Mommy Makeover: How I Whipped My Sorry Ass Into Shape

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As a new mom I got pretty tired of those folks who were always telling me to find time for myself. I found plenty of time for myself, and I spent it in bed. Or in front of a box set of The Office. Or both. There was no time for spirituality, for exercise, for a haircut or any sort of self-improvement. No time that I wouldn’t have rather been in bed watching one of my box sets. And so I remained flabby and split-ended, but rather well versed in the fictional romantic lives of actors contracted to NBC. (Ask me anything.)

That was 2007. When I woke up in January 2011 with yet another child in yet another bed scattered with DVD cases (this time in China, where box sets cost a few dollars on the black market, so I had lots), I hit a new low: lower than the lows I tend to hit, by habit, pretty much weekly. Despite – or perhaps due to? – the thriving relationship I had with my bed, I was tired. Tired of feeling like a victim, tired of fielding questions about my so-called “third pregnancy” (there was never a third pregnancy, though my belly told a different story), tired of stressing about what the cleaner thought of me when she came to clean my embarrassingly unkempt home.

So I did something about it. And you can too. This is how.

1. When my husband was out of town and I had nobody to complain to about the many ailments that were providing excuses for my idleness, I listed them on a piece of paper. In list form, long as that list was, all those niggling things seemed easier to manage. I booked appointments with dentists, dermatologists, allergists and other unnameable specialists, spent some time at the drug store and addressed it all. Now I have to spend longer than my maximum three minutes in the bathroom each morning, but I no longer feel like my body has given up at the tender age of 30-something (plus 1).

2. I got a decent haircut. This is not easy when you’re a curly-haired Jewish woman living in China, which is why my hair was wigging out from a year’s worth of split ends. I managed to track down an Italian stylist (the Italians know big hair), lectured him about what not to do (i.e., repeat the evil of my previous stylist) and let him loose. I was not disappointed. Now my friends can actually tell I have hair, and not just a matted bun that looked as if it had been shorn off a Deadhead.

3. Exercise. Had I seen the inside of a gym since my twenties? No. But one unseasonably warm day I was finally compelled to put on my old Nikes and jog around the block. When I learned my iPod had the battery life of a 90-year-old Dustbuster, I hit the gym. It had HBO. I might as well have been in bed. I remembered that Woody Allen quote: something about 90 percent of life being about just showing up. So I did. I started small – a half hour of stop-start running – and soon a day wasn’t complete without an hour on the treadmill in front of Boardwalk Empire. Mind you, many days still go uncompleted, but I give it a shot.

4. I finally addressed my eating disorder, the one where I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, which was often processed, fried or candy-coated. I started by cutting out the obvious things, then sweet granola (my all-day go-to); unnecessary dairy; dessert; and snacks. I started eating an apple a day (they’re really very filling). I still break down and inhale an entire bag of Goldfish from time to time. But I’m telling myself that’s okay. At least it’s not a can of Pringles. And at least it’s not twice a day.

5. When I started feeling a bit better about my tummy, or at least taking some control over it, I went shopping. I managed to restrain myself from buying “motivational clothing” – pieces that are intentionally snug but may not be once the new diet and exercise routine take hold. Rather I splurged on things that concealed my tummy, gave me some wiggle room yet suited my still-suffering shape. I wanted to look and feel good all the time, not just when I was sucking in my tummy. That seems to have had a knock-on effect. For one thing, I no longer see my mother when I catch a glimpse of myself in a storefront.

Now that I’ve said all that, I can tell you without shame that I am writing this from my sick bed, where I’ve been hanging out playing computer Scrabble for nigh on 72 hours. But there’s a difference between this marathon and the one that lasted four years of my life. Today I’m not feeling sorry for myself, not blaming my fam for my flab, not wondering: What the f*** just happened? It pleases me to know this is just a temporary setback. I don’t have to feel fabulous all the time, but it helps to know there’s a window for “fabulous” in my future.