Sunday, May 1, 2011

Checking the Balances (Literally)

My daughter is five months old today. I had given myself a tentative goal of being back at my pre-pregnancy weight by 6 months post-partum. Luckily (and it had to be luck, or pregnancy hormones, or breastfeeding, because at that point it certainly wasn't work), I lost all of it by the time she was a month old.

Since then, though, there's been some work involved. I'm now 15 pounds under my pre-pregnancy weight, and I'm feeling pretty good about it. I went clothes shopping today, and though my post-baby body is definitely different, I was happy in the fitting room.

I still have some weight to lose, but I am not in the constant cycle of disappointment and self-shame that I would fall into over my body before giving birth.

I know that it sounds hokey, and that's probably because it is, but I really feel a responsibility for cultivating a positive body image in my daughter. I know that I can't preach for her to feel positive about her own body if she watches me degrade myself over mine.

That responsibility is two-fold: I must be kind, but I also must be healthy. Being a positive role model for her means showing her that an imperfect body is still a beautiful one, but also that health and physical fitness are important.

As I was thinking about these things, I came across a TIME article titled "5 Ways Parents May Be Sabotaging Their Kids' Health." While I take issue with the fear-mongering title, the content is interesting, and primarily geared at eating habits and physical activity.

The news isn't earth-shattering. We all know that Americans, in general, eat too much junk and don't move enough. But it was sobering to read that "40% of the total calories consumed by 2-to-18-year-olds were 'empty' — devoid of nutrients and derived from fat and sugar." Or that "74% admitted that they spent 'family time' doing sedentary things — like watching TV."

I'm not going to pretend that I'm above crashing on the couch some evenings, but I am conscious of the fact that movement is important. I may only formally work out a few times a week right now (and I try to make those treadmill visits count!), but I sneak in a little activity as much as I can. While my husband's at the gym, I do the "free step" activity on Wii Fit, watching TV while holding my daughter and stepping to the rhythm. I do some crunches before bed. I take the stairs. I walk around the building a couple times a day at work.

I think that the physical activity part will get better over time. Eating more healthful foods happened more rapidly. Again, I'm not going to pretend that I eat nothing but wholesome food (I'm looking at you Milky Way Midnight), but I've definitely changed my eating habits in the recent months.

Breastfeeding has made me much more conscious of what I'm putting into my body. I realized that I wasn't getting a lot of the nutrients that are necessary for my daughter's health. By extension, I wasn't getting the nutrients I needed for my health, either. I added more vegetables, especially green ones. I started cooking fresh as much as possible. Now that we've started solids, I'm planning meals that let me eat some of the fresh foods that I'm smashing up for my daughter. We've pretty much cut out red meat. I've stopped keeping junk food in the house.

This is not how I grew up.My dad was a steak and potatoes man. Vegetables were cooked in cups of butter. We had a constant store of snack cakes and ice cream.

I really feel like the changes we've made are sustainable, and even though we slip up now and then, I think that the culture of our household is much different from the ones we grew up in, and that will be the best thing that I can pass forward to my daughter.

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