It's been a while since I could get my hands on writing something focused. As you can imagine, life takes over creativity during some of its chapters, isn't it? I've been meaning to write this for the past few months. Recently, one of my dear friends shared her story of dealing with some challenges and that gave me the boost to pen this down. Thanks dear!
As you all know, I am professionally trained and paid to motivate others, to help and guide them with their physical and emotional turbulence in life. I happen to use Yoga as the instrument to achieve those goals. This is about a chapter of my life where I myself struggled with these aspects for a period of time. 'Struggle' is a strong word and I don't want to use it lightly. For the same reason, when someone else uses that word, I give the same importance in the listening process. The degree of struggle varies tremendously for different individuals. My struggle may not seem like anything to you nor might your struggle to another person. So, life has taught me to be respectful of every individual's degree of struggle, be it "small" or "big" from our perspective (after all, who are we to judge?).
Coming to the subject.. I have always been thankful for the fact that my body weight always fell into that "healthy range" for my height. I never had to do any diet or targeted exercises for that purpose. Thanks to those blessed genes from my parents! The only times it was off was during my pregnancies (obviously). During the first and second postpartum, my weight fell back to that healthy range in its due course with the help of some targeted stretches. Story was a li'l different the third time. This is me trying to share my story of getting back to a healthy weight. Let me inform - this is mainly for those of us whose life doesn't allow them for a dedicated dieting or dedicated exercise routines. If your life and mind allows that, please stick to them by all means. This is for those whose life priorities have taken a far higher precedence over self care (even though this sentence may sound wrong, trust me, it happens during some chapters of life. And I like to call them "chapter" because this is just a small fraction in the mighty picture of life). So, proceed if you feel fit.
As you can see from the image, this was me writing in my journal (with so much passion) in Oct '19, exactly 4 months postpartum after having baby Eden, our third bliss. Weight: 142 pounds (64 kg) and belly: 39 in. For my height, this is overweight. This happens with every new mother, not just me. My plan was to update the journal every week until I achieve my goal in a couple of months (so I thought!). As a trainer who get the wonderful opportunity to guide numerous moms-to-be in their journey of pregnancy, labor and post partum recovery, I always share with my practitioners: "Every person is different. Every woman's each pregnancy is different. So is each postpartum recovery experience. If this is your second or subsequent baby, please expect differences in your whole journey". Since I use Yoga to guide myself during each phase of life, it has come to my advantage during each of my pregnancy, labor and most importantly, the postpartum recovery phase. Physically, mentally, emotionally.. If you are a Mom, you know exactly what I mean. To those who do not really get what the big fuzz is all about, let me help by quoting the World Health Organization: "Postnatal period is the most critical and yet the most neglected phase in the lives of mothers".
What exactly are we looking at? This can go on for volumes, really! To give you the gist of it, your whole physical body, physiological processes, emotional state of mind goes through a roller coaster ride during this whole journey of giving birth to a new life. And, you might think it all ends with the new life being born. But for the mother, this new phase is the real deal, previous one may feel like just a sample ride to her ! Her body, her emotions, her life itself somehow suddenly feel like they don't belong to her any more. Her body, her "darling" belly which even the strangers used to adore, which was photographed every month with so much love, is suddenly looked down upon by herself and those surrounding her.. as I said, I can go on and on about this incredible journey of childbirth. Talking about my personal experience, I always tried to be mindful of each phase and to just sink in all the goodness of it. The third pp really taught me that what I preach to my practitioners is actually really true! Each pregnancy is indeed different! Postpartum phase challenged me in some aspects - due to a variety of reasons. My body usually returns to a normal healthy BMI. But this time, my body refused simply because I was not in a position to nourish myself, my body or my emotions. Our 'body' as we call it or as we see in the mirror is simply an amalgamation of its physical constituents AND how we perceive the life itself. In other words, our thoughts affect our 'body', our state of mind/emotions affect our 'body', our happiness index affects our 'body'. It's essentially a vicious cycle - a sequence of reciprocal cause and effect. Mind affects your body, body affects your mind. This is applicable to really anyone who reads this, not just new moms. The reason it affected me this time was mainly because I was more mindful of the fact that I am not able to be in charge of my own institution called 'body' (as explained above).
Just imagine knowing exactly what stretches to do to tone your body and being in a position to not find the passion or energy or time to do them. Just imagine being in a position where a Yoga coach feels like her core strength is being challenged. To me, core strength is like voice to a singer! It was a time which tested me in many aspects. Going back to the picture of my journal, I never got a chance to open that journal again! My BMI remained off for a considerable period of time. Apart from the periodic stretches that I do as part of my daily routines, I never could do dedicated and targeted practice. I started seeing positive changes only when I stopped being concerned over the situation and started respecting the whole process.
I never did any diet. Some of the 'tips' I can give on that aspect are: I always like to eat only when I am hungry, when my body really demands food. I have this figurative "off" button (we all have, we just have to feel it) - when my body is satisfied with the right amount of food, it kind of triggers this "off" button and prevents from over-eating. It's basically called mindful eating. Taste the food, feel the food, be thankful for the food in front of you, involuntarily discriminate if what you are about to eat is actually healthy for your body, feel your stomach as you eat.. more than 'what' you eat, it is more important HOW you eat it. trust me, it comes as a second nature if you train yourself towards mindful eating. Our palates will stop craving for more salt, more sugar etc. and will actually start enjoying the true flavors of the ingredients. We need not do any kind of analysis or such, but just be in the moment when we eat. Instead of mind'less' eating (which most of us are used to), try practicing mind'ful' eating. When you develop that habit, your own self will guide you towards what is good for you and what is not. It's not that we are unaware of healthy vs unhealthy eating. In this day and age, almost all of us know in our brain what's good and what's not. It's just that our desires overtake our intellect. It is basic human nature to rebel when someone else tells you that you should and should not eat so and so (that is exactly why many of the diets fail us). But when your own self guides you, you start listening to you with all the love in the world. In my humble opinion, mindful eating is the most staple diet we can follow throughout our life without getting bored or exhausted about the process. Just try it out. In Yogic parlance, we call it notional correction or in Sanskrit, enlightening the 'Vijnanamaya kosha' of our existence. I started feeling better when I started doing exactly that. Not just with my body weight or physical aspects, but with how I perceived the turbulences of this phase. This third pp phase was a real testament to the fact that respecting our body works, respecting the process works, respecting nature's course always works.
Don't get me wrong. By mindful eating, I don't mean that we ignore or suppress our cravings. I don't mean that we only live on those "healthy foods". I satisfy my cravings too, be it a scrumptious piece of chocolate or that delicious piece of cake or those rare pizza nights. I respect my cravings too. I never take any of those foods with guilt in my mind. I rarely drink bottled juice. But when I do, I really slurp to the last drop enjoying the minutest flavors of it. But the good thing is, the notional correction that is already done to my mind subconsciously reduces my cravings. The smells, the sights etc. don't immediately trigger a craving in me because my mind knows what is healthy and what is not. So, the situations where my desires overtake my intellect is relatively less. That is exactly the point I am trying to make. When we keep enlightening our mind (in Yoga, we call it our 'manomaya kosha'), our discriminative faculty overrides our desires most of the time. That helps us in all realms of life, not just with physical aspects. For ex: in dealing with stress, losses, depression, emotional imbalances etc. After all, mastery of mind is the ultimate path to contentment and a happy life.
Now, since past few months, I am back to a healthy self, a healthy BMI and a strong core. The cherry on the top is that I am happily wearing all my clothes.. If you are curious to know what happened to the numbers shown in the journal, I am down to my normal weight range of ~113 pounds (51 kg) and the second number has reduced to 32 in. It means that my 'body' reduced almost 30 stubborn pounds (13 kg) without doing any diet or focused exercises. Just by being mindful and just by being respectful of the process. I am not saying diet and exercise is not needed (I should be the last person to say that, lol!). What I am trying to convey is that if life doesn't allow you to focus on your health explicitly, try not to get overly anxious or stressed or beat yourself up over not being in charge. All of these will trigger the vicious cycle of cause and effect that I mentioned before. Instead, listen to the universe. Listen to the nature talking to you. Listen to yourself (I know it can be a difficult task in itself, but try!). Our incredible body knows how to get back to its true state. Our only task is to aid the process. Intuitions help. What has come to my advantage is my yoga practice which has helped me to stay mindful and stay put during these challenging times. In a way, I am grateful for this experience, in the sense that I can totally live the words when I tell my practitioners that mind leads the body and body leads the mind. I believe that any hardship brings out a certain goodness from it which makes you a better self...
Wish you all the happiness in the world. Peace to all!