I came across an article via a tweet from the CRGH today that was featured on the BBC website back in July. It interested me for a couple of reasons – firstly, I find it odd that this project (A Beautiful Body Project) even needed to exist in the first place. Secondly, after thinking about it, and as the article points out, whenever we see or hear an article or discussion in the media about women’s bodies after they’ve given birth it’s invariably a critique of some celebrity or another and how they’ve magically ‘pinged’ back into shape in record time … or not. For instance, all the hoo-ha about the Duchess of Cambridge’s completely normal ‘baby belly’ recently – what was that all about? Surely people can’t be that averse to seeing what nature intended? We don’t all have the irrational urge to hit the gym, get abs of steel and fit back in to the clothes we wore months or years earlier – or at least we shouldn’t. There’s no disputing that for the most part many women probably do feel that way though, but why exactly does that pressure exist, and who does it come from?
According to the photographer and founder of the project, Jade Beall, 95% of women will not see themselves reflected in mainstream media. I find that a rather worrying and disturbing path to be following – I think it sets an unrealistic and unattainable expectation for both our daughters and sons, of what a woman’s body is supposed to look like after it’s given birth. In the West, particularly, we place so much emphasis on external beauty and that it must be preserved for as long as possible and it makes me wonder whether that can ever be reversed. If only we could look further than the superficial and stop judging each other in such a simplistic way. How on earth have we got to this point, and why can’t we be more accepting? In today’s crazily obsessed world of ‘body perfection’ how do you feel about yours?
So I’ve been out for one of my regular runs again this morning – slight breeze, not too hot but blue sky and sun peeking through the clouds – it got me to thinking about the benefits of staying active whilst going through fertility treatment. I didn’t actually exercise much myself during my treatment as I found I over-analysed pretty much everything I did, but I do wish I’d done more. Not after transfer, but definitely before. Whilst running is considered too high-impact during treatment, I absolutely love it now and did miss it for the several years that I decided to take things a bit easier on myself during my IVF cycles. It gives you time to just ‘be’; no-one else to worry about, just you alone with your thoughts, even if you do have your favourite music blaring in your ears! I find it clears the mind of ‘cobwebs’ and that you’re able to temporarily forget any problems – alternatively, you suddenly come up with possible solutions. I’m not sure if it’s the fresh air or what, but being surrounded by nature and feeling slightly out of breath does wonders for my state of mind, not to mention the endorphin rush. For me, exercising outside is the perfect form of relaxation.
During treatment though, I think it’s definitely best to keep it low-impact – going for long walks or swimming three or four times a week for instance is great. There was an interesting research study by Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston IVF and Reproductive Science Center of Boston in 2006, that concluded women who exercised four hours or more per week for 1 to 9 years before a treatment cycle were 40% less likely to have a live birth! You can read about it here: Obstetrics & Gynecology October 2006. So it does seem that too much activity can actually be detrimental.
Let me know what your thoughts are on being active during such a stressful time – what’s worked for you, and what sort of things do you like to do to relax?