This last year has transformed how I feel about my body. My shape has changed too. But losing weight has been far less impactful than finally losing those fat-girl voices in my head.
All those flashy diet claims and 1000 calorie meal plans tend to ignore the deeper issues – and it’s only by shifting my core behaviour and beliefs that I’m finally getting in touch with the Mmmmm in me.
It’s not that I’ve lost a huge amount of weight. While I don’t weigh myself, I can see the change. It’s not that my body now conforms to the unrealistic proportions in those magazines I don’t read. It’s simply that I see my body’s beauty in a way I never have before.
And that means I can think more about how much fun I’m having instead of about my thighs as I finally chase my kids across a beach in my swimsuit.
Most of all, I can look at myself in the mirror and say Mmmmm I love my body. Of course there are still days when I don’t, but there are so many more days when I do.
So thank you for sharing your Love Mum Body story, your photos and your words.
My gift in return is to share the six simple changes I’ve made. It’s not a 2 week weight loss programme or a quick solution, but that’s why it’s working. I hope it works for you too.
Yes, just move. Whenever you get the chance.
You don’t have to sign up for the gym and fit that in around your kids. I started by just envisaging being the kind of mum who runs around with her children. And then I started to become that person.
Now, I look at the bench I’d like to collapse on, and I look at my kids running gleefully across the park towards the swings. And I run after them.
Not all the time of course. Sometimes we all need the bench.
Find the kind of movement that works for you, and do more of it. I didn’t jump straight into exercising three times a week. I took it slow and added in more when I felt ready.
I love yoga, and now I do it for an hour and half every week. I love to dance but now that I’ve two little ones, I rarely get to go out dancing. So I’ve taken up zumba twice a week, and it’s perfect for me. It’s silly and funny and complicated enough that I don’t have time to notice I’m actually doing exercise.
Initially I felt guilty for taking time out for me, for spending money on my needs. And then I realised that it’s not just my needs. I need to be healthy for my kids. To safeguard me for them, I need to invest time in my body. I need to choose to spend money on that over other things. I need to make the space available to exercise, even if it means asking for help.
And for the first time in my life, I am enjoying exercise. It’s a complete revelation. I’d always seen exercise as a chore I needed to do to lose weight. And that never worked. Now I see movement as a gift to myself. One where I laugh a lot, leave my busy mind for a while to connect with my dear body, and end uplifted. Even better, exercise allows me to eat what I want.
2. Make MMMMM noises
Yes. Really. Appreciate what you eat when you eat it. Another staggeringly simple concept, but mind blowing when you actually do it.
As a mum, I was always eating on the go, hoovering up leftovers (with my mouth) and craving chocolate and wine as soon as the kids were in bed. Very rarely did I sit down and actually notice what I was eating.
Choose what you want to eat. I started to listen out for when my brain and body told me that I wasn’t actually hungry any more.
I realised that I didn’t have to eat everything on my plate. And because I had been going mmmm, my meal was already much more satisfying, even when I ate less of it.
Now, instead of just grabbing the first thing to hand, I think ‘what does my body most want right now?’. And of course sometimes that is still chocolate. And sometimes it’s broccoli and brown rice. And sometimes I forget completely and I hoof down a sandwich at my computer or suddenly realise I have just scoffed the kids cereal leftovers to save on washing up...
But I make more conscious choices most of the time, and every little choice helps.
Most bizarrely of all, I have realised that when there is cake on offer, it is not the only time in my life that I will ever be offered cake. And I think about whether I actually really want cake right now. Sometimes I don’t. THIS was a complete surprise to me.
Now I don’t mean flash your stuff on the catwalk or pose in a naked calendar. Although, feel free, all power to you.
I mean model a healthy happy lifestyle for your kids.
Our children are an incredible asset on the MmmmMama-Body front. Firstly, when they’re young, they accept us and love us just as we are – or at least until we tell them otherwise. Secondly, don’t tell them otherwise.
I don’t criticise my body in front of them, I talk about all the things I love about my wonderful purposeful functional body. I talk about loving being healthy.
And most of all, I walk the talk. They know mummy loves going to zumba. They laugh when I come back sweaty and red-faced to give them bed-time cuddles.
They would probably rather not see mummy dancing around naked at bath-time, but it makes them laugh. And one day, they will do that too.
Don’t read magazines. I just stopped reading magazines. I don't even look at them on the shelves in the shop.
Airbrushed versions of women who barely eat because someone somewhere has decided that is what beauty is?
Impossible expectations set up by advertisers to spur us on to spend money on trying to attain an impossible perfection?
Instead I look at the beautiful women and mums I see all around me – I look at their eyes, their smiles.
I look for how their behaviour reflects an inner beauty.
I think about what beauty means to me. And it isn't about the clothes size, it's about the woman, or man, inside those clothes.
I decide what defines beautiful.
And I’m finding that a much healthier set of expectations to work with.
Massage the bits of your body you’d like to love more.
I listened to a body love specialist describe how she takes time to massage her body every day, with love. As she does so, she switches between feeling like she is the one giving the loving massage, and the one receiving it. And I thought, no way.
As a mum, I barely have time to brush my hair, let alone lavish cream all over my body. But I’ve started to spend a minute, just one minute, applying some body cream each morning after my shower.
Not my whole body obviously, that would take too long, just choosing one small bit that needs some attention each day and connecting that to the rest of me.
At the weekends, I can make time for a little bit more.
And as I’m massaging that cellulite on my thighs or that wobbly stretch-marked tummy or those dry elbows, I tell myself how much I love that part of me, how grateful I am for all that it does.
How I love that wobbly tummy because it carried my children. How I love those strong thighs for carrying me through my day. How I appreciate my elbows for moving my arms so I can hug my children.
It feels pretty silly at first, but it starts to work. Slowly but surely, I’m seeing my body less as a collection of ‘problem areas’, and more as a wonderful whole that supports me to live a full and fabulous life.
Love yourself in the mirror. Now, this was really hard at first, and sometimes it’s still hard.
After I had been doing all the other things for a few months, I started to look at myself in the mirror. In my underwear. And then, naked.
And as I looked at myself, I tried to see the beauty. That same beauty I can see in my children, in other women who have shared their photos here, in the people all around me.
In the mirror, I gaze at myself with kindness.
This took a while you understand, but I can genuinely do it now, with ease. (Apart from a couple of days a month, where I’ve learnt to keep my clothes on, and stay out of my own way…)
In that mirror, instead of noticing all the things that I’m not, I now notice all the things that I am. Healthy. Flexible. Miraculous. Warm. Lovable. Mmmmm.
The last thing to share is that I don’t even do these things all the time. I forget. I fall back into the old patterns. And yet, it still works.
Because my mindset has changed. I’m not giving myself a hard time when I mess up. Instead, I’m celebrating every little success. And I’m seeing the Mmmmm in my mumbody more every day.
And that’s it. No diets. No giving up cake forever. No crazy exercise regime. Just a slow and steady change for the better. So here they are, my six diet-free steps to a MMMMMmama-body you love:
Do you do any of these things already? Could you start trying to add one of these into your life today?
Maybe you could add a line to our Ode to Mum-Bodies as a first step...
And of course visit our wonderful Love Mum Body gallery stuffed with pictures of beautiful real mama-bodies and mama's own stories.
If you'd like to pin any of the lovely blackboard reminders above, we would really appreciate that - you can use the 'share' buttons on the left :)