I have never been great at loving my body. I am ashamed to say I have spent a lot of my life (especially my teenage years) basing all my self-worth on what I saw in the mirror and what number appeared on the scale. Then, when my twin girls were born, I basically did all the wrong things trying to get back into shape. I started running way before my body was ever ready, cut way too many calories, and ran a half marathon five months postpartum. I convinced myself that my body needed to immediately bounce back and that the only way to make that happen was to push myself to the limit.
Looking back, I am so thankful my girls were too young to notice my unhealthy habits.
The example I was setting was not one I wanted them to follow. They needed much better from me if they were going to be the strong women that I want to raise. So when my third daughter was born earlier this year, I knew I had to do things differently this time around. That meant being kind to my body, losing weight and exercising in a healthy/safe way, and giving myself lots of grace.
I am not in any way saying that women need to get back in shape or that if you don’t, you’re lacking in some way. I know not everyone likes to work out and not everyone has the time or ability to do so after having a baby. But, if you’re like me and you enjoy working out and want to get back into it while still modeling healthy habits, these are some things that have helped me:
Make working out a family activity. Usually my workouts are my “me time,” but I make it a point to include my daughters whenever possible. It can be as simple as inviting them on a walk with me or letting them hang out in the basement while I work out. They love to try to work out with me, and sometimes we do kid-specific exercises like the ones on GoNoodle or Cosmic Kids Yoga.
Emphasize healthy over skinny. A body is a body, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Period. And that’s a fact I try so hard to impress upon my daughters. The goal should always be health over being a certain size. Skinny doesn’t equate good health or beauty. They know good health is important, but they also are being taught that their character is what makes them beautiful; not what they see in the mirror.
DON’T discuss weight. I never talk about how much weight I have lost with my girls. EVER. Instead, I talk about how much stronger I feel or how much more energy I have. Doing this makes it easier for me to focus on those things too. Also, I never mention anyone else’s weight loss (or gain). And I NEVER EVER comment on my daughters’ weight and anyone who does, is quickly told that’s not ok.
Don’t miss out. I don’t let any fitness regimen I am on or how I look keep me from missing out on memories. I still eat ice cream and Halloween candy with my girls. I wore my bathing suit two months postpartum this time, even though I felt insecure. As my girls grow up, I want them to always feel confident in their bodies and not miss out on fun opportunities because they are concerned about how many calories they are consuming or that their jeans feel a little tight.
Raising girls and knowing what it’s like for women to constantly be told we need to look a certain way has made me vigilant about shielding them from “diet culture.” There is something so magical about their innocence and I want to keep them in that bubble for as long as I can. I realize it can’t last forever. One day, some hateful person is going to try to make them feel bad about how they look. The world we live in makes that inevitable, especially for girls. But my hope is that I can instill enough of these principles in them early on, so they will always know their size and weight are just numbers and that good health is the ultimate goal.