Last week I sat down (on the phone) with Natalie Bodenhamer, the woman behind hello day blog. I’ve followed her blog and Instagram for a while and really enjoy the positive, yet real, tone she sets. Talking with Natalie was a blast and she was patient with me as I peppered her with questions about how she stays fit and healthy as a mom.
Devin Pope: Athletics and exercise doesn’t really seem to pop up out of nowhere. What’s your background? Did you play sports in high school or college?
Natalie Bodenhamer: I played team sports two times in my life. Once I was in kindergarten, which doesn’t count, and I was horrible and uninterested. And then the second time, my sophomore year in high school, I thought it would be fun to play water polo so I did that for a season. And that was the extent of it for organized sports, which is such a regret for me because I’ve realized how much I enjoy activity and doing it with other people.
I’ll try to give you a brief nutshell here. I’ve always been very conscious about food and exercise, mainly rooted in some unhealthy habits that I developed when I was young. So it’s always been something that’s been on my radar but it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I actually started developing a healthy rhythm in diet and exercise. It’s almost come from a recovery standpoint that I enjoy fitness and healthy eating now because it really is coming into the light over the past 10 years or so. I’m coming into it in a way where where I enjoy it, not where I’m a slave to it.
Devin: Like it wasn’t a burden anymore?
Natalie: Yes, exactly. So, something that is really life giving rather than sucking the life out of me because I was obsessed with it.
And motherhood definitely highlighted more for me the fact that I enjoy it. As a mother you can attest to the fact that we only have so much time, and we only have so much free time, or barely have free time, and so it forced me to look at my days and think, “Okay, what’s going to give me the biggest bang for my buck?” as far as making me feel like a healthy individual, giving me a healthy mindset. If i have forty-five minutes free, am I going to get a pedi or am I going to go for a run? It kind of forces you into this conundrum of asking “What do I value most?” and it really helped me solidify the fact that exercise, in particular, is a very rejuvenating, energizing, enjoyable thing for me so that’s my first go-to if i have any free time on my own, and then definitely something I integrate with my kids.
And as far as motherhood and pregnancy in the diet realm of things, I became much more conscious of having a balanced and healthy way of eating so that I don’t fall off the bandwagon.
Devin: Like how to keep it consistent because it’s not just me I’m feeding anymore.
Natalie: Right, whether you’re growing them in your body or feeding them also, it was like, okay, this has to work for me and my kids and my husband because I’m not cooking more than one thing. So motherhood was a huge part of the evolution of why fitness has become a pretty big deal for me. It helped me realize that this is a non-negotiable for me, it’s something I have to integrate for my own self. Not to mention what I think it does for the rest of my family, and the example we’re setting for our kids.
Devin: I completely agree with what you’re saying about motherhood bringing a whole new level of clarity… it’s made me more disciplined for sure. What advice do you have for when you can’t work out by yourself?
Natalie: I would preface everything by saying I have to always remember my reason why because sometimes it’s a big pain in the ass and it would be a lot easier to just go to the park, or whatever the alternative. Often it takes some dedication to realize I have to get this done right now, even if that means I have to work out with my kids or bring them to the gym. You’ll inevitably run into those pitfalls of “Ugh, I’d really rather not do this right now.” So my number one piece of advice, for both myself and anyone else, is to really have your reason why, your motivating factor – that’s a healthy motivator, not a unhealthy motivator. A healthy motivator is something that will also give life to your mind, body and spirit, not just “I want a thigh gap.” It helps keep the eye on the prize! For example, my motivator is that I want to always be fit and know that this isn’t a wagon I’m going to fall off of. I know how I feel when I’m comfortable in my own skin, and I know what it’s like to be uncomfortable, so my motivator is I always want to be comfortable in my own skin. So even in those moments when my kids are throwing a tantrum about getting into the stroller but I have five miles to run, I just have to remember this is part of something bigger for me, this is part of a lifestyle of me being a very comfortable and physically capable person, and that for me is really important.
Devin: After being pregnant and giving birth, I had a hard time getting back to being comfortable in my skin. I had to be so gentle with myself to make sure I didn’t slip into negative thoughts about my body…. or to at least not let them rule me. Do you have any thoughts or advice on how to be mentally healthy on this issue?
Natalie: I have a lot of thoughts on that because it’s something I struggle with and it’s something I think I’ve come a long way with also. It’s so hard because I think those feelings are valid, I’ve had those feelings. And in and of themselves, it’s not bad to realize, “Man, I have more weight than I’m comfortable with,” especially after having your baby or even during pregnancy, that’s a whole other struggle too. But you can’t just have the discontentment with your body feed your life and motivate your life because you’ll be coming from a place of negativity and that is something very unhealthy. Rather, be motivated by something that is life giving and good for your entire being – your kids, your mind and spirit, your husband, your partner – whatever. I think that’s a big challenge and I wish I had an answer to it.
Devin: It’s one of those wicked problems…
Natalie: It’s tough. For me I found a lot of freedom from trying to let go of the competition and the competitive aspect of what other women look like and what, therefore, I ought to look like. That’s something that I think has turned out to be pretty helpful to me because once I can let go of what I should or ought to look like, then I can really start being honest with myself about what I really think about my body, independently. Like, my thighs look this way – how do I really feel about them? Because I might not hate them. They might not look like the thighs of someone who’s in tip top shape, but I also might not hate them. And what do they actually do for me? It’s this conversation that I have with myself often but then also with a core group of girlfriends. We talk about it: We are each others allies, we are not competitors. We share strengths and where one person doesn’t have a strength, we find it in another person. How we look is something we process together too. Our head to toe: What are we comfortable, or uncomfortable with? It could be anything from when you’re lactating and your boobs are huge to cellulite on your buns… Sorry, I feel like I’m not answering this question…
Devin: It’s hard! I think there’s never really going to be a cut and clear answer. You mentioned a core group of friends…I’m new to an area and don’t quite have a group like that. How do you develop those friendships?
Natalie: So since I moved a few months ago I have some new input on this. If you had asked me a few months ago I’d just have said, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know I’m just blessed with these amazing friends.” It almost felt like I didn’t have to make them, we just gelled together and it was easy. It took some vulnerability to take it to that next level to be super raw and honest with each other, but as far as finding them I felt like just the luckiest person in the world. But now coming to a new community, coming to portland where it’s up to me to make these new friends and to really try and seek out friendships, it’s different. I haven’t lost my old friends, but finding local friends is important. I’ve found in the short three-and-a-half months we’ve been here that vulnerability is often reciprocated. And I’ve really challenged myself, when I meet someone, to ask, “What kind of tone do I want to set myself?” and “What would I like to see from this other person?” There’s a girl, for example, that I met through social media, she has a blog and I have a blog, and we’ve never met in person. She recently moved to Portland from the Bay Area and all I know of her is that she’s an ultra marathoner, so she runs 100 mile races, and she’s a yoga instructor and super fit. She contacts me and says, “Hey let’s meet up for a run.” And honestly my first thought is “Okay, I’m going to have my baby jogger with me because I run with my kids and she had recently run 90 miles –
Devin: That’s so intimidating….
Natalie: It is intimidating! But I decided that I didn’t have much to lose, and I need to develop this community. I have to look at it from a standpoint of “What can I offer to this situation?” to set the tone for what I’d love to receive. So when we met up, we hugged and I said, “I have to admit to you, I have a BOB stroller with really deflated wheels so it already feels really hard, you just ran ninety miles like it was no big thing and now we’re running together and we’re supposed to chat while we do this.” I just put it on the table and was like, hey, this is pretty intimidating for me and then it somehow gives me the permission to relax. I don’t have to pretend that I’m overly confident. I can just tell her that and then relax in the fact that I’m trusting she’s a cool person and will appreciate that vulnerability and reciprocate. So I think that knowing what you’re looking for is important. I know what i’m looking for in new friendships up here and it’s definitely not something inauthentic or showy. I definitely don’t want to show that myself, and if I see that then I just choose to not really engage, or not hang out again or not run with that person. We are in charge of the tone that we set for those relationships, and within boundaries I think being authentic and sharing what’s really going on in our minds, or our hearts even, goes far. It does for me. I know everyone is different, but when looking for friendships that’s something that really has struck a chord with me.
Devin: Why waste time with superficiality? If you’re looking for good friendships, you don’t want that there.
Natalie: It just turns on the dial of, “Oh okay, I see what’s really going on: we’re competing.” It’s uncomfortable.