My Post-Pandemic, Body Positive Gift to Myself

Summer 2021 starts this month, and it feels like expectations are shooting through the roof. As we emerge into a more normal world, the hype feels endless around travel, socializing and making up for all we missed in the last year. It might be my tailored inbox, but I’ve been reading a lot of wise articles around not missing the lessons, individually and collectively, of pandemic life {prioritizing self-care being one of those high-yield lessons for sure!}. And yet, I am also seeing folks talking about the need to “get back in shape”, to “catch up”, “lose COVID pounds” and achieve that dream “summer bod”. Living in hot, humid Houston, and shortly taking our first no-kids, adults-only beach trip since parenthood,  I’m not going to lie:: I’ve been inspecting my own body a little extra these past few weeks…and not always loving what I’m seeing. I worry I’m not the only one.

My Post-Pandemic, Body Positive Gift to MyselfThese thoughts had been sort of simmering in the lead-up to our upcoming travel. I’ve recently resumed some high-intensity studio workouts, but have also been eating out more than most of last year {I think home cooking did wonders for keeping my body stable despite less structured exercise…one of my personal pandemic lessons that I really want to keep front of mind}. But it all came to a head last week. My toddler was down sick with the most recent 1-2 daycare sucker punch of respiratory and then GI illnesses, and needed some soothing. Deciding to take her and the pup on a walk, I strapped her into her carrier, inward-facing. I rarely have her in this position of late because she’s an avid observer of the world, and loves sitting forward-facing and narrating our walks with every bird, squirrel, truck, airplane and doggie that she sees.

Tired and fussy, she cocooned herself against my body, her mop of curls resting on my chest, her sweet fingers gently reaching for a handhold on my midsection. I breathed her smell in, reminiscing about her baby days when her much smaller self would be wrapped around me in this same fashion, and simultaneously wondered morosely:: at what age would it be that she might reach for this part of my body and announce innocently that it was so soft, so unlike her dad’s super-trim abs.  I remembered one of my former supervising physicians telling me an anecdote about how her daughter had suddenly pronounced that she was definitely a size small, but her {very fit} mama {a gynecologic oncologist and bad-ass surgeon} was a size medium. Would that happen to us, how would I handle it, and is there any chance body positivity will be the cultural narrative of the day by then, so she never thinks to assess another woman’s body in this way?

I don’t have the answers, in the slightest. But I did have a few thoughts that I hope can bring some solace to anyone harboring similar conflicts.

Gratitude is a balm for my insecurities::

Though I very much believe it’s important to treat your body right, part of that is giving yourself grace for surviving pandemic motherhood, whatever that might have looked like for you. The first year of my daughter’s life is so sharply delineated into the before and after times, and the after was a lot harder on me. But resting a few inches beneath her hands on that walk is the uterus that grew her, her head nestled on the source of the milk that sustained her for nearly a year. One of the things my infertility patients struggle with most is the sense of betrayal at one’s body when it seems it won’t cooperate with what these organs evolved to do. This emotion has made sense to me rationally ever since I started training in reproductive medicine, but since motherhood, I feel their loss more acutely. I will always be grateful for what my body has given me in the form of this child, even when lately it seems she is constantly sick and cranky!

Achieving a healthy body is a marathon, not a sprint

Not gonna lie, I used to juice cleanse a few times a year back in the mid-2010s. Around our wedding, prior to big trips, etc., it was a quick solution to dropping some of the bloat resulting from my poor eating choices. When I looked into doing a juice cleanse this month, Google smacked me upside the head with this article headline:: Why No One Does Juice Cleanses Anymore. The point was simple:: the sugar content in these cleanses is often astronomical, the results short-lived, and the ever-growing wellness industry would like us all to remember that *health*, not a temporary de-bloat, should be our goal. What has taken the place of juice cleanses? Basically, eating better. Sigh. I picked up a board certification in Lifestyle Medicine last year, and this 5 minutes of internet research felt too on the nose. I should know, and be, better than this. I try to help my patients achieve a healthy, sustainable lifestyle, and here I was, trying to game the system myself. 

So. I’ll look however I look on this trip, my daughter has yet to figure out that mama sometimes resents how she looks, and my much-more-disciplined husband is an active supporter of whatever healthier lifestyle choices I make. Whatever my meandering thoughts about body image and body positivity have been these past few weeks, I am choosing to look forward with the notion that if I continually nourish my body in better and better ways, if I give it the right nutrients, exercise and a peaceful mind, I will be at my goal. No number on the scale, no dress size, no one to impress, that’s it. Simple, right? That’s my post-pandemic, summer body, body positive gift to myself. I hope in this strange time of transition that each of you can find something similar for yourself.


 

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Rashmi Kudesia, MD MSc is a board-certified OB/GYN and Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility specialist who is passionate about improving women's access to evidence-based, honest reproductive health information and care. Aside from her clinical practice seeing patients in Houston and Sugar Land, Rashmi frequently speaks at conferences and community events, and advocates for women's health via media interviews and social media. Originally a Midwesterner, she moved around the East Coast for school and training, including nearly a decade in NYC, where she met her husband, Ashish, a Houston native. After moving to Houston in 2018, she's continued searching for that perfect work-life balance as the family grew quickly, adding their first pup, Bowser {2018}, their first home, and now their first kiddo, Amara {2019}! Right now, she's learning the ropes of being a working mama, but still loves exploring Houston's amazing food scene, checking out the newest museum exhibits, or planning the family's next trip. She's always on the hunt for the city's best iced latte or glass of wine to be savored with a good book. Find her on Facebook and Instagram {@rkudesia}.

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