When it comes to mom bods, Massy Arias’s is athletic, confident, and always on the move, as evidenced by the Dominican-born fitness coach’s Instagram channel. That’s where her more than 2.4 million followers go for creative workouts, club-worthy dance routines, and motivational words, delivered in both English and Spanish. It’s also where they get to fawn over photos of her adorable 14-month-old daughter, Indi (short for Indira). After all, she’s the reason Arias feels more powerful than ever. “I’m stronger, mentally and physically, than before I had her,” says the 29-year-old, who now lives in Los Angeles with her handsome husband and business partner, Stefan, little Indi, and their Boston terrier, Pepper.
Forget that Arias can do a 300-pound barbell squat. She’s referring to a different kind of strong—the kind that comes after surviving the first year with a new baby, which all moms can relate to, and overcoming postpartum anxiety in between, which not all moms will talk about as candidly as she has in the Latino community, where mental-illness stigmas still prevail. “I wasn’t showering. I wouldn’t eat. I would spend my days crying for no reason. And I didn’t feel a connection to Indi until weeks after,” admits Arias. That willingness to keep it real with her audience, or tribe as she calls her social-media family, has its ups and downs.
“They can be supportive but also judgmental,” says Arias, who was virtually chastised for getting back into the gym shortly after Indi was born. “Some people would say, ‘Look at her, she’s working out because she wants her body back. She’s supposed to be enjoying her baby,’ ” recalls Arias. “They didn’t know I was trying to beat my depression the best way I knew how—through exercise.” While she was thankful that so many of her loyal followers defended her, Arias was able to find her stride as a new mom in her own time. “I don’t let anything stop me, and that’s why I’m here today,” she says.
Arias’s ability to keep going no matter what has certainly taken her far. Aside from launching her own line of supplements and running a thriving online personal- training business, last year she became a brand ambassador for CoverGirl and Target’s C9 Champion activewear. Recently, Arias, who loves to offer others inspiration every chance she gets, stopped moving long enough to share how we can all silence any self-doubt and stay focused on what’s ahead.
“If you don’t like where you are, you can change your outcome. At 18, I was in an awful relationship where I didn’t value myself as a woman. When you’re with someone who demoralizes you, cheats on you, and lies to you, you start wondering what you’re doing wrong. I fell into a depression and had to do a 180 and analyze my life. I asked myself, ‘Who is holding me back? What am I doing to hold myself back? Where do I want to be? What is going to be my action plan?’ I started on the elliptical machine for five minutes, then ten, then 15, until I began feeling really good. Fitness absolutely changed my life, and not just exercise but everything that comes with it: getting outside more, meeting new people who challenge me, eating better. Through fitness, I realized what I’m capable of doing.”
Ask for Help
“Postpartum depression was really tough. And here I was trying to breastfeed with bleeding nipples. I felt like an awful mother because my child never latched on. Then I had my mom barking in my ear, ‘Just give her formula. She’s too skinny. It’s sad.’ I told her, ‘Ay, Mami, you are actually adding to my anxiety. You’re making me feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.’ That’s how I broke it down to her. She’s my mother, and she loves me. Once I spoke about it, she supported me through my breastfeeding efforts. Being able to tell my family, ‘Hey, I’m vulnerable right now. I know you see this powerful woman, but I’m not myself. Can you help?’ was important for me to get better. I ended up pumping for six months—my boobs don’t feel the same—but I figured out a way of giving my daughter what she needed.”
Trust the Process
“Don’t feel that as a new mom you have to do things exactly by the book, because life is not one-size-fits-all. You’ve already done something so incredible by pushing that baby out of your vagina. Whatever you do now is right in that moment. You only get better with practice. Same goes for exercise! I know there are lots of women who don’t go to the gym because they feel intimidated. Trust me, nobody will be watching you. Start out with something basic. Eventually you’re going to learn what you like. Fitness can be anything: dance, calisthenics, hiking, swimming. It is all about progress, not perfection. When I took one of my first clients, she was pre-diabetic, and now she’s getting the same certification I received as a trainer.”
Know Your Worth
“It wasn’t until I understood the female body and the miracle of motherhood that I appreciated fat—the same fat that was going to feed my child. Cellulite is functional. While I’m not as cut as I usually am, I’m loving my body. When you love yourself and know your worth, that’s when you’re going to attract the right people—those who love you with all of your imperfections, for who you are and not who you’re trying to be. Stefan has seen me skinny, super-shredded, über-pregnant—it hasn’t mattered. This man continues to love me no matter how my body has changed over the years. And while I did get breast implants to feel more womanly, I didn’t get them for him. I got them for myself.”
“As a parent, sometimes you feel like a zombie. There are times when Stefan and I wake up and it’s as if we’re in a trance. Every single day, you find shortcuts that work for you. So the fact that Indi is alive, has four limbs, and is happy all the time—I know I got this. You feel better every single day. When I look back at pictures of her when she was smaller, and I think about all the things I went through and I’m still here, I’m still sane, I’m, like, ‘Holy cow, how did I do all of this?’ That’s how I look at my life. I don’t think about the future or the past. I seize the day. Make it through today and you’re going to be fine tomorrow.”
“My husband loves to work, so I told him, ‘Listen, don’t talk to me about work after 5 p.m.’ I don’t care what happened. ‘Let’s just talk about good things.’”
“I take a whole day for myself once a week. This is my beauty day. I get my nails done, get a massage, or meet a girlfriend for lunch.”
“I love cooking. Anybody who knows me knows that I’m better as a cook than I am in fitness. I’m working on a cookbook for 2018.”
“An hour before bed, I don’t watch TV. I may read a book. Then, the last ten minutes of the day, I put on some relaxing music, lie in bed, and reflect on everything.”