It's a funny thing working in the health industry, especially in the business of helping people figure out how to best fuel their body.
You'd think that I would have all my shit together.
That my plate would always be balanced. That I wouldn't have to struggle with weight or digestive issues or mood swings or energy. Because as a nutritionist, I know how to address all those things, so I shouldn't have them as issues personally. Right? You'd think that. Or maybe you are kinder to me than I am to myself. So maybe I'll just say: I'd think that.
I'll be real honest. This #postpartumlife has been a struggle. My diet oscillates between vegtastic awesomeness and ice cream for dinner. Sometimes I work out, sometimes I lay on the couch all day. I'm tired. Like bone-deep tired. I'm not as strong as I was pre-baby (what abs?). I'm squishy. Like so squishy. I don't feel like myself, emotionally or physically. My body has morphed beyond recognition to me. The parts I do recognize are the ones I struggle with the most.
Let me give you some background.
Flashback with me five years ago (Cue: flashback music theme, squiggly picture, black and white color).
Meet 23 year old Liz. She's been out of school for about a year. She's kind of employed, kind of not, recently single after a tumultuous break-up, living in a basement apartment (who needs sunlight...), her roommate inexplicably smells like feet all the time (not you Dani) and truthfully: she's not so happy. She is also super sick, like all the time, anxious, gaining weight like she's prepping for hibernation, and the doctors can't figure out what the problem is. Sounds like a party right?
Now truthfully, I was not super aware at how unhappy I was; life was not all bad. Especially after smelly feet roommate moved out and one of my best friends moved in.
But this was one of my darker times.
What pulled me out of this less than awesome time was rediscovering my love of being active (hi crossfit!), and a TOTAL shift of the what I ate and my relationship with food. When I say TOTAL shift, I mean it. I went from a tofu-pressing, calorie counting vegan to a liver-loving, intuitive-eating paleo-ite over the course of a year. More on that transition later.
What I associate with that dark time is how heavy I was and how tired, anxious and moody I felt. Long story short, I put in a ton of work, emotionally and physically to get myself to a healthier state and to do it in a healthy way. As someone with a history of disordered eating, this was a huge success. Yay Liz.
But honestly, I now unfairly compare my current tired, moody, squishy self to the tired, moody, squishy self of five years ago.
I don't look at my postpartum body and think:
"OMG YOU ARE AWESOME!"
"YOU EARNED THESE TIGER STRIPES"
"WOW BODY! WAY TO GROW A LIFE AND THEN PROPEL IT OUT OF YOUR VAGINA WITH GREAT FORCE AND NO DRUGS!"
Instead, I find myself focusing on the way my pants (don't) fit, how moody I am, the number on the scale, my desire to only eat chocolate, the fact that I think I may only be eating chocolate (no really. Did I only eat chocolate for dinner? No no. Almond butter was involved. I'm sure of it.)
I look at my body and go "oh shit. We are back where we started. We are back to that bad time."
Which is SO NOT TRUE. I know it's not true. You know it's not true. But sometimes it just feeeeels true.
Why am I sharing this with you?
Selfishly.. this is cathartic for me to write.
But also because I think it's important for you to know, I've been there. Hell. I am there. I understand the struggle of not feeling your best emotionally or physically.
My friend Paisley of Honest PT often uses the hashtag #trainersarepeopletoo. I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. It's a good reminder for clients to not put their trainers on a pedestal and a reminder for trainers to acknowledge that they live in the real world with tacos and tequila.
It seems like the media gives us two options for approaching postpartum body image:
Mainstream media: "How to get your body back! Lose that baby weight now!"
More enlightened, self-love, body image activists: "Screw losing weight. Why you should love every bit of your postpartum, baby-making self!"
Admittedly, I prefer the positive message of the latter.
But neither of these approaches feel realistic. I don't want to "get my body back." That's not possible. But implying that desiring a change is the antithesis of self-love and acceptance isn't fair either.
So I'm seeking a middle ground. One that celebrates where I've been and where I'm going.
I'm learning to love my postpartum body. Squishy belly, giant butt and all. I'm learning to give myself credit for every plank, every veggie, every giant bottle of water and every snuggle with my little family because THAT is what is important. I'm learning to give myself the grace and encouragement I would extend to any and every person I work with.