Body blues (and triumphs)

. August 13, 2012.

If I had the chance to give a new mom advice on motherhood, it would be that being a healthy, happy mom has nothing to do with a number on a scale. In fact, being a healthy mom has nothing to do with numbers at all. Being happy and healthy is a lifestyle and “can-do” approach to raising your family and living your life. Three children and eight years later, I have finally figured this out first hand. Now that I have, I am more confident with my body and health than before having children. When I put on my favorite pair of jeans, I am not hung up on the size, but on the energy and confidence I have wearing them.

Let me begin by giving you a little background on my body blues and triumph. Being a mom to three young, energetic children I coped with the all-too-familiar nausea, swelling feet and growing belly during each of my pregnancies. Many times I felt out of touch with my body. I was unfamiliar with the “new” me and I felt helpless, but was expected to accept these changes with open arms. After the birth of each of my children, I remember feeling overwhelmed when I would look in my closet, and found myself wondering if I would ever again feel confident and attractive? 

I felt disconnected from the image of myself that I had come to recognize for so many years, and the pressure to bounce back and look as if I never had a child, let alone three, was enormous. The media and parenting magazines gave me an image of motherhood that was unrealistic and unobtainable. It wasn’t until recently, after the birth of my daughter, that I’ve become more in tune with my body and committed to my health. I no longer find myself wishing and wondering when I step on a scale, but instead I’m excited about making a healthy dinner and taking a family walk at the park. It took several years for me to accept and work on me. It took focusing on my energy, instead of the scale, to get to the place I am today.  

Mindful eating, positive self talk

Amy Hanson-Akins, a local clinical therapist and health and wellness coach, shares a similar message with new mothers that she councils. Amy’s approach to positive body image comes from mindful eating and positive self talk. She encourages new moms to be as mindful about eating and exercise post baby as they were during their pregnancy. She says highly restrictive diets are not healthy for a new mother or her young child, and encourages mothers to think of their new body in a more positive way by focusing on health versus weight. Have gratitude and be appreciative for the gift of life your body has created, and continues to give through so many ways. Many moms may feel overwhelmed after the birth of a child, but Amy encourages them to make small, consistent changes every day, like natural movement they enjoy.

She also counsels mothers to focus on their overall health, active lifestyle, and eating well. Ask yourself how you can maintain a healthy lifestyle, feel good, and pass on positive body image to your children. Be careful with the media today — there is an onslaught of pressure regarding body image and weight, and it is most often negative and unrealistic (with the bombardment of photo-shopped images to blame). One of Amy’s suggestions for mothers is to find a “Fat-Free Zone” where you can talk openly and freely without the pressure of numbers, sizes, weight, and pounds. It is positive to have a group of mothers who can support each other through the trials and tribulations of motherhood without judgment and the pressure of body image.