Motherhood wreaks absolute havoc on your mind and body. Not only do you feel overwhelming anxiety over seemingly inconsequential decisions (i.e.: which sippy cup to buy) and crippling mom guilt over EVERYTHING (I forgot to beep the horn for the kids when I left to go to the grocery store. I am a monster), your body has also turned into a complete stranger. Oh, you may have achieved the “back to pre-baby weight” milestone that seems to magically happen to celebrities within 48 hours of giving birth, but chances are things have shifted like your body is one giant set of tectonic plates distributing weight and inches to places that once slid so easily into low-rise jeans.
Nearly a year ago I wrote this blog about grappling with mom bod. I was deep in the throes of nursing an infant that refused to take a bottle and sadly not experiencing the miracle weight loss benefits that come with breastfeeding. It may have had something to do with the Double Stuffed Oreos I kept double fisting, but I digress. Side note, why does Oreo even bother making Oreos that aren’t double-stuffed? It baffles me.
Soon after that post, my friend Meghan’s sister-in-law, Katie, reached out to me about how the 21-day fix had totally changed her life. I should note that she is not a Beach Body coach and also let you all know that I am not either. I ain’t got time for that. I’ve got two kids, a crumbling household, a disobedient dachshund, and a fish that just got it’s water changed for the first time in 9 months. Oh, and a husband, too. Plus, I like food too much.
I can’t lie. I was inspired by Katie. I always delight in a good “before and after”, which is why the last 5 minutes of HGTV is my favorite, along with ship lap. While inspiring, it also seemed like a lot of work and I let the message fall to the wayside. Thankfully for me, Meghan was more motivated and sucked me into the hell that became the 21-Day Fix . We were long distance dieting buddies and made a pact that we would stay strong but absolutely refused to give up wine. We have our limits. For those that don’t know, the 21 day fix is a tortuous eating plan with color coded plastic containers that tell you how much food you can or can’t have. Spoiler alert, all of the good stuff (cheese, chocolate, fat, general sustenance) goes into a container that holds roughly the same volume as a thimble. It was miserable. I read online about how people felt “so full they couldn’t finish all their food.” F YOU. I was snorting extra carrots sticks and lapping up the salty tears that fell from my food-deprived eyes to calm the bear-like rumbling of my belly. I lost weight. I was exercising daily. It was working but I was lashing out like Chris Farley in the Gap Girls Saturday Night Live skit on the regular.
Starvation yields results, but a strict diet like that is impossible to maintain when cheese, wine, and chocolate are your holy food trinity. I picked up a few good eating habits and also ended up joining a gym. It wasn’t the fancy pants gym that I aspired to join a year ago, but it offers free babysitting and isn’t so expensive that we can still contribute to the kids’ college fund.
I loved it. I almost vomited the first few classes I took but the trainers and the other members made it fun. I hadn’t belonged to a gym in seven years and hadn’t taken a gym class since the time I tried out a kickboxing class and turned my ankle in front of everyone causing the instructor to abruptly stop to make sure I was okay. The ankle was fine; my ego and confidence were not and I avoided classes until I joined this particular gym.
After the holidays and a magical Napa vacation, a few pounds crept back on. I decided to do another 21 day fix round in February. It sucked even worse than the first time and didn’t come with the same results that justified the three weeks of near-starvation. I came to the conclusion that even though I would still love to have thighs that don’t touch and upper arms that don’t flap in the wind once I’ve finished waving at someone, it’s more important for me to enjoy life. I want to have dessert and I occasionally want cheese and crackers to be considered my dinner. I don’t want to go to a restaurant and order a grilled chicken breast and roasted veggies, because what’s the point?
The diet I scrapped but the gym I kept. I liked the gym and the way it began to transform my body while still allowing me to indulge my sweet tooth. And my chicken wing tooth. Through the trainers and classes I’ve done, I’ve begun to embrace being stronger than I’ve been before. I can do real push-ups. Not many (like 6) but they are actual real push-ups. I may not be the thinnest I’ve ever been in life, but I’m 99% sure that today’s Lynn could kick the ass of any Lynn in the past.
This weekend I completed a Spartan Race, which was the culmination of this mom bod journey of mine. I have never done any sort of race in my life. The thought of running a 5K or – gasp – a marathon sounds like the actual worst to me. I view people that do these things on a regular basis with a combination of admiration and horror. Then I let a friend talk me into signing up this race. A beast of a race. A grueling 4.1 mile course up and down a mountain sprinkled with various obstacles and feats of strength. There was a whole host of things that I couldn’t do – damn you stupid rope climb, monkey bars, and rings – but I finished. I did things I didn’t think I could do. I did things that looked hard but felt somewhat manageable. At the end of the race I leapt over smoldering coals and fire, grasping the hands of my fellow mom friends and felt like a true bad ass.
I wore my Spartan medal home, which is basically an adult version of a participation ribbon, and showed it to my son. His eyes widened in awe as he yelled out “wow!” I showed him pictures from the race and he keeps asking to see “when you were all muddy, mommy”. I can’t lie, I felt a little like Super Mom.
The gym is 100% for me and not just because of the 60 kid-free minutes I get to enjoy even though those are glorious. But there’s also a small part of it that’s for my kids. I want Olivia to see a strong mom that takes care of herself, but isn’t so stringent about food that she won’t indulge in a donut (or 5). Her life is going to be riddled with pressure to conform to a certain beauty standard and size that I don’t want to contribute to that negativity. I also want my son to see that Mommy is strong and can do so much more than microwave his bacon every morning. Before he gets completely sucked into a world of baseball and football, I want him to see that it’s not just the guys that can do push-ups and run races and lift heavy stuff. We grow and birth humans! It doesn’t get much stronger than that!
I’ve come a long way in a year – both physically and mentally. There will always be those inner thoughts and criticisms of a body that will never look the way I want it to. And I’m sure the first time I take off my cover-up at the pool I’ll be squirming inside, wishing I went with the one-piece. But I am fit. Not a size zero sort of fit or wear a bodycon dress without industrial-strength Spanx fit. Fit in the sense that I’ve worked hard and can see results in how much longer I can run, how much more I can lift, and how much harder I can work in the gym classes that previously reduced me to almost puking. I’m fit in the sense that I can complete a Spartan Race and take pride in the not-so-skinny legs that propelled me up and down a mountain.
Don’t misconstrue this to think that I’ve achieved some level of body image zen. I still fully plan to pose for photos at a flattering angle with my arm popped out like a tea pot to fake a slender, non-jiggly arm. I’m just a gal that can’t say no to dessert, guacamole, and a glass of rosé on a hot day who’s trying to make peace with a postpartum body that’s forever changed by two rascals that provide me with the majority of my daily cardio. Getting stronger, not skinnier. That’s me.