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I May Be a Mom, but This Year I’m Putting Myself First

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Before becoming a mom, I had never been much into resolutions, especially the health-related ones. Instead, I’d chosen to live a life of so-called balance and snubbed pressures to eat right and exercise my way to the perfect physique. Sure, I exercised semi-regularly and ate healthy when I felt like it, but I also consumed my fair share of junk when I wanted to. I took for granted my body’s ability to whip back into shape at a moment’s notice, and I sure as hell took for granted all that extra free time to hit up the gym anytime I pleased. I often wonder what I did with all my extra time before having kids. In addition to being rather blasé about meeting stringent fitness goals and following strict eating plans, I also snubbed those who flocked to the gym come January and made bold statements about ditching this food and that food in an effort to health-ify their life.

And then I became a mom once … twice … then three times. And I got older … and older … and older. Suddenly I was 38 and my third and final baby had stopped nursing, and I realized just how dedicated I needed to be to get any resemblance of my pre-baby body back. Sure, most of the baby weight had finally fallen off, but my body still jiggled and wiggled in places I never thought possible, and I found myself in a perpetual state of exhaustion. Suddenly, those New Year’s resolutions people didn’t seem so silly after all. In fact, it seemed that they were on to something.

I’ve shared my story of the slow road to healthier eating habits before, and while this gradual transition has for the most part worked beautifully, I decided that this year I would join the ranks of New Year’s resolution people and participate in a 21-day cleanse. I’m hardly alone, as even the government recognizes that the most popular New Year’s resolutions are health-related, with losing weight ranking no. 1 and “getting fit,” “eating healthier,” and “drinking less alcohol” also claiming top spots. Unsurprisingly, those most eager to make these health-related New Year’s resolutions are moms like you and me. We’re trying, whether through participating in the recently popular eating plans like Whole 30, or taking part in a variety of different eating/fitness-related challenges like this one from Barre 3, or trying out the ever-popular and often-mocked Annual Goop Detox.

When I was in my twenties, I often wondered why so many “older women” (read: moms) were so worried about their eating habits and exercise. I would overhear coworkers talk about watching what they ate, and exercise classes always seemed to be packed with moms. It wasn’t until I became a mother that I realized just how much our bodies and lives change, and I suddenly wished I had never been so flippant about my health before. I wish I hadn’t taken for granted all that extra free time I used to have pre-kids to dedicate to my health and fitness goals.

Us moms live in conditions that are a breeding ground for stress eating. We have these small humans under our care who scream and cry at us just about whenever they want to. And those are the older ones. The younger ones need to be held, rocked, and ssshhhed into submission all hours of the day (read: the middle of the night), leaving us an exhausted bundle of raw nerves. A piece of chocolate cake never looked so good as when I was pacing the kitchen with a screaming baby at 2 am.

On top of living with these teeny tiny dictators who we have to appease and tend to multiple times a day, we also earned a new title in the house: “Human Food Vacuum!” Since we’re the ones who primarily purchase and prepare the meals for our little people, we’re also the ones who hate to see it go to waste. So we eat the remains and discarded pieces of their meals, including PB&J sandwiches, bits of string cheese, baby carrots, and the occasional goldfish that may accidentally get left behind. It’s called mindless snacking, and most moms do it.

Our social calendars become quite full when we become moms, and we’ve never felt so popular. Suddenly we have preschool birthday parties to attend, Girl Scout lunches, and end of year sports parties. But because it’s party party all the time and the hosts of said parties are usually feeding double digits, the food is, shall we say, cheap and kid-friendly. Pizza, chips, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, cupcakes; all the foods that kids love, but aren’t so kind to grown-up stomachs and health goals. Sure, we often make plans to eat ahead of time, knowing what will be served up, but then your kid hates the feeling of all his socks, causing you to miss your window of opportunity to eat a decent meal beforehand, and an hour later you find yourself scarfing down a slice of pizza with the kids.

And after all this, including the exhaustion and frazzled nerves and eating of more pieces of pizza than you ever thought possible, us moms have to be super human and actually function coherently, thoughtfully, and lovingly to raise these children to grow up and — *fingers crossed* — become functioning, well-rounded human beings. The pressure and self-doubt that comes with raising kids is enough to make our knees weak, but we power through and remain pillars of strength, courage, and discipline.

What all this adds up to is us putting ourselves last, at least for awhile. Our goals to remain fit and eat healthy all too often get pushed aside, because in the grand scheme of things, when it comes to the monumental task of raising children, it seems pretty insignificant. But oh my gosh how wrong we are to assume that and fall into that pattern of thought! And with each passing year of parenting, more and more moms realize that in order to raise a happy, healthy family, they themselves have to be reasonably healthy and happy.

Cue the New Year’s resolutions and why they’re both important and inspiring, despite what the naysayers may think. Fellow moms out there who are trying to eat better and move more, I’m proud of you and I stand with you. There will be doubters and those who try to discourage you, but be encouraged that no change is too small, and small changes often lead to bigger changes. You’re not silly or selfish for wanting to take care of yourself, and your family. We have one of the toughest jobs in the world that often leaves our bodies in disarray, and we owe it to ourselves to be healthy and do our job to the best of our abilities.

Rock on with your bad self, and go forth with your New Year’s resolutions knowing that those of us in the trenches totally get it.

Image source: Thinkstock Photos

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