Immortal life is great and all, but have you ever looked into the face of a smiling baby? Because that's what actress Ashley Greene Khoury does when she's in need of a figurative pick-me-up.
Every bit as human as the rest of us, the Twilight franchise alum admits she struggles at times with her feelings toward her postpartum body. And in those moments, she revealed in an exclusive interview with E! News, "I go and pick up my child."
Staring at "sweet angel" Kingsley, the daughter she welcomed with husband Paul Khoury Sept. 16, "allows you to be grateful versus kind of nitpicking yourself," she explained of her strategy. "And so that is one of my hacks that I do because no matter what you put out there, it's hard not to be self-critical."
Though she's working to train that particular muscle just as much as the ones in her abdomen.
She's put in the work to "rebuild the basic building blocks," as she put it to E! News, "because our bodies go through trauma when you give birth." At the same time, as she noted in a January Instagram message she's also working to give herself a bit of grace: "I don't think my body will ever be quite 'the same' and I'm learning to be ok with that."
In other words, for now, her pre-baby wardrobe can just hang in there.
Not the type to take it easy once she steps foot in a gym, the natural competitor made a pact with herself when she learned she was expecting last year. "That I was going to allow myself time to heal before trying to really jump back into the gym," Ashley explained, "because I didn't want to do any damage."
So as the 35-year-old entered that all-important fourth trimester, she turned to The DB Method's chief fitness operator Adam Swartz to craft a six-phase postpartum plan to focus on rebuilding her pelvic floor, glutes and abs before climbing back on a treadmill, spin bike or weight bench.
"I found it dangerous that all of a sudden you're just cleared to go back into the gym without doing any of this prior building block work," she explained of her thinking. "So I really liked what we came up with."
Starting with breath work to re-establish the connection between the pelvic floor and core, then working through gentle movements before transitioning to the strength and total body stages, each phase is designed to be roughly one week—though "it's not a race to get somewhere" noted Ashley—and build off the layer that came before.
For someone used to reveling in all those post-sweat endorphins, simply moving her body again felt like a relief for Ashley, who took those first careful, shaky breaths roughly three weeks after giving birth. "The hardest part for me about not working out is really the mental wellness side to it," the Florida native explained. "Because I feel like if I hit that 10-day marker, I am not as happy as a person, I don't have as much optimism."
Still, rather than push herself to exhaustion, she thoughtfully moved through the program, taking extra time when necessary, like when they hit the endurance stage. "There are markers so that you know when you're ready to move on," said Ashley. "And a lot of it is really to be able to go through each of the exercises a certain amount of time without it putting any kind of strain on your back, abs or pelvic floor."
Though she honed in on her lower abs in particular, "I just had the goal of wanting to feel connected and like myself again," Ashley continued. "I felt like I was an alien in my own body for awhile. And I really wanted to feel like I had control again. Eventually, it was nice to get a little bit of a sweat when we got into the endurance and the strength and where we were adding the actual DB Method machine. But initially it was just get in there and do it."
Having now scaled each building block, the founder of reproductive health brand Hummingway treats the program and the accompanying total-body machine like a made-to-order menu, customizing each of her workouts to suit that day's need.
With the app's trainers at her disposal to guide and options ranging from rehabilitation to toning, "I mix it up a little bit," she shared. "Sometimes I get 10 minutes and then I'm like, 'All right, let's do a quick glute HIIT.' And then sometimes I have a little bit more time and I can do a total body workout."
On the days she's especially pressed for time, "I do it while I'm pumping," she said of pulling double-duty with her wearable pump and the upright machine. "I'm doing something good for myself and I'm making my kid milk." That, in itself, feels like a particular big accomplishment with the star noting she endured a bit of a "rocky" breastfeeding journey in the beginning.
And yet as proud as Ashley feels about her abilities to be strong as a mother, she'd be lying if she didn't cop to still having the occasional moments of feeling like a stranger in her skin.
"I think we do this throughout our entire lives as women," she said. "I can look at my body when I was 20 and go, 'God, what was I complaining about?'"
And soaking in Kingsley's smiles and the heart-melting giggles they just recently coaxed out of her "does make it a little bit easier," she acknowledged, "when you look at your child and say, 'My body gave me the ability to create this happy, healthy child.' But I'm not going to sugarcoat it and say it's still not hard sometimes. You know, I have a ton of clothes in my closet that still don't fit me. You can look in a mirror sometimes and go,'‘Wow, I don't necessarily recognize the body that I've known for so long.' It's an adjustment period."
While she's happy to feel good again—"That was one of the harder things for me, just not feeling like myself"—she wouldn't mind reclaiming her pre-baby jeans as well. Eventually.
"Would I like everything to be hard again and there to be no jiggle when I jump? Sure," she allowed. "But I'll probably get there in a year, versus saying, 'In three months I'm going to be back to where I was.' I think that's another key factor, is not putting an unrealistic expectation on things."
Nor will she be voicing any of those concerns out loud, she and Paul both being very careful about allowing Kingsley to absorb any negative body talk.
"You have to check yourself because they do pick up on everything—your energy, how you talk to yourself, how you speak to each other," she said of her daughter. "We have to be nicer to ourselves. At least now we're aware—through magazine covers and social media—women are just so incredibly tough and toxic to themselves sometimes and we've really got to work to reprogram ourselves on how we look at ourselves and how we speak to ourselves and what we expect of ourselves."
Fortunately, Ashley has a whole pack of new parents she can turn to should she need a reminder.
Still very much a family, she and her Twilight costars are "in constant contact," she revealed of their ongoing text message chain. Kingsley was recently introduced to Jackson Rathbone's three kids: Monroe, 10, Presley, 6, and Felix, 3, and they're hoping to add Nikki Reed's 5-year-old daughter Bodhi and Peter Facinelli's youngest, 5-month-old son Jack, into the mix.
"We are desperately trying," she said of arranging a meet-up. "We're all over the place and Nikki's now pregnant and of course she has a little one. And Peter's kid, Jack's only like a week older than mine."
The goal is to gather when they're all in Los Angeles, she continued: "We're all trying to make a giant Twilight baby playdate. Eventually it will happen."
Some things are worth waiting an eternity for.