As a mama of four littles, I've finally found a way to find the motivation for and fit in exercise and eating healthy, and the answer is probably not what you think!
I used to be Super FIT!
I grew up dancing 5-6 days a week and performing nearly every month on the weekends through the age of 28 – I was SUPER fit, and loved to be physically active!
When I had my first two children, I was still teaching dance and staying active, but finding time to dedicate to exercise was super difficult, as every mama of young children can relate!
Nap times, Gym Bag, Diaper Bag, Car Seat…
I tried and tried to go to the gym, but it was such a chore to work it around nap times, get to class on time, lug my gym bag, diaper bag, and car seat or stroller (that was the workout itself!). And then get my kids and myself ready. Nah-uh. I did not have any energy left over to actually take the class or even walk on the treadmill!
So, I kept blaming my lack of exercising and eating well on the life of a mom with little kids. This is just how it is and how it's going to be until they're all in school. But still I continued, switching to buying online programs, dumbbells, buying cute work out clothes and hoping they'd motivate me!
But they didn't. No amount of pink and purple yoga pants motivated me enough to get a yoga butt in the gym. I simply didn't have the internal motivation. Why?
The Mom Guilt
See once I became a mom, I started the fun game of heaping judgement, shame, and guilt on myself. I know you feel me mamas! I never thought I was a good enough mom, so I tried to fix it by being super strict about food (so I could feed them perfectly!), strict about screen time, strict about educating (homeschooling)…And all it did was suck the fun out of it for me. I thought that in order to be the perfect mom, I had to give everything I had to the kids.
I believed that good mothering meant I should sacrifice my happiness, my time, my talents and my desires all for them. It is a trap many of us fall into.
It wrecked havoc on my health, too! The eczema I'd had since I was 16 flared up to an all-time badness (see my post on that here). It all came to a head when my third child, Griffin, was born.
It Starts with Loving Yourself
I know I know, it might sound totally cliche, but I'm here to tell you, if you want to be fit again, feel strong, feel and look healthy, feel proud of yourself, keep those promises to yourself, and for it to last your lifetime (not just 3 weeks with that new exercise or diet craze), you've got to start with treating yourself like the queen that you are. THIS is what makes it stick. To feel worthy enough to spend time, attention and money on yourself.
How? It starts with changing the way you think about yourself and the way that you talk to yourself. To realize that you are valuable, worthy, and loved unconditionally with or without accomplishments.
There is nothing you have to do, be, earn or have in order to be worthy.
How do you love yourself?
So I set out to fill MY cup again. I poured into myself, reading every self-help book that I could get my hands on, watching motivational speaker after speaker on YouTube, and even attended some events in person. Check out my post – “How I Found Emotional Freedom” here to see how I changed the way I talk to myself and think about myself.
Eating healthy became natural, it wasn't forced or out of a place to punish myself for having treats. I wanted to eat healthy because it made me feel good, it made me feel in control and powerful. I was proud of myself! I stopped following diets (like Paleo, SCD, GAPS, etc) and although those diets did help me to heal my eczema, I do believe my health issues were more spiritual than anything.
No more hating on yourself in the mirror!
And I stopped sneering at myself when I'd walk by a mirror. Ladies, no more! Put a stop to this. We are beautiful and our bodies did miraculous things to grow and have babies. Love and appreciate your body for that, and make a choice that you say kind, loving things to yourself even if it feels ridiculous (and it will!) at first. Eventually you will literally rewire your brain to think differently about your body.
We can keep blaming the media for feeding us images of super models and live as victims, or stand up strong and take the power back into our own minds where the power is at all of the time anyway! The media has no control over us unless we allow it.
I got back in the game!
After about 3 years of pouring into myself and treating myself as the beloved child of God that I am (and I had another baby during that time), I finally felt ready to exercise from a place of wholeness, love, and true excitement. I had this deep inner knowing that this time it would last. I didn't have to wait until January 1 to make it a New Year's Resolution to make it stick!
Be Easy and Gentle with Yourself
I've been using free yoga videos from YouTube and weight training videos from Beach Body, working out 3-4 times a week, and I'm already much stronger, leaner and my shape has changed in just 6 months. Yay! Beach Body costs only $99 a year to stream their workout programs (cheap!) and YouTube is free!
Some days I have an intention to workout, but someone wakes up sick and has to stay home from school. Or I have a lot of work to do and have trouble getting it in. That's OKAY. I now stay out of judgement and give myself a break. This isn't about being perfect or sticking to a strict regime, it's about being healthy. We can be flexible and still be healthy! Beating ourselves up is just an unhealthy as eating too much junk!
Workout whenever it's best for you
It's simpler for me to workout from home since I still have a baby in the family. Once all of my kids are in school, I could see that changing and I might switch to a yoga studio or back to my old fav, the YMCA because I do love the energy of working out with other people. But for now, I can workout during baby Ella's nap time with no stress, no lugging all of that stuff in and out, etc. But every mama is different and you may thrive in a gym setting! The point is, it doesn't matter what anyone else's exercise routine is – find what works best for you.
It helps to exercise when we recognize the benefits of what we get in the moment. If the only benefit for us is the weight loss or a beach body that will happen in the future, then the motivation to continue when the results are slow will not be there.
It's called intrinsic exercise and Psychology Today has an excellent article on that topic. I like to think of how exercising makes me feel so good because I'm keeping my promise to myself. That makes me feel unstoppable, even if I never lost a pound of that extra baby weight, I would still be proud of myself. That is BIG mamas!
I also like how it helps me to sit straighter, walk taller, move better and be able to keep up with my kids. Plus, with me working out at home, the kids have been so inspired to join me! They learn by our example, not our words.
Let's Love Us, Mamas
So the moral of the story is – as long as you approach fitness – both exercise and eating well – from a place of love and not punishment for yourself, you will find the best way for you to make fitness a lifestyle for you, too. Much love mamas!