While my oldest son turns four in two months, I won’t say he’s a day over three years old because I don’t want to rush time. But it was when I got pregnant with that little man that all of the pregnancy rumors began. “Never ever eat deli meat.” “If you crave sweets you’re having a girl.” “You need to rest, take it easy, relax, you’re pregnant and can workout afterwards.” But I think that the worst pregnancy lie I was ever told was “you’re eating for two now,” quickly followed by “the weight will just fall right off!” Please try and tell me what pregnant woman, craving everything under the sun, isn’t going to very happily accept that she can now eat four brownies instead of two. Or she can eat three bowls of ice cream instead of one and no one can bat an eye. Especially when she’s also being promised that her weight won’t stick around after her little bundle of joy arrives? Well unfortunately I loved this little lie, it was my best friend and I took complete advantage of it. So you can imagine my disappointment when my baby was 6 months old, and I was still feeling very uncomfortable in my own skin, I had been lied to.
Whenever I tried to talk to other people about my discomfort, I often received the following comments, “Oh Chels, you look incredible for just having a baby!” “Your body just gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, you should feel so grateful that he’s healthy, that’s what matters.” And then one Sunday, in the bathroom of my parents ward house, I was talking to another one of the moms and mentioned how I just wished my body would bounce back. She looked me straight in the face and said “Honey, after you have a baby, it is 100% impossible for your body to ever be the same. You need to love yourself for the way you look now and be proud of what your body has accomplished. You need to love the new you” She walked out, and I started to cry. I was doomed…..I was never going to feel confident again. I felt selfish for wanting my body back. It HAD just done something incredible. I DID just have the worlds most beautiful baby. If I loved my baby I needed to accept what the battle my body had fought did to my body, and I just needed to find a way to love myself. I bought books on happiness and loving myself. I tried looking at my handsome baby and telling myself, you’re beautiful, because you had HIM! I did special things for myself, like getting my hair done, and my toes painted. I bought myself cute new clothes and I prayed that someday I would fall in love with the new me.
I suppose there are a lot of people out there that think I’m awful when I say that I never did fall in love with that person. I never looked in the mirror and thought, I feel beautiful today. I changed my clothes sometimes 10+ times when getting ready because I couldn’t find anything that made me feel confident. I avoided reflective surfaces because I was embarrassed by the almost 60 pounds that I had gained with my sweet baby, and I didn’t want to see them. I was tired of not fitting in any of my old clothes, looking at old pairs of jeans and wishing they would fit. I was tired of feeling like I needed to suck in when people took pictures, I was the queen of eating way to much candy, a hamburger and a shake and then feeling horribly guilty, and while I recognized that it was people’s most sincere attempt at a compliment, I was tired of hearing people say “You look great for just having a baby.” My baby was 1 years old, and I was ready to start looking great because I looked great, not just “had a baby great.” I wish I could tell you that my weight loss journey was easy. I wish I could say that I didn’t have to sacrifice a lot, because then maybe starting your own journey would seem more appealing. But the reality is that deciding that I wanted to be happy, healthy, and confident again was hard, and the steps that it took to get there were harder. One of the biggest hurdles that I had to jump was that even though I absolutely hated what the world referred to as my “battle scars” or my “tiger stripes” I still loved my baby. Just because I wasn’t proud of me, didn’t mean I wasn’t proud of him. He was my pride and joy, and I would do it again and again and again. I would do the sleepless nights, and the sick months. I would do the back pain, and the swollen feet. I would relive the moments in the raw meat isle where I almost threw up, and the terror in the operating room before what I thought was going to be an emergency c-section. I had to consistently remind myself that me wanting to change me, had nothing to do with my love and dedication to him. After I crossed that bridge the hurdles seemed endless, and have you ever seen those videos of people falling over hurdles? Starting out probably looked a lot like that to anyone else that was watching. I had to make some pretty big changes. I never worked out aside from the occasional run, and when I say run, it was more like a short dash down the street and a breathless walk back. I was a stress eater, a boredom eater, a depressed eater, a hungry eater, a subconscious eater, and everything in between. The only thing I had going for me was that I hated soda, and literally that was it.
So, I went to the gym. That was kind of a miserable experience. I starred awkwardly at the pictures on the machines of how I was supposed to use them and ended up just walking away. I did this for about 20 minutes before I just decided to use the treadmill. That was a start. I drove home feeling like I would resolve the disaster that was the gym, by making myself a healthy dinner. Turns out the food side of things was worse. I guess that you should know that I HATE veggies. I do not like salad and I’m not a fan of fish. So, I ate PB and J sandwiches with my one year old. Healthy right? I would be lying if I didn’t say that I started and quit this journey quite a few times before I decided that I was sick of “starting again for real on Monday.” I worked hard guys…I went to the gym late while everyone in my house was sleeping, or in the morning before they woke up and on the days that I didn’t make it I could be found in my basement looking up at home workouts for whatever muscle group I would have worked on that day. I lived by the motto that Daniel Tiger taught my 2 year old when he says “you’ve got to try new things cause they might taste good!” I ate a lot of foods that I was NOT a fan of. I completely cut out dessert and fast food during the week and I made a list of foods that I knew I liked that weren’t full of sugar or fats to eat in different combinations every day to teach myself self control. I can’t be the only girl that eats one bite of a brownie and then can’t stop herself from eating the entire pan right? I planned high protein meals, and low carb ones, and yes, while I didn’t count every single calorie, I was aware of about how many were going into my body every day. Sometimes I went to bed crying because I was hungry but knew I had had enough to eat and that I had done my body a disservice by teaching it that it needed that many calories. But here is the best part, on Saturday, I ate WHATEVER I wanted. It helped me feel like I wasn’t giving up everything I had ever loved. If I was craving pizza on a Wednesday, I just knew that I was getting pizza for dinner on Saturday, and I was going to enjoy every bite completely guilt free. I finally did it, but not only did I lose my baby weight, I was in the best shape of my life.
Four months ago I gave birth to another baby boy who made the size of my heart about a million times bigger, anyone know what I mean? This pregnancy, I didn’t cave into all of my cravings, please notice I said all…I may have gotten out of the shower midway through to get some oreos before returning back to wash the shampoo out of my hair. I worked out when I could and after I had my baby my body bounced back fairly quickly. But this time, instead of hearing the comments “you look great for just having a baby.” Sadly I often hear “You should not look like that for just having a baby.” Or, “There is literally no way that you just had a child.” It’s because of my past experience that these comments have caused me to wonder when we decided as a society that baby weight wasn’t accepted, but expected. Since when did we decide that if you dedicate yourself to a healthy lifestyle change, not a diet or a pill, but a LIFESTYLE CHANGE that you shouldn’t look good after giving birth? Since when did we start believing that your body can’t and will not EVER be the same after children? Why do we tell ourselves that we need to just be okay with our discomfort because the source of it brought us so much joy? Ladies, this isn’t a story about how my body is in perfect condition, because believe me, my body has it’s battle wounds that I am very proud of, sags in places I would rather not talk about, and I still have to try not to pee when I sneeze. This is a story about how you are in charge of you.
No one else lives in your body but you. No one else looks back at you when you look in the mirror or has to look at the number on the scale. No one else puts your clothes on and feels how they fit your body. No one else looks at old pictures and wishes that they could go back to those days. You do. So you get to decide. I want you to know that I’ve been where you are. I’ve been the woman that feels embarrassed to take my clothes off when being intimate with my husband. I’ve been the woman that chooses NOT to wear a swimsuit, even though there are a lot of moms out there that are brave enough to continue to rock them and their stories liberate us all. I have been the woman that hates sitting on the shower floor to shave because I’m completely vulnerable, with nothing to hide me. Please understand that you can still love your sweet children and still want to change for yourself. Please know that with dedication and determination and with the drive and willingness to sacrifice, it is not impossible to bounce back. Lastly, get ready for the biggest contradiction you have ever heard, but remember, your body DID do something amazing. Your body housed a life. Your body helped a little one come into this world. Be patient with yourself. Be understanding of your limitations. Be loving to yourself as you grow. Be proud of your strides no matter how small. Be accepting of the fact that things aren’t going to change overnight, but know that things will change. So if I could go back in time, I wish I could grab that woman in my parents ward house bathroom by the face and tell her she was wrong. I wish I could tell her that confidence is possible after children. And not just because you’ve accepted the new you, but because you’ve found the you that you want to be.