When I was pregnant with my son, I was amazed at how quickly my body was changing. I had always been curvy but thin, so I wasn’t surprised that I had a very belly-centered pregnancy. But while I wasn’t gaining a lot of weight in other places, I was definitely expanding. My hips were expanding, my butt was expanding – even my breasts were expanding!
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I didn’t follow a strict diet during my pregnancy. During the first trimester, I was happy if I could consume a few sour patch kids and a protein bar or two throughout the day. If I could manage to keep down some buttered toast on top of that, I considered it an accomplishment. But as the morning sickness faded, a new, never-satisfied hunger took its place. I had never been so hungry in my life. My family was shocked at how much I was consuming because I had always been a small-portion eater.
When my son was born, that hunger never went away. I was breastfeeding round the clock, and eating whatever I could get my hands on quickly. A week after his birth, I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly my stomach had shrunk, but I was left with a strange new body. I didn’t recognize myself. Everything was a little bit wider, curvier, thicker. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. But during those first few months of motherhood, I didn’t have much time to think about it.
When my son was a few months old, I realized I was at a standstill. My stomach had shrunk as much as it was going to, but my appetite was as large and demanding as ever. I knew that I had to start seriously thinking about making some changes, but I also knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I hated exercising and I found great comfort in my 3AM bologna sandwiches during nursing sessions.
My husband suggested that I simply begin walking with the stroller around the lake in our gated community. The initial thought of it was almost as repulsing as giving up my bologna. I have never really liked being outdoors, and it got really hot during the day at that time of year where we lived. But one morning, I was up at the crack of dawn for a nursing session, and I decided to just go for it. It was still dark outside when I slid our son into his carseat, covered him with a blanket and grabbed my iPod.
There was something kind of special about walking around a lake in the wee hours of the morning and watching the sun rise. It was peaceful, and kind of exhilarating in a small way. I walked one and a half laps that first morning (approximately 1.5 miles), and I was secretly thrilled with my accomplishment. I set an alarm and went out every single morning that week.
The following week, I was just about to finish my third and final lap of the day when an older woman sitting on a bench by the lake greeted me as I approached her. As I was passing her, she motioned for me to pause, stood from her seat and walked over to me and my son. I will never forget what she said to me.
“I have watched you walking with your son every morning for a week. I have watched as you push through every lap and keep going. You’re doing such a great thing – for you and for him. Really, good for you!”
I thanked her, and walked past her, equal parts embarrassed and proud. I kept walking, her words resonating in my head. Before I knew it, I had circled the lake again and waved to her as I passed her once more. I did 3 more laps that day – 6 miles in total– with my personal cheerleader watching me all the while. The next day and all of the days that followed, I looked for her on that bench. And she was there, every morning, watching the sun rise with me as I pushed through lap after lap.
I never stepped on a scale after my son’s birth, but I began to see changes in my body once again. My legs looked more tone, my pants were getting looser. I was excited about these changes and began to look forward to hearing my alarm go off every morning.
I eventually quit walking around that lake, as the weather changed and I got busier. And I never did learn that woman’s name. But she was my biggest motivator – when I wanted to quit, this stranger’s words pushed me to go on. We have since moved from that little gated community with the idillic sparkling lake, but I will never forget my post-pregnancy fitness journey, and how one stranger’s words changed the way I viewed exercise, my body and myself forever.
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Photo Credit: Marley Layne’s Closet