A bowl of ice cream has roughly the same amount of calories as I burn carrying my newborn daughter up and down the two flights of stairs to our Parisian apartment. If my toddler is in tow, that makes up for the chocolate sauce. At least that’s what I tell myself.
Oddly, and unfairly, I gained weight after my daughter was born. I mean I guess it’s not that unfair when you count the number of empty Ben & Jerry’s containers in the trash. But other than my ice cream indulgence I ate healthy, nursed round the clock, and walked nearly everywhere with my baby girl strapped to my chest. So why was I so jiggly and low-energy?
Each day I thought, “Today’s the day I’ll start exercising.” But when your days blur into nights and you have no more than 10 minutes at a time to yourself, how are you supposed to work out? Or count calories? Or strike even one yoga pose?
Our apartment faces a maternity hospital. Sipping lukewarm coffee while feeding my daughter, I glance out the window and see tiny bundles of joy leaving the hospital for the first time. As the father putzes around with the car seat (no one ever remembers to install it before the baby is born) and the mother stands there impatiently holding the baby, I spy on their little family.
I can’t help but notice that the cliché is true—French women don’t get fat, not even the ones who just gave birth four days ago. I glance down at my spare tire. Sheesh. As if I didn’t have enough post-baby concerns, now I’m comparing myself to stick-thin French women. I really am a glutton for punishment. And ice cream.
Months tick by, my belly swaying with each step I take, until I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the window of a trendy French boutique. My daughter’s chubby legs dangle from the baby carrier and she looks much bigger than other four-month-old babies. Like mother, like daughter? Or maybe we’re just normal Americans, destined to forever be larger than our French compatriots.
I take another look. Beneath my daughter’s legs, my stomach protrudes and I appear four months pregnant. The clothes in the store window look impossibly small and I feel impossibly frumpy.
Something needs to change.
That afternoon, I dig out our Wii and strap on the Zumba belt, shimmying and shaking like a fool as my daughter smiles up at me from her swing. I ignore the stares of the people in the hospital windows across the street. I look silly. In fact, I probably look like I’m being attacked by a swarm of bees.
But I feel amazing.
It’s not just about the weight. Yeah, I’ll be happy when the baby belly is gone. But I’m happier taking charge of my body again. Moving, stretching, jumping, and what could charitably be called dancing. It’s invigorating.
I finish the 20-minute beginner’s session and score lower than I even thought possible. It threatens to de-motivate me until I catch my daughter’s eye. Her face breaks into a full smile as if saying, “We did it, Mommy!”
We can do this! I can do this. At least I took the first wobbly, out-of-practice step. The rest is cake. Or ice cream.