Mrs Recently crowned Mrs Australia, Piper O'Neill, is already prepping for the Mrs International competition this July, just eight weeks after the birth of her baby boy, Taylor.
The first Mrs Australia to take out the title while pregnant, Piper now squeezes in workouts between the nap times of her newborn and toddler (Elsie, 19 months) to get back into shape. However the model turned mother of two has realistic expectations about her post-baby body.
'I'm not striving to get my pre-baby body back – there's too much pressure on mums these days to go -back to the way they were' and I don't think that's a realistic goal. I've had two children and there is no hiding that. My focus now is being fit and healthy rather than -skinny'.
'As any new mum will tell you, it's really hard to find the time to workout when you're taking care of babies! I'm slowly building up my fitness again whenever I have the chance - normally in the evenings or during nap times when my husband is home."
The Mrs International pageant is not based on looks but one's contribution to family, charity and community work, as well as the contestants' level of health and fitness.
'Many of the contestants are mothers and there isn't an expectation to look the way we did before having children. It's about embracing our bodies the way they are now.
'I love my post-baby body. I've given birth to two precious babies and I have the scars to show it - I wouldn't change that for the world. They make me proud and remind me just how incredible our bodies are to be able to create life."
Piper will travel to Jacksonville, Florida USA in July to compete against over 60 countries for the world title of Mrs International. Piper has been a volunteer for Look Good…Feel Better for over 6 years and has recently been appointed as an ambassador. As part of her role as Mrs Australia, Piper is also involved with Mums on a Mission and the Touch of Goodness Foundation.
Question: Can you talk about the preparation for the Mrs International competition this July?
Piper O'Neill: When most people think of pageant preparation they usually only think of the hair, makeup and evening gowns that are worn, but preparing yourself for an international pageant is much more complex.
When I first heard about Mrs International about 5 years ago, I began researching the pageant itself, its history, values, judging criteria etc. Then I began researching the contestants and the winners from each year and would ask myself a few questions. What separated the winners from the other contestants? What were their platforms? What evening gowns did they wear? Etc. This research gave me great insight into what the competition was about and what type of women they are looking for to be Mrs International title holders.
Twelve months before the pageant I began mentally preparing myself. I began going over interview questions and reading the news daily to keep up to date with current events. I also began fine-tuning my platform to ensure I knew my key messages and how to deliver them.
The Mrs International pageant is not based on looks but one's contribution to family, charity and community work as well as the contestants' level of health and fitness. Because I was pregnant at the time I won the title of Mrs Australia, I had to wait 6 weeks after having Taylor to get the -all clear' from my doctor before I could hit the gym and start working out. Three weeks in and I am now committed to 1 personal training session a week with my trainer Deanne Murphy and try to do at least 5 independent gym sessions by myself.
Currently I'm on the lookout to find an evening gown, research hair and makeup styles and organise my overseas travel.
Preparation is the key to success so I hope I have done enough to bring home the crown!
Question: Can you talk about how you manage your time between that and your baby boy, Taylor?
Piper O'Neill: Time management is all about organising and prioritising. The majority of my time is dedicated to taking care of my children, doing household chores and cooking meals. I think the keys to being productive is to take advantage of the time in between these normal daily activities.
I find that writing lists help me decide what things needs to be done urgently and what things can wait a little while. I also give myself deadlines for the things on my lists. That way I don't just keep adding to the pile without eliminating a few of the older things first. I am also not afraid to switch my phone to -do not disturb' or leave it in another room so I'm not tempted to waste my time scrolling through the pages of social media during my down time.
I also take advantage of my children's sleep times and try to get as many email, phone calls and blogging done during this time so I can dedicate my time to my children when they are awake.
Question: How do you ensure you're maintaining a healthy diet?
Piper O'Neill: Because I'm breastfeeding dieting is out of the equation. Instead I'm focusing on eating a healthy well balanced diet full of lean meat, fish, grains, and lots of fruits and veggies.
I do the grocery shopping for my household which means I can control what is in my refrigerator and ensure that it is always stocked full of healthy food. I also don't hold myself back from enjoying the odd sweet treat every now and then. I find that I crave sweets more when I cut it out of my diet completely.
Question: What do you love most about your post-baby body?
Piper O'Neill: I have developed a new love and respect for my body now that I have had two children. I now look at my body as a vessel that carried life into this world and I am proud of what it has achieved.
Yes I have imperfections that I (and probably only I) can see but having children has made me realise just how valuable my time is. I'm not going to waste my time trying to look like I haven't had children when I have. As long as I take care of my body, eat well and exercise I am happy with how it looks.
One of my goals as Mrs Australia is to reach out to other mothers encouraging them to develop positive feelings toward their own bodies in order to be positive role models for their children. It is extremely important that we learn to love our bodies. I believe that if we love our bodies our children will love theirs ensuring that they grow up having positive self-esteem and positive self-worth.
Question: What is your focus now rather than -skinny' and why?
Piper O'Neill: After having two children my body shape changed and I now have more natural curves. Accepting my new body allowed me focus on my health and not worry about the numbers on the scale. As long as I am eating healthy and exercising my dress size and the numbers on the scale don't matter.
Question: What advice do you have for new mums?
Piper O'Neill: The best advice I could give to a first time mum would be:
It's only a problem if it's a problem for you
Listen to your instincts
You will sleep again
You are doing a great job!
Question: What's a typical day like, for you?
Piper O'Neill: A typical day for me…
I get up about an hour before my little ones do so I can get myself ready for the day and get a head start on anything that needs to be done around the house. Once my children wake up its -GO TIME', nappy changes, getting them dressed, fed and off to the play room where we spend most of our day. I am a very hands on mum and love teaching my children as much as I can. We do lots of activates together, read books, draw pictures, dance to the Wiggles (over and over again), go on walks etc.
I try my best not to do work when my kids are awake. Sometimes this can be a struggle especially if I have deadlines for things but I have the incredible advantage of having a husband who works very close to home. Because he controls his work schedule he is able to pop home to help with the kids if I need to be somewhere for an appearance or even just need to get out of the house for a grocery shop.
The craziest part of the day is the dinner, bath and bed routine. Sometimes it goes to plan and other days it can be total chaos. I often just have to laugh because if the kids are going to have a melt down it's going to happen then. I have learned to just go with the flow. If my toddler doesn't want to eat her dinner then that's ok. If the baby is hysterical and I am unable to get the both kids bathed then that's ok. And if we don't get dinner on the table there is always a great healthy delivery place up the road.
As soon its hits 7pm the kids are in bed and everything usually calms down after that. Then I head to the gym for at least 30 minutes of cardio. When I return I usually read a few emails, blog and then spend the rest of the night having a little quiet time with my husband before we go to bed.
Right now with two little ones my days are jam packed but I love it. I have always been someone who loves being busy. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Question: Can you talk about your volunteer work and the charities you work with?
Piper O'Neill: Charity work has been a passion of mine since the age of 9. Over the years I have worked with many different charity organisations including; Look Good…Feel Better, The Touch of Goodness Foundation, The Cancer Council, Ovarian Cancer Australia, and The National Breast Cancer Foundation to name a few.
The one thing that sets the Mrs International pageant apart from other pageants is its strong charity focus. Having the title of Mrs Australia has given me a huge opportunity to speak out about the importance of positive body image and become an ambassador for Look Good Feel Better.
Question: Why did you choose to get involved with Look Good…Feel Better?
Piper O'Neill: Many years ago while working as a makeup artist and beauty therapist, I came across Look Good Feel Better. I thought becoming a volunteer would be a great way for me to use my skills to help people in need. I now have been with the organisation for the past 6 years and have absolutely loved every moment.
Look Good Feel Better is free community service program dedicated to teaching cancer patients how to better manage the appearance related side-effects caused by cancer treatment through makeup, skin care, wigs and head coverings. The workshops are held in over 180 hospitals across Australia and in 26 countries around the world. To date over 115,000 people have attended a Look Good Feel Better workshop in Australia. We currently reach over 10,000 people each year and our goal is to reach even more.
As someone who has personally experienced the loss of a loved one from cancer, I can appreciate the affect the program has on the patients who attend. From the moment they walk into the room they know instantly they are not alone. Each session gives patents the opportunity to arm themselves with the tools to look their disease in the face with confidence and leave uplifted and inspired.
Question: Is your involvement in Mums on a Mission a new?
Piper O'Neill: I started working as an ambassador for Mums on a Mission earlier this year and really love being involved with them. Mums on a Mission started out as a small group of Sydney mums who just wanted to make a difference in their community by helping to raise funds for local schools, hospitals, and various charities. At their most recent event they raised over $180,000 for The Children's Hospital at Westmead.
Question: What's next for you?
Piper O'Neill: After the Mrs International finals this July I will still have my duties as Mrs Australia to fulfil until my reign is complete early next year. After that I plan to still be active with involved with Look Good Feel Better and will always continue to speak out about the importance of positive body image.
On top of my list will be a lot of quality time spent with my family and a well-deserved holiday. I would also love to use my skills to speak about parenting issues and make educational documentaries about different diseases, their charities and the volunteers involved.
Interview by Brooke Hunter