My Post-Partum Body, A Year Later

We don't talk about the realities of post-partum bodies enough.  There's a strong narrative that once you have your baby, you do a bunch of work and "go back" to your pre-pregnancy body.  With kegels and push-ups, some grit, and "no excuses" (Thank-you-not-really, Maria Kang), you can get back your body, and by extension, your sexuality and attractiveness and sense-of-self. 

Well, sorry, but that's a big, ol' NOPE.  There is no "snapping back".  These changes are forever. Your body went through a gigantic transformation.  No sense in pretending it didn't happen.

The thing is: I think you can reclaim your body, and by extension, your sexuality and attractiveness and sense-of-self WITHOUT a whole big weight loss "journey."  In fact, I think it's vital that you do.

My post-partum body, 1 year later. - superbalancedlife.com

My post-partum body, 1 year later. - superbalancedlife.com

A year ago, I showed what my post-partum body looked like, a month after birth.  The above picture was taken about a year after that.  Honestly, they're not much different.

My post-partum body, 1 year later - superbalancedlife.com

My post-partum body, 1 year later - superbalancedlife.com

I guess my stretch marks have faded, but I still have the "mummy tummy" and the same hips and big arms.  So what's different?  My head.

To be honest, I put off this post for a couple days because I was actually a little disappointed about the pictures.  A teeny part of myself wanted this to be a Before and After kind of scenario, because we're conditioned to believe that that is the triumph: visible, tangible transformation.  But the bigger win is what's been going on in my brain. 

To be even more candid -- as I compared the photos from a year ago to now, my thought process has gone something like this: "Oh man, it's not that different.  Shit.  And I've gone back to CrossFit, but it's obviously not working, and maybe I should be watching what I eat... OH WAIT A SECOND STOP RIGHT THERE.  Am I doing these things to "fix" what I look like, or to feel good in my body?  I am doing this to feel good in my body.  Eating well, moving my body in ways I like and feel good, sleeping as much as I can, and making time for self-care, those things are the goal in and of themselves."

Taking care of myself is its own reward.  I feel good; so much better than I have in a long time.  I feel motivated and engaged and happy.

So as much as I've been conditioned to see no physical change at all as a bad thing, I don't really think it is.  The life I'm living is sustainable.  I'm not driving myself crazy being consumed by a weight loss struggle.  Today, I ate a salad for lunch, but I also ate oatmeal with dark chocolate chips for breakfast.  *shrug*

This is what success looks like for me: total self-acceptance and making choices that support my strength, health, and life, and also acknowledging how amazing it is that my body has sustained and given life.  It will never be what it was before my kid.  I don't have the time or energy to do the work I did to make it that way.  But I am finding what time and effort I can to make sure I'm the best me that I can be NOW, and that's what really counts.

I had a shitty body day. Here's what I did.

On a pretty standard Tuesday, my brain was being a real asshole.  It seems to be fixated on my tummy lately, and is being a cranky bitch about my cushier frame these days.  "I should be back to my pre-pregnancy weight by now!" it hollers.  "I shouldn't have this extra padding around my belly and thighs.  And my ass is extra enormous now.  How am I gonna get a strict pull-up now???"

It was pretty unbearable, being stuck with my jerk-ass brain.  So I decided to do something about it.

First, I started reading this:

Hot and Heavy - Superbalancedlife.com

Hot and Heavy - Superbalancedlife.com

I decided it's time to own my body, right where it is.  Part of that means owning "Fat" as an adjective, instead of a pejorative.  Because: why the hell not? 

So far this book is the shit.  I'm only a little bit in though, so we'll see.  I love the hell out of Virgie Tovar.  Man, that gal is rad.

Next up, I bought these.

Cute Butt Club Sticker Pack.  Buy it here: Etsy.

Cute Butt Club Sticker Pack.  Buy it here: Etsy.

Cute ladies with big thighs, hips, and bottoms?  PURCHASED. 

Something about looking at those ladies makes me really happy.  You can totally be cute with big-ass thighs and the rest of it.  If you find some rad art that has bodies like your body represented in a cool way, I suggest you get that shit for your wall.

After all that, I asked my partner to take me rollerskating. 

rollerskates at the rink

I'm a retired roller derby girl, and skating in my happy place.  Just rolling around, doing figure eights, and cross-overs and the rest to disco and R&B and pop lights up my heart.  If you're feeling terrible about yourself?  Go play. 

I know all those professionals tell you to exercise if you're feeling depressed, but honestly, who wants one more chore to do when they're feeling bad?  No one.  Find some type of physical play you enjoy, and go do it.  For me, that's skating.  For you it might be playing Marco Polo in the pool, or moving your shit to some old house jams.  Just do it.  Your endorphins will thank you.

Lastly, I made some art.  Because.

Bullshit. - Superbalancedlife.com

Bullshit. - Superbalancedlife.com


When It's Okay to Quit

I've been thinking a lot lately about discipline, willpower, and failure. 

Recovery from OSFED (Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder) hasn't taken the path I thought it would.  I'm finding myself getting triggered by stuff not fitting, or fitting differently, pretty much daily.  When I got weighed at the doctor this week, the number was a little upsetting.  All of these triggers were making me feel emotionally beat up, and added up to a lot of fatigue and frustration over the past few weeks.

Simply put: my process wasn't working for me.  If you don't feel good consistently, your process isn't working for you.

That doesn't mean it isn't a good process overall.  In fact, many of the things I list below might work for other people.  But they aren't working for me, and as hard as it is, I need to let go of what doesn't serve me.

So here are the things not working for me:

Refeeding

In a conversation with some of my body-pos besties on Facebook this morning, I remarked that refeeding had more or less failed for me.  Refeeding is a process in ED recovery where you introduce previously off-limit foods as a way of trying to neutralize the extreme evaluation of "good" or "bad" foods, and reestablish good nutrition.

For me, it didn't really work.  Or at least, it hasn't worked yet.  How do I know?  Because for the last month, I've been writing down what I eat in this handy notebook.

Tracking food behaviors.  When It's Okay to Quit - Super Balanced Life.

Tracking food behaviors.  When It's Okay to Quit - Super Balanced Life.

I used to get huge emo hives at the thought of recording my food, but I did it so I could assess my eating patterns.  What I found out is that with no structure, I fall to pieces.  I end up eating way more than I need or even want to.  I swung way into restriction in 2013, and in 2014 I pendulum-ed my way into the other extreme: a place with no guiding principles at all.  Neither extreme is good for me.

Not Being Mindful

Tuning out rather than tuning in has really worked against me, in that it resulted in some crazy avoidant behavior.  I look back at this blog and there's a lot of progress, but there's also a bit of denial about how my eating behavior was affecting me.  I was pretty resistant to following any eating guidelines, I wasn't paying attention to what or how much I was eating, and the last thing I wanted to hear was that in order to make meaningful changes in your life, you really have to show up, pay attention, and do the work over and over again.  Regrettably, I was also jealous of other people who were doing their work and affecting change in their own lives.

Sometimes you really just gotta show up and do the work, whatever the work is.  There's just no avoiding it.

My work is accepting that I can't ever tune out anymore (well, without consequences).  I need to be mindful about my health, how I eat and exercise and sleep, for the rest of my life.  That's especially true now with the high cholesterol diagnosis.  Instead of tuning out, I need to tune in.

And it kind of speaks to a trend about me, if you really know me - projects vs. daily tasks.  I approach most things in my life as projects -- a piece of work with a finite start and end point.  This is great, in that I get a lot of stuff done, but it's bad in one major way: health is not a project.  There is no end to it.

Which leads me to the next, and last thing that wasn't working for me...

Not Goal Setting

I am a person who thrives on having defined goals and tasks and projects.  Accomplishment makes my brain light up.  For the past few months, I've been trying having no goals (didn't work), and having just performance goals (worked, sorta, but my big one -- doing a strict pull-up -- is far enough off that it's not motivating enough near-term).  Thing is, making weight loss or at least weight maintenance not a goal ignored a fundamental need I had: to not feel so damn triggered every day.

As lovely as it would be to be totally fine with my weight going up and finding a profound equanimity about the whole process, I'm just not there yet.  I have an upper limit on what I consider comfortable for my body, and I'm getting damn close to it.  It's worth it to me to not get there.  No one wants to feel uncomfortable or sad in their body all the time.

But then of course there's the push and pull of body acceptance vs. attempted change, right?  So how do I find my way between the two?

The answer I think is in a couple things:

  • I have one big health goal: Make Being a Fit, Well Person Effortless.  This unifies all the tasks I've created to get to that goal and keeps things simple.  If I ever get paralyzed by indecision at crucial moments, I ask myself, "Does this contribute to or take away from my goal of being a fit, well person?"
  • I've set trackable, daily tasks that reinforce the healthy habits needed to make being a fit, well person effortless.  I track them in Habit RPG, which is just nerdy enough to make me happy.
  • I allow myself to do projects only after I have taken care of myself with my healthy daily habits.  The projects are my reward.  This means my priorities are in the right place and I'm not neglecting my health to get a bunch of things done.
  • By turning these fitness tasks into habits, I'm removing a lot of decision fatigue, and that's how the whole thing becomes effortless. 

One of the only things I miss about super restrictive eating was that it didn't cause me a lot of emotional aggro -- things were just off limits, and I didn't second-guess myself all the time.  My new plan allows me to have more flexibility, but cuts back on the emotional see-saw of indecision.  The behavior in question either contributes to my health, or it doesn't -- and I get to decide in that moment if the thing I'm considering is worth the splurge or not. 

It took a lot of thought and courage to get to this place and admit that hey, maybe I do want to lose weight -- just on my terms, in small increments, and slowly.  But I think it's the right choice for me right now. 

I worry what a lot of you might think.  I hope you don't feel betrayed.  I promise that this will not become a weight loss or restrictive eating blog.  You can still come here for total acceptance of your body, as I am a firm believer that you can be healthy at any size.  I just need to do what's right and comfortable for me. 

Much body-positive love to you, wherever you are in your journey.  <3

Step 3: Bodies as Instruments, Not As Objects

Today's post is about Step 3 of my series on how to bounce back from negative body triggers: thinking about your body as an instrument, not as an object.

Beauty Refined points out:

When women learn to value their bodies for what they can do rather than what they look like, they improve their body image and gain a more powerful sense of control. Ideas of “feminist embodiment” that have been pinpointed in research include using our bodies to dance, play, move, and be outside the confines of being looked at. As early as grade school, research shows that girls’ activities and thoughts are more frequently disrupted than boys, and those interruptions are often related to weight and appearance. Experts suggest we can resist self-objectification by participating in non-aesthetically-focused sports (like competitive team sports) and other kinds of physical activity. Finally, STEP AWAY FROM THE MIRRORS while exercising. Research shows people who work out in front of mirrors can’t perform as well because they are consciously and subconsciously wrapped up in how they look instead of what they can do.

There's always been an element of look-ism in female sports.  When I played varsity tennis, I was often pretty concerned about looking cute in the outfit, at least until the first serve.  Nowadays, I don't think about it as much - well, until I go to do a handstand and have to remember to tuck my shirt in, lest anyone see my ghost-pale stomach, but even so, I don't spend much time looking in the mirror at the gym, because that's not what I'm there to do.  I'm there to get a good workout, sweat, get red in the face, and get strong.

Love me some kettlebells!

Love me some kettlebells!

It is so, so important to find exercise you like.  Hear me babes, it is VITAL.  Exercise should not be punishment.  You don't have to do it to earn anything.  You don't have to do it "or else".  You don't have to follow anyone else's rules.  Move your body because it delights you to do so.  That is the only way to make it sustainable.  The only way.

Pick something you love.  For me, that was roller derby, then CrossFit, and yoga.  I delight in all of those things.  I want to make out with rollerskating, I get a thrill at learning my body's capabilities at the box, and I love the presence and bodily awareness yoga brings.

I used to do shit I hated.  I do not like long-distance running.  Look at me, up above.  I have the body of a sprinter.  I am not cut out for marathons.  Long-distance running is not for me.  I hate long runs with ever fiber of my being and I want to punch the ground I have to cover in the face.  And yet for years I ran because I felt like I "had" to.  Bullshit.  I'm a grown-ass lady.  I do what I want.

Like hanging:

Like a damn monkey. 

Like a damn monkey. 

If I look happy here, it's because I am.  I finished the WOD, perfected my power snatch, and had a generally bang-up time!  Now, it's not always like that -- some WODs (Workout of the Day) are an effing SLOG, and I fight for every rep.  But you gotta love the general trend of what you do.  It has to be workable.  You have to look forward to it sometimes.  Even in my darkest, most drama-ridden moments of derby, the moments by myself spinning around the track felt like home.

And plus, when you are busy doing something you truly love, you don't give two shits about how you look doing it.  You are in the zone, in flow, and I strongly believe that everyone in that space is totally, undeniably gorgeous.  True love is absolutely beautiful, and contagious.  Watching someone do what they love makes you fall in love with them a little too, otherwise, how do we explain celebrity crushes?

So find that thing you love.  Find something you're good at.  Praise your bod for all the rad things it can DO.  Focus on that, not what it looks like, at least for awhile.  When you feel down about your body, remind yourself of how it supports you, carries you, lifts stuff for you.  Look at your latest personal record, or even praise yourself for getting up and doing the daily grind for one more day.  Because that's a day you didn't let those stupid negative unproductive jerkface internal voices get you down.  That's a day you said, "No thanks, I'm too busy rockin' it over here to care one fig about what you say, jerks.  Now STFU, while I kill this workout."

 

Treatment Plan for Negative Body Triggers
Step 1: Compassion
Step 2: Feminist Beliefs