For most mothers, the job of mothering is one of the busiest they will ever experience.
Looking after baby is a priority, but what about looking after mother? Too often, busy mums can tend to put self-care, nutrition and exercise on the back burner.
"Busy mums", says author Fiona Thomas Hargraves, "need a plan". As an exercise scientist, nutritionist and mother of two, Fiona has just the plan, and in her new book Fit & Fabulous for Life after Babies, she outlines how to implement change and fit exercise and nutrition into a demanding schedule.
Who is the book for?
Mothers, mums-to-be, new mums and even not-so-new mums will all find strategies to get the body they want with the lifestyle they have. In fact the exercise and nutrition strategies are useful for any busy women. This book was written for real women in the real world.
Do you think many busy mums feel guilty about prioritising their needs?
Absolutely and unnecessarily yes! (This is precisely why 'martyr' means mother.)
But we shouldn't feel guilty as our health is too easily taken for granted and if we don't look after ourselves properly, we may not be able to care for anyone else.
In your opinion, how much achievement is in the planning?
Planning is paramount to achieving anything. You wouldn't go on a holiday or have a party without making plans.
'A goal without a plan is just a dream'. Unless you work out how you'll do something, you have very little chance of doing it at all.
I don't need to tell any busy mum that exercise and good nutrition do not just happen. You have to commit to doing something, make a plan for how and when you will do it and prioritise it.
How essential to self-esteem and confidence is exercise and good nutrition?
Exercise and proper nutrition have many benefits.
Intrinsic rewards such as achievement, feeling strong and empowered, and having an emotional and physical break from the challenges of parenting, all help our confidence in ourselves and our abilities.
But of course, the added benefits of getting into shape, feeling energetic, fitting into clothes you want to and wearing them proudly, do wonders for self-esteem. When you look great, you feel great, and exercise and good nutrition is without doubt the best beauty treatment available to all for a strong body, healthy skin and hair.
The best-laid plans can so easily be hijacked. What essential piece of advice would you give to any mum about motivation?
Don't rely on it!
Motivation is fleeting and too easily blamed for lack of commitment. Instead, rely on plans and action. Taking action motivates better than waiting to 'feel like' doing something, which may never happen to a busy, sleep-deprived mum.
So make it easy - put your walking shoes and pram next to the door, and when the time comes, just do it. Don't think about it, don't debate it. If you have already decided this is what you want to do, then just do it.
Can the exercises in your book be done at home with minimal outlay or equipment?
Yes, all the exercises to get back into shape in the first 9-12 months after a baby are easy to do at home without any equipment, just body weight.
But I do have a chapter for exercises with basic equipment to challenge the body and really take women to the next level when they're ready. The equipment is also easy to use at home, inexpensive and often already in most garages or found for a bargain in garage sales or online auctions.
How important are back up plans for when you're having one of those days?
Essential. I call it Plan B and it's what happens most of the time with a new baby and unpredictable schedule. (And it is important to listen to your body and get adequate rest when you need it.)
Plan A is your ideal, but be prepared to carry out Plan B, as it's certainly better than forgetting about it entirely just because you have an off day, week or month.
Skipping exercise sessions or eating take-away is fine when you need to do it. As long as it's not what you do most of the time, then you will still move toward your goals. Maybe not as quickly as you’d like, but it still works and is still worth it.
Think of it as achieving goals in smaller steps, or three forward and one or two back. And this is actually a more sustainable and realistic strategy for long-term success when you have young children.
Staying on track to achieve a goal is never easy. What five tips would you suggest?
Fit & Fabulous for Life After Babies is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $35.00 (paperback)
KidsLife Disclaimer: At any stage before, during or after pregnancy, it is advisable to consult a physician before undertaking any type of exercise regime or implementing significant changes to diet.