A few months ago, I wrote about the BS that is the “bounce back” culture moms live with currently. You can read it here if you haven’t already! While I am a firm believer no mom should ever feel the pressure to look a certain way, I also realize the power of making healthy choices and how those healthy choices help us feel our best. As an exercise physiologist, I am passionate about moving your body to feel good, fueling yourself with healthy food, and practicing other healthy habits.
This post will be the first in a series I’m calling “Bounce Back Better.” In later posts you can read about managing stress, exercise, and healthy eating, but above all, it is my hope that you’ll learn to love yourself through all the different seasons of life motherhood brings your way. Bouncing back better doesn’t mean hitting a number on the scale, or crushing new records with your fitness. Bouncing back better means embracing motherhood and your new-self fully, feeling healthy and making choices that fill your cup so you can care for the little one you brought into the world.
Setting the Stage- Your Best Self
I want you take some time to think about your goals. I mean REALLY think about them. Meeting goals is so much more than picking something that sounds good and hoping that one day you’ll get there. Being a mom is hard and is busy, and for something to stick it needs to be important. It’s also okay if your goals have changed since becoming a mom. I will fully admit that my goals have shifted in the last 18 months, and that’s okay!
Think about where you’d like to be in the next five or ten years. What does that person feel like, look like, and enjoy doing? Who are you with? Where do you live? Think about all the small details. Take a few moments to drum up this person in your head and write it down.
Great! Now that you have an idea of where you are going it’s time to plan how to get there.
Angela Duckworth uses a “goal hierarchy” as a way of mapping out how to accomplish long-term goals. It’s a model I feel passionately about and helps to break up overwhelming large goals into smaller more achievable steps.
In her model there is a top-level goal (or two), mid-level goals and some low-level goals. The key to this model working is that all the lower goals should feed into the higher goals. The lowest level goals are the day-to-day routines and habits. For example, if my top-level goal is to improve mental health by being less busy and spending more time with my family, my low-level goals could look like keeping my calendar up to date, working off a daily to do list, being done with work at 4:30pm and a daily ten-minute walk.
If a low goal isn’t helping you get closer to person you just described, it’s time to let that go. Another example: If your top goal is to be a happier and more positive person but your low goals include a weekly wine night with friends that are constantly dragging you down, it’s time to reevaluate how you spend that time. Time is a limited resource, and as moms we must carefully think about how we spend it. Saying yes to one thing means saying no to another. What sorts of smaller habits will help you build to the person you want to be? What things to do need to say no to, to get a little closer to your best self? Take some time to think about it and write them down.
Finding a way to track your progress towards the goals you just wrote down is crucial. Tracking is a great way to check your progress and make informed decisions about what is and is not working for you. There are so many ways to track, and the key is to find something you’ll stick with. For me, tracking is a simple paper planner that I write down my goals for the days and the week. A simple check mark lets me know I’ve completed the tasks and it’s easy to look back on.
Find Your Tribe
Finding people to support you during the journey to your best self is so important. Having people in your life to talk to and who support you improves mental and physical health. In the past, people tended to live geographically close to family and friends and for many people this may not be the case. Social support can mean so much more than family or close friends. Social support can look like a religious group, supportive coworkers, or even a volunteer group. Being a mom is hard work and nobody quite understands it like other moms do, so think about finding at least one other mom you can loop into your goals who can help support you along the way.
Thanks for reading part 1 of this series. Next up I’ll be writing about mental health and stress management for moms!
Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance.
Melody Powers Noland (1989) The Effects of Self-Monitoring and Reinforcement on Exercise Adherence, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 60:3, 216-224, DOI: 10.1080/02701367.1989.10607443
Ozbay F, Johnson DC, Dimoulas E, Morgan CA, Charney D, Southwick S. Social support and resilience to stress: from neurobiology to clinical practice. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2007 May;4(5):35-40. PMID: 20806028; PMCID: PMC2921311.