Why all mums should eat cake (and exercise)

Hands up who hasn’t looked at their post-baby body at some point and wanted to weep? As much as we love our children, it can take months and even years to recover our pre-pregnancy figure (if we ever do!).

So what’s the answer? Live on lettuce and jog 15 miles a day to rid ourselves of our maternal curves? Apparently not. According to freelance journalist and mum of two Samantha Downes, the answer to getting a body we’re happy with lies in eating cake.

I look pretty good for a mum of two

It happened again to me today. I was in a newsagent’s purchasing my guilty pleasure – some monthly glossy magazines (all in the pretence of doing research for my freelance pitches of course).

I went to purchase the magazines but couldn’t find the £10 note I’d thought I had stashed in the side pocket of my wallet.

As I scrabbled around frantically for some money I tried to buy time with the man behind the counter, and the queue behind me. Quite loudly I said: “I’ve got two children. And my brain is trying to do too much this morning!”

As I walked out of the shop, magazines firmly in hand, the woman who had been behind me (with change at the ready apparently) stopped me. “Can I just say,” she said looking at me earnestly, “for someone with two children you look amazing.”

This is not the first time I have been complimented by a total stranger. When I mention my children (which is often – except in the office, obviously) a look of surprise and sometimes shock comes over the shop/bank/train ticket assistant or whomever I’m speaking to.

Now can I just add that I do not look amazing. I’m not super tall, super slim or even a great beauty. I’m a 5ft 7, size 10 lady (with curves) and it’s a very good day when I manage to blow dry or even comb my hair.

My secret weapon is exercise

My secret weapon is not being slim or even looking that young, it is exercise. Being active, properly active, enables me to cope with almost anything. And I guess that must show in how I live my life.

Exercise means I can accept my wobbly bum and legs (unless you exercise obsessively – 2/3 hours a day every day or live on a sub 1,500 calories a day diet you will have bits that wobble – sorry). I also know that I’m making a positive choice about my health. As a working (paid) mum I owe it to my family too. When you exercise you make healthier decisions, like drinking more water.

One of the saddest things I’ve heard in the last few months (with the exception of Palestine and Ukraine and Syria) was a breasfeeding mum saying she ‘didn’t need the calories’ of a birthday cake being passed round.

Seven tips to help you feel good

So if you’re struggling with your body image, or feel miserable in your battle to balance sanity/energy levels with getting back to your pre-baby figure, here are my seven tips to help you feel good about yourself.

  1. Don’t diet, and by this I mean count calories as it will age you. Your body has been through childbirth and not only are you a mum you are a paid working one too. Food is your friend, and the odd bit of cake is good for your soul.
  2. Get some exercise – the kind of aerobic stuff that makes you sweat a bit, 30-45 minutes 3 times a week (in your lunch hour). It will trim and tone you, and more importantly give you some head space – but find something you enjoy.
  3. Have at least five fail-safe dresses in your wardrobe you can slip on in the morning (the more Lycra in them the better).
  4. Have emergency smart shoes and outfits at work, just in case.
  5. Treat yourself to a decent cut and colour and go for something flattering like highlights or lowlights. You won’t end up with obvious roots (all-over colour is not only a bit passe, it’s also high maintenance).
  6. Wear trainers when you’re not in the office, that way you can run everywhere!
  7. Have a supportive partner. My husband met me when I was two stone heavier (I’m slim but I’d been on hormone treatment that in the end didn’t prove necessary) and I know he loves me whatever size I am. On bad days – this is a good thing!

Feel happy and you’ll look great

While maintaining a healthy figure is certainly important, it’s just as essential that you are happy with your lifestyle. If you’re starving yourself and forcing your body through an exercise regime you loathe, you may be thin but you’ll be miserable too. And that’s neither healthy nor attractive.

Finding a balance between a diet that works for you and physical activity you enjoy is the secret to looking – and feeling – great. And let’s face it, if you have a lovely, beaming grin, the chances are no one will notice your thighs anyway!

Samantha Downes is a freelance journalist and the author of several finance guides and books.