Changing What I Can’t Accept 

You’ll recall my post about how I refuse to “just accept” my mom body exactly as-is.  And listen, I’m not trying to say everyone out there needs to be spending hours in the gym or the plastic surgeon’s office, trying to mold and sculpt her body into perfection.   My refusal to “just accept” my saggy, fat belly, deflated butt, and extra pounds is because I refuse to let slide what is in my power to improve, especially when not doing so is destroying my life.

Wait, what?  Being overweight was destroying my life?  

Yes, yes it was.  Was.  Yes, I’m still overweight (more on that in a minute), but it’s no longer destroying my life.  Because I’m doing something about it!  The reasons being overweight were destroying me were within my power to change, so I could sit back and do nothing.

Shortly after I posted last, I started a new diet.  Okay, I say diet, but others say “way of eating.”  Call it whatever you want, it’s not some quick fix, but my new way of life.  But what you eat is your diet, so . . . Anyway, having had some success in the past with the Atkins diet, and knowing sugar was a big reason I was fat to begin with and why I had trouble losing weight, I decided to try a ketogenic diet, or keto.  Keto is a  very low-carb, higher fat, moderate-to-high protein way of eating, along the lines of the Induction phase of Atkins.

 I’ve been on keto for about 2 months now, and let me tell you, IT WORKS!  So far I’ve lost 15 of the 65 lbs I aim to lose (to put that in perspective, that’s like carrying both my kids around all day long – a lot of stress on my body!).  I have kicked my sugar habit – almost, I still occasionally crave sweets and eat sugar substitutes – I am no longer so exhausted that I “need” a nap by 10 am, and my brain fog is gone.  The best part (other than finally seeing the number scale drop below the weight I was when my youngest was conceived, my lowest weight in 5 years!) is that I’m no longer hungry all the time.    All this means that my goals of getting up to do my Miracle Morning, work my business during nap time, keep the house clean, and actually enjoy having a couple evening hours to hang out with my husband are doable, because I’m not falling asleep on the couch as soon as I sit down.

Of course, this has been an adjustment.   I’ve dropped a few extra bucks on a blender, a handheld veggie spiralizer, and a very expensive bag of almond flour (really, it’s just that almonds and anything made from them are pricey in comparison to wheat).  The first few days of eating low-carb after being fueled by sugar are hard, and you might get hit by what is affectionately known as “keto flu.”  Fixing carby sides for my family to eat along with my low-carb entrees presents an extra temptation for me, and grocery shopping takes longer because I’m reading every label (wait – this sausage has 4g of added sugar it? Nope!).  But my kids like most of my low-carb snacks, and I still buy some kid-friendly food for them.  My husband eats whatever I fix, including sir sugar-free desserts, as long as I respect his right as an adult to eat junk food on his own time (or to eat healthy, it’s his choice, I just won’t cook 2 or 3 separate meals for dinner!).   And we’re still figuring out where in my busy schedule getting to the gym best fits (early morning?  Late evening?).  

So while I’m still overweight, with about 45-50 lbs to go till I reach my goal weight, being fat is no longer destroying my life.  Instead, taking care of my body has become a top priority.  Maybe it’s my energy level, maybe it’s the self-esteem boost that comes with losing even a small amount of weight and having people notice, maybe it’s just because I’m taking care of me, but I feel 100% better.  And my clothes fit better (because, honestly, they didn’t quite fit before).  

But the best part – I’m actually seeing a goal come to fruition.  

As part of my new healthy lifestyle/weight loss journey, I joined a gym (again).  And I took advantage of the free fitness evaluation that comes with signing up.  The trainer actually confirmed that if I keep doing what I’ve been doing – eating right, lifting weights, some cardio, I’ll reach my goal weight by January (which happened to be my goal).  Oh, and my goal weight is exactly what they recommended for me.  I’ve gotta admit it felt pretty good to be told I’m already on the right track.

So you recall how I said one reason I could “just accept” my out of shape, overweight mom body because I knew I could do something about it?  I’m doing something.  And it’s working.  And I can’t “just accept” mediocrity, so instead I’m transforming my mom body.  I mean, hello, this body grew two beautiful tiny humans.  I think it can handle lifting a few heavy weights and logging some miles, don’t you?  

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Why I Can’t “Just Accept” My Mom Body

Pregnancy changes your body forever.  Long after the baby is born, your body is different.  You feet may grow, widen.  Your hips spread.  Your abs may never look the same.  Breastfeeding wreaks it’s havoc on once perky breasts and only the most supportive bras will do – and that’s just so your clothes fit right!

This isn’t a bad thing.  Women were made to make babies.  Of course that doesn’t mean we all want to have kids or that we all can.  Simply that our female bodies are designed for that purpose.  Those of us who have carried babies in our bodies have done something amazing.  We’ve grown fully formed tiny humans!  So I fully believe that postpartum bodies should be celebrated, not shamed.

But . . . 

I keep running across articles and blog posts talking about how we should accept our mom bodies as is.  That saggy squishy belly was once home to two beautiful children (though not at the same time in my case!).  Those stretch marks are tiger stripes, that c-section scar is a badge of honor.  The parts that sag and droop nourished life.  Those extra pounds don’t matter because your children love you at any size.  Just accept it.

But I just can’t . . . 

You see, my body isn’t in its current condition just because I had two children.  It got this way through poor eating habits (a daily caramel Bugles and red Starburst habit while I was pregnant with my oldest, for example), laziness (choosing not to exercise when I could), and some injuries.  I am not here to shame anyone, or suggest that if your body never returns to its prebaby state, you’re wrong.  I am not even saying not to love your body and think it’s beautiful exactly as it is.  I’m just saying don’t ask that of me, and here’s why: 

1. My mummy tummy isn’t functional.

I recently confirmed what I suspected for a while, that I have a fairly large diastasis recti of my lower abdomen.  Whether caused by pregnancy or the result of the muscles being separated for my first c-section and never healing, it’s there.  The lower section of my rectus abdominal gapes open, leaving me with a less than functional core.  This affects more than just how I look in clothes.  Yes, I want a flat(ish) belly I don’t have to hide under flowy tops, but I also want to be able to move properly. And not hurt.  And be able to get up off the floor after playing with my kids.

2. My extra weight means extra stress. 

I gained 57 pounds when I was pregnant with my son, partyky due to my eating habits.  By the time my daughter was conceived, I’d lost all but 20 of those pounds, but I was still overweight.  At 5’2″ and 188 lbs, I was considered obese.

During my pregnancy with my daughter, I was careful with my eating habits, even before learning I had gestational diabetes and couldn’t binge on sweets.  I gained 20 lbs. So far I’ve lost about 15 of those . . . But she’s almost 2!  I’m still (currently) 193 lbs!  Ideally I’d like to lose 60 lbs, but to be honest, I’d be happy with 45.  Considering that my 4 year old weighs about 45 lbs, the extra weight I’m carrying is like wearing my 4 year old around on my body all day, every day!  No wonder my joints hurt!  All that extra weight is extra stress in my body.

Also, when my son was about 9 months old, i experienced a torn meniscus and required surgery on my right knee.  The orthopedist diagnosed me with arthritis as well, stating that my extra weight was the primary cause.  See, our bodies aren’t made to carry around 60 extra pounds! Losing even a few extra pounds means less stress on my joints.

3. I want my outsides to match my insides. 

Inside, I don’t feel like an out of shape, overweight person who doesn’t care.  I like make-up, clothes, getting dressed up and looking pretty.  I want my clothes to look good on my body, and to feel comfortable.  I want to feel attractive and confident around my husband (who says he likes the way I look no matter what). I want to look as active and strong as I feel; I want to beactive and  strong.  I want to have the energy to keep up with my kids.  

When I look at photographs of myself, I’m always surprised.  Am I really that fat?  That ugly?  I don’t feel that way inside.  I feel like a normal, medium-sized person, and I want to look that way too.

4. I want to know I can do it.

I have been goal-oriented since I can remember.  Watching my own daughter get frustrated as she struggled to reach each developmental milestone, almost but not yet, so close to rolling over, crawling, taking a step, I wondered if I was like that.  I was determined.

When I was younger and I took figure skating lessons, I recall trying over and over to land a particular jump, a salchow.  Unlike other jumps, like a toe loop, where you take off from the outside of your skate blade, this one starts with a turn and you take off fro the inside edge.  That adds a degree of difficulty to the jump.  I never did learn that jump well enough to land it consistently.  But I practiced a great deal.  I was determined.

Now here I am, trying to lose weight.  Something I’ve tried off and on for the better part of the past 30 years, but this time, I’ve had two babies and I’ve entered the latter part of my 30s.  It’s now harder.  Just like landing a salchow after nearly a decade off the ice (or more!) would be much harder than when I was younger, getting in shape now is harder than it was at 25.  But I need to know I can do this. I’m determined.

5.  I want to be the best person I can be, and that includes my health and fitness.

My goal-oriented personality has always meant that I can’t just accept “good enough,” until I’ve tried for “excellent.” My body may be “good enough” right now, but I can’t even run a mile.  I’ve consumed a “normal” diet most of the past 4 years, but not one that allows me to achieve optimal health.  I haven’t even really tried to close my diastasis recti.  I’ve been on a ketogenic diet for around two weeks.  That’s it. 

Taking in difficult challenges and persevering long enough to see results builds character.   Giving up erodes character.  I can’t just give up and accept things exactly as they are and build character.  I must grow and be challenged in order to become a better person.

This is not to say, dear reader, that there’s anything wrong with your body.  This is not to say any of us need cosmetic surgery or that we should stress over those pesky numbers on the scale or the tag of our jeans.  This does not negate the miracle of childbirth or mean you should not love your body.  No. Actually, I do love my body, and that’s why I can’t just accept it exactly as it is.  That’s why I need to transform it. 

Miracle Mornings for Moms, Part 3 (The Quiet Hour)

In my last post, I shared how the Miracle Morning went for the first couple of weeks I tried to do it.  I quickly learned that if I tried getting up at 6, my kids would be up by 6:30, no doubt awakened by the sound of the shower.  There was no hope of having a time of silent reflection unless my day could actually start in silence.  Before anyone else got up.  So I started getting up between 5 and 5:30.  Here’s what happened.

My alarm goes off around 5, and I tiptoe downstairs, careful not to wake the 3 others still sleeping.  I put a pot of water on to boil for a cup of tea or sugar-free instant latte, and stretch a little.  I’ll pull up the book of Proverbs on my Bible app and read a few verses (this is my way of meditating).   I say a quick prayer and then focus on silencing the caucophony of thoughts in my brain.  My to-do list can wait.  Silence is bliss.

Next are the affirmations, which I have discovered doesn’t have to mean cheesy self-cheerleading, trying to convince myself and fate that certain events will come true if I believe hard enough.  No, simply saying things to myself like, “Today is going to be a great day and I’m going to make progress on my crochet project,” or “I am a hardworking person who will be successful in my business,” helps motivate me.  And the things we repeat to ourselves do eventually become self-fulfulling prophesies.  I’m not trying to manipulate the future, which is out of my hands,  but I do choose to affirm the postive.

Visulazation means scrolling through my Dream Life Pinterest board, a quick reminder of some of the reasons why I’m doing all this.  The sleep I sacrificed doesn’t seem quite as costly now, though that might just be the caffeine talking.

Exercise at this hour is yoga, a few stretches and ab-stregthening poses.  It’s still too dark for me to go out for a run, and I’ll find a way to get some cardio later.  Then, if I still have time, I will read.  An actual book, not my social media feed.  “Reading” can also happen later in audiobook form, while I do housework.  Some days I don’t have time to read anything longer that “Go Dog Go,”

Scribing, or writing, is still filling in my planner pages.  I’ve been trying to get this part done as much as possible the night before, so it’s just a quick update of my to do list and then my mindset exercises.

 

By this time, the rest of the family is nearly awake, so I’ll head back upstairs, take a quick shower, and get dressed.  Having this time of quiet in the wee hours, I’m ready.  My mind is awake and now I can greet my little ones cheerfully and help them start their day.  I never would have thought that sacrificing an hour or so of sleep would make for a better day, but I have found the quiet hour before dawn to be the best one all day.

Miracle Mornings for Moms, Part 2 (Beginnings)

So I mentioned the “S.A.V.E.R.S,” or the 6 things to do each morning to start your day off right.  This is about how each of these steps would go for me, at first, until I started getting up even earlier.  

Silence:  yeah, okay.  My days do not begin in silence.  I wake up to the sound of my son sqeaking like a mouse or barking like a dog, or perhaps announcing loudly that he needs to poop.  If it’s not that, its his sister crying in protest over being stuck in the crib, without free access to the toys.  My days start with noise and it doesn’t stop.

Affirmations:  wait, what?  Isn’t this something I heard about on Oprah once?  Is that where you tell yourself in a semi-hynotic voice, that you have one million dollars in your bank account, you’re the sexiest person alive, and today is the day you’re going to lan your dream job?  And then you say it out loud over and over and over until you believe it hard enougn to make it come true?  Right.  Okay, maybe I could recite Psalm 139 (the one about being fearfully and wonderfully made) every morning.  I guess that would make me feel affirmed.

Visualization:  Okay now this, I get.  I mean, sure, I can imagine myself achieving some of my dreams, and my preliminary research suggested that my idea of a “Dream Life” Pinterest board, where I post visual representations of my goals, would actually work.  So I created a board to pin pictures of my dream home, what my kitchen would look like, the amazing walk in closet with an island just for my jewelry, complete with its own chandelier.  Then I post more realistic pictures of how I’ll decorate my actual house when we buy.  Seeing my goals portrayed visually outside my mind is quite movtivating.

Exercise:  You mean the walk between the couch and the kitchen to grab a snack doesn’t count?  Okay, I’ll try to squeeze this in.

Reading:  Another one I can easily do.  That is, if by reading, you mean checking what my friends are up to on Facebook.  Let me just check this for one minute, then I’ll pull up an ebook on my Kindle app and actually do some personal development reading.  Oh will you look at the time . . .

Scribe (writing):  Most days, this means writing out my plans in my planner for the day.  Except the whole bullet journal thing isn’t working so well for me because I’m either too lazy or too much a perfectionist (really, both) to draw it all out every morning.  At least I usually write down my to-do list somewhere.  But now the owlets want breakfast.

Miracle Mornings for Moms (Part 1)

Not long ago, I learned of a book called “The Miracle Morning,” by Hal Elrod.  This book outlines a morning routine compiled of the practices of highly successful people. Elrod had sought out the practices of these people and discovered that they all started their day with one of 6 things.  He decided to try all 6, with phenomenal results.

He created the acronym S.A.V.E.R.S. which stands for silence, affirmations, visualization, exercise, reading, and scribe (writing).  What follows is part one of a multi-part series on my journey toward more miraculous mornings.


Okay, so I decided to start trying this miracle morning thing.  I actually AM a morning person and I can be highly productive at 5 am if I’ve had enough sleep and coffee.  In high school, I used to (occasionally) get up at 5 to finish my homework before school.  I was often mentally drained at the end of the day, and I could work better at dawn.  If only I did that every day . . . Getting up at 4:30 to make my 6:00 shift at Starbucks when I was in college wasn’t a problem if I went to bed early.  They took care of the coffee part, but I had to make sure I got sleep.  A few years later, when I became a sales manager at a department store, I would often come in 3 hours early so I could get a little work done before opening.  I’d do some housekeeping, put out new stock, organize my office.  In the dim quiet of the morning, before the lights were turned on and the store became busy with customers, it was peaceful.

Once I had kids, and before that, when I was working the 3-11 (or later) shift at work, I ceased to enjoy sacrificing sleep for a little morning quiet.  And if you’re the parent of a child under one, this might not work well for you, unless you’ve got a magical unicorn baby who sleeps through the night, every night.  I couldn’t do it until my younger owlet decided to stop being nocturnal and start sleeping all night.  (Okay, in case you’re wondering, we did sleep train her, well after she had turned one, and because we’d gotten into a night-nursing routine that wasn’t working for anyone).

This whole getting up earlier than the family to have some time to myself thing has taken some getting used to, though.  I’m going to share with you the journey of my mornings from disasterous to miraculous.

 

It Doesn’t Always Have to Be Perfect 

I am a perfectionist.  I’ve scrapped more than a few craft projects and started over because I made a mistake.  I have anxiety of whether completed projects are “good enough,” though sometimes I’m a lazy perfectionist and I’ll just let go whatever is worrying me so I can fret over something new.  But I still want to be perfect.  My house knows two states of cleanliness – absolutely spotless and utter disaster.  If the sofa cushions are out of place or a stray crayon isn’t put away, I call it chaos.  (Just ask my husband, who will also be happy to tell you that I rarely get my house to actually be spotless.  We don’t share a definition of disastrous, though, and his tolerance for clutter is higher than mine as long as the floors are clean, the trash is emptied, and the dishes done).   I’m a perfectionist, but I live in a world with 24 hour days and I’ve got a toddler and a preschooler.  And I just started a business. Striving for perfection is like trying to find the end of a rainbow.

Mom life, especially life as a mom of young kids as the CEO (chief everything officer) of a brand new little company, means some days are super-productive and some days I’m amazed we managed to get dinner on the table.  Some days, I’m up at 5:30, and I get all the laundry washed, dried, folded and put away.  I manage to get a blog post typed, a few bows or bracelets made, and my house cleaned (mostly?) all in one day!  On a good day, I’ll even have salad for lunch and squeeze in a run.  This is how I have to operate to run a business, but it’s not always perfect.  Or even close.

Those are the best days.  Then, there are the rest of the days.

Days where the owlets are restless and need some time outdoors, so I leave the kitchen floor unswept and take them to the playground . . . Where the youngest decides to squat in a mud puddle,  soaking her leggings and sandals in muddy water.  Since the next item on the agenda is lunch and then nap time, I decide to forego pants and just put her in a onesie.

My perfectionist tendencies extend to how I dress my children.  I am rather particular, and I like their clothes to match, to hit just the right note of looking like miniature versions of grown-up clothes and celebrating their child-likeness at once, and I wouldn’t dare take my daughter outside without pants on!  Except that at 19 months old, a one-piece bodysuit really is adequately modest, and no one would blink an eye if she was wearing nothing but a diaper.   And on this day, after the mud puddle incident of earlier, I wasn’t inclined to waste another outfit just for a few minutes outside of chasing butterflies, picking dandelions, and bike riding.  I let it go, even though the perfectionist in me cringed at the sight of my pants-less tot and her brother in his expertly clashing outfit – navy and lime plaid shorts, paired not with the polo I bought for the outfit, but with a royal blue Batman shirt.

In the moment as I surveyed my wonderfully under-dressed progeny, delighting in being outside, unaware how many rules of fashion they were breaking, I thought over the events of the day.  It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t a disaster, either.

There will be days when the kids’ outfits don’t match, or worse, when they both start crying at once and don’t stop until you’re crying, and there are toys everywhere and dinner time rolls around before you remembered to take the meat out to thaw and you decided that a cheese pizza from Little Caesar’s sounds pretty good right now.  (Can we just talk for a minute about the genius that is the Hot’n’Ready pizza at Little Caesars?  That you can purchase at a drive through so when you’ve had one of those days, you can just pull up to the window, order, pay and go home to enjoy a slice of cheese and bread you know your kids will eat.  Either a mom or a marketing genius came up with this concept).  Hey, I’m all for pulling that healthy meal out of the freezer that includes skillfully disguised spinach and “riced” cauliflower, chosen because the kids will only eat vegetables hidden in a Quiche or disguised as carbs.  I try to plan ahead, prep ahead, and and stick to my schedule.  I get stuff done!

But in spite of the fact that I am a perfectionist, I’m nowhere near perfect.  None of us are, and we don’t have to be.  Motherhood is, dare I say it?  Messy.  Marriage is messy.  Trying to navigate all that and start a business from scratch on a near-zero budget?  Messy is an understatement.

My goal is to encourage you, dear reader, to get out of the “mom rut,” put on something cuter than yoga pants, take time to do something because you want to, and do it all ahead of schedule, under budget, and without losing your mind.  But for now, take a deep breath, and give yourself some grace.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

How Starting a Business Made me a Better Homemaker

I’ve been a stay at home mom (SAHM) for nearly 3 years now. A struggling, depressed SAHM looking longingly at the lives of my working mom friends.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve told my husband, “I need to get a job,” we could double our annual income, at least for this year.  I’ve said that so many times, and even have gone so far as to apply for a couple of jobs.  But, as scheduling an interview when you don’t know your partner’s schedule for the next few days, as it changes daily and won’t be posted for the next day till later, well, that’s pretty much impossible.

Then there’s the whole issue of daycare, not just the cost, but my anxiety surrounding sending my kids anywhere I could afford.  Not to say there aren’t great daycares, even affordable ones, but I’ve never entrusted my kids to anyone’s care that wasn’t family or the staff at the gym.

So I decided to start a business.  This isn’t my first attempt; I had a failed effort a few years back when I didn’t know what I was doing.  This time, I’ve spent as much time on training as creating things to sell, and I know I can make it work.  My glorious success story is still being written.

Starting a business has actually made me a better homemaker.  How, you ask?  Isn’t creating bead jewelry and hair bows and whatever else quite time-consuming? Don’t you find yourself overwhelmed with managing all the aspects of launching a business while also raising kids and managing a home?  Well, yes, and yes.  But that is exactly why it’s made me a better homemaker.

You see, in order to fit it all in, and make sure nothing (and no one) important gets neglected, I must be super-efficient about everything.  I plan and schedule my days in detail.  I get up really, really early, and I don’t let a moment go to waste.   I multi-task like a boss.  I do this because I have to.

The necessity of being organized about my business has made me organized about my home.  I can’t afford to procrastinate and put off my chores till later, because later, I’ll be busy making hair bows or sewing.  Knowing I will need to focus on work during my toddler’s nap time, I plan almost all my meals in advance, and I make good use of my crock pot, and I’ve learned to love leftovers.   Freezer meals are also a great option, but I haven’t tried any . . . Yet.

Starting my own business has also forced me to take stock of my priorities at home.  I identify what MUST be done today, such as laundry, dishes, feeding the family, and picking up clutter.  And I start on that stuff first thing in the morning.  Once I’ve gotten some work done and there’s room in my schedule, I’ll dig in to projects like organizing the linen closet, but if life gets in the way and I don’t get to it, at least the important things are done.  This also means I schedule time to just play outside with my kids or hang out with my husband.

Not having all day to get things done, because I simply have too many things to do has given me a sense of urgency.  There is no “I’ll get to it later.”  It gets done now or not at all.

The result of of all this is that my household is running better than ever.  My kitchen is cleaner than its been in months (except a neat stack of craft supplies in one corner), I’m caught up on laundry, and I even managed to get the throw pillows arranged on the sofa.   And the linen closet, well, that’s going on my schedule for tomorrow.  Tuesday is my designated day for training and personal development, so I’ll refold my fitted sheets while listening to a podcast.

If you’re thinking of starting  a business, but you’re worried about keeping up with your housework, don’t fret.  You’ve got to be organized to effectively run a business and this inevitably affects how you run your home.