04/27/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

I (Heart) Me

A few months ago I posted about my frustrations at not being able to lose the last of my baby weight. That lead me, in a circuitous way, to read the book, Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat? which gave me the self-confidence I so desperately needed to come to grips with my "post-baby body."

Because this happened just before the Holidays, I gave myself leniency to interpret "coming to grips with my body" as "have that third slice of red velvet cake and fourteenth glass of wine and then not exercise again, ever."

The result of all this slackerdom and gluttony was that on the evening of my birthday two weeks ago, as I prepared myself to look like the dazzling and superhot MILF my husband thinks I am, none of my clothes fit me. Not even my fat clothes. Only my size "Donuts for breakfast, again?" jeans managed to successfully introduce button to button-hole around my waist, and I had to wear my baggiest sweater to cover up the muffin top that felt it was perfectly reasonable to poke itself out and party with us on my birthday.

This was not OK with me.

There is a difference - a big difference - between accepting one's post-baby body, and letting oneself go. I think that even the most body-positive, hardcore feminists would have to agree that even a little bit of exercise is good for mind, body, and soul, while half a jar of Nutella as an afternoon "snack" is not.

The thing is, it's hard. Any mom will tell you that it's tough trying to find a)the time, and b)the energy to work out. Sadly, chasing my son, the Juban Princeling, around the apartment for 15 minutes and then holding him down with my knees so I can get his mittens on him before forcibly bending him at the waist by poking him in his belly so I can strap him, fighting and kicking while wearing hard, heavy boots, into his stroller, does not count as my exercise for the day. It should. But it doesn't.

The way I saw it, before setting about with the technicalities of the how and when to exercise and lose weight, I should first reset my goals. I stopped weighing myself and decided that I would not measure my progress by the number on the scale or the tag on my jeans. I even sold my skinny jeans on eBay just to get them out of my sight. Instead, I told my husband, I would focus on heart heath. Heart disease, we're constantly told, is the #1 killer of women, so shifting my focus from my ass to my heart would help me get healthy without making me feel like an abject failure if I didn't shed an arbitrary number of pounds by an arbitrary certain deadline. I made a chart to start monitoring my weekly resting heart rate, with the goal that after several weeks of semi-regular exercise and eating better, that number should go down.

Second, I started reading labels. I was disgusted to find how much unhealthy crap is in seemingly harmless food. Canned vegetables have salt added! Dried fruit has sugar added! As the kids say these days, WTF? While we as a family can't afford to go all-out 100% organic and 100% salt- and sugar-free, we have cut down significantly on how much of those things we consume, especially on sugar substitutes like high fructose corn syrup. And all we have to do is read labels and make smarter decisions.

Third, we joined the YMCA. There is a big main location in our neighborhood six blocks away, and a new additional sports complex just down the street one block from us. Thanks to the Freelancers Union we got 20% off so that all three of us - me, my husband, and the Princeling - can go whenever we want to either location. The Princeling loves it because we go to a lot of "Run! Run free, little ones!" style sessions, and my husband and I love it because members get up to six hours of free on-site babysitting per week. The Princeling, already a veteran of part-time daycare, loves it. The first time I went to pick him up from the babysitting room he didn't even notice I had shown up, and then flung himself from my clutches so I couldn't drag him away from his new friends and toys.

So there, problem solved. I have on-site hourly daycare for the Princeling while I lip-synch and shake my hips on the elliptical machines upstairs (if I can't have fun then I'm not going to do it) and practice, in my head, my routines for when I'm on Dancing With the Stars some day. My family is eating healthier, we're all getting exercise, and my samba routine is coming along quite nicely, thank you.

Mer's Exercise Playlist - Because Yes, You Are Curious
*"Common People" by Pulp (best warm-up song ever, because it's gradual. Also my future tango song.)
*"Viva la Vida" by Coldplay (possible paso double song?)
*"I Gotta Feeling" by The Black Eyed Peas
*"Mr. Brightside" by The Killers
*"I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" by Scissor Sisters
*"Deceptacon" by Le Tigre (true story: I had this song played at our wedding reception, because despite it's obscene lyrics it's mostly unintelligible at very loud decibels)
*"Time to Pretend" by MGMT
*"Bad Romance" by Lady GaGa
*"Sucka MoFo" by Northern State
*"Rhythm of the Night" by DeBarge (my samba song!)
*"Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley (yes, really)
*"Born to Be Alive" by Patrick Hernandez
*"Hanging Up" by Madonna