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Feel Better About Your Post-Baby Body

Embracing your shape

But wouldn't it be nice if we didn't care? After all, Denise Richards might look good in a bathing suit, but I highly doubt any of us would want Charlie Sheen for a baby daddy. For real, though: Having a positive self-image affects so many aspects of your mom life -- from being able to take charge in chaotic situations to teaching your children to love their own bodies -- that your whole family stands to benefit from your body confidence. The happy news is that it really is possible to feel good about the way you look.

And while I'm loath to launch into the dreaded diet-and-exercise spiel, exercise can do wonders for improving one's body image and mood. (And if it helps you lose some weight, which in turn makes you like your body better, dandy.) The key is not to let exercise be as much of a bludgeon to body image as it is a booster. I sometimes force myself to do Abs of Steel after everyone else has gone to bed, even though I'm sleepy, too. "I'm just taking care of myself," I reason. While the workout may be good for my body, doing another tedious chore after a long day isn't good for my spirit. Instead of a punishing workout during which I "feel the burn," as the perky lady in the video urges me to do, I think I'd be better off curling up on the couch to watch Mad Men DVDs. It would be a nice reward for all my hard work, even nicer, perhaps, than firmer abs.

Another trick: Set goals you can accomplish ("Take a brisk walk with the baby this week"), instead of ones that doom you to failure ("Get back to my college weight by my class reunion"). And cut yourself some slack for a while. "Just like you've had to slow down the rest of your life because you've had kids, you need to slow down your expectations for your body," says Maine. If you eat relatively right and gradually begin exercising, your body will get to where it should be again. Plus, even everyday activities can help you burn calories. Drop the notion that "where your body should be" is where Victoria Beckham's is -- or even where yours was prebaby -- and you'll make life easier on yourself. Gently work up to exercising for a half hour five times a week, which is recommended for your health, not just your figure.

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