ASK A TRAINER: BILLIE’S TIPS FOR MANAGING THE MOMMY EFFECT
“I got fat Billie. And it sucks.”
I distinctly remember a conversation with a client from twenty years ago, when I first became a personal trainer. “I used to be like you,” she said. I asked her what she meant. “Fit. Thin. Full of energy. Then I had kids. I love exercising, but I gave it up. Don’t give it up when you have kids one day, okay?” That’s where my memory becomes fuzzier. I’m sure I said something affirming about the different seasons of life we find ourselves in; something encouraging about getting her back to where she once was,… and something cautionary in my mind about how I was never going to let that happen to me. In the back of my head, though, I know I was really saying to myself, “I could never!” I grew up active, pursuing big dreams and goals in the fitness realm, to paint the picture broadly. The idea of “giving all that up” when I had children was just such a foreign idea. I was going to be the thin, fit warrior-woman who you could barely tell was pregnant and who would squat my way to glory and get right back into shape after kids…
And then I got pregnant. Four times in six years, to be exact.
I know there are women who are capable of keeping to the ideal I once had, but let’s get real. Between morning sickness, mastitis, diapers, bottles, sippy cups, ear infections, colic, trying to keep the newly-mobile ones from kitchen cliff-diving off heights they managed to climb while I looked away for two seconds, crawling in the fireplace, or eating dog food; I was in survival mode and what my abs looked like was the least of my concerns! Food was what I could eat with one hand while carrying a baby with the other, and these single-serving gob-blobs typically weren’t healthy. Seasons of life, indeed!
THE SKY IS FALLING,… OR MAYBE I’M JUST FAT
I think sometimes, we get just what we need and that our spiritual growth is more important than our physical fitness. As a yoga practitioner and instructor, I’ve come to learn that the physical body is just another means to guide us to spiritual growth, and boy did I need it! If there’s anything more humbling than parenthood, I’ve not encountered it yet. We could talk about all the ways I was going to be the perfect parent and then wasn’t, but we don’t have that many hours in the day. To keep it simple, let me just point out that the day I gave birth to my last child, I was over 200 pounds. That’s 85 pounds heavier than when I had the above conversation with my former client and friend. A year after the birth, I was still 180 pounds, and at 5’2”, that my friends, is stoutly obese.
I live in a region (let’s face it, the entire Southeast of the United States) where over 30 percent of people have a body mass index that places them in the “obese” category. I could walk into the grocery store, look around and compare myself to other people, and think, “I’m not that heavy.” I was forced to face reality when I had a cholesterol test and my overall number was 264. When your cholesterol is that high, the doctors start talking to you about heart disease, statins, and living long enough to watch your children grow up and hopefully get to know your future grandchildren!
MAKING A MOMMY COMEBACK
There’s nothing quite like a health scare to open your eyes. So, while I still found it difficult with four small children to routinely exercise, I knew from my youth that 80% of what was going on with me physically could be addressed through what I ate, or DIDN’T eat, as the case may be. Fortunately, my story has a happy resolution. Through diet alone, I was able to drop 55 pounds. My cholesterol still runs borderline high, but doctors aren’t using scary language with me anymore. Getting my children involved in physical activity opened doors for me to become progressively more physically active, and I’ve beat my 20-year-old self on just about any competition there is. (Well, except that abs thing. My twenty-year-old self didn’t have stretch marks or extra skin. We’re calling those my motherhood tattoos and I’m still on a ‘body love’ journey with that one!)
In my life, not just inside the gym, but in friendships and conversations with other moms, I know I’m not alone. Motherhood takes apart your body and reorients your focus to your kids in a way that’s indescribable if you haven’t experienced it. It’s common for us to look at where we once were and wonder if we’d ever get anywhere close to there again. The good news, is that it is possible, not only to get to where we once were, but to go beyond that in simple, well-structured fitness journey.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
And my client and friend from twenty years ago? That woman is a rock star and an inspiration. I’ve seen it time and again as women make the choice to focus on their own health so they can better enjoy their lives as well as serve their families. The completely selfless phase of life that we have to go through as moms isn’t something to be ashamed of. It doesn’t always mean getting “out of shape” but sometimes it does, and if that’s the case, it’s probably something that we need for our growth as people in one way or another. Getting back into a healthy lifestyle isn’t something that we do because we hate the body we’re living in, but because we love the body we’re living in and want to see it thriving.
So where does that leave us? I guess my encouragement to moms everywhere, is that if you can give birth and be a parent, you’re far tougher than you give yourself credit for. There isn’t anything I’ve done – not Marine Corps boot camp, not earning a black belt, nothing – that is harder. No matter where you are on your health, fitness, self-care journey, you’re in the perfect place for you to begin the process of becoming who you want to be. It is within your power to make that happen, and if you want some help along the way, it would be an honor for you to begin at Fit Farm. And when you’re ready,… I’ll be here to help. 😉
Billie S. Hallman is a Certified Whippy Trainer with Fit Farm just outside Nashville, TN. Her most recent adventures have earned her black belts in multiple martial arts styles, taken her to India to study yoga, and afforded her the great privilege of teaching these disciplines to others. She, her husband, four children, and a number of livestock enjoy life on their farm in Bethpage, TN. For more great ‘Ask A Trainer’ topics in fitness, weight loss, nutrition and wellness sent straight to your inbox, CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE.