Ladies: Stop This Now

Ok, Ladies.

Raise your hand if:

You only wear your most flattering leggings to work out in public (because the shame! You might have cellulite that someone can see).

You don’t wear leggings for workouts at all, and it’s not a comfort thing, you just don’t think you can “pull them off” (Spoiler alert: you can).

You come up with something negative about yourself to counter just about every compliment you receive, especially from other females. 

You start important conversations with “this may be a dumb idea but”…

You can’t go outside without your “face”. (Eyebrows, false eyelashes, full contouring, what have you). And not because you feel beautiful wearing it, but because you’re terrified of what you look like without it. (Spoiler alert: you look great.)

You feel badly about yourself on a regular basis because of something physical.

You look in the mirror to mentally pick apart your self perceived flaws, not to celebrate yourself.

You use workouts as a punishment for food, not food as fuel for workouts.

Looking back on this list, I think it’s safe to say that there are many, many women out there who can check off multiple things on this list. And unfortunately, this is not an all inclusive list of the ways that women knock themselves down daily. And for some, these are daily occurrences, more the norm than the exception. So the question here is:

Why?

Why do we feel that we are offending the world if they see our cellulite? Why do we feel the need to mentally preface our ideas and comments in the work world? Why do we think that we are not worthy of public visibility without a full face of makeup? And why oh why do we punish our bodies with workouts and mentally tear ourselves to shreds just because we are not “picture perfect”?

To be totally transparent here, this post came about because I almost didn’t post a workout video in my Moms Empowered Facebook community the other day because the leggings I was wearing in the video are less than flattering, especially on camera. A place that I preach is a safe space, an uplifting place, an EMPOWERING space for myself and other moms, and I felt that I wasn’t worthy of posting my video. Why? Because thighs, that’s why. And I’m slightly ashamed to admit it. But the thing is, no matter how much we work on our self worth when it comes to aesthetics, for many of us there will always be that nagging voice in the back of our head that pushes us to hide these videos, cover up those thighs, dress in all black just to hide the imperfections.

The key, though, is not to necessarily learn how to shut that voice off completely, but to be able to reason with it. For me, I had to come back to the video after a few days and re-view it with new eyes. I had to remind myself of what I preach to others — of progress, not perfection, and re-shape the way that I saw myself in that video. We’re all working towards something, and I’m certainly no exception. I’m not perfect, not by a long shot.

But that practice of rehashing your thoughts is one that can help a lot of us through these negativity practices that we have so deeply ingrained in ourselves. Stop avoiding clothes (especially workout clothes) just because you think other people might not find them the most flattering on you.  Stop putting on make up because you think that other people need to see you that way. Stop looking in the mirror with preconceived notions of perfection and then berating yourself when you don’t measure up.

Just stop.

Make a plan, revisit the way that you think about these things, and set small action steps to change the way you are treating yourself.

Pledge to go just one day at work without negatively prefacing any of your ideas. Promise yourself for just ONE DAY that for every compliment you receive, you will simply smile and say “thank you” (and on the inside, you can jump for joy and shout HELL YES!! because you have worked hard for those arms, darn it!). And you know what? It might be really uncomfortable. The urge to demean compliments about ourselves is so ingrained, it can become physically uncomfortable to accept (and maybe even celebrate) a compliment at it’s face value. But to embrace that discomfort is to begin to see your own worth, and that is one of the most valuable things we can offer ourselves.

It can become physically uncomfortable to accept a compliment at face value. But to embrace that discomfort is to begin to see your own worth, and that is one of the most valuable things

Do a grocery run without your full face of makeup. And while you’re there, smile at people, walk with your shoulders back, and act like you’re the mother-effing queen of that grocery store. You don’t need contouring or eye liner to make you worthy of being out in public.

Stick some positive post-it notes to your mirror, so that for every negative thought that creeps into your head, a positive or uplifting message will be shouting right back at you.

These things are just small steps, but they could be the small steps that add up to a few of you feeling a little bit more worthy, a little bit more confident, and a little bit more kick ass (because you are, all of you are.) And what I’m not saying is that we all need to burn our bras, stop shaving our legs and go make up free forever. I do love some good eyeliner, I’ll tell ya! And when something makes you feel good about yourself, it’s a wonderful thing. But the thing that does need to go is that negative mind set.

The only thing you need to remember is that you are enough just the way you are. And if you want to be better in your own eyes, then by all means, do what makes you feel good. But do it for you, not for them.

 

I Can Tell You What To Do, But You Don’t Want To Hear It.

If you are having trouble with your weight, with your nutrition, with your motivation, I can tell you what to do.

I can tell you how to fix all of it.

But you don’t want to hear it. (And you shouldn’t!)

I can certainly tell you what foods you should or shouldn’t eat, what exercises you need to be doing, and what activities that you need to fulfill yourself, but that doesn’t mean that I should.

But wait a minute, as a health coach, doesn’t that pretty much go against my entire being? Isn’t that what I’m here for — to tell you what to do to magically make things better?

I think this is the biggest misconception about working with coaches, and about change in lifestyle in general. It is not up to me to create these changes for you, it is up to us to work together to create the change that you want, and do it in the way that is best for you. (Note I didn’t say easiest.) You see, change must come from within you. It can not, and should not, come from someone on the outside giving you a list of “musts”, and “shouldn’ts” and “nevers”.

When we think start to think about change, we sometimes come to the conclusion that someone else has all of the answers, and that there must be some easy way out there to end up where you want to be. Truthfully, when it comes to health and wellness, there is no one set list of answers that will get everyone to their goals. Sure, there are some general guidelines that are usually a good idea to follow (limit fast food, move regularly), but even those have spectrums and variables and wiggle room depending on each situation.

And I can tell you from experience, that yes, I can tell you what to do, what to eat, and exactly how much to exercise, and you might think that you want to hear it, but you don’t. If you’re looking for a change from your current health or nutrition status, that change is only sustainable if it comes from reasons that are within you, working towards goals that also come from within you. This is especially important to realize, and extremely difficult to comprehend, if you’re one of the many women who has been stuck on the same weight-loss/self-loathing/roller-coaster for the past X amount of years. I see and hear of so many women who try the same things over and over again, jumping from one set of answers to the next, only to continuously end up in the same place they have been. Why is that? What is stopping them (you?) from making changes and creating the progress that you want?

These are the answers that I can help you with. As a health coach, I am here to help you to delve deeper into how to make this work. Let’s leave the must’s, never’s, and shouldn’t’s behind, and create a new narrative. One that helps you to make the changes that you’ve been looking for, the changes that will provide you with true, sustainable change, and the strategies to keep it up on your own.

With all of this being said, if you find yourself in the presence of a trainer or coach who thinks that they have all of the answers to your future health, take what they say with a grain of salt. Yes, personal trainers often write programs, and in that case, we are “telling” you what to do. But your coach should not tell you that the only way to your goals is by eating paleo, by doing olympic lifts if they make you uncomfortable, or by running a marathon. And they shouldn’t tell you NOT to do these things either. What they should do is listen, work to find a strategy that will work for you, help you to find your specific “why’s”, and help you to find the “what” that will help you to get there.

Workout Wednesday: Beginner and Intermediate Sandbag Workouts

One of the great things about being able to work out at home is that I have the flexibility to work out when it fits my schedule, not having to worry about getting to a class on time or being in the weight room after work when everyone and their mother is in there. I love to be at the gym in the weight room, but that’s not always possible these days. Because of our home gym, I can squeeze a workout in during Isabelle’s nap time or later in the evening, and not have that crazy mom guilt about taking time away from her either.  But while working out at home is convenient, it can be repetitive and monotonous if I let it, especially since I only have a certain amount of equipment.

That’s why I’m always so excited to add some new equipment to our home gym.  I’ve had several people ask me over the years about the “must have” fitness equipment if you’re going to be working out at home. And the true answer is that it’s different for everyone. Whatever is going to get you motivated to move is what is right for you — but there are a few things that I prefer over others due to their versatility and ability to be used for full body workouts, not just one singular muscle group.

And that’s exactly what I’m posting about today! I was recently contacted by Rep Fitness, a fitness equipment company out of Colorado, who asked me if I was interested in trying out some of their equipment. I didn’t hesitate to say yes, and after looking through their available equipment I was excited to see that I could try out a sand bag, which would be a great addition to our workout arsenal. Already having (and loving) battling ropes, rings, and kettle bells, I thought this would be one more thing that I could get a little bit creative with.

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I spent the last week playing around with it during my workouts, figuring out exactly what I wanted to share with you all today. And the truth is, the sand bag is so versatile that I’m giving you not one but two(!) workouts — one for beginners, and one for those at the intermediate or advanced level. The key thing to remember here is that what makes the sandbag great is not even the piece of equipment itself, but what it forces you to do. Because the weight is dynamic (the sand and bag will shift during movement), you have to pay a lot more attention to form and core stability throughout every single exercise. For those who tend to get a little lazy when working out at home and just “go through the motions”, the sandbag won’t really let you do that. It takes focus and constant adjusting due to the movement of the weight.

Are you sold yet? If you have a sandbag available to you at home or at your gym, give one of these workouts a try! New equipment can be indimidating, but with a little practice, focus, and confidence, the sand bag can become a permanent fixture in your workout routine. And if you don’t have one available to you, consider heading over to Rep Fitness to pick one out for yourself. I went with the classic black, but you could also style it up with a red or camo print bag!

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What I love about this particular bag, compared to others I’ve used, is that it feels solid in my hands, even with 50 lb of sand in it. The handles are comfortable to hold, and the construction of the bag is comfortable to use — when slinging these things around any rough edges or seams can be irritating. But this bag is smooth and solid. And to top off the versatility of this piece, you can fill it anywhere between 25-75 lb. I used both sleeves and put about 25 lb of sand in both, so that I can easily take one out and have a 25 lb bag or a 50 lb bag, depending on the exercises I’m doing that day (or during that particular set).

First, the beginner workout:

Sandbag Strength

Sumo Squat

Sumo Squat

Front Loaded Get Ups

Front Loaded Get Ups

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Back Loaded Lunges

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Farmers Carry

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Dead Bugs

*Notes:

For each exercise: Give a lot of focus to your core. Maintain a strong core throughout each and every exercise, paying special attention to movement of the bag. These exercises should be done with one sand sleeve in place (25 lb or less), until you master the movements and weight.

Front Loaded Get Ups: You will start in a high kneeling position. While maintaining a strong core, step forward to standing with your back leg, squeezing glutes at the top and making sure not to arch back or lean forward. Slowly return to starting position, then switch legs once in original high kneeling position.

Farmers Carry: Again maintaining a strong core, hold sand bag at your side with an extended straight arm. Be sure to keep your shoulder from creeping up on that side, and also be careful not to lean towards or away from weight. Walk steadily for 20 yards, placing bag on the ground. Turn around, picking up bag with the other hand, and return to starting point.

Dead Bugs: Begin with both legs in the air, and sandbag held straight up overhead. Slowly lower one leg to the ground, keeping a strong core and your low back pressed flush to the ground. Return leg to top, and lower opposite leg. These should be very slow and controlled.

 

Intermediate Workout:

Sandbag Strength (1)

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Front Squat

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Single Leg RDLs

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Overhead Press

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Lunge With Twist

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Plank Pull Throughs

*Notes:

A/B Exercises: These are supersets, to be performed with one set of each, back to back, until you’ve completed 3 sets of each.

The weight: For this workout, the goal is to use the heavier sandbag for exercises 1A, 1B, and 2, and then remove one of the sand sleeves to have a lower weight for 3-4. For me, this was 50 lb and then 25 lb.

Plank Pull Throughs: Try to keep your body in as straight of a line as possible from head to toes. Try not to shift your hips or arch your back too much, especially while manipulating the bag. My hips are a bit too high in the photo.

OHP: Overhead Press. I played around with these a little bit, because it’s tough to get a good firm hold for overhead movements with the bag. I found it best for me to use the handles that are parallel to the length of the bag, holding it so that the weight is supported on my knuckles (see picture).

Do you have access to a sandbag? Give one of these a try and let me know how it goes! Or head on over to Rep Fitness and pick one out for yourself. You won’t regret it. And don’t forget to smile!

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Disclaimer: I was provided with a sandbag in compensation for this post. All opinions are my own. 

Rondeau Group Fitness 2017 Season

I’m here with some exciting news today — particularly exciting if you’re local to the Boston area and also if you’re a Boston mom!

I’m excited to announce that the 2017 season of Rondeau Group Fitness starts up next Tuesday, June 6. I am so ready for a summer of workouts with a kick ass group of ladies who work so hard each and every class! And to top off my excitement, this year we have a pretty awesome addition to the schedule: Strong Mamas stroller bootcamp classes!

I’m so excited about the new stroller bootcamp, and I hope local mamas are as well. This will be a place where you can bring your little one along for the ride, get a great workout in, and be a part of a great community of strong, like-minded mamas who want to show their little ones what it means to be STRONG!

The schedule for our general RGF bootcamp classes will remain the same (Tuesday and Thursday mornings), and RGF Strong Mamas will meet on Tuesday and Friday. The full schedule is as follows:

RGF Bootcamp: Tuesday/Thursday at 6:30 am, Fallon Field, Roslindale (Boston). 

RGF Strong Mamas: Tuesday/Friday at 11 am, Fallon Field, Roslindale (Boston). 

For more details, click on over to the Group Fitness tab above!

RGF is a bootcamp class that is based around positivity, support, and community. We cheer each other on, we have a great time, and we work hard above all else! We train with resistance bands, medicine balls, weights, battle ropes, and other equipment for a full body workout every time, with a whole lot of variety. You won’t find another cookie cutter circuit bootcamp class here– we thrive on fun and creativity, and a little bit of friendly competition occasionally!

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The summer months are one of my favorite time of year, and not just because of the weather. I absolutely love watching the RGF ladies work hard throughout the summer, meeting goals and taking pride in the progress that they make. This summer will be no different, with many returning faces who are ready to start up again.

And for those who may be nervous or unsure of their abilities, don’t let the word “bootcamp” scare you off! RGF classes are for ALL abilities. Everything is able to be modified to fit different fitness levels, and I am extremely focused on keeping exercises pain free with good form.

Spread the word, join us, and bring your friends! Can’t wait to see some of you out there next week!

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Lift Weights Faster. But How?

If you do a lot of reading about strength training, or are familiar with the female strength and conditioning world, you’ve probably heard Jen Sinkler‘s famous line. When asked how she works out, her reply was “I lift weights”. Well what about cardio? “I lift weights faster”.

Steph Deadlift

Weight room and cardio combined? Sign me up. 

“Lift weights faster” has become sort of a creed in the fitness world, and for good reason. It’s not always necessary to spend long, drawn out sessions on the treadmill or elliptical in order to get your cardio in. It’s just as easy to get cardio in by simply “lifting weights faster”, if that’s more your speed (pardon the pun). If you enjoy your time on the treadmill as a way to de-stress, that’s one thing. But if you’re hating every second of it, and doing it just because you think you need to, well, you’re in luck.

But when many people hear this, they don’t quite understand what this  means. Do you literally just lift your weights at lightning speed? Won’t that lead to bad form and maybe injuries? And won’t you look just a little bit ridiculous?

So today, we’re going to get into a few of the ways in which I typically “lift weights faster”. These are great ways to sneak workouts in when I don’t have a ton of time, but you can also stretch them out and get in a nice long, full workout as well.

When I’m doing one of these types of workouts, weights are not at or near my max. I keep the weights to a level where they are challenging for the sets that I will be doing, but remember that you’re generally doing more reps, and that these are not true strength building days.

Ladder Sets

I use ladder sets when I am really strapped for time and have a couple of exercises that I can string together for full body workout in just a few minutes. I’ll also use a ladder set as a finisher at the end of a strength day, doing just one round for speed. For a ladder set, you will start with a higher number of reps — let’s go with 10, for this example. Perform 10 reps of exercise A, 10 reps of exercise B, then 8 of each, then 6 of each, all the way down to 2. After you reach 2 reps of each exercise that you have chosen, start again with 2 and build your way back up to 10.

The beauty of ladder sets is that you have to so much freedom to get creative. For heavier exercises, I would stick with the 10-2 rep scheme. But for more cardio based exercises, such as body weight jump squats, or KB swings, you could go into a larger rep range, doing 20, then 15, 10, and 5 reps before building back up.

Some suggested pairings for ladder sets, although the possibilities are endless:

– Ring assisted pistol squats with ring inverted rows

– Jump squats with skater jumps

-Kettlebell swings

-Burpees

-Bulgarian split squats with elevated push ups.

Super Set Everything

To lift your weights faster, you can also just super set everything, cutting way down on the rest and recovery time in between sets. Remember, this is not done at max weight loads, since you’ll risk injury without the proper recovery between sets/exercises. To superset simply means to do two separate exercises back to back, generally with opposing muscle groups, without resting in between. Say you have 8 exercises that you plan on doing in your lift. You can superset these into 4 sets of exercises, alternating between each set of 2 with little to no rest, instead of resting between each set of each of your 8 exercises. Some common lifts that I superset are:

-Barbell Squat with overhead press

-RDL (romanian deadlift) with bent over dumbbell row

-Barbell reverse lunge with push up

Active Recovery Between Sets

This will vary slightly from supersets, although you’re still completing sets of two separate exercises back to back. However, the difference here is that the “in between” exercise is more of an active recovery than an actual lift. You’ll be keeping your body moving and heart rate up, but this secondary exercise will be more about recovery and mobility than building strength. This is done in the same manner as super sets, in which you complete the active recovery exercise between lift sets instead of resting. Some common active recovery exercises that I use between lifts are:

-Spiderman Lunges

-Medicine ball lunge/twist

-Downdog/Push-up/Up-dog repetitions

-Body weight deep side lunges

You can also check out this post for some additional hip mobility exercises that you could use here as well.

Barbell Complexes

Barbell complexes are probably one of the most common ways to “lift weights faster” in the strength training world. All it takes is a barbell loaded up with relatively light weight, and a string of movements that you’ll do with little to no rest. I usually try to string together about 5 different movements, and will go for 4-5 rounds of a complex. These can be extremely taxing, so go lighter on the weights than you think you might need to — maybe even just the barbell for the first time you try one of these. Especially if you’re stringing together both upper and lower body  movements, you’ll need that weight to be fairly light to get through all of the reps with little to no rest.

A barbell complex will get your heart pumping and breath elevated like no other, so get ready to work!! Below is an example that I’ve posted previously, but as with the other ideas here, there are endless combinations you can do for an effective workout. Just remember to rest thoroughly between each complex, and work with a weight that allows you to maintain proper form for every exercise. If you feel yourself fatiguing to the point where form is compromised, stop and rest in the middle of a complex, and/or lessen your weight/reps. 

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Readers: In what form do you prefer your cardio? Weight room or traditional? 

Is It Time To Change Your Perspective?  

Before I got pregnant, I was deadlifting 240 lb. I was muscular, strong, and took pride in my abilities in the weight room. I had glutes that I was proud of, glutes that were strong enough for heavy squats, deadlifts, and kettlebell swings. 

Before I got pregnant, I could once do 8 unassisted chin ups. I did chin ups and pull ups nearly every day, just for fun. 

Before I got pregnant, I could run the full stadium at Harvard without breaks, and would do so at 6:30 am. 

Before I got pregnant, I could overhead press 85 lb. 

Now? I haven’t set foot in the weight room since I was about 8 months pregnant. I haven’t touched a barbell in months. I’ve been on exactly one run, and I can no longer do even one unassisted chin up. 

You might think I’m upset about this. 

And I could be, if it weren’t for one simple thing: perspective. 


Sure, I may be lifting right now with a 15 lb, a 16 kg (35 lb), and a 24 kg (53 lb) kettlebell, but here’s where perspective comes in: 

That 15 lb kettlebell felt heavy to me after my C-section and 6 week post op recovery time. I remember picking it up and being shocked and saddened at how heavy it felt. 

Now? It’s light again, and I now use it for warm up movements, like I used to. Progress. 

That 35 lb KB? That one felt like a monster after my postpartum recovery. I remember the first time I tried to do goblet squats with it, I felt like my core would never support me again. Now? They’re easy. It’s a moderate weight, and I’m using it for many movements, both single leg and double leg. I’ve moved on from using it for my KB swings, because I finally need something heavier. Progress. 

That 53 lb KB? Forget about that one after recovery– that felt like a dream and a lifetime away. Now? I’m using it for single leg RDLs, goblet squats, and KB swings. Progress. 

My push-ups have gotten stronger, my endurance better. 

My chin ups? Yes, those are coming back too, slowly but surely. 

None of these weights would have made me proud before. They would have been warm ups, helping me to prep and groove patterns for heavier weights. 

Now though? I am so proud of where I’m at and how far I’ve come so far. Considering I still haven’t stepped foot in a gym, and my workouts mostly consist of a few 20-30 min bursts throughout the week, I think I’ve done quite well. I may not be maxing out my big lifts anytime soon, but I’m seeing consistent progress, and that’s really all that matters. 

It doesn’t matter how much you could lift before X event, or how fast or long you could run, or how many muscle ups you could do. Life happens, we have ups and downs, and that’s just something we need to accept. If we’re always thinking back to our best and comparing ourselves now, that’s not fair. Your mind and your body change as you move throughout life. My body is not the same body that dead lifted 240 lb– it’s been through a whole lot since then, so how can I keep comparing my self now to myself then? In order to be fair to myself, I have to shift my perspective. I have to focus on where I’m at now, instead of where I was. 

As life changes, some obstacles get bigger, some get smaller, and some new ones crop up all together. With all of these things that change us, our bodies, our minds, it’s unfair to expect things to always go back to some ideal moment that you once had. I am far, far from that deadlift max right now. But to expect that from this body, my now body? Well that would be unfair. 

So if you’re feeling like you’re failing because you can’t do something you once could, or because you don’t look like you once did, think again. Think of what your body and mind have been through since that time, and focus on the progress you’re making now. Shift your perspective to the present, and you’ll probably find that you’re doing a lot better than you thought! 

Progress isn’t always perfect, and it’s not always linear. It’s not always even obvious. But take a moment to shift your perspective, and you might be pleasantly surprised at the amount of progress that you’ve made in this “now” version of you. 

Change the conversation 

For those of you who have daughters, they are listening. 

If you don’t have a daughter, but you spend any amount of time around young girls, they are listening. 

Whether she’s 10 hours old, 10 weeks old, or 10 years old, she’s listening. And it’s time to change the conversation. 


My daughter Isabelle is almost 3 months old. She doesn’t talk yet, of course, but she listens to me talk all day long. She’s picking up language and building connections in her brain, connections that will someday allow her to not only understand what I’m saying, but to speak words herself. And I want to make sure that the words that she’s understanding, and the connections she is making, have nothing to do with my self worth due to the way my body looks. 

The other day, we were in the kitchen, and I was chatting away like always. 

“Mama needs to get a workout in!” I smiled at her. 

“Mama needs to get a workout in so that I don’t get f…..” 

I looked at her looking at me, and stopped my sentence short. Of course the F word I was about to say, I’m embarrassed to admit, was “fat”. After all that I preach about working for health and energy for yourself– I was about to reduce that all to that one demeaning word. 

No, she can’t really understand yet what “fat” means. She can’t say the word, or tell me what it means. But she’s listening. 

In that moment I realized that my responsibility in that conversation is so much bigger than how I feel on any given day. It’s so much bigger than anything to do with me, because how I finish that sentence over time could determine how she feels about herself for the rest of her life. I make a point to tell her daily how strong she is. How smart she is. How brave and successful she’ll be some day. Yes, I also tell her she’s cute and pretty, but those are not the focus of my time with her. But how often do I speak about myself that way to her? It can’t be “mama needs to workout because she doesn’t want to get fat”. It needs to be “mama wants to workout because it makes her feel strong”. “Mama gets to exercise and it makes her feel powerful”. 

We have to change the conversation, and it starts with how we speak to ourselves. 

My body is not the same after having Isabelle, and it might not be for quite some time.  My weight is exactly where it used to be, but everything else isn’t. My body shape and composition has changed, and there are days that I struggle with how much work it will take to build my strength back up. 

But I can’t put that on her. She’s listening. 

She’s listening to every mention of the word fat, to every mumble about my glutes disappearing. She’s watching every time I look at my belly in the mirror or give my thighs a little squeeze. Those things might mean nothing to her now, but over time they will. And the last thing I want is to someday walk in on her giving her own thighs a disappointing squeeze, or offering up a sharp criticism of her abs. 

We are so much more than that. We are so much more than hips or bellies or cellulite. We are strong, independent, brave, powerful, intelligent, and kind. We are generous, thoughtful, inquisitive, and honest. All of these things are what I want Isabelle to strive for–  not how much fat she can pinch between her fingers. It’s up to me (us) to change this conversation and to take our bodies out of it completely. 

Because we are so much more than that. 

And they are listening.