Exercise is one of the most important predictors for good health and well-being yet so many women find exercise about as enticing as a trip to the gynecologist. This is particularly true for new moms, because of the laundry list of responsibilities that taking care of a baby entails. Some big motivators for encouraging exercise are new music, a strong community, and updated goals but another less tangible motivator exists as well.
Let me ask you a question. How many things do you take care of that you don’t like? I like my husband so despite a long day on the job I do a little healthy cooking for him now and then. I like my dogs so despite the comfort of a warm bed on a rainy Portland Saturday I am up and walking them. I like my child too! That’s why I feed him, change him, dress him, bathe him, etc. We take care of the things we like in innumerable ways. I can think of only one thing women perpetually don’t like, berate incessantly, and spend countless hours trying to get the motivation to take care of — their bodies.
There’s a lot of self-loathing out there. We live in a culture that blasts us with image after image of youthful, svelte physiques and the message is loud and clear that happiness equals looking like an airbrushed toothpick with female parts. However, most females over the age of twelve and most females with beautiful new babies at home have dimples, fat rolls, and stretch marks. If we reframe how we think about our bodies and talk to them though, the taking care of part, flows more naturally. How about trying to shift the self-loathing to self-love?
Instead of “is that seriously another stretch mark on my hip” wouldn’t it be nice if it was “stretch mark? Cool! a reminder of the baby my body made and birthed”. This isn’t an easy shift to make though. It’s only me, myself, and I inside my head and I’ve been having many of the same thoughts since I was oh I don’t know, two? It’s hard to shift them. When I reach for the ice cream container more than once my husband witnesses the account and reminds me that I bitterly complain about a stomachache every time I eat two bowls of the stuff. I often have accountability with the actions I take in the world, but with my thoughts it’s different.
What to do about it? I like the exercise of wearing a rubber band for a week. Each time you notice the rubber band find something about your body you can be grateful for. Each time you catch yourself criticizing your body, pop the rubber band gently. You’re not trying to hurt yourself with this exercise, but merely give yourself a gentle reminder that the body you’re in may not look like the cover of Sports Illustrated, but it created a life and birthed it. You’re beautiful and capable and you want to take care of it because you like it!