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Losing My Baby Belly Without Damaging My Daughter

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Recently, I purchased a cooking magazine at the grocery store titled “Eat Well Lose Weight.” The luscious cover shots of crunchy kale and curried chickpeas were too enticing to pass up. I took my new purchase home and tossed it onto the dining room table, where my 7-year-old daughter proceeded to pick it up and ask: “Mom, are you on a diet?” “No!” I quickly replied. “No, no. I just thought the food on the cover looked good, so I bought it.” I was unprepared for the question and in that moment I felt I had made a major misstep. The last thing I wanted was to teach my daughter the word “diet” or signal to her that I was dieting.

I would never be considered overweight, but I’m no longer a 20-something who can eat what I want and not feel the impact. Most noticeably (to me), I still have my baby belly. For a while, I justified it as the natural aftermath of my back-to-back pregnancies. I had twin boys followed 14 months later by a baby girl — so my pooch was well-deserved, or so I told myself. Unfortunately, my kids are now 7 and 8 so the expiration date on any post-pregnancy bulge is long past.

When I bought the magazine I didn’t really intend to diet, but I did want to “lose weight” as the title suggested…which is essentially a diet. Semantics aside, I was not happy with my body, a sentiment I never want my daughter to deal with. I hadn’t foreseen how my emotions might be interpreted or echoed by my impressionable little girl.

After some thought and rooting around online, I came up with a solution I felt good about. I would begin a regimen of healthy, consistent eating and exercise. I would not use the word diet. I would focus on wanting to exercise because it made me feel good, strong, and stress-free (not because it helped me lose weight). Those were the messages I wanted to pass on to my daughter — rather than the fact that my belly was too soft or my bottom too saggy.

As for the magazine, I threw it away. As for my baby belly, I’m working on it. Here is the five-part process I came up with, which I highly recommend because in the space of just a week, it has made me feel like a lean, mean mom machine!

1.  Hike, 3 times a week for 30 minutes. There are lots of hills near my house and this is a great way to start my day and rev up my energy. I hike with a mom friend which keeps me committed to going.

2. Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred DVD, 5 times a week for 20 minutes. I’ve never watched The Biggest Loser, but this girl rocks. I love her no-nonsense attitude and her workouts are tough. This DVD has three levels that get progressively more challenging and even Level 1 will have you sweating. Best of all, it’s only 20 minutes and covers strength, cardio, and abs.

3. Cut back on carbs and dairy. I love veggies, nuts, and fish so this wasn’t too hard. When I need inspiration, I surf Pinterest and find plenty of ideas; The First Mess and Naturally Ella are two of my favorite sources for gorgeous, healthy recipes.

4. Eat 6 small meals per day. I’ve done this on and off for the last 10 years, but now I’m committed to it. I’m typically a bad breakfast eater, so now I kick things off with a rice cake or Udi’s gluten-free bread topped with avocado slices (fatty acids are amazing for women) or almond butter and apricot jam. Plus coffee, of course. I’ll never give up my morning joe!

5. Carry healthy snacks with me everywhere I go. This helps boost my metabolism and keeps me from crashing and running to the nearest In and Out Burger.  My favorite munchies are roasted almonds, goji berries, sugar snap peas, apples, and sesame rice crackers.

There are days that I don’t notice my baby belly at all… but, there are other days I look at it and sigh. My daughter looks at herself in the mirror and loves what she sees. I can tell.  Here’s hoping that when she is a tween, a teen, a wife, and a mother herself, she will never look at her body and sigh… or run out and buy a diet magazine.