MAURICE — After Michelle Romero had her first child she fell prey to the promises of quick fixes from targeted fitness ads on social media.
“Social media is telling you you can take a pill or do this program and in 21 days you’ll look like this,” she said, adding, “I did that after my first one.”
Having always loved exercise, the new mom tried a three-week fitness program, but she was left with feelings of disappointment and failure when she didn’t look like the woman in the ad or what she imagined in her head. She now knows she wasn’t alone.
“I feel like women, after they have babies, are really hard on themselves,” Romero said. “This is when you’re the most vulnerable and all your muscles are recovering.”
She understands that not only as a mom herself, but also as a nurse and now a certified fitness instructor. She earned her certification from American Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA), taking classes online for four months in 2019 when she was pregnant with her second child, Luke.
Romero combined her personal experience with the scientific knowledge behind health and fitness to create Toned Bump Fitness, specializing in prenatal and postpartum exercise and nutrition.
It helps fill a void she sees in the fitness industry and meet needs of moms just like her.
“No one really understands the post-partum experience, not fitness professionals,” Romero said. “More people need to worry about moms in that time. It’s my passion because no one helps during that time.
“That’s why I created this; it’s more doable for the average mom. You’re not a fitness professional or entering a bikini contest. I understand where you’re coming from.”
Conceiving a business and meeting a need
The 34-year-old Kaplan native is a home health nurse and mom of three – ages 7, 4 and 2. After several years of full-time work she’s now working on an as-needed basis at agencies across Acadiana, leaving her more time at home with the kids and for Toned Bump Fitness.
Romero created the business three years ago, using herself as the test. She was working out throughout her pregnancy with her son, and friends reached out via Facebook to ask questions or get advice.
She started creating workouts with appropriately modified movements as her body changed and belly grew. She recorded herself completing the exercises in a corner of her kitchen and posted the videos online to gauge interest and share expertise.
After she had Luke she starting doing post-natal workouts, her fitness instruction evolving along with her body and parenting experience.
“I was my own test,” she said. “Could I have wine on Friday and Saturday or pizza on Sunday and still lose weight? I could. It was just a slower process.”
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She wanted her program to be grounded in reality, unlike the ads and programs that had flooded her social media feeds postpartum. Her clients still see that realness in her videos today, like Luke crawling in front of the camera on one of the live workouts she did while all three kids were home because of bad weather.
Her parenting experience continues to inform her work with Toned Bump Fitness. Now she not only provides a meal plan, but she also can add all the ingredients to your shopping cart on your local grocery store app. She also personalizes it to people’s taste.
“I might be healthy, but I don’t like kale,” Romero said.
Growing into the future
She’s helped about 50 women through their post-partum journey so far, but “that’s not enough,” she said. The more women she works with the more she sees the need for this kind of work, which ends up being part therapy.
“I’ve learned a lot about people,” Romero said. “I’m learning what these moms are really struggling with.”
Sometimes the struggle is unrelated to exercise, like breastfeeding, or even if it’s fitness-related, it’s never just that.
“It’s more than just, ‘let me lose 40 pounds,’” Romero said. “It’s ‘I want to like my body or be comfortable and confident when my husband sees it.”
Her focus right now is post-partum exercise and nutrition. She offers a 12-week program that includes four workout videos per week, each about 30 minutes long and ranging from strength training to cardio.
Her goal is to eventually offer training programs that follow Mom from pregnancy to recovery to rebuilding strength and fitness.
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Her ultimate goal in all of this is to help moms make healthy choices and remember they’re not the problem when quick fixes don’t do the trick.
“I do this to express to women there is no rush to lose the weight, that you can feel confident at the weight you are and to know you don’t have to lose any weight if you don’t want to, but that it’s also possible to lose it without restricting.”