How My View of Exercise Has Changed Since Having A Baby

Hi there Carrots ‘N’ Cake readers!

My name is Ashley and I write over at My Food ‘N’ Fitness Diaries, a blog that shares my every day life adventures in food, fitness, mommyhood, and everything in between. Carrots ‘N’ Cake is one of the first healthy living blogs I stumbled upon a few years back, and it’s continued to be one of my favorites, so I am honored to be writing here today!

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I wanted to chat with you guys about how my view of exercise has changed since having a baby. It’s funny (actually pretty crazy) how your perspective seems to suddenly change about SO many things after your little bundle of joy enters the world. Exercise was one of those things for me.

Exercise has always been a huge part of my life. I was very involved in sports growing up, and I eventually developed a passion for nutrition and fitness in my college years. Unfortunately, that passion turned into an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise, and I ended up getting a little too caught up in counting calories and over-exercising. Truth be told, it was for vanity reasons. I wanted to be the thinnest, skinniest girl, and I had this irrational fear of getting “fat”. Basically, I was dieting and exercising for all the wrong reasons. Fast forward a few years, I was out of college and married to the man of my dreams. Fortunately, I let go of some of the silly restrictions I placed on food, but the over-exercise was still there. I was aiming for a dumb number on the scale for no reason other than to have the thrill of reaching that number. Occasionally I did strength workouts, but it was mostly cardio as I was obsessed with burning calories. Kind of ironic considering I now know that strength training actually causes you to burn more calories in the long run!

Fast forward a few more years, and my husband and I started talking about the possibility of children in our near future. I was not having a regular menstrual cycle and came to find out that I had hypothalamic amenorrhea. This opened my eyes to how unhealthy my lifestyle, my workout routine, and my eating habits had been. I completely switched gears, and realized I needed to heal my body by resting it and nourishing it. I gained about 10-15 pounds in the process and found myself with a body that I had never known before. I was a little more squishy, my hips were rounder, and my face was fuller. But you know what? I was about a million times happier. I was able to enjoy life rather than be consumed by every morsel I was putting in my mouth and every calorie burned.

In August 2012, my husband and I found out we were expecting our first baby. We couldn’t be more thrilled! I had never felt more content and at peace in my life. Even through the sleepless nights, poop explosions, breastfeeding struggles, and spit up everywhere, this little boy gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined. Life would never be the same, but in the absolute best way possible.

To be honest, I thought I would struggle with my postpartum body. The perfectionist in me was scared of saggy and loose skin, and I worried that I would never have time to workout or eat right again. (Such silly and irrational thoughts, mind you!) But in actuality, I experienced the exact opposite feelings. I couldn’t have been more proud of my body, squishy-ness and all. It created and provided a home for this miracle baby who was the best little thing that ever happened to us.

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I view exercise a little (actually, a LOT) differently now. It’s not about looking perfect or having six pack abs anymore. (Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take ’em if they happen, but it’s no longer a priority for me.) Exercise is about enjoyment, “me” time, keeping myself healthy to see my little boy grow into a man, and being a positive role model to my child(ren).

My perspective has completely changed, and with that change has come a renewed sense of happiness.

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Thanks for letting me share my story with you today! Feel free to stop by my blog to say hi, or check me out on Twitter, Facebook, and/or Instagram.

Have a wonderful day, my (new) Carrots ‘N’ Cake friends!

57 Comments

  1. I love this post! I like to see how other women adjust their workouts based on their lives and not the other way around. And what a beautiful family! I am glad you found a balance that allows you to enjoy both while feeling happy and healthy!

  2. It’s so ironic because I just recently posted all about how running/fitness is affected by pregnancy and motherhood from my personal experience (the post was actually featured as well over at Blogher)…My fitness routine totally changed while pregnant and certainly during the nursing days/early toddler years. I wouldn’t change it for the world! Those moments were so short-lived where my son needed me all of the time and the physical aspect of keeping up with a baby/toddler turned out to be more than enough for me for quite some time.

  3. Love you, Ashley!! You are a great role model for moms everywhere, so this is awesome to see you here on CNC. Not to mention you’re looking awesome, so take that, irrational thoughts! 😉

    p.s. My husband and pregnant me made the blog in that color run pic– I feel famous! hahaha

  4. Yay! Glad to see you over here! I enjoyed reading this, and think you made SUCH a good point that after you had children, or even other major events in your life occur, it’s OKAY for your perspective to change, and it’s okay to be okay with a new body, and to focus on how you feel rather than how you look specifically.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story. I am 17 weeks pregnant and I have already seen a change in the way I view food, excercise, and my body. My husband and I struggled to get pregnant which lead me to eventually not work out as much and not eat as well, it was a hard time in my life and I did not deal with it well. I gained weight and wasn’t happy with my body. Then, we got pregnant! I was very sick my first trimester and lost 10 lbs and I remember seeing that low number on the scale and being scared and thinking how that was a number that normally would bring me joy. sad. All of a sudden it became all about fueling my body and giving the baby what he/she needed. I didn’t exercise at all my first trimester besides an occassional walk when I felt up for it, and I noticed how much I enjoyed the freedom of not feeling like “I had to” workout. I honestly didn’t even know I had the mentality before that I felt like “I had to’ workout, but being pregnant opened my eyes to the fact that I definitely did feel that way. Now that I am feeling better I am trying to gain weight so I am not paying attention to calories at all, I simply eat when I am hungry and eat what sounds good. It has been freeing! I realized how much I used to judge myself when I wanted to indulge in an ‘unhealthy’ food. It is so weird how pregnancy has brought these realizations to light and how it has helped me to see when it comes to healthy living what is really important.

  6. I know I’ll never see the body I used to have in college now that I’m in my 30’s and had a baby (honestly I don’t try like I should) but it doesn’t bother me in the least! Every now and then I’ll get a pang of “oh man” but then I look at my son and get all teary knowing my body made that sweet miracle…so awesome. And I’d love to go back and smack my hot college self in the head!! It always makes me laugh thinking about how I thought I was “so big” back then…I really should’ve run around naked or something 😉

  7. Ashley, I love it! You know we share similar past struggles with exercise. I’m at such a better place already with that and so excited to see how that evolves even more once baby’s here. Thanks for being such an encouragement!

  8. Thanks for sharing, Ashley! I fear pregnancy because I’m worried I’ll resort back to my old “fat” and squishy self, but there is indeed nothing to be ashamed about. Our bodies are amazingly strong and capable of so much. Thanks for that reminder. Remembering that is way more important than having the “perfect” body.

  9. I really appreciate this post because I went through almost the exact same experience. I am currently pregnant and realizing how much my body is changing, and that is ok. Working out is so different now. It certainly took me a few months to understand my new limits, but I want to move for this baby and to have the healthiest pregnancy possible. Great post!

  10. I love this story! When reading the first part of your story I felt as if you were telling my story. Mine is almost identical with the obsessive calorie counting and over exercising. Thank you for sharing your story and congratulations on your baby boy! My husband and I are trying for a baby now! I hope my story can end as happy as yours did 🙂

  11. I loved this post, Ashley! I had my first baby a year ago this month and I’m still working on finding a balance between motherhood and exercise. It’s so much more difficult nowadays to drop into a class or even lace up for a run. So when I actually do get out there, I truly appreciate that “me” time. My body is definitely not where it was pre-baby, but like you, I appreciate my new curves BC they remind me of the beautiful boy that’s now in our life 🙂

  12. Thanks for this post! I just had my first baby a week ago. I am interested to see how my perspective changes. I’m already more ok with this squishy body than I thought I would be so that is a step In the right direction!

  13. Ashley, your story totally made me cry…tears of happiness. You see, after struggling for years with an eating disorder, obsessing over exercise/diet, and having polycystic ovarian syndrome, my unhealthy lifestyle manifested itself when I was diagnosed with osteoporosis of the spine and osteopenia just about every where else in my body, last March. At 25, that is not something that is supposed to happen. I did a complete 180 on my lifestyle, went and had my second bone scan yesterday, and after a little over a year, of healthy eating, gaining around 25 pounds, my bones are super healthy. I cried tears of joy at the doctors office, plus to hear that not only I had been through hypothalamic amenorrhea, but other women as well, served as an inspiration to me to share my story with others. Thank you so much!

  14. Thank you so much for your post!!! I am actually in the process of trying to gain weight and workout less to start trying for babies. Do you have any words of advice for starting or anything that helped you along the way? I am having a hard time making the transition. Did you stop working out completely? Thanks again!!

  15. Thank you so very much for sharing your story. I have gone through a very similar situation with over exercise and obsessive calorie counting and am currently starting to experience having my period again. Your story gives me hope that I will see that + sign on the stick some day! 🙂

  16. Just wanted to thank you for sharing your story. My story pretty much mimics this up until the pregnant part – we’ll see if that can still happen some day 🙂 I just know it’s not always hard to admit these things so I really appreciate you being so vulnerable!

    I would love to see more of these open discussions on CNC!

  17. Ashley, reading about your journey helped me – a 34 year old mom – learn to healthfully gain weight during my first pregnancy and feel beautiful doing it. I appreciate your words and all you share. Thank you!

  18. This is such a beautiful post! I really appreciate your honesty and sincerity about struggling with your weight. I’ve never had a baby, but I think the fact that our bodies are capable of creating a human life is beyond incredible. Like most women, I also struggle with feeling confident about my body. But, I think it’s important to remember how much our bodies do for us!
    🙂
    Cheers,
    Penelope

  19. I completely agree!! I had my first baby 9 months ago and I have felt exactly the same as you 🙂 Greetings from Finland!!

  20. Thank you Ashley! I’m really into nutrition and fitness and am currently 22 weeks pregnant! I would be lying if I said some of these weren’t on my mind. I do think about my post-pregnancy body and if I’ll have time for fitness. Thanks for reassuring me that things will be different, but not necessarily bad. Can’t wait to check out your blog.

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