Setting my fitness goals straight: body image, mental and physical health in a social media world

It’s tough being a mom in today’s society. With all the magazines, YouTube blogs and Instagram accounts, mothers today are receiving mixed messages as to how they should look post-baby. Countless before and after pictures, diet plans, fashion trends are confusing messages to young moms, especially to those who just gave birth. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading blogs and forums on these topics. These sites are great ways for us to draw inspiration, obtain ideas and receive support on a wide array of issues. But sometimes they also add this extra pressure of “oh I am not thin enough,” “oh I have let myself go,” or “how does she and her kids look so perfect and collected?”

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It is interesting to note that since I linked my blog to an Instagram account, I received countless likes from various fitness accounts. Again, don’t get me wrong, I love the collaboration and support, especially for fitness, but also at what point is this kind of obsessive? What kind of message are sending to ourselves? The point is, when we talk about post-partum fitness, I think we need to take the focus away from appearance and more towards about mental, physical health and well-being.

Growing up, I enjoyed playing sports recreationally (although I wasn’t that talented!) I never really had any fitness goals but I just enjoyed being active and partaking in outdoor activities: soccer, swimming and cross country to name a few.

When I started university, I took my health seriously and started working out regularly. I even watched my carb intake. I gained more confidence and started to worry less and less about my image. I found it to be a great stress reliever and it helped me deal with severe PMS. Studies back this finding up as well. Around the time of my wedding up until I got pregnant, I was probably in the best shape of my life: I attended BodyPump classes and ran regularly. I was also sleeping 8 hours a night.

After the birth of my first child, I let my fitness slide. As my oldest was born nearly three months prematurely, I sort forgot about myself and dedicated everything I could to him, which was okay! My body just needed a break from everything that it’s been through. However, after a long hiatus, I obtained the courage to go back to the gym. I did it because I felt sluggish and just wanted some more energy again. Things were starting to feel good and I was slowly getting back to myself….then I got pregnant again. However, this time I was high risk, which meant my physicial activity was limited to just walking. Towards the end of my pregnancy, I was placed on strict bed rest. I gained well over 50 lbs. But I was okay with that, because my goal was to bring baby safely, no matter what (and he did come safely!)

As I had a C-section with my second, I waited until my 6 week follow-up to obtain medical clearance for working out. When I was given to go ahead to exercise, I slowly got back into the swing of things. I started with taking the kids out on walks with the double stroller. As time went on, I started the Bikini Body Mommy challenge as I was able to do that from home. It was nice because it eased me back into the gym and helped me slowly gain some confidence back.

At about 1.5 years post-partum from baby number two, things started to plateau. I started to feel discouraged because I envisioned my body would eventually return to my 20-something year old self and it just wasn’t. I got frustrated. I started comparing myself to others and asking myself why I haven’t fit into that old dress yet or why some things were hanging. I don’t know why I felt that way, but I knew that I didn’t want to feel like that anymore. The only way I was able to overcome that awful feeling was to change my mindset on what I was trying to achieve from working out.

Then one day, it just clicked: I had the wrong fitness goal in mind. I always thought when I wanted to workout, the goal was to “look” a certain way, but I realized what I want and what I am are two different things. It took some time, but I realized I was working out for the wrong reasons.

I then let go of the idea that working out is to look a certain way, rather, the reason why I work out is to be a healthy, energetic, happy mom, wife and overall person!

Today, I have accepted the fact that my body will never be the same again, and I am so okay with that. Why? Because it brought two beautiful and healthy children into the world. I gave myself some closure and donated my old clothes and bought new ones. I learned that it’s not about a number on the scale, or what size dress I wear, but how I feel about myself. It’s about confidence and feeling good about yourself. There are also so many other benefits to exercise as well, namely for preventative health. For me personally, exercise is a great stress reliever and gives me that extra boost that coffee won’t. It keeps me balanced after a hectic day at the office and home.

So if you are like me and reading this, know you are beautiful, know that you are wanted and know that if you do workout, do it for you! Whatever it is that makes you happy- walking, fitness classes, rock climbing, bike riding, dancing, do it for your mental health and not for what society thinks you should work out for.

My top fitness picks:

I like some variety when it comes to physical exercise as I get bored easily. The idea of just doing something stationary, like running on a treadmill for instance, does not appeal to me. I try to exercise 3-4 times a week, if I can. Here are some of my favourite exercise routines and applications:

-BodyPump, RPM cycling, Jillian Michaels Shred via virtual fitness (available at GoodLife Fitness Clubs.)

-Nike Training Club application (it’s a free app on your phone. I love it because you can do a lot of the routines at home!)

-Nice long walks with the kids.

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