m even more ashamed to admit that no matter how hard I tried not to bring it up to the doctor, I couldn’t contain myself, and in a bit of a panic, which I tried so hard to make her think wasn’t there, I caved. If all the fluid was gone and my uterus shrunk down to it’s original size, and I gave birth to a 6.8lb baby, then what could possibly be the explanation for this extra weight!

My doctor reassured me that it can take up take up to a year for my body to return back to its prepregnancy state (of course I knew this), and that breastfeeding means that I’m carrying around milk, which weighs quite a bit (I definitely knew this, because my boobs are damn heavy at the moment!), and that nursing also means that my body needs to keep some fat reserves to maintain milk production (I knew this too). None of that made me feel better. I knew it wouldn’t even before I asked, because I know that what I’m feeling is insane.

And that’s what pisses me off more than anything? That I care so much. It’s not the 5 pounds that are the problem it’s that I care. You know what it is though? We are so ingrained to size up people and compare ourselves, and all throughout my pregnancy the first thing people would say when they saw me was how good I looked. And now when they see me, they say how great it is that I don’t look like I even had a baby. (You’re probably rolling your eyes again saying, “what is she complaining about? She’s really annoying!”)

The thing is though, when you’re trying not to let the way you think you look effect you, but everyone around you keeps commenting on the way you look, it’s kind of hard not to think about it. It makes you feel like you have to live up to the standard you’ve set. It becomes pretty powerful. And no matter whether it’s 5 pounds or 50 pounds the way you feel is different then the reality when you have body image issues.

So, here’s what I’m doing to fight the little monster in my head:

1. Remind myself that Lily is so much more important than anything else in this world.
2. Remind myself that I never want Lily to go through this, so I need to do everything I can to not let feelings like these get to me.
3. I don’t look in the mirror if I need affirmation, because that is a losing battle. I only look in the mirror when I know I am not going to judge myself or if I need to check how I look for practical reasons.
4. Remind myself that 5lbs is ok not just because it’s only 5lbs, but because in the big scheme of things my weight isn’t important.

Remember, you are not going to leave this world wishing you were thinner or prettier. It’s just not that important.

Pregnancy and Body Image

A client of mine asked me today how I was feeling. Aside from the mellowness from the gloomy weather I’m feeling pretty good. She said, “yeah, but are you ready to have the baby out?” I must get this question countless times a week and my answer is always no. Why? I love being pregnant! This also seems to garner many shocked reactions of people who either know of other women or themselves felt miserable during pregnancy. I don’t know if it’s due to being in good shape and keeping it up during these past 8 1/2 months or if I”m just one of the lucky ones who haven’t suffered any major reactions to pregnancy, but I absolutely love it. Here’s the main reason why…

I’m out of control.

Yes, that seems crazy to a lot of people. Most people with body image issues crave control and order, so you would think that not being in control of the way my body is changing would be a major catalyst for a body image breakdown, but surprisingly it’s not. The only choice I have is to surrender to what’s going on inside of me and let go of the control that I’ve sought my whole life. I need to let my body to what it’s going to do. And you know what? This is the best I’ve ever felt about myself.

Plus, this little girl growing inside of me is more important than any perfection that I can strive for.

Think about that – my body is doing what it’s supposed to do without me having to give it any instruction. It’s managed to turn one cell into a bunch of cells, into a human. And I didn’t control one bit of that. In fact, I’m pretty sure that had I tried to control it I couldn’t have done as good of a job.

Now you can take that to the opposite extreme and ask, why care at all – eat whatever you want and sit on the couch all day since there’s nothing you can do to control the situation – take the free ride, but it’s not about that either. The idea is to be balanced. You don’t have to “eat for 2″, but you don’t have to diet either. Listen to what your body is telling you. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re satisfied, and move a bit every day. Your body will tell you when it’s had enough or when it needs to rest, you just have to listen.

Not caring has given me a tremendous sense of freedom and it only drives home the lesson that I try to teach everyone, that you need to surrender and put yourself in uncomfortable situations to prove to yourself that the things you make a big deal about are actually not as big as you make them out to be. And what’s even more is that they may even turn out better than you had ever imagined.

Truthfulness = Balance

In Yoga, there is a principal called satya, the practice of truthfulness. Now,
from what I know from many of my clients, yoga sometimes gets a bad rap for being slow, boring, and “not as good of a workout as lifting weights”. And I’ll admit, I thought that way too for a while.

But then I got pregnant. And I discovered yoga for what it really is. And believe me, it has nothing to do with long lean muscles (although that is a nice possible side-effect).

During the first three months of this little girl growing inside of me, she managed to make me nauseous and unavoidably exhausted every waking minute of the day, which as you can imagine (or have experienced) doesn’t leave you with much energy to brush your hair, much less lift weights.

I tried a few yoga classes in the past and never really took to them the way I did to Spinning, running, or lifting weights. It didn’t leave me utterly drained the way those things do, which made me believe that I was wasting my time. This time around though, because I
really couldn’t keep up with my old workout routines, I tried a few yoga DVDs on my own and loved the way it made me feel. On days I had barely any energy I did just some light stretching, but on days when I could muster it, and especially now, I do a more vigorous and flowing yoga that leaves me feeling energized, taller, and in a lightened mood (and actually out of breath). Not to mention, more open and flexible.

But the real power of yoga didn’t come to me until a few weeks ago.

In one of the DVDs, I heard this phrase: “there’s no ego in yoga”.

Think about that. We’re always comparing ourselves to others and basing our feelings of adequacy on what other people look like or can do. In a yoga class, where you’re so close to everyone, you might find yourself comparing your ability to hold a pose or do it perfectly based on how the instructor or your mat-mate is doing it. But it’s not about that.

And this is where satya comes in.

The principal of satya gives you the chance to experience an amazing quality of yoga. It allows you to experience your own truth, and essentially, not be perfect based on someone else, but to be your own kind of perfect. To do this, you need to honor your truth, which means you might not be able to contort yourself the way someone else can, or even simply open your hip as much as your yoga mat neighbor. That’s ok. Be honest about your own limits and adjust accordingly. If you can’t balance on one foot, balance on one toe. Do what you can. Eventually you will get there.
This will help you practice calmly, which will allow you to find balance not just in your poses, but in your life.

Even if yoga really isn’t your thing, think about practicing being truthful at work, on the subway, with your friends, and in the dressing room. Find your own place in this fast world. Be honest about yourself and you will find balance.

8 Pounds And Counting

Every time I speak to my mother-in-law the first question after she asks me how I am is “so, how much weight did you gain so far?” This isn’t your typical catty-woman question. That’s not why she is asking it. She is Ukranian, and Ukranian women are supposed to have a little bit of meat. They’re not crazy like us Americans. A little bit of meat means your healthy. Plus, if you think about it, a country where you had to stand on line for rationed toilet paper means that you most likely didn’t let a lot of things, especially food, go to waste.

So, on Friday, I was happy to report to her that I have gained a total of 8lb. so far. She was happy and I was happy, because I know I’m supposed to be gaining weight, but I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that my former devil-Dani self wasn’t nagging at me in the back of my head a little bit. That little putrid voice that tells me, however irrationally, that I can’t gain an ounce of weight ever. Even if there’s a baby inside of me. It’s just not allowed. It’s not according to the “rules”. The rules I so strictly lived my life by for so many years. And then the fear sets in…

I have to remind myself that these arbitrary rules I once put into place are no more real than an imaginary friend. I’m growing a baby – of course I need to gain weight. Of course it’s ok. Of course it’s healthy and expected. Nevertheless though, I still get that twinge of fear – what if I end up gaining way more than is healthy. What if I get out of control and start bingeing again? What if I can’t lose it after this little girl is born?

And then, that’s exactly what snaps me back to reality – those three amazing words… “this little girl”. Actually, it’s not just a little girl, it’s my little girl, and I would never want her to have this kind of voice in her head. I didn’t work so hard to overcome my eating and body image issues so that she could see me loathing myself because being pregnant with her made me gain weight. I never want her to model me constantly looking in the mirror to see where the fat settled, feeling depressed when I get dressed in the morning because I hate how everything looks on me, or obsessively counting calories all day because I have to look a certain way.

My little girl is never going to grow up with a Mommy like that. No, she is going to learn that happiness doesn’t come from a number on the scale or the compliments of other people. It comes from being ok and loving who you are. So, today, as I leave you, I am fully acknowledging the fact that I gained 8lb. and it is ok.

Let’s Play A Game…

Ok, here’s what you’ll need:

- 1 bottle cap (unscrewed from the bottle)
- A piece of paper
- A pen
- A chair to sit in while you play the game, unless you’re the standing type, in which case forget the chair.

Now, look at the bottle cap and ask yourself, “what else could this be?” Flip the cap over, lay it on its side, and play around with it. Give yourself 5 minutes and write down all the possibilities on your sheet of paper.

No really, don’t just read on to see what I have to say about it, try it out for yourself…

Ok, time’s up. Here’s a few things I came up with…
1. A tiny hat for a tiny man.
2. A water bowl for a mouse.
3. A plug for a hole.
4. A chew toy for my dogs.
5. Something to trace in the event I needed a perfect circle.
6. A tiny ashtray for the tiny man’s tiny cigarette.

Did you come up with the same things? Did you come up with some things I didn’t even think about? Or did you not come up with anything at all?

There are countless things that this bottle cap can be that have nothing to do with closing a bottle. And that’s exactly my point. Nothing in life is every simply how it seems.

Take for example the dreaded “I feel fat” scenario we’re so good at. You can think to yourself, I’m fat, my clothes don’t look good on me, everyone else thinks I’m fat, and I’ll never be anything else. Or, you can think of all the other things you are. Maybe you’re strong, an amazing writer, a fantastic friend, a great listener, good at your job, a loving wife, sister, or daughter… The list can go on and on, but you have to make that list and begin to see the good things that you are, not the bad things.

Reframe the way you think about yourself.

Yes, this may seem so simple compared to what you’re feeling, but if you really want to change the way you think about yourself you have to start somewhere.

This all came to my on my run just now. I haven’t really run at all in 4 months. Well, aside from the time in May when I tried to run around the block and thought I would pass out from utter exhaustion before I even got to my door, and 2 weeks ago when I finally gave it another shot, today was my third day out in 4 months. It’s been too hot to run in the summer and honestly, this baby is kicking my butt when it comes to working out.

So, there I was today, in the park, starting my run (er, jog, umm, bounce…) and I was thinking about how far I would go. Being as how I haven’t done this at all in a while, I was thinking that I should exercise caution and not do the whole loop, which is 3.4 miles. I decided to run 1 1/4 miles forward and 1 1/4 miles back, for a total of 2 1/2 miles.

Now, for those of you who are rolling your eyes and saying, “at least she ran that far, I couldn’t even run a block”, you have to realize that everyone has their beginning point. There was a time I couldn’t run a whole block either and then managed to train myself to run a half-marathon. You can do that too. For me though, today was a defeat because I should be able to run 2.5 miles without a problem.

Or was it?

The first quarter of a mile was ok and it slowly started get more difficult, and by the time I got to the 3/4 mile mark I couldn’t believe how draining it was. My hips creaked and my back felt tights, but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other though, singing my ABC’s (They tell you to do that so you can you see how high your heart rate is. As long as you can sing it without taking too many big breaths you’re ok.), trudging and plodding back up the hill I so easily came down before.

What popped into my head then was how frustrating this was and how much of my ability I’ve lost. I’ve run three half-marathons and now 2 1/2 miles is enough to make me weak in the knees and need to take a nap? It’s unnerving, unsettling, and beyond frustrating. What if I can never gain back the ability I once had? What if it’s too hard, to draining, and I never pick up the motivation to do it?

But then I got a dose of reality and now I know that’s crazy. Of course I can gain it back. I did it once before and I will do it again. For right now though, I need to reframe the way I think about fitness, because if I keep focusing on the things I can’t do now I will surely lose the motivation.

Before I got pregnant it was all about staying toned and pushing myself to challenging limits, but now that I have this little growing baby inside of me I need to think about fitness in terms of being the healthiest I can be for my baby and me. It’s not about losing weight or looking great in a pair of jeans. It’s about making sure that my baby has the best start to this life that I can give her. You think that’s easy? Not really. I need to constantly remind myself about that and fight the urge to push myself further.

When I work out my baby works out, which means when I diet my baby diets. Who would ever recommend a diet for a baby in the womb? That’s just insane. On the trek back up the hill I became acutely aware of my heart rate and that it’s ok for it to feel more difficult now, because the bigger picture here is not that I’m going to look good from running, it’s that I am strengthening my baby’s heart and lungs. It’s that I am doing this to give her oxygen and life. And let’s face it, it’s pretty darn amazing that I even got out there in the first place. There aren’t many pregnant women out there running.

I came home completely beat and made sure to have a proper recovery snack (chocolate milk and a pear), again, not because I need to look good and the refueling will help, but because my baby needs it.

This photo doesn't do the way I really came home justice...

So, here’s my point: There are going to be times when you’re feeling stuck or bad about yourself. Maybe it’s today. When you’re feeling stuck and like things won’t ever change, I want you to think about that bottle cap. Think about how maybe you’re not seeing all the possibilities. Only seeing the bottle cap for closing a bottle is thinking in terms of black and white. It either is or it isn’t. Don’t forget that there is a whole realm of in-between and possibility. You just have to rethink it.

On this note, before I go, I just want to give a bigger than huge shout out to my clients Kelly and Jen Z. for being braver than they even know these past few weeks. They are what got me thinking about this post really, because they are beginning to see things for what they could be, not for what they are. You have made me so proud and honored to be your trainer and coach.

(I would love to hear your list and see what you came up with. Please share…)

Lose The Hate, Lose The Weight

There once was a woman with a rather large hook nose. And she loved that nose. She spoke of how it was her grandfather’s nose, who had his mother’s nose, who had her mother’s nose, and how that nose told a story of generations of people who were funny, brave, and kind. She wouldn’t trade that nose for anything, because even though it wasn’t pert and petite, and it overtook her face, it told a story of generations. She saw that nose as something to flaunt rather than hide. She loved that nose.

I don’t make this stuff up, girls! A new study* published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity shows that improving your body image can enhance the effectiveness of weight loss programs based on diet and exercise.

I learned this stuff through years of my own personal experiences with poor body image and weight gain, but I don’t have an M.D. or Ph.D after my name to make people really believe me, however this is EXACTLY what I’ve been practicing, preaching, teaching, and instilling in my clients.

Overweight and obese women were enrolled in a year-long weight loss program. Half were given information on eating well, exercise, stress management, and the importance of looking after yourself. The other half attended a 30 week group session where they discussed emotional eating, exercise, improving body image, and how to identify obstacles to weight loss and how to overcome them.

Compared with the first group of women, the second group improved the way they thought about their body and concerns over the size and shape of their body reduced. They were more successful in regulating what they ate and lost on average 7% of their starting weight compared with 2% for the group who just got the information alone.

Dr. Teixeira, who led the research had this to say:

“Body image problems are very common amongst overweight and obese people, often leading to comfort eating and more rigid eating patterns, and are obstacles to losing weight. Our results showed a strong correlation between improvements in body image, especially in reducing anxiety about other peoples’ opinions, and positive changes in eating behavior. From this we believe that learning to relate to your body in healthier ways is an important aspect of maintaining weight loss and should be addressed in every weight control program.”

So there you have it. I’m no doctor, but the message I’m trying to send about feeling good about yourself no matter what stage in your weight loss you are can be the linch pin in your success.

What do you think about this?

* BioMed Central Limited. “‘Love your body’ to lose weight.” ScienceDaily, 18 Jul. 2011. Web. 25 Jul. 2011.

Accepting The Body You Have Now

A client asked me the other day if there’s such a thing as an objectively beautiful way to look. I said no. I don’t believe that such a thing as objectivity exists, because what you think is beautiful and what I think is beautiful can be 2 different things. Yes, Megan Fox is gorgeous – I think we can agree on that – but to say that is the only kind of beautiful there is would be missing out on a whole lot.

It’s ok to want to strive to look and feel better, but not if it’s unattainable or unrealistic. And definitely not if you’re doing it to gain acceptance of others, yourself, or to “finally be happy”. More importantly though, you have to like yourself along the road, otherwise you’re not going to suddenly be happy when you get there. Most likely your body isn’t the only thing holding you back.

You have to realize and internalize the thought that despite what you look like, you are still you. If you’re thin or overweight, you’re still all the other things that make you who you are. And for that, you have to love every bit of yourself and stop judging your self-solely on your size.

Check out this great article in the Huffington Post yesterday about accepting the body you have now.

Comfortably Uncomfortable

I have a habit of throwing myself into uncomfortable situations.

Sky diving, done it.

Public speaking, check.

Starting my business with absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of running one, yup.

Asking a guy out, uh huh.

Saying I love you first, yup, that s me.

Telling my boyfriend I wanted to marry him and then giving him a deadline by which he had to ask me, sure, why not. (we ve been married almost 5 years now &) See, so there s definitely a pattern.

What s the method to my madness? I ve struggled since I was a kid with body image issues. I ve been through anorexia, bulimia, and depression in trying to find the one thing that will make me happy and comfortable with myself. Skinny was not the cure. I ve been bone-thin-stickbug-skinny and I ve been 7 different sizes, so I can definitely tell you that skinny isn t going to make you happy.

What will make you happy though is showing yourself what you re made of. What you re capable of. Because, when you throw yourself into something that you think you can t handle, and you come out of it knowing that despite your fears you still went in there trying and fighting, you conquer yourself. You prove to yourself that it s ok to not be perfect, because hey, at least you tried, and trying makes you the strongest person you know. And despite all the stories you tell yourself not thin enough, smart enough, pretty enough, savvy enough you prove to yourself that your self-worth is not tied up in the labels you give yourself.

It s not that I m not afraid of anything anymore. I definitely am afraid of lots of things. (I m so afraid of one thing in particular that I can t even write the word on the page I ll give you a hint though they ve been around since the dinosaurs and will be around long after we re all gone.) Ok, now I m shaking a little &

Ok, so, that s how I ended up in Koren Reyes’ studio with my bra off, wearing just my husband s tie and a thong. Yup, I was definitely nervous. My hands were shaking on the cab ride over. And when I walked in the door it was the first thing I told her (by the way, she does an amazing job at making you feel comfortable by telling you exactly what to do). I started off with about 6 layers on and ended up with just a tie that s how good she is!

What I found though was that the hardest part wasn t the posing or being naked in front of a stranger, it was looking at the photos after I found myself scrutinizing every agonizing little detail about my body and face. My thighs were too plump at the top, my butt was too white, my cellulite was showing a bit (actually though, in photo it s not as bad as I think it is when I look in the mirror, so go figure!), I chose the wrong panties for one of the outfits, which made my stomach look not as tight as I would like it to have looked, my face looked too serious in some of them, and on and on and on. Surprisingly enough, my favorite one was the barest of them all!

After finally choosing my favorites I left and felt like I was a mega rock star. Despite some feelings of not thinking my body was perfect I realized that I did something that most women would be terrified of. I know my friends would be, because they were all vicariously living through me as I told them about my experience wanting to know every little itty-bitty detail. And now I know, that no matter what I think the pictures look like (I can t trust myself anyway. My mind and the mirror clearly don t see eye to eye) I am truly amazing, because I conquered a fear.

Here are my tips for you:

It s not that you don t fit the clothes, it s that the clothes don t fit you.
You ve got what you got. Learn to accept it, love it, and move on. Life is too short.
You can t avoid taking the pictures because you hate the way you look. You ve GOT TO take the pictures, so you can learn to see yourself in a new way and learn to love what you have.
Your body doesn t define you. You re still you despite having chunky thighs, or jiggly underarms, or a mushy tummy. There are many other things that define you, so stop letting the way you look be the be-all-end-all.

If you have any reservations about going for your shoot, don t! The only way out of a tunnel is through it, so go towards your fear and get past it!

P.S. Sorry for the lack of pictures, but it’s not the kind of thing I want roaming around on the internet ;)

What Scares You The Most?

I’m always talking about taking risks and facing your fears to find your true self. About putting all the things you SHOULD do aside for the things you WANT to do. To get rid of perfectionism and really truly love yourself no matter how you think you look. To be as authentic as possible and not let outside influences dictate how you feel about yourself.

I’ve never been able to put it into words quite like Brene Brown.

Thank you to my client Mary for this extremely eye-opening video. The way you live life will never be the same.

(Yes, it’s 20 minutes, but it flies by and you’ll be wishing there was more.)

[ted id=1042]