Photo: courtesy Charlotte Tsou
Having a child is just like having an open heart surgery, once your chest is cut open, you are never the same.
Becoming a mother greatly changed my mentality and priorities in life, but it also altered my physical well-being. I am not talking about squeezing into that old, small bikini, which is highly desirable, but building back my physical strength and stamina. I came to realize that I needed them desperately to stay healthy and take care of my kids.
After the postpartum recovery, the faster you can regain your physical strength the better. However, it may not be realistic for many mothers, because this tiny human being relies on you to be nurtured and loved, so setting up a goal and a doable timeline was the first important step for me.
After the birth of my first daughter, I was determined to fit back into that beautiful bridal dress, which I bought before I found out I was pregnant, and to look beautiful for my “dream wedding.” Therefore, my clearly defined goal and the major incentives to feel and look great helped me to drop 50 pounds in just four months. Not fun, but I did it.
It was a totally different story after my second baby. I did not have a specific goal to chase, but I did want to get back to my healthy weight in order to feel better about myself. The reality is, I did not want to perpetually chase these last 8 pounds until my kids are in high school...or to fit in those skinny jeans in just four weeks like those YouTubers or Hollywood stars. I was realistic; I gave myself one year. I made up my mind that by the time we celebrate the first birthday of my second daughter, it would be the time to return to 100% me. And I did it.
Being a working mom is not easy in my humble opinion, but it enables you to optimize your working hours and to squeeze in time to "invest in yourself." On the other hand, a stay-at-home mom who is always busy with the kids also struggles to find “me” time. There are different obstacles for each individual and it takes different paths and time to "get back to oneself."
Taking a holistic approach at my current physical and mental state, I started with a goal of "80%", meaning lose 80% of the baby weight and return to 80% of my physical strength by month 4 when I went back to work from my maternity leave. I did it and I blogged about it, so I felt accountable to myself. However, my body condition fluctuated throughout the following months, attributed to work stress, two toddlers, our nanny situation and a husband constantly traveling. Here some of the tools and solutions I adopted that I found useful:
“Beachbody on Demand” is the best workout for a stay-at-home mom or when you can't step outside of your home. There are different styles of workout to fit individual needs. Some fitness celebrities I found annoying, but PiYo is a great start when I was ready to exercise again. It is a very balanced workout with not too much jumping and insane cardio, but you get results. I started to "tuck" things back to my pre-pregnancy shape.
Fortunately, I live in Chicago, and the area has countless boutique workout studios. I also enjoy the vibe of working out in a group with an experienced instructor. At the end of the session, I feel fresh and energized, as if I planted a new tree, taking all the oxygen I need to pump through the rest of the days and weeks.
Not many people are aware, but Studio 3 has a postpartum promotion with a deep discount for unlimited access to this new and posh studio that offers yoga, cycling and circuit training. I found time to take care of my kids and work out there during my maternity leave. After that, my ongoing solution is the combination of on-demand workout and Class Pass. I logged in around 120 visits in 8 months. I tried everything. Besides Studio 3, my favorites are SWEAT (smart circuit focused), Studio Lagree (intense Megaformer-machine Pilates) and Yoga Six (very high-quality yoga teachers). Honestly, there were times and even weeks when I'm dragging and miss classes, but I do keep my mantra from work—"Showing up is 70% of success"—so I keep showing up.
I do think that constant diet projects may affect negatively the eating habits of your growing kids. However, I also believe that not feeling oneself as being physically strong and fit also reflects poorly on self-esteem. As a result, moms may not be able to keep up with the new human beings in her life, which is a big issue for every “super mama.”
Nevertheless, even the most organized moms sometimes do feel frustrated, as if all the super power is sucked out of their bodies. When I feel that way, I revert to my yogi spirituality and begin to chant the Ashtanga closing Sanskrit:
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
Om Shanti Shanti Shantihi
It is truly amazing how the repetition of these simple words can rebalance me and get me back on track.
May all beings everywhere be happy and free
Om peace, peace, perfect peace
After five to 10 chants, I regain my superhero powers. Happy birthday to my baby's 1st year, and more power to every single mama!