Heath & Fitness After Motherhood

Weight has been an issue for me for as long as I can remember.  I was a skinny little kid through elementary school, and I loooooved to dance.  At one point, I was participating in 4 dance classes a week.  It was so much fun, and I loved trying to turn my awkward, uncoordinated body into one that moved gracefully.

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I know. The grace, the poise….

Even though I was skinny from all that dancing, however, weight was a BIG DEAL in my family.  It still is.  It really drives me crazy, to be honest.  Every single family gathering, there is the cousin who is always on a new diet and “just lost” 20 pounds.  There’s another cousin who’s standard greeting to everyone coming in the door is, “Hey!  You look great!” And the dinner discussion always, every time, without fail, turns to diet and fat.

I remember being a little girl and thinking my mother was beautiful.  To me, she was so glamorous in her pearl necklaces, stockings, high heels, and dresses in bright colors that she made herself.  I wanted to look just like her, and was forever getting into trouble for stealing her lipstick, favorite night gown, or shoes.  And like every woman in America, my mom would do that fat talk thing.  It was subtle at times, and others not.  When she gained some weight and needed to hop up to the plus size section, she would always say she needed “wide load” clothes.  14W was not 14 Woman, it was 14 Wide.  I honestly didn’t know it actually stood for 14 Woman until recently, this was such an ingrained part of my culture growing up.

Every time I visited my Nana, she was on some sort of diet, and she’d encourage me to get on it with her.  You never could be too careful counting those calories, or too skinny.

Puberty hit and I gained some middle fat the way some girls do.  Then, we also moved from the healthier south west with fresh produce aplenty to Alabama- home of the fried everything and a BBQ rib shack on every corner.  Then- triple whammy- I had to choose (for financial reasons that I completely understand and support) between playing in the band or dance class.  I chose band.  I also gained about 30 pounds.

That’s when the yo-yo cycle began.  I joined Cross Country my junior year of high school and ran off 40 pounds in 3 months.  I ate like a crazy woman, but had lots of concerned teachers asking me if I was OK- was I eating enough?  Wasn’t that too much?  But it’s just how my body reacted to suddenly being a runner after years of not doing any kind of structured activity.  I kept the weight off until college.

College brought on the dreaded freshman 15… and the sophomore 20… and the junior 10… yikes.  Then I got engaged.  Nothing like a wedding to motivate a girl to get moving.  So, again, I took up running, exercise videos, stopped eating off the ice cream sundae bar in the caf, and the weight came off over the course of a year or so.

Marriage was awesome from the start, and it spurred a time of my life where I was in the best shape and health I had ever been in.  We ate lots of great, home cooked meals, went out for walks and hikes, and remodeled our condo.  I also worked out intentionally 1 hour a day, 5 days a week.  I felt so healthy, I vowed to never let the scale get up as high as it had been junior year of college again.

Then… pregnancy.  That first trimester wiped me out.  I was so, unbelievably tired.  I could barely keep my eyes open.  I slept for 12-16 hours a day and still felt exhausted.  And when I was awake, my tummy was upset.  I didn’t have the constant throwing up a lot of women do, but I constantly felt just a little queasy.  And nothing besides bread and sweets even appealed to me.  The thought of vegetables was stomach churning.

Second trimester saw all of the first trimester symptoms gone and I started going for long walks again, but that’s when the back pain started.  Ugh, it hurt so much.  I had some pregnancy workout DVDs and did them, but only 2-3 times a week.  I also kept eating a pretty carb-y diet.

Fast forward to new motherhood.  I had a great birth, but the recovery was so brutal.  I hurt down there for months afterwards because of a not so great repair job that had to be redone after my 8 week checkup (yeah.  ouch).  And nothing can prepare you for the fog of new parenthood.  Getting up every 2-3 hours all night to feed the baby left me in zombie status, and we were in survival mode.  Frozen entrees, casseroles from friends, and rotisserie chickens were staples for a long time.

Finally, about 5 months after Taz was born, I was feeling energetic enough to give a workout DVD a try.  Someone had given me Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred, and I enthusiastically squeezed into too small exercise clothes and popped the DVD in.  ***TMI ALERT*** I peed my pants in the first 5 minutes.  I was absolutely horrified.  I had no idea that birth had left me with that side effect, or that it was even common- thanks everyone for NEVER TALKING ABOUT THAT ONE.  And it wasn’t a little bit.  So then, every time I attempted any kind of exercise, I had to expect to empty out the whole time!  Holy smokes!!!!!  Thanks for that one, God.  Seriously?

In tears, I emailed my doctor a week later to see if there was anything we could do.  She said there was, and we started talking about options.  Then **SURPRISE!*** Pregnant with Little P.

Second pregnancy was a lot of the same with the first, but THIS time ***TMI ALERT AGAIN***  I had a lovely downtown varicose vein- again, thanks everyone for never telling me that was a possibility- and spent the entire 9 months feeling like I had been kicked in the crotch.  I got a belly support belt, and it helped some, but every attempt at exercise got the blood flowing that much more and made it even more painful.  I stuck to a pregnancy yoga DVD, mostly so I’d still be limber enough to tie my shoes.

And I’ve been in my new reality ever since.  Back to back rough pregnancies and their residual effects left me with 50 extra pounds.  Back to square one.  Freaking hormones.  I’ve made a few attempts to lose weight, but I always get derailed.  Working 2 jobs and having 2 little kids, a husband to take care of, and a house to clean has made it hard to make exercise a priority.  On top of that, I’m surrounded by kid food or lured in to convenience food just because I’m so stinkin tired all the time.

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to finally do something about how out of shape I feel.  I started loading the kids into the double stroller and hauling us up the hill the .75 miles to the park every day I was home, and doing some strength exercises while Taz played on the playground.  In the past, minor adjustments to an exercise routine would have yielded some result.  After a month of this, though, and not seeing the scale budge or feeling any more fit, I need to do more.

I asked Bryan to help me figure it out.  We came up with a plan to give me time in the mornings to go for a 20 min jog or just get away to do a short workout.  I still load the kids up and get to the park.  And I’ve vowed to only eat whole, unprocessed foods for the next month.  Here’s hoping I see some results. I don’t do deprivation or calorie counting.  I can’t keep that up for any amount of time, and I want the changes I’m making to stick.  And I like feeling full- I just need to be full on more produce.

As for the… issues I mentioned, I finally found out why there are so many Poise pads in the feminine needs aisle at Target.  I sucked it up and bought a pack.  I felt a lot better when one of my friends told me that years of playing soccer had left her with incontinence before she ever became a mother.  A pilates instructor making a joke about it during a class I took last month also helped me feel better, and realize that lots of women deal with it.  So I just need to accept it and move on.

Fitting exercise and nutrition into my mommy life is not easy, but it’s so important.  I’m a more energetic, present mother when I work out, and I sleep better (even though that sleep is interrupted once or twice through the night by those sweet angels).

So, yeah.  Cheer me on if you see me hauling it up the hill, will ya?

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