Jennifer Lopez. Drew Barrymore. Gywneth Paltrow. Reese Witherspoon. Hilary Duff. Heidi Klum. Victoria Beckham. Mariah Carey. Uma Thurman. Claire Danes. What does this diverse group of women have in common?

1. They are women.
2. They are celebrities.
3. They are mothers.
4. They have— usually without their permission— become subject of a tabloid culture’s “body after baby” obsession.

Triumphant headlines beckon us to “find out how she did it,” to learn “insider secrets” and “get into our best shape ever” in only three weeks or less after having a baby.

If you are a new mom, a formerly new mom, or contemplating becoming a mom someday, you may wonder how it is possible for celebrities to whip back into pre-pregnancy shape, seeming in the blink of an eye. Especially if your postpartum hormones are raging, these headlines can quickly and easily lead to feelings of disgust with your own “imperfect” body and despair over ever feeling sexy or attractive again. Instead of enjoying your new baby, you end up miserable. Chronic sleep deprivation and the round the clock demands of new motherhood can make matters seem very gloomy indeed.

The good news is, you can’t believe everything you read.

All new moms— celebrity or civilian— struggle to get back to “normal” physically after pregnancy. Many famous women, including those in our introductory game, have bravely and publicly acknowledged the difficulties of getting into new health and fitness routines after 9-plus months of constant physical change. This, combined with the new responsibilities involved in taking care of your little one, can, at times, feel overwhelming.

I’m here to tell you there is hope. And you don’t need celebrity trainers, dietitians, or a full time household staff.

Try this 4-Step Action Plan for getting body, mind, and spirit back on track after baby.

1. Develop a daily plan with small, achievable goals.
The demands of a new baby can be unpredictable. That said, planning is extremely helpful in reigning in the chaos. Try to establish a general template for each day that can shift slightly based on the needs of the moment. Naptime makes for a great time for stroller walks, fitness dvds at home, or healthy meal preparation. The goals you set can be as simple as: fit in 15 minutes of physical activity today, try a new healthy recipe, or take a shower. Notice that these goals are geared toward new actions not outcomes. Your desired outcomes (such as feeling stronger physically and mentally) will naturally flow from your new activities.

2. Set realistic expectations.
Your body did not change overnight and it will not return to normal immediately either. Research suggests that slow and steady weight loss is more sustainable and better for your mind, body, and baby than drastic weight loss attempts. Avoid any urges to crash diet. Based on my work with many, many clients, I can promise you, it will backfire.

3. Get dressed right now!
It can literally change your mind… and body. As much as you may feel tempted to stay in your sweats, maybe permanently, showering, putting on attractive (yet comfortable) clothes, and taking your hair out of the ponytail will help you feel more “together” and attractive. Notice how you make different choices when you feel attractive. You are more likely to make positive eating and activity choices and want to be romantic with your partner. This creates a cascade of positive feelings and experiences, literally changing your brain chemistry for the better. One positive step leads to another.

4. Bond with other moms.
Connecting with other women allows you to build a tremendous network of knowledge and support. Experience is a great teacher and other moms may be able to provide helpful tips in a number of areas—from nursing and feedings to sleep schedules and child care help. In addition, especially when your kids are pre-verbal, adult contact and companionship can give your spirits a much needed boost.

Inevitably, the topic of post-pregnancy bodies will come up. Avoid the temptation to get into body bashing conversations—these tend to lead new moms to feel hopeless rather than hopeful (even if it leads to bonding in the moment). Instead, try to surround yourself with supportive people and those willing to join you for stroller walks, playdates at the park, or other activities that will help you stay on track in body, mind, and spirit.

It is my hope that consistent practice of this 4 Step Action Plan will help you to better enjoy the beauty of motherhood, from the inside out. Join in The Conversation and let me know what you experience.

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