Love Your New-Mom Body!
At this particular moment in time -- four months after the birth of my daughter -- I have a closetful of jeans in a variety of sizes, none of which fit. My breasts are so saggy that when I look in the mirror I see Maxine, the old lady on those Hallmark cards who's always cracking jokes about tucking her boobs into her waistband. And I'm shedding more hair than my golden retriever. In other words, I'm not feeling especially hot. The last thing I needed to see was Heidi Klum on television talking about how she walked in the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show just eight weeks after giving birth.
You and I know we shouldn't let this kind of crap take a swing at our self-confidence. We also know (caution: sappy stuff ahead) that our bodies just accomplished a miracle, and it was totally worth it. But it's still hard to resist those crazy headlines about how Angie and Nicole and Halle shed their postpartum pounds with marathon workouts that commenced ten minutes after the epidural wore off and a diet of bananas and raisins. It makes you wonder: Do they have wet nurses along with their personal trainers because we all know making breast milk requires a healthy, if not hefty, diet.
"These airbrushed images of celebrities after they have their babies make women feel like it's possible -- and even preferable -- to go through the experience without any physical change, but we know from many thousands of years of procreation that that's just not realistic," says Ovidio Bermudez, M.D., a specialist in eating disorders in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
What is realistic? Yearning for the days when you didn't have a guide to the star signs on your tummy. Wanting to feel like the hot mama you know you can be. But also understanding that dropping pounds freakishly fast is no good for you or your bambino. Which is why we're launching our second annual, three-month Love Your New-Mom Body series. Up first, a better body image. Next month we'll show you a real-world workout that doesn't require a pricey gym membership or a babysitter. And in our June/July issue, we'll help you eat your way slim. Best of all, because we know how difficult it can be to do anything for yourself when there's a baby in the house, we won't be telling you to overhaul your lifestyle. Our program is about making small changes -- no advanced calorie counting or sweatfests involved. But let's be clear: The goal isn't just to whittle yourself into a teensier size. It's also about getting your groove back even if you haven't ditched those last pounds. Ready to get started?
here and connect with other participants on our Love Your New-Mom Body message boards.
Stop mind-reading. After you have a baby, it's easy to think that everyone you encounter, from your mother-in-law to the grocery clerk, is checking you out to see whether you've lost the weight. Banish that "they must think I'm so fat" mind-set starting now. Most people are so caught up in their own stuff that they probably hardly notice you. And when somebody says that you look great, resist launching into a litany of complaints about your battle-worn body!
Give yourself time. The year after you have a baby is a wacky, whirlwind phase, so ease up on any preconceived notions you had about when you should be back to your prebaby weight, says Carley Knobloch, owner of Mothercraft, a life-coaching company for moms in Los Angeles. The fact is, most moms don't lose their baby weight at warp speed. Breastfeeding will also make you hold on to about five pounds of water weight.
Ban the Baggy Clothes. Loose, comfy ultra-casual clothes are the accepted rule during those early postpartum weeks. But after a while, your sweats and oversize tees can become a crutch. Stop hiding, and pick out clothes that play up your enviable cleavage or curvy hips. "I actually make my patients wear tighter, more revealing clothing so that they recognize that people don't run screaming when they stop covering up their bodies," says Wilhelm.
Silence your Inner Critic. Spending your days mumbling an "I'm so ugly" mantra gets you nowhere. When you catch yourself thinking body-bashing thoughts, stop and write down a counterpoint: "I eat like a pig" becomes "My body needs energy to nurture me and my baby." "I can't believe I got so huge" becomes "I needed to put on weight to bring a healthy baby into the world."
Be a Show-Off. "If you focus on one thing that you like about your appearance, your confidence will improve," says Knobloch. Pick one asset every day and play it up: Wear lipstick on your Target run, blow out your hair (okay, when you can pull it off).
Kill the comparisons. Stop evaluating how your body matches up against other women's. "We tend to pay attention to the body parts that we feel bad about," says Wilhelm. "So if you don't like your belly, you'll fixate on another woman's flat stomach." Instead, make a mental list of the things that Ms. Six-Pack Abs might envy in you: Does she have a husband who cooks? A baby who sleeps all night? A career she loves?
Find your Fitness Type
Embarking on a new wellness plan is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Finding the motivation to exercise can be as tough as getting psyched up for work after an all-nighter with the baby. Or maybe the idea of learning how to cook healthy meals sounds about as enticing as dealing with a diaper blowout. That's okay -- our program is all about creating a personalized plan. Discover your preferred fitness style below, and then tackle our simple start.
Solo Srtist. You're craving time for yourself (like a lot of new moms). Working out alone is an ideal way to reconnect with yourself and -- okay, so it's not a trip to a spa -- even the simple act of cooking a healthy meal can be a meditative escape.
Simple Start: Commit to 15 minutes of "me" time daily. Close the bedroom door, put on some relaxing music, and do some de-stressing stretches. Or try a few moves from a beginner's yoga DVD.
Social Butterfly. You love the company of others, and that's a plus for this program. Studies show that approaching a diet and exercise plan with a buddy helps you stick to it. Before next month, find a mom partner to join you. You can also dish on our Love Your New-Mom Body community forum.
Simple Start: Schedule a twice-a-week walk with a friend, or find a group exercise class for new moms in your area (your hospital or doctor's office may know of local activities for postpartum moms).
Time Cruncher. You don't want to attempt anything -- cooking, exercising, you name it -- that's going to suck too much time out of your already crazy days.
Simple Start: Click here for a video of our quickie mom and baby exercise routine we developed with StrollerFit, a nationwide exercise program for new moms (you can also sign up for a free StrollerFit class near you). Still too much at once? Divide the routine up into different days -- arms on Monday, legs on Tuesday, belly on Wednesday, and so on.
Anti-Exerciser. You need serious motivation. Maybe you've always hated working out or maybe it's a new phenomenon -- even moms who were gym rats prebaby can have trouble finding the desire, what with the nutso schedule and sleep deprivation. Trust us: Moving a little more will actually give you the much-needed energy you crave.
Simple Start: Get a gradual move on by climbing stairs instead of riding escalators and elevators, or walking instead of driving to the park. When you do work out, keep yourself entertained -- say, doing lunges while watching a favorite show -- so you're not thinking about how much you'd rather be doing something else.
Sign up now for our exclusive 12-week Love Your New-Mom Body program
Kristyn Kusek Lewis is a writer and new mother. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.
Meet Our Moms
You don't have to go it alone! We've put together a group of new moms from across the country who will share their feelings, frustrations, and triumphs in each issue as they try to get back in shape along with you.
Ashley Lynn Barrett, 21, So. Ogden, UT
Mother of Brendan, 9 months
HOW SHE FEELS ABOUT HER POSTBABY BOD: "Before I got pregnant, I felt great about my shape. Now I feel fat and unsexy. I just don't like my body."
PHYSICAL GOAL: "I have about twenty-five pounds to lose, and I really want to strengthen and tone my arms and abs."
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: "When I'm not seeing results right away, I have a hard time sticking to exercise. Sleep deprivation might get in the way, too!"
Miriam Alvarado, 21, Van Nuys, CA
Mother of Angel, 17 months
HOW SHE FEELS ABOUT HER POSTBABY BOD: "My body is bigger now, and everything feels 'loose.' I feel terrible, like every single part of it changed with pregnancy."
PHYSICAL GOAL: "I want to learn how to lose the twenty pounds I'm still carrying around more than a year later."
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: "Finding the discipline to stick with the program and achieve my goals."
Elizabeth Bullard, 34, Durham, NC
Mother of Henry, 9 months
HOW SHE FEELS ABOUT HER POSTBABY BOD: "I dread seeing myself naked. I had heard that my breasts would deflate and head south, but nobody told me that my bottom would, too."
PHYSICAL GOAL: "I want to firm up, redefine my waistline, and get my backside back to its previous location!"
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: "Lack of time! Taking part in a regular fitness routine seems selfish and wonderful."
Jessica Pope, 24, Stone Ridge, VA
Mother of Dylan, 7 months
HOW SHE FEELS ABOUT HER POSTBABY BOD: "I try to have a sense of humor about it -- I figure that the stretch marks and poochy stomach are my battle scars!"
PHYSICAL GOAL: "I have twenty pounds to lose. My legs are in good shape, but I want to firm up my abs, back, and arms."
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: "Finding a way to exercise with my son. I'm a stay-at-home mom and I don't want to have to pay a sitter."