As a personal trainer in the fitness industry, it’s pretty hard to separate myself from thinking about fitness and nutrition since it’s the world I live in. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but over the years as I dug into which foods are more nutritious and learned the benefits of regular physical movement and exercise, I’ve found it’s easy to get sucked down different rabbit holes that can lead to obsessive behavior and/or thinking. I’ve shared on the blog before that I’m so grateful God has spared me from eating disorders, but I have definitely had phases of disordered thinking when it comes to my nutrition, fitness and lifestyle. From weighing myself several times a day to tracking my macros; from running to “burn off” indulgent meals to saying “no” to sugary foods, I’ve certainly had my share of unbalanced behaviors in this area. It’s almost embarrassing to write that all out, given the way I now live and my more relaxed approach to these things, but it’s true, and I know so many people – women, specifically – who live in chains to their body and body image – have been there before. I think it’s very common in North America to compare your body to others’ bodies, to use the language of morality around food (“That’s a good/bad food!”), to have tried out many different diets and to use the gym as punishment. No more! Over the years I’ve moved away from this mentality and these daily actions, opting for freedom when it comes to my body, the way I eat and how I move, but I’m a work in progress as someone who is still steeped in this environment. I wanted to share my thoughts on where I’m at now because every phase is part of the process; perhaps some of you will resonate with where I used to be, where I’m at now, or want to add your thoughts to the conversation. Please do! 🙂
So many things change when you have a baby, and I can only speak from my own experience, but so far, becoming a mama has given me a greater appreciation for my body, for the food I put in it, for the way I move, and for how I can live fully with my little Nahanni. I remember back to those initial few weeks and months of postpartum life; I expected my body to be soft, squishy, and feel foreign to me – and I was fine with that! Recovery was the name of the game and I was happy to be living fully in the moment with Abigail and adjusting to my new life. Fat loss and exercise were not even on my radar one bit – I even wondered if I’d ever want to work out again! That was a strange thought for a personal trainer. It was probably a month before a significant walk of any sort and then a few more months before my first gym workout. My focus was fueling my body with nutritious foods because I wanted to – I was feeding my daughter and I wanted to feel healthy, filled up, and as fresh as possible knowing I wasn’t getting quality sleep.
Look at that fresh baby! Eyelash extensions coming in clutch, but also so much joy over this new human!
Nursing bra, relaxed and squishy postpartum belly, happy, happy, happy!
Two month old Abi visits the Pacific Ocean!
And then I passed 3 months. The “fourth trimester” was over, and out of nowhere I felt pressure to be different – for the squishyness to go away, for my breasts to return to their smaller, more normal-to-me size, for sweaters to fit me a certain way and my body to respond to movement and exercise again in a way I could anticipate. I was aware of this quick mental shift but couldn’t pinpoint why I felt like this or where it came from when I had extended so much grace to myself in pregnancy and after having Abi. But there it was, and I let myself feel it. Some days were better than others, and on those “other” days I shared about my postpartum body image on the blog and on Instagram. I resonated with messaging about why we feel the need to not look like we had a baby 1, 2, or 10 months ago, and during this still very happy time, I couldn’t help but imagine postpartum women in other countries living their lives normally, NOT focusing on their body image. [This is always a struggle for me; I compare my story to others’ stories in, say, third world countries, where I imagine they are just trying to find enough food and water for their family that day… Meanwhile I have a home, a job, clothing and nourishing food – why am I spending time thinking about my body? It’s sometimes good to think this way and sometimes unhelpful, as North America is where God has placed me and this is my story, my time of life, my world that I’m surrounded by. But I digress.]
Fast forward a few months, where, after regular workouts and more sleep, I began to feel more like my “old self” even as I continued to embrace my “new self.” Part of this was going to a pelvic floor physiotherapist and being diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse (I highly recommend Christine at Peak Health & Performance in Calgary). I went when I was just 5.5 weeks postpartum, and now, at 10.5 months postpartum, I’m still dealing with a grade 2 bladder prolapse and grade 1 rectocele, but as time goes on, I’m getting stronger in my pelvic floor. I also got a pessary – I explain what that is in my Instagram post below -through a visit with a great OB/GYN, and it’s enabling me to feel a lot more normal on hard workouts and day to day events, although it’s only a temporary help and I’m still doing my physio!
View this post on Instagram
Question: Do you know what this flexy ring is? 🤷🏼♀️ . 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼 . It’s a pessary! Now… do you know what THAT is? It’s NOT a feathered bird – your phone will likely autocorrect the word to “peasant.” 😂 . I’m talking prolapse today and sharing about my pessary, which is essentially like a sports bra for your pelvic floor, holding up/back your organs to give your pelvic floor a break. It inserts like a Diva Cup or Instead (if you’re familiar with those for your cycle), you don’t feel it (if it’s fitted properly), and it’s a game-changer, albeit not a fix but a temporary help. . So why share something so personal? Something that might even make you a little uncomfortable? Because so many women – even those who’ve had a baby and have prolapse – haven’t heard of this little tool before. We don’t talk about women’s health very openly when many of us experience similar issues – issues that I don’t think need to be taboo! . So, I followed my pelvic floor physio’s encouragement and got a referral to an OB/GYN to see if a pessary was for me. Earlier in my postpartum journey I thought I’d never get one – I could KEGEL my way back to full strength! But nope! I’m a good candidate to use one and I decided I’d celebrate getting it rather than feel like I failed. . So now I use my pessary as a helpful tool – especially if I know I want to go for a run, take a long walk, or towards the end of the day when gravity is taking over a tired pelvic floor. I work out more often without it (because I engage well when I’m fitness-ing!), use it when needed but focus on strengthening my weakened muscles and am trying to keep up with my physio (shout-out to Christine at @peakhealthcalgary !). I’m grateful to have this as an option. . At 10 months postpartum, I’m still in the thick of it; hormones settling, tissues still lax because of frequent breastfeeding, not always sleeping through the night, but loving the change because it brought me Abigail Nahanni! And I’m learning it’s not necessarily about getting “back to normal,” but about adapting. What an empowering thought, to ADAPT! . Double tap if you think we should keep shedding light on women’s health, including prolapse!
So now I’m at a point where Abi is eating more solid foods (which means less crazy hunger for me from exclusively breastfeeding), my body is shifting again as my workouts are steady, and we are in more of a routine with naps and work schedules. I’m settling into a place where my physical body’s aesthetics matter… but my functionality matters even more. I desire to fuel my body with real, whole foods but also enjoy ice cream, dark chocolate and my occasional red & black licorice. I like shorter, more focused workouts (which isn’t too new but more out of necessity when working around nap times) and simple meals that are filling and easy – I’m not a fancy cook. 😉
Not everyone can workout with their chiropractor! Love workouts with Dr. Travis!
I’m enjoying this freedom that I think having Abi has given to me – mainly just a perspective and priority shift. But then September rolled around, with people doing cleanses and resets and new diets. There’s also Instagram with people’s pictures and inspiring transformation stories. These can be sources of good motivation, but they aren’t always helpful if they drive you to “lean out” or change just for the sake of it. On top of that, there’s my desire to NOT focus on my body/body image/food and it all just seems like such a waste, especially when compared to what truly matters in life. And this all got me thinking about WHY I’d do a reset, WHY I needed to track my macros, WHY I should be on some kind of plan with my training.
These things aren’t wrong – it’s fine to cut sugar and decrease simple carbs if you want to feel better – you probably will! And tracking (both your food and fitness) sure has a place in people’s lives. But that’s just not where I’m at right now. I’m still breastfeeding, my sleep is hit or miss Abi’s teeth start coming in, and I’m fitting my fitness around my life, not the other way around. This means I’m not as lean as I’ve been, but I’m realizing that I’m actually happy with my body and life and nutrition at this point in my life. Perhaps you’re in a place like me, where seeing quotes like this hit you positively like they do me:
(from the Well-Fed Women’s Podcast Instagram – this was a great episode!
Think about that concept. If we are constantly dieting ourselves down to our lowest levels of leanness, we can’t really be in a healthy or happy place. Happy and healthy is being comfortable in our bodies and not fighting ourselves – doesn’t that sound refreshing and make sense?
Along these lines, I’m embracing the idea of intuitive eating (funny we have to label it; it’s just eating what you want when you want!) – it just seems right to NOT focus so much on what and how I’m eating, and yet with my industry it’s pretty hard to stay totally on the outside of this kind of thinking. Heck, with our media and the images we see everywhere it’s hard not to be affected by it! So that’s why I’m sharing my back and forth struggle – because I think we all go through it to some extent and at different times in our life. More often than not, I’m in a place where I’m content with my body, my eating habits, and my general fitness – I’m able to live unhindered, more or less, and that’s something to be so grateful for!
Getting my functional fitness – aka PLAY! – on.
A weight vest and a Woodway treadmill – you can do a lot of damage with some simple tools. 😉
I’m back to working more hours at the gym as of this month, I’m going to be starting a mom’s strength training class in October, and it all has me excited to help others’ with their life and fitness goals in a balanced, relaxed and sustainable way. It reminds me to take my own advice! And to keep smiling my way through the ups and downs of learning to let the focus on my body and food go. This little one helps me keep smiling, be more intuitive with how I eat, and keep moving!
Do you go back and forth with your body image, eating habits, sleep patterns and movement? I love the discussion of body appreciation – especially after such big changes like having a baby – and it’s been fun to keep growing in my sense of who I am as a woman, wife and mom. A huge part of this is being secure in who I am as God’s child – and knowing my worth is not tied to my body is a freeing feeling and truth! I hope you’re doing well in your personal journey and would love to hear if a big change like having a baby, experiencing a loss, a new job or a change in life has changed your outlook on and relationship with your body and food.
Live well & be well,