Getting Into Shape After Baby. Or Not.

My top four priorities when it comes to my body.


We hear a lot of talk in our culture about getting back into shape after baby. As a mother of two, I laugh ruefully at such talk, mumbling things like "Round and kinda bumpy is a shape."

But it has recently come to my attention that my baby is, well, 2. As in years old. And that I haven't taken an exercise class since the super gentle You-Just-Had-A-Baby-A-Second-Ago mom-baby yoga class so many years ago.

And that I still hang out in my maternity yoga pants. I go out in public wearing them. I mean, not far. Just, like, to the library. But still. The maternity ones. I'm that mom.

I wore my maternity yoga pants upstairs (elevator up two floors, please) to visit my neighbor, who happens to conveniently enough be AnnaCatherine Rutledge, a Brooklyn personal trainer and Stroller Strides/Body Back instructor. She gave me some neighborly advice, along with a cupcake for her son's birthday (hey, we're moms).

AnnaCatherine told me that she finds first-time moms are often impatient to lose all the baby weight and get back into shape by the time their three-month maternity leave is up. "Nobody (especially first time moms) ever wants to hear 10 months up, 10 months down. Nobody ever wants to hear it's going to take time to get back your pre-baby body AND it may never go back to what it was before." I nodded understandingly. Right, 10 months up, and um 24 months down? So far? OK, so maybe I haven't felt the urgency some moms feel. But I do want to do what AnnaCatherine suggests is the most important part of exercising as a mom, which is "showing the kids that fitness can be fun."

She got me thinking about my priorities when it comes to my body, which are:

1. Having a positive body image

Which is to say, modeling a positive body self-image for my daughter. Sample: "Yes, you're right, my tummy IS really squishy! Isn't it nice and soft?" – instead of the following conversation, which I would otherwise have at least once day. Friend Nice Enough to Lie: "You look cute today." Me: "Are you stupid? Or blind? Or mocking me? I am so fat, ugh! Look at this! [grabbing handfuls of tummy] LOOK AT THIS!"


2. Getting into shape

By this I mean, being in good enough shape to chase after my Usain Bolt of a toddler, who literally screams "NEED RUN AROUND!" when he gets restless. We maintain a strict regiment of running, climbing, swinging and sliding. On indoor days, we must jump up and down for 30 minutes straight at the absolute minimum, including a session before and after nap.

3. Fitting into my prepregnancy jeans

This is important to me because I dislike shopping.

4. Encouraging my family to have a healthy lifestyle

A challenge, this one, since I'm always tired, love feeding them convenience good, and have never been a big athlete. I walked by an elementary school gym class the other day and had a panic attack. But never mind that. I try to encourage my kids to exercise in fun ways throughout the day, hoping against hope that bouncing on couch cushions to "Billie Jean" counts as cardio. I try to encourage healthy eating, by which I mean, not constantly consuming cookies.

In my gentle, non-celeb, non-office-attire world, this is enough. I might not ever look exactly how I did pre-babes, but that's okay – that's what armor-weight bras and tights and spanx are for. (OK, I don't actually have Spanx, but I know they exist.) But what I do need to make priorities are fitness, healthy choices, and having a good body image. And the occasional cupcake with a neighbor. (Don't worry, I took the stairs back down.)

Read more: The 10 most practical pieces of parenting advice no one tells you.