I’ve had a post brewing for a while now about some of the changes I’ve made to my lifestyle since moving to Tasmania, but it was only on reading this lovely brave piece about motherhood and body image by my friend Emily that I felt compelled to rescue my notes from the drafts folder and pay them some attention.
Something about living here has made me feel more compelled than ever before to get in better shape. I think perhaps part of it is that exercise and healthy food can so easily become part of your routine without it being a huge effort. Like Emily though, I have not been aiming to hit a particular dress size, or a certain number on the scales (we don’t even own a set of scales). I just want to feel good in myself and I’ve been trying to approach that in a sensible way.
Hobart is a lovely city to walk around and during our first couple of months here when we still had no car all three of us did a lot of trekking up and down the hills, often with large bags of groceries on each arm. We do now have a car, but DorkyDad still enjoys walking to work, and DorkySon and I walk along to his kindergarten most days before I run back. The combination of the view and the warmer weather here make a ten-minute jog along the waterfront a pleasure rather than a chore, and because I’d be walking the route anyway, I may as well run. It’s so engrained in the day that I do it without even thinking.
As well as doing more exercise, the abundance of tasty fresh fruit and vegetables means that we are all eating far more healthily than we did in the UK. After reading a few posts from Alice at More than Toast about how it helped her energy levels to cut out bread from her diet, I’ve done the same and feel SO much better for it. Alice is attempting something close to a paleo diet, and while I’ve not taken things that far, I know I’m being more thoughtful about what goes on my plate. Our red meat consumption has plummeted in favour of white fish and salads. We snack less, and hydrate more. DorkySon’s school only allows water to drink, no juice, smoothies or fizzy drinks – although rather sweetly everyone refers to water as ‘cloud juice’.
This month, I’ve stepped things up a little further and started doing Pilates twice a week. It’s the first time I’ve done serious Pilates and it’s lovely doing such focused exercise where you’re guided through the moves that are right for you, and where you start to see the results very quickly. I know I’ve got a long way to go, but after just five sessions I am already feeling so much better about myself. Since pregnancy I’ve had fairly constant lower back pain, but that is already starting to lessen as my core strength improves. I am also – HURRAH – starting to lose my tummy pouch. While I certainly have no shame about my post-birth body, it feels like I’ve spent the last five years being all mummy and no yummy, so it’s something of a revelation to start breaking out of that mindset.
My body image is so connected to my mental health. When I’m not in a happy place, I retreat behind big boots, baggy jumpers and beanie hats. When I’m feeling confident and content, I start making more of an effort with clothes, makeup, exercise and healthy eating.
Right now, I have more of a tan than I’ve ever had in my life, and that feels good. If I’m honest it’s less a tan and more just some freckles that have started to merge with each other, but still… I have fuschia pink toenails. I have clear skin and little blonde highlights in my hair. I’ve not yet broken out from my wardrobe staples of jeans and polo shirts but hey, you can’t do everything at once.
I recently read Susannah Conway’s book Unravelling the Heart, and she talks a lot about the important of self portraiture in working out how you see yourself, and how you want others to see you. So, excruciating though it is, I have started taking the occasional selfie or two on my phone and giving that some thought.
I’ve also been letting DorkySon take photos of me, because I’m at my least self conscious with him. Being a parent does that – it makes you lose all your inhibitions. When DorkySon was little I had to become comfortable singing on public transport, waving at digger drivers and sitting in restaurants making choo-choo noises with his spoon. Now that he’s older I’ve had to become comfortable with having a camera thrust in my face, and then watching him hoot with laughter at the unflattering shot he has captured. There is no choice but to laugh with him.
I am – I suspect like every woman, and especially every mother – a work in progress. But at the age of thirty I’ve finally realised that when it comes to your own wellbeing – diet, exercise, self-image – the more effort you put in, the happier you’re likely to be with the result.
Bye bye, baby belly. Bye bye.