Was I Being “Body Positive” Or Destroying My Health?

I love my body. I love that it has carried four babies, two of them being twins. I love that it has birthed my children. I love that it has scars and stretch marks and dimples. It has many and it is the road map of my life. When you really think about it, a woman’s body is incredible and can do incredible things.

But lately… lately I have been letting it down.

Before twins I always had a negative relationship with my body. I got angry when it wouldn’t shed pounds. I covered it up because to me it wasn’t ideal. I starved it and overtrained it and cursed it when it didn’t perform.

During my twin pregnancy everything was stripped away, and my one job was to grow and incubate my babies. I felt my body stretch, my hips seperate, and my heart race. But despite the pain my girls thrived. My body did it’s job.

During those days as I lay on the sofa with a pillow between my knees I made myself a promise. I promised to thank it. I promised to care for it and treat it the way it deserved. That meant losing the weight I purposely put on during my pregnancy, feeding it the right foods and strengthening it. But above all, I would rehabilitate my body with love.

I did. I followed through with my promise. It was a journey but I kept my promise.

You can read about my body after babies journey in my popular blog post: What Having Four Kids (Including Twins) Has Done To My Body and My Confidence.

At least until last year.

Last year I had a couple of life events that shook me. I was stressed and started to reach for food as comfort. I overate at every meal and every snack. I gave myself constant stomach aches, (which is really risky for me because in the previous year I suffered from Diverticulitis), but in the moment while I ate I felt numb and numb felt good.

Besides, a trend was building that was telling me that curvy was good. That adding on some extra weight and embracing it was actually the kind thing to do for my body. Or at least, that was how I was interpreting it.

But I didn’t feel good.

So I’d try to be mindful of my portions and ramp up my exercise and then it would fall apart.

I began posting on Instagram, along with almost everyone else, photos of my curvier body and how I was embracing my curves and buying new clothes to fit the new me.

But I didn’t feel good.

I was out of breath, was getting light-headed often, I had a sore back, and felt lethargic. So I’d try again with a new goal of caring for my body better, (which for my small 5’2″ frame meant shedding some of those pounds), and I shared this goal of health online. The response? Some positive, but I also received some blowback because the goal I was after wasn’t popular. This threw me and once again, and I stopped.

Was it guilt that I felt? I’m not sure, but I felt like I was doing something wrong.

But I didn’t feel good.

In January I turned 36, and I started to notice my body felt stiff. Really stiff. I initially joked that it was just my age, but 36? Really?

So, a few weeks ago I decided to be really honest with myself and step on a scale. Yes, a scale, which in my opinion, can be a great tool for some if used properly. My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe what I had done to myself. What about the promise?

Enough was enough. It was time to make positive changes for my health and make sure I protected what I knew was right. I went through my social media and unfollowed anyone who I felt was making me second guess my goal. It wasn’t anyone else’s fault that I had lost sight of my goal of health, but it was making me second guess myself.

I’ve made sure that what I was doing to move more was on my terms and left me feeling satisfied and proud. I am working out every morning. Sometimes it’s ten minutes of stretches and abs. Other days I hop on my treadmill and run while watching Netflix.

I am taking my time to pre-cook my meals days in advance, and slow down and enjoy every bite and today my gut health is better than ever. Don’t worry, I am enjoying indulging on our weekly date night and here and there. But not everyday.

Today I am choosing love. I am choosing health.

I have lost seven pounds, and plan to shed more.

I’m happy and I feel good. I’m climbing the stairs without getting winded and my body feels more flexible.

I think some really great things are coming out of the current body positivity movement. But somehow along the way balance was lost and a bizarre version of reverse body-shaming has begun. I fell victim to this trend and I am 36.

I worry about my three daughters entering a world where the conversation is so one-sided. I want them to love their body at all stages of their life. I want them to know that we are all different and our relationship with our bodies is a personal one.

I want them to treat their bodies the way they deserve to be treated. I want the goal of health to be important to them.

You can be curvy and be healthy. You can love yourself and still chase a goal.

Body positivity should be a movement based on knowing yourself, accepting other people’s choices and cheering each other on. Body positivity should be about listening to your body and knowing when it is in a season of grief, healing, growing another life, rehabilitation or renewal. Body positivity should be about knowing the difference between embracing health and settling into a body that may not be thriving.

Above all, body positivity should be about supporting each other, knowing that what may work for one person may not work for another. That one person may need a strategy or a diet to battle inflammation or digestive issues, and that a scale can be a great tool for one person, but a torment for another. Body positivity should be about erasing judgement and saying I support you and your journey towards health.

I am choosing what’s right for me. I am choosing to chase health, and happiness.

I will be documenting my journey on Instagram and I’d like you to join the conversation and follow along there.

My friend Ana at Bluebird Kisses has also written an article on this topic. I’d love for you to weigh in and let me know what you think about this current trend.

I will stop seeing myself as broken and finally see what my body is capable of

This is it. This is the year. I am done hiding behind my kids in photos, and pulling at my clothes as I sit down. I am ready for change. But I know now that I have to change the way I see myself, before any real change can happen.

mother and baby

When I was around my oldest daughter’s age, (so that would be around age six), I had two minor surgeries. Then I jumped into my parents’ pool backwards, smacking my chin, resulting in stitches. The years following I had many bouts of strep throat, tonsillitis, pneumonia and mono. Then at the end of high school came the big finish… a tumour on my thyroid resulting in a complete thyroidectomy.

I know right? I am starting to look a little like a thirty-four-year-old quilt.

I was one of four kids, and can’t imagine the worry all of this would have caused my parents. Now as a mother of four, I know how easily you can start placing your child into a certain description or type, even if you shouldn’t. I was the charismatic, sunny, slightly chubby, bubbly, non-athletic one.

childhood

My mom was very quick to let me know that I was beautiful the way I was, that I would always find my place in the world because I was not only smart, but had incredible street-smarts, and to not over-do it. I credit this kind upbringing to my current post-four-babies, (including twins), self-love attitude. I do think I am pretty awesome, despite some scars, stretch marks and cellulite I have collected over the years.

But truth be told, I have played the “broken” card one too many times in my life. After having mono, I was able to negotiate a doctor’s note that exempted me from phys-ed for an entire year. I was a smooth talker, and would turn my fear of letting team members down, into a joke about how I don’t play any sports that involves a ball, or a team.

Ahem… this one is still true and I will stand by it. Basically, the idea of me playing volleyball is my worst nightmare.

But when it came to physical exercise and getting in shape, I would attempt my goal for a short time, and then give up.

Finally, in my second year of collage, after ballooning to an all-time high on the scale, I set my mind to it… I would lose the weight and become the fit person I always wanted to be. Guess what, I did it. I reached my goal. I lost almost 30 pounds and became this badass, strong person that I had never met before.

slim

How did I do it? I did the zone diet, (which Jennifer Aniston made cool at the time), I worked out a lot, (I had lots of free time between classes), and I indoor rock climbed, (one of my favourite non-team/ball sports), with my boyfriend at the time, Mike, (he’s now my husband).

I remember that this time in my life was one of my happiest.

This was following one of the darkest times in my life, after having my thyroid out, my family dog dying, family health scares and not yet finding my path to my future career, I had fallen into a depression, which I eventually pulled myself out of with the help of a therapist.

But now I was soaring. I would sometimes come home from a late night indoor climbing workout, or running faster than I thought was possible on the treadmill and be met by family or friends with comments that I was becoming “too thin,” or “too obsessed.”

These comments slowly wore me down. They took roots inside of me, and began to blossom into feelings of guilt about my progress and that maybe everyone liked me a little more as the bubbly, slightly chubby, non-athletic one.

Since the height of my personal physical fitness goal being reached, and the subsequent fall back into old habits of considering a light stroll a workout, resulting in being so weak I pull my neck picking up my kids toys, this idea that I am broken or more liked when out of shape, has haunted me.

Well, that was until I was met with the biggest challenge yet in my life… my twin pregnancy. The mental, physical and emotional toll this challenge took on me has been life changing. I think the fact that I couldn’t just give up and take my belly off was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.

twin pregnancy

Truthfully, I thought my twin pregnancy would break me. I surely wasn’t cut out for that kind of marathon. Every day I would think to myself, “this is it, the day that my body gives out, that it exposes itself for what I always thought it was… a weakling.”

But instead, the opposite happened. My body shocked me at its incredible ability to be an incubator, creating two people at once. Even when I would almost black out when I reached the top of the stairs, or the day I lost my vision while driving. It did it’s job. It was a mighty vessel.

twin pregnancy

My mind even shocked me. Out of isolation and a feeling of being trapped inside of my body, I was able to eventually push past the fear and create change in my life.

It has taken me a long time to get where I am after having my twins. It has taken a lot of perseverance and hard work. But most of all, it has taken a lot of patience and love for myself.

weight loss after twin pregnancy

Rewiring my brain isn’t easy. I know what has held me back and I am slowly chipping away.

I have created a visual in my head, and I am constantly closing my eyes and returning to that vision of strength and determination. A person who isn’t afraid anymore. A person who is going to let go of the comfortable weight and soar again.

working out

I have come so far and have been through so much. It is time to recreate who I see myself as, knowing that although I will be changing some things, that doesn’t mean that I am losing the best parts of me.

I want this change to come from a place of self care and of giving back to my body after everything it has given and created.

I’m not broken, I’ve just been scared. It’s time to let that fear help propel me forward so that I can reach my goals, drop the excuses, be secure within my success and know that wanting to reach the finish line is not selfish, it’s self-love.

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What am I doing about it?

I have been researching, reading, sharing, exploring and have been asking for help. I have partnered with a personal trainer who is going to help me stay focused and stand by me when I think that I am not enough.

Rob from Trainers On Site has been working with me, (and Mike), since the beginning of December and already I am feeling stronger and closer to my goals.

I am so excited to start bringing all of you on this journey with me. I will be raw and honest with you along the way, sharing my fears and my triumphs as I peel back the layers of self doubt I have been carrying around with me since childhood.

I will be sharing what I’ve learned, including my exercise routine, fitness tips and meal ideas on Facebook (including live videos), here on the blog, on my YouTube channel and on Instagram.

Progress photos will be posted each week, and I will motivate and inspire you with your goals along the way.

Trainers On Site is an in-home personal training service. Servicing Toronto, West GTA and Halton.

Disclosure: Nesting Story is in partnership with Trainers On Site and has received free services from them.

I Lost ALL Of The Baby Weight After Having My Twins – This Is My Journey

Home from the hospital after having twins

Note: I have not been sponsored by any diet, fitness or lifestyle program. As always, all opinions are my own. On the day I came home from the hospital, the curiosity was killing me… how much weight had I lost now that two human beings had exited my body? They each weighed 6 pounds, so, I figured, maybe I had lost 12 pounds, or even more because you have to count the amniotic fluid and placentas. I hopped on the scale and was devastated. I had only lost 3 pounds.

Weight = 193 lbs, Height = 5’2″.

I looked down at my massive swollen feet, and the logical side of my brain told me that I was retaining a lot of water and needed to be patient. I had been through this twice before after giving birth to my older kids. But come on, two freaking people, it didn’t seem fair.

I picked myself up and switched my focus to what was most important: caring for my four kids, healing from my C-section and basically surviving.

In-fact, I was able to shove the weight thing out of my mind for the next couple of months. I had more pressing things to focus on.After having four kids

By the two-month point, I was ready to shift a percentage of my daily energy (which was quickly depleted each day), to myself.

“Here we go Joanna, let’s do this.” I thought.

I had lost baby weight before. In fact, after having each my son, and then my daughter, I was able to get my weight down within my happy weight range. But not only had I gained a little more weight than my previous pregnancies, my body had also been through a violent war.

When growing two humans, it is very important to gain the required weight. It is actually a bizarre feeling to be going to the doctors and finding out that your small efforts in weight gain weren’t enough. I needed to head home and focus on consuming MORE calories. So I did it. I gained the necessary weight, stayed off of my feet and ended up carrying my babies to term.

2 Months Postpartum
2 months post partum after twins

When it was time to finally get moving and change my eating habits, I decided that joining a program would help me start my journey on the right foot. In the past, I had always done Weight Watchers to get my portions under control, after being pregnant.

This was the perfect fit for me at the time. My older kids were in school and my babies were little enough that they would happily stay in their stroller while I went to meetings. I was even able to find the time to prepare nutritious meals. I watched the weight roll off for the next three months, while enjoying the social aspect of the Weight Watchers meetings.

By five months, I was ready to take over myself. I ate clean, healthy meals and started to incorporate a lot of exercise into my daily routine. I would wake up before everyone else, and do some strength training, before getting on with my day.

7 Months Postpartum 7 months after having twins

Once I was seven months postpartum, I was thrilled! I was only 10 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight. Not only was I feeling stronger, my old clothes were starting to fit again. I was watching my bruised, battered and swollen body come back, and I was really pumped with my progress.

I shared my new point of view with the world and celebrated the amazing things a woman’s body could do.

But little did I know that I was heading into a one-year weight plateau….

I started to play little mind tricks with myself, like, you’ve gotten this far, you can take days (or weeks) off of exercise. Or after an exhausting day of building my business, while giving enough attention to my family, I would “reward” myself by gorging on unhealthy, or ridiculous portions.

Every once and a while I would find my rhythm and work at getting a few more pounds off, but despite making “losing the last ten pounds” my number one goal, I would continue to self-sabotage.

Then, at around 17-months postpartum, I made the conscious decision to relax. I embraced my body again, and be proud at how far I had come. It was this amazing machine that had created my children, and if I wanted to wear a bikini, (or whatever outfit), I would, and feel good too!JGIU5754

While away on vacation, and taking some time off of worrying about my weight, it struck me, I was TOO focused on losing the weight. Losing those last ten pounds was completely mental.

It was from that point on that I made the decision to start focusing on other aspects of my life, and for once, NOT make losing weight my New Years resolution.

A month ago, I was chugging along, doing the mom thing, as well as constantly switching to my entrepreneur hat, when I realized that I was a little too relaxed. I was eating whatever I could grab out of convenience and watching the weight pile on.

I didn’t have time at the moment, with everything on my plate, to put extra effort into my meals, so my husband, Mike, suggested I go on Jenny Craig. His co-worker was having lots of success from the program, and he thought it would be the perfect fit.

So, I did! It was the perfect answer to my problem. I was still able to get on with my day, without obsessing about my weight, or worrying about cooking meals, (you purchase their frozen meals)  other than making salads.

I found myself effortlessly losing weight, while still focusing on my kids and my work. It has been so great, in fact, that Mike is doing jenny Craig too!

Current weight 129 lbs, total weight lost = 64 lbs.

Weight loss journey after four kids (including twins)

Looking back on my journey, I wouldn’t say there there was one specific thing that helped me drop the baby weight after my twins. I needed all of those different chapters to get to where I am. I especially needed those lulls, and breaks to get my head in the right space for the final stretch.

Weight loss after four kids Nesting Story

My journey is not over. I cannot wait to gain back the strength I lost, while creating my four children. I have to find a new sweet spot, that is my body after kids and I am sure that I will always be having to work against that little voice in my head that says go ahead, you deserve it after those particularly stressful days.

Fitness Nesting Story

This is my last week on Jenny Craig, and I am actually really excited about cooking my own meals, and applying what I have learned to everyday life. Don’t worry, I will be sharing all of that with you.

In the video below I am not only talking about my exciting weight loss, but I am also getting very real, showing you a close-up of my “twin skin” left over from my twin pregnancy.

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I Don’t Want My Pre-baby Body Back

pre to post baby body

“Did you get your pre-baby body back?” “No.” I answered honestly to a nervous, first time, pregnant mom. The truth is, given the chance, I don’t think I’d want my old body back.

For as long as I can remember, and way before becoming a mother, I struggled with my weight. I was painfully self-conscious, and I missed out on a lot of life because of my insecurities. I was always comparing myself to everyone around me, and never feeling good enough to relax into my own skin.

Throughout my teens and early twenties, I was so hard on myself and focused on every flaw. The littlest comment, or ill-fitting outfit irrationally discouraged me.

Even when I had finally reached my goal weight before having kids, I always felt like I wasn’t thin enough, toned enough, or sculpted enough.honeymoon

Becoming pregnant and having children slowly changed me. During my pregnancies, I felt like my body had a purpose. I accepted my new curves and was able to wrap my mind around losing the baby weight after each pregnancy.

But it wasn’t until my twin pregnancy, when I fully appreciated the violent and miraculous journey my body had been on.

The hip pain, swollen ankles, sore breasts…

first pregnancy

Braxton hicks contractions, stretching…

second pregnancy

Contractions, rib pain and so much more.

Twin pregnancy

During and after birth, my body was stretched, sliced, stitched and pulled apart.

after giving birth

This journey of creating, birthing and caring for life is really wild and brutal when you think about it. But I wouldn’t give all of that torture up for one second. My body endured and withstood and healed from all of that pain.

It created these four perfect humans.four kids

So, do I want my old body back? No, I don’t. Although I am on a new fitness journey to regain strength lost. My body worked really hard for those soft, doughy spots, those wider hips, those stretch marks and those scars.

Today, I am more confident than ever. I see my body’s purpose and know it’s power. I know that the war my body has been through is it’s own and can’t be compared to other bodies.

I have no intentions of erasing my journey, just rehabilitating the body that brought my kids into this world.

With toddler on beach

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Photo of my four kids: Sarah Martin Photography

The Mommy-tummy Movement

Postpartum body 1 - Joanna Venditti

Reflecting on this past year, I am realizing that it has been one of self-discovery. Never in a million years would I have been able to wrap mind mind around the wild year I have had. This includes being part of this exciting body-after-baby movement that has happened.

In some ways the hype has baffled me. Maybe that is just because I have always been an open book. But one thing I can say for sure, after being raw, open and honest with the world about my body’s journey, I find myself much more relaxed in my own skin.

Head to Yummy Mummy Club to read more about my thoughts on the postpartum body hype as well as my own body: Body After Baby: What’s All The Fuss About?