Interview with Kristina Pinto by Inspirational Women Series
Kristina Pinto, Ed.D., is a developmental psychologist who has built her diverse career on advocating for the integration of psychological and physical health. She earned her doctorate in Human Development and Psychology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and has been a college instructor, program evaluator, researcher, coach, and writer. Her writing primarily focuses on her commitment to promoting women’s health through mindful fitness. Dr. Pinto’s publications range from blogging for Lululemon and Athleta, authoring academic articles on girls’ growth, publishing a mind-body guide for pregnancy wellness–Fit & Healthy Pregnancy, and writing for Competitor, Runner’s World, and Women’s Running magazines. She lives in the Boston area with her family.
You are the author of Fit & Healthy Pregnancy, a book that provides guidance on exercise during pregnancy and also discusses how new mothers can return to fitness after they’ve had their babies. What motivated you to write Fit and Healthy Pregnancy, and how is this book different from other pregnancy-related literature?
I was first inspired to write Fit & Healthy Pregnancy when I was pregnant and had few resources on how to be an athlete and a new mom. As a coach and researcher, I learned from runners that pregnancy is a major game changer in an athlete’s identity, and there were few reassurances that it’s not only okay to train but actually healthy for the baby and for a woman’s emotional and physical well-being. I see that as the big difference between my book and other titles out there. Not only is exercise “okay,” it’s critically important for keeping us strong in mind and body.
You are a Contributor to numerous fitness and motherhood publications including Runner’s World, Marathon Mama and Women’s Running. How did you first get involved with these publications and why is writing about fitness important to you?
I started writing for fitness media when my personal blog, Marathon Mama, took off. I think women appreciated my honesty and openness about my own training and feelings toward my self, my body, and the challenges of being an ambitious woman at home with a young child. The blog was picked up by the Competitor Group as a hosted blog, and from there, I was invited to contribute to other publications and blogs. Writing is in my body the way that running and movement are integral to my identity. It’s a way for me to connect with other people around the world on the subject of mind-body health, and I’m grateful to anyone who reads what I write!
Can you tell us about some of your research publications about the subject of adolescent girls’ healthcare?
I specialized in adolescent health and gender when I was getting my doctorate, specifically the adjustment to puberty. I’ve always been fascinated by how girls become women and the lessons they learn about what it means to be “grown up.” My dissertation was a qualitative study of girls’ experiences of early puberty–of being a child in a woman’s body–and I was fortunate to conduct in-depth interviews with a group of brave girls who generously shared their stories with me. I’ve published that research in a few academic journals and continue to love working with teen girls as a coach in running and yoga. I’m looking forward to writing more about that work in the coming year. My research on girls’ health care centers on the ethical responsibility of honoring girls’ voices in their own health and sexuality, so that they can have agency instead of feeling like passive recipients of care.
What are some lesser known facts about women’s postpartum health and well-being?
I don’t know if it’s lesser known, but a lot of women resist the idea that birth is a physical trauma because it’s a normative experience. But it’s an experience that damages the body while it creates new life, and I would love more women to allow themselves the time and space to rest, recover, and heal, despite the pressures to get back into training or the pre-pregnancy jeans. Resting our bodies is easier said than done, with the strains we face on our resources (time, energy, money, etc.) for self-care, but it’s a fact that we need to respect the body’s need to heal as much as we can. I also think that women face an assumption that postpartum life is happy and beautiful, and secretly, many of us find it to be an assault on identity and psychological health. This makes healing the body even more essential, as well as open community support for the mind-body flux of perinatal experience.
In your opinion, what have been some trends related to and significant challenges to US maternal health that you’ve observed during your career?
Affordable, comprehensive health care coverage is the biggest challenge I see. It’s one thing to have health insurance, but another to have the access to care and coverage that meets the needs of mothers for services related to prenatal care, mental health, lactation, and sleep, for example. Watching the increasingly problematic maternal health statistics in the U.S.–the only developed nation with this downward trend–is very troubling, as is the racial and socioeconomic disparities in maternal health in America. Among all countries, the U.S. ranks 60th in maternal health. Two women die of maternal health complications in this country every day, and 98% of these deaths are preventable. This is both horrific and promising because we can change the trends.
On a personal level, why does women’s empowerment matter to you?
Women are half of the world’s population but continue to suffer unbelievable disenfranchisement, violence, and discrimination. I feel a moral obligation to commit myself to making even a small difference in women’s health and well-being. This takes the form of my career in research and intervention and my role as a mother to a white, middle-class, American boy. Raising a feminist son is the most powerful project of my life, and it gives great meaning to my identity to give a radical feminist boy to the world.
Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
My sister Sarah has been the biggest influence on my life. She introduced me to feminism, the importance of girls’ education and voice, and the political act of raising compassionate children who are cognizant of race and class privilege and social justice. As as professor and parent, she shows me every day how to be a driven career feminist and a caring mother with an enduring sense of humor. I want to be just like her when I grow up.
What are your favorite books, websites, films and resources related to motherhood and women’s health?
Books: In a Different Voice; Our Bodies, Ourselves; The Joy Luck Club; The Yellow Wallpaper; The Hours; The Handmaid’s Tale; Mother Guilt; The Camera My Mother Gave Me; A Midwife’s Tale; The Vagina Monologues; Caucasia, The Reproduction of Mothering; Home is Where We Start From
Resources/Websites: Every Mother Counts; Maternal Health Task Force
Films: Arrival; Baby Mama; Juno; Motherhood in America series; No Woman No Cry; The Business of Being Born