Monday, February 8, 2016

On being strong not {necessarily} skinny

I always knew that my body wouldn't be the same after giving birth.  I'd read all the blog posts about how pre-pregnancy weight did not equal pre-pregnancy body and frankly, I've never had serious body image issues and this was especially true during pregnancy.  Pregnancy made me feel strong - sure I couldn't move as quickly especially toward the end and I was definitely limited in some physical activity, but I was growing a human inside of me.  My body was doing that.

 And lest we forget, our little was not so little after all - at a whopping 9 lb. 2 oz. And that all happened in my body.

I gained almost 45 pounds during pregnancy.  Much of that was baby related (30 pounds came off no problem within the first 6 weeks) and some of that was brownie and mac-n-cheese from weeks 35 following related.  (I still blame the pregnancy, but those brownies will do that to you...)

Then about 4 weeks after having the little, my knees started going crazy.  Like super painful crazy whenever I would try to sit down or get up from the floor or sitting.  This started just at the end of pregnancy and I chalked it up to gaining weight so quickly, no big deal.  But I was shocked when it got worse 4 weeks in.

Not having any idea what it could be, I decided to go to an orthopedic doctor for an evaluation and later to physical therapy to find out that nothing was actually wrong with my knees - they had just maybe gotten a tiny bit off track during pregnancy, but that the huge weight fluctuation combined with my muscles weakening in my legs since I had stopped going to the gym and wasn't nearly as active in the last half of pregnancy, had taken a little toll.

They gave me some exercises for both the gym and at home.  My first question to the doctor, "can I run on the elliptical, will that help?" (I'm an elliptical girl in the gym).  His response took me back for a second.  "Sure, that will help you lose weight which will help," he said.  "But you really want to strengthen your muscles.

I had just never thought of muscles in conjunction with bones.  It makes sense to me that strong muscles support bones and joints, I just had never thought of it.  I went to the gym before to stay slim.  I was strong, and exercising definitely helps me feel better, cool.  But I never actually considered that maybe I should focus on being strong and so much less on how my body looked.

I started going back to the gym and getting on the elliptical, because frankly, I need a little cardio and I would be thrilled to get rid of this extra little cushion around my tummy.  But, I also started focusing on weight training - especially in my legs, but also for the rest of my body.  And do you know what?  A magical thing started happening.  The pain in my knees started going away.  And I actually started paying attention to my body gaining strength.  And it is truly incredible to think of how all the parts of your body interact and work to support one another. 

And so, I accept these new stretch marks and less than toned mid-section for now because I know my body is getting stronger.  It is functioning as it should.  It grew, birthed, and is sustaining a human life (until he starts solids in just a month and a half, which this mama is totally unprepared for because how in the world has it already been 4 and a half months?!?!).

I'm focusing on being strong and not skinny.  Of course, I'm hopeful that the slim will come (I'm pretty close to pre-baby weight, but it's totally different), but I'm mostly thankful for the strong.

Working on eating healthy (although, I still make a mean brownie) and getting activity in as much as I can and I like it.

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