I came across an amazing site today called The Shape of a Mother which celebrates ‘making normal bodies normal again’. Women contribute blog posts about, and pictures of, their bodies so that other women – and even more importantly their daughters – see what real womens’ bodies look like. One of my favourite bloggers Mammywoo also posted recently about her tummy, her stretch marks and the size 10 jeans hanging in the wardrobe. Coming to terms (or not) with our tummies after babies is something women think about quite a lot…
It has inspired me to think about how I feel about my own body as a mother and woman, but also how I view my ‘role’ as advocate and trainer of nutrition and effective exercise to *get a flatter tummy after having babies*. It made me wonder, “Am I part of the problem?” or could I at least be perceived in that way?
I feel passionately that I am anything but, but I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.
I’ve always been relatively slim. Sorry. It’s the way I’m built, don’t hate me. But I haven’t always appreciated or looked after my body. 10 years ago I smoked, drank way to much, ate take-aways and basically partied pretty hard. Hey, I’m not moaning – I had a ball 😉 And I think I ‘got away with it’, as many of us do in our 20’s! But really my skin looked crap, I had no muscle tone and my poor insides were screaming out for water and vegetables. I look at pictures of me then and yes, I WAS having fun, but I was kind of pale and wobbly.
Fast forward to a complete career change (9/11 was the catalyst incidentally, but that’s got nothing to do with the size of my backside so it’s irrelevant here…), and a decision to make health and fitness my new focus. I trained hard (GOD I ached in those first months), I had a six pack, I ran a marathon. Suddenly my body was earning my serious respect. And in the process I started to take good care of it.
Wind on a few more years, and after PCOS and a few years of trying, I got pregnant. I was still out running with personal training clients at 32 weeks – I felt fantastic and I loved being pregnant. I had a pretty crappy birth but the result was my daughter and the light of my life. 20 months later I had our son, (crappy birth again… ho hum) and my perfect little boy completed our family.
I am in awe of what womens’ bodies endure and achieve, mine included. I also happen to make a living and have an absolute passion for keeping those bodies as healthy and happy as they can be.
I like to think I share that aim with Shape of a Mother. I absolutely DO NOT want women to feel they *should* lose their baby weight, or drop 2 jeans sizes, or conform to some society-held belief of what a woman’s body should look like. But the reality is that many, many women DO want to drop some extra fat or look better (for themselves, nobody else :)) in their jeans. And I show them how to do that safely and healthily.
It doesn’t mean everyone should want those things. But nor does it make them vain or shallow for wanting them.
I NEVER promote fast, temporary or unhealthy weight loss and all of the exercise advice you’ll find on this blog is about educating women how to keep a pregnant or post-baby body STRONG, SAFE, FIT and HEALTHY, with a hefty dose of self love.
Women contact me on a daily basis with concerns about, yes, the size and shape of their tummy, but just as importantly, with pelvic floor weakness or leakage, chronic back ache or compromised muscle tone that their doctor, exercise instructor or celebrity workout DVD have failed to diagnose or correct.
They’ve lost body confidence, sexual confidence and self confidence and they’d like to get them back. I see my job as one of empowering them with the strategies and information they need to feel strong, vital and beautiful again.
Should she be able to feel all those things without losing an ounce of fat or a few inches? Should she simply relish in and appreciate her glorious new shape? Maybe. Probably. But IF a woman DOES want to do those things, and it makes her feel good when she does, then that can only be positive, right?
My body nurtured, birthed and fed 2 babies and I’m very, very proud of it. I love my own ‘Shape of a Mother’ by eating great food, running and jumping and getting out of breath – and that makes me feel strong, healthy and powerful. I nourish it with red wine and dark chocolate sometimes too…
I don’t think I can expect women to take my advice unless I look at least a little ‘aspirational’, so I work fairly hard at maintaining my own shape and fitness. Reinforcing the stereotype? Superficial again? You decide.
My 5 year old daughter runs and jumps with me and has no concept of terms like ‘pretty’ or ‘slim’. But she knows quite a lot about healthy food (‘but is it ‘ganic, mummy?’) and does a lovely yoga Downward Dog.
Of course that will change – I can’t protect her from the terrifying (if you’ve got daughters it really is, isn’t it??) world of MTV dancers, clone-like airheads and airbrushing. I’m not kidding myself she won’t get affected by all this crap . But I’m doing my best to keep her balanced and healthy and to understand that a lot of different shapes and sizes make the world go round. And that none of that really defines who you are.
What do you think? I’m not justifying my existence, rather just raising my hand and saying *Yes! I want women to feel great about themselves too!* and hope very much to contribute to that end in my way. And do go check out The Shape of a Mother and some of her links – inspiring!