Body

Jenny-May Clarkson: Our bodies change all the time and we just need to accept that

I was a CrossFitter and played international netball; there was a certain expectation I had about my body and what it should look like. It won’t look like that again.

TVNZ sports presenter and former Silver Fern Jenny-May Clarkson copped criticism for being on television while pregnant with twins. Looking back on her body journey, the 43-year-old talks about finding her bliss.

"This photo of myself [below] was taken when I was 42, pregnant and presenting sport at TVNZ. It was a tumultuous time in terms of having copped criticism about what I looked like pregnant with twins. I certainly wasn't small, and you certainly noticed I was pregnant, but it's a natural thing and I never thought twice about whether I'd stop working because of what I looked like; it was more about how I felt. Somebody messaged me to tell me,

'Have you seen the story blowing up online?' I was at work at the time and going, 'What have I done now?'

I had no idea, then saw somebody had posted up the letter written into the TV Guide from an older man who basically said I shouldn't be on TV. You had to be silly to criticise a woman being on TV pregnant because you're criticising half the population – all the mums and grandparents in this world – so it was a foolish thing to do but people have their opinions and we live in a society where you have the right to do that.

It became this big controversy but it still didn't make me go, 'jeepers, I actually look like this, should I be on TV?' Not once did I question whether I should still do my job. I feel I do it very well and that was the most important thing. What I looked like didn't enter my head. I'm incredibly proud of the way I carried myself during work and pregnancy. A lot of people online, and people I didn't know, would come up to me and say, "I think you look great."

It was overwhelming; loads of support.

At times like that the only thing you get disappointed about is how it affects those closest to you. My husband was very upset. I said, 'I don't care,' but I guess because I'm not that way he feels he has to be that way for me.

My mum and dad get hurt when they see comments people make. As a Silver Fern you get criticised. When I was playing people criticised me all the time.

That wasn't ever something my parents coped with. Having to go through that a second time wasn't fair. I'd encourage anybody to just be you. I look at that photo and I'm proud of it, because I feel like I looked great. Any woman who is pregnant, you just want them to be proud and understand the significance of what they're doing.

Being an older mum I've got more of a grip on what matters in life, so if I compare how I felt during pregnancy and post-pregnancy – we all go through, I imagine, that period of, 'I don't feel good about myself, I want to get myself back to where I was pre-pregnancy,' and it's hard because you have no energy or time, and all that time and energy you do have is put into your family.

Trying to keep two little boys alive for the first few months of their lives was our priority, and that certainly hasn't changed. I was proud of what I looked like then, and of what I look like in the second photo with my boys because that's my body. We all want to look or feel better but in that season of my life that's what I looked like.

For me it's more about energy than what I look like, but I'm not taking away from the fact that yes, sometimes I'd like my body to bounce back to what it was pre-pregnancy. I was a CrossFitter and played international netball; there was a certain expectation I had about my body and what it should look like. It won't look like that again. But mostly I'm okay and more than happy with that.

We have a mountain behind us, so my husband and I try to walk that a couple of days a week and we've finally got our home gym, a little rower and a few weights. Having done CrossFit, I can put together workouts.

That's become an important part of our lives now our boys are going off to Ko¯hanga Reo. We've finally got our head above water and can start looking after ourselves, so walking and a bit of weights; that's pretty much it.

My husband and I love walking because we can spend time together. In terms of food we're up and down all the time. At the moment we're not eating carbs and pulled back on alcohol and wheat. We're trying to live a healthier lifestyle and being an older parent, you want to be around a lot longer for your kids.

Us being in our 40s and with our twin boys only 24 months old, you want to be around. We want to see our grandchildren; we want to spend more time together. There's so much more to experience. I'd like to say that's how we choose to live our lives always, but it's not.

We go, 'Right, no bread, not too much processed food,' but you fall off the wagon. You get back on it.

Life is about seasons. You're in different seasons all the time.

You've got to recognise that season you're in and accept it. There might be a season where everything's going well, then maybe another season where, 'I'm so busy I don't have time to get to the gym,' so your body changes. Physically you might not be able to get to the gym or spend that half hour walking the dog but the next season, you might be able to fit that in.

There are always times in our lives where things don't go how we'd like to. So deal with it, and the next season start again.

You've got to find your bliss. At one period in my life it was CrossFit, swimming and walking, and I felt amazing. My bliss now is my family. I know I look okay, I know I look good, but it's less of a focus now because my bliss is different. When you find that bliss, you're going to feel good about yourself. But if you don't find that, you're always going to be searching for things you don't feel good about.

When I was single, I felt really good about myself when I was doing exercise, working and taking that time out for me. Whether it was going to the gym at 5.40am in the morning or that swim at 7am, jumping in the ocean and getting out again, I felt amazing and refreshed. I'd sit there and think about a couple of things I was grateful for.

I loved it; I was pumped for the day. Then I'd come to work and feel like I'd been on holiday. It was such a cool time, even though I was going, 'I'm going to be single for the rest of my life,' but I was taking care of me. That was my bliss, that's what made me happy.

And it radiated out; people would say, 'You look awesome.'

I was thinking, 'well I want to find a man,' but I was feeling good about me. Now I can reflect on other times in my life where I had no bliss and was miserable, going to work, coming home – didn't have anything that gave me joy.

I still looked good, but there was nothing making me happy. A lot of the time we get busy and you forget about your bliss. You've got to look after you, whatever that looks like. It doesn't matter what it looks like, it's yours."

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