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Girl Talk: In This Skin

Q. I've never been overly concerned with my weight before, but now I just feel so uncomfortable with my squishy postpartum body. Diet and exercise honestly sound like the last thing I can fit into my life -- how can I feel comfortable in my new skin?

A. Of course it's easy to make yourself physically comfortable --so says the woman typing this while wearing her "transitional" pants. (I won't divulge my new pant size, but I will tell you it's the same number as a particularly angst-ridden teenage year. Coincidence? I don't think so.) Unfortunately, simply buying large elastic-waist pants won't ease your mind, which brings me to the problem of psychological comfort -- a tougher nut to crack. In a perfect world, every mom would be proud of her postpartum body; stretch marks would be silvery signs of bravery, and tummy rolls would mirror a mom's soft heart. We often see these physical changes as signs of failure: a failure to stay forever young and taut. The truth is that no one stays young and taut, whether she has had a baby or not. Your body will recover its shape, but it will be a new shape. It's kind of like an inflatable life raft: After letting out the air, the raft can be folded again, but it won't lie quite as flat as it once was. Once you accept this, you can work on getting into better shape -- one that makes you comfortable. Diet and exercise are the keys to success, of course, but when you're getting four or five non-consecutive hours of sleep a night, joining a gym or going on a crash diet isn't practical or even logical. A better path: Take care of yourself. Grab naps whenever you can, because when you're overtired, you overeat. Also, get out of the house whenever you can. Taking a walk clears your brain and shrinks your bottom. And, of course, eat nutritious foods. I know that this is easier said than done. It's incredibly tempting to overindulge during those first postpartum months. After all you gave up during your pregnancy, from delicious soft cheeses to steaming cups of coffee, you naturally to want to gorge yourself on brie and mocha lattes, all the while thinking, I deserve this. Unfortunately, this unbalanced diet doesn't leave you feeling as rewarded as you had hoped, just shaky and bloated. What you do deserve is to feel good about yourself: You gave birth to a beautiful baby, for heaven's sake! So give yourself kudos by babying yourself. In short, treat yourself to healthy food and sound sleep, and comfort will follow.

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