My June Happiness Project: Mommy Makeover (Be Comfortable In My Skin)
Almost every mom can relate to that difficult time after having a baby when you are trying to adjust to your new body. I am lucky in that I really enjoy being pregnant. Not only have I felt healthy and comfortable through most of my two pregnancies, but I also really like the way I look when I’m pregnant. My body type is typically not very curvy so I especially enjoy that time of having a more voluptuous and feminine figure. There is also the added bonus of healthier-looking skin and hair, that pregnancy “glow”. But then as soon as baby arrives, I get knocked off my little happy pedestal and fall face first in to the mud. I go from feeling and looking my very best, then all of all sudden, all the way down to feeling and looking my very worst. After giving birth, I feel like a sad-looking, partially-deflated helium balloon. Saggy, lumpy and stretch marked. Then there are also all those other unpleasant things that come with the postpartum body: dark eye circles, hair loss, leaking boobs, leaking bladder… you get the point. Coping with this drastic change in physical appearance and disappointment in my own body is really frustrating.
At three months postpartum, I am starting to feel back to my old self again. Since we are now heading into summer clothes and swimsuit season, I decided to focus my first month of my Happiness Project resolutions on taking care of and healing my body. (If you missed my Happiness Project introduction post, you can find it here.) How I feel about myself and being satisfied with my physical appearance definitely plays in my day-to-day happiness. While that might come off sounding a bit shallow, I think that this is true for everyone to a certain extent. We all want to feel good about ourselves.
I’m not expecting to lose a bunch a weight or thinking I need to have hard, chiseled abs. For one thing, I need to make sure I have enough body fat to be able to maintain a healthy breastmilk supply. I also just don’t really have time to go to the gym or go for a run during this chapter of my life. I do, though, really want to be comfortable with grabbing anything I want out of my closet to wear. I want to be physically comfortable, like not getting a tummy ache because my waistband is too tight. I also want to be comfortable with what I see in the mirror. I know that just feeling more comfortable with my body would increase my happiness and allow me to approach life with a more positive attitude.
For the month of June, I decided to make a conscious effort to simply take better care of my body with the goal of healing from pregnancy and feeling more at home in my body. Here are the personal resolutions I made for each day:
- 30 Minutes of Core Exercises
- Go For A Walk
- Drink 100 oz Of Water
- Dry Brush
- Cut Out Coffee and Alcohol
30 Minutes of Core Exercises
Most mornings there is a small window of time that I get just to myself between the baby’s first morning feeding and before the older boy wakes up. I decided that instead of using that time to drink coffee and scroll through social media, I would try to get a quick 30-minute-max workout in. I searched Pinterest to find some simple exercises that focused on strengthen core muscles. The first couple of days were challenging. I was surprised at how weak I felt. That quickly passed though, and I started to enjoy my little morning workout.
I didn’t do my exercises every day, but I was able to fit them in more mornings than not. I’m already feeling a lot stronger and ready to add different exercises into the mix. Although it is subtle, I can also see a difference. This small success has been enough to increase my happiness and encourage me to keep at it. I definitely still have my extra baby belly squish, but seeing that I am continuing to make progress to getting back to where I’m comfortable, that makes me happy.
Go For A Walk
Along with my morning core workout, I wanted to also get out of the house and go for a walk every day. These walks were not just for my own exercise but also to help my toddler burn off some energy. When both of us have gotten some fresh air and exercise, our entire day seems to be more enjoyable. We’ve had beautiful early summer weather, so this was a great time to start our new walking routine.
Some days we walked to the library or along a park trail or just around our neighborhood. Some days we explored parts of Seattle or walked a farmer’s market. I very rarely use a stroller for this purpose and instead use a baby carrier. Wearing a 16 pound baby around is a workout in itself. I was surprised to find that this resolution was the easiest for me to be consistent with. Some days I did think to myself, “Oh, I don’t have time for that today.” But, then I would just make myself get out of the house and go. I always felt a lot better afterwards and I still managed to get everything done that I really needed to.
Drink 100 Oz Of Water
I don’t know why I struggle so much with drinking enough water most days. I get headaches if I don’t, so you would think that would be enough motivation to make sure I’m drinking enough throughout the day. We have all heard over and over again how essential consuming enough water is for maintaining a healthy body weight and for having nice-looking skin (and so many other health benefits).
I have discovered that the best motivation for me to get anything done is if I put it on a “to do” list. I love to make lists and I love crossing off items from that list even more. I found that if I make a point to keep a tally of how many glasses of water I’ve had, I am more likely to meet my goal for the day. I start my days off with a way better attitude if I drank enough water the day before and I don’t wake up feeling dehydrated or grumpy with a headache. My hope is that if I continue to keep a tally of my water intake, it will eventually become second nature to drink more throughout the day.
I purchased a long handled, natural bristle dry brush a couple years ago and then never actually used it. I figured this was a good time to finally give it a try. Dry brushing is the practice of gently brushing the skin all over your body, working in the direction towards your heart and in a circular motion at your stomach area. Dry brushing is believed to have lots of benefits such as stimulating the lymphatic system to release toxins, improving the appearance of skin and muscle tone, helping reduce cellulite and relieve stress.
Every day I tried to remember to dry brush in the shower quickly before I turned the water on. The whole routine only takes a couple of minutes, if that. Dry brushing doesn’t hurt at all. It actually feels like a nice, little massage. There have been quite a few days that I have forgotten to dry brush before showering so I’m not sure that I have done it regularly enough yet to achieve any of the benefits. I foud dry brushing to be enjoyable and super easy to do, so I plan to continue it as part of my daily beauty routine.
Cut Out Coffee and Alcohol
I already eat a plant-based diet and pretty much never consume processed sugar so limiting my diet any further is not really an option. Two beverages that I do like to indulge in that are not necessarily great for my health is coffee and alcohol drinks. Many would argue that there are health benefits to a cup of black coffee or a glass of red wine. But a what point am I having too much of a good thing? When do the negative effects of caffeine and alcohol out way the small positive benefits?
Well, I’ll be honest up front and say that I completely failed on my eliminating coffee resolution. The first week I started off by cutting down the potency of my morning coffee a little more each day. Then the second week I had three days straight with no coffee. I was pumped about this little success and thought I was heading in the right direction. Then I went on a trip with my equally coffee addicted best girlfriend, and that was the end of my efforts to cut out coffee. The thing is though, coffee makes me happy. A yummy cup of hot coffee in the morning is one of life’s great simple pleasures. I allow myself very few guilty-pleasures, so I’ve decided that this is one that I’m not going to force myself to give up. With that being said, I still need to exercise some self-control. Two cups a day max and drinking lots of water so that my headaches don’t ruin my coffee happiness.
Luckily, I have been a lot stronger in my efforts to eliminate alcohol. I found out I was pregnant at the very beginning of July last year. So, over the past year I have only had a couple small glasses of wine total. I have made it this far just fine without needing to drink and I am totally ok with keeping it that way. Not only does not having enough water trigger my headaches, alcohol does as well. Only one drink is enough to ruin my next day. It is just not worth it.
Not only do I feel better when I’m not drinking, but I also think I look better. I have been able to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight significantly faster this time than I did after my first pregnancy. The only difference in my diet has been the complete elimination of alcohol. I believe skipping those extra empty calories has been a major contributor to shedding the baby weight. My recommendation to anyone who is having trouble losing some extra weight is to try cutting out dairy and alcohol completely. You will feel great and I guarantee you will lose excess weight quickly.
I have other, more personal reasons that have influenced my decision to want to cut out alcohol. I was inspired by a close friend of mine who made the same decision a few years ago. She told me that she didn’t want her children to ever see her intoxicated. She didn’t want to ever cause them to feel uncomfortable, uncertain or frightened by her behavior. (I am paraphrasing here so I hope I’m not misrepresenting her words.) Her explanation of her decision to stop drinking really resonated with me. Now that I am a mother, I, too, want to assure that I am as present as possible and in control of my behavior at all times. A perfect example occurred at my in-laws lake home just this past week. My son was playing in the shallow lake water and he accidentally walked a little too far away from the shore. His feet came out from underneath him and his life jacket caused him to fall forward. Although he was floating, his face was in the water and he was not strong enough to get his head back up. I was in the water in a split second and picked him up before he was able to inhale a mouth full of water. If I had enjoyed an IPA while sitting on dock prior to this occurring, would I have been capable of reacting so quickly and efficiently? I kind of doubt it.
I have several family members who struggle with alcohol addiction and I also want to be able to support them in their journey. I want to set a positive example of how drinking is not necessary to have a fun time in social settings. I want to prove that there are other ways than consuming alcohol to unwind at the end of stressful day. It makes me happy to be able to stand with them in this small way. I do very much enjoy having a beer or a hard cider or a glass of wine. In the big scheme of things though, giving up alcohol has been a worthwhile sacrifice for me. (I hope I am not coming off as judgmental or preachy here. I hope that no takes what I've said here personally. This is just me sharing my personal experience and realizations for my own life. You do you, boo.)
Overall, I feel that my June "happiness" resolutions were a success. I plan to continue incorporating these resolutions in my daily life as I move forward to my July Happiness Project resolutions. My July theme is “Curb Appeal” and I will be shifting my focus to physical elements of our house, specifically our yard. At the end of this month, I hope to have some tried and tested advice to share with you about natural yard care.
I will also be participating in the Plastic Free July challenge throughout this month to continue improving our family’s efforts to minimize use of single-use plastics. I encourage everyone to check out the website (and follow them on your favorite social media platfom) for inspiration and to sign up for the challenge as well.