Here in Toronto, the start of August signals the imminent end to our too-short summer season. Almost every year around this time, I come to one clear revelation:
I didn't get my summer body as "on point" as I wanted it to be.
And almost every year around this time, I make another promise:
Next year, I swear I'll do better.
Photograph by Getty Images
In the weeks and months leading up to the short-shorts, swimsuits, and other skin-baring attire of summer, magazines, blogs, and daytime television sound the alarm and let us know it's time to get our bodies ready. Gym advertisements get a shot in the arm by motivating us to get off the couch and onto the treadmill, where our bikini bods await us.
We might start taking extra-long looks at ourselves naked and fresh out of the shower, with reactions vacillating between quiet acceptance and sheer terror.
When you're a new mom, these messages and moments of self-analysis can feel even more amplified. I've hit that magical one-year marker post-baby, and somehow a voice has crept into my subconscious to tell me that my time of excuses and slacking has expired. "Blaming the baby" doesn't seem to stick as much as it used to, so what now?
Full disclosure: I always say my daughter treated me kindly, because I do look pretty good post-baby. Fuller disclosure, though? As a perpetually slim girl in a family full of curvy women, I adored the extra weight that filled out my frame after having my daughter. I finally felt womanly.
For a while, the heady excitement of what my body was able to accomplish totally eclipsed any concerns I had over what I looked like. Once that started to fade, I was left to navigate this jumble of body parts that suddenly belonged to me again. I gave myself time to heal after delivery, to adjust to breastfeeding, and to weather postpartum depression, all the while admiring my new physique.
Once I stopped breastfeeding, I watched my thighs, boobs and butt slim back down, and mourned it all. I went back to work, settled into a cycle of work stress and repeat illnesses, and nothing was the same.
My awesome (and futile) plan to only lose the baby belly and keep everything else dissipated, and I settled into a place of complacency that has generally found me doing very little to improve my health.
This has been a summer of fluctuating bra sizes and waistline measurements, of attempting to stick to eating plans, and sorely failing at marathon trainings. I've had spurts of brilliance (keeping up with Couch to 5K longer than expected) and stretches of putting family, work, and everyone else first.
These inconsistencies and lack of self-prioritization led me to once again admit that my body isn't quite where I want it to be, and to once again promise that next year will be better.
But then I had a new revelation: Why wait until next year?
Screw the magazines, the daytime talk show segments and the gym ads. There are health changes I want to make for myself, and every day this voice urges me to startnow.
My keys to success will be in making manageable goals, staying consistent, and being patient. Even before the baby, my desire for health changes came hard and fast and burned out the same way. I need something I can manage. I need something I can maintain.
And I need to tell myself that baby steps are okay.
I can commit to eating breakfast every day. I can commit to doing at least 15 minutes a day of dedicated physical activity. I can commit to snagging some new undergarments and clothes that fit me properly so that even when I don't feel good, I can look good. I will try to commit to the act of patience (this will be the hardest part), having faith in the fact that every small step leads to a bigger gain.
When I imagine myself next summer, I see myself feeling strong, sexy, and energetic -- hopefully with a bit less belly and a bit more booty. In order to get there, I need to start here: committing to this new lifestyle of health.
That's the trick, I've learned: once you incorporate wellness into your everyday, the calendar doesn't matter as much anymore. Those panic-inducing seasonal calls to action thrusted our way lose some of their paunch. There's no more stress leading up to summer, and no shrugs of, "There's always next year," at the end of it.
My family deserves a happy, healthy me. Shoot -- I deserve a happy, healthy me.
It feels great to make this commitment to myself. Today is the first day of the rest of my life, and if all goes according to plan, the rest of my life will be looking and feeling pretty damn good.