Mention the words body image to almost any person, but especially any woman, and you’ll get some uncomfortable reactions.
Body image is something that most women struggle with- various studies show incredibly high percentages of women do not feel good in their body, do not feel positive about how their body looks, and generally kind of hate their body.
This is often amplified after the birth of a baby- whether it’s your first baby or your fifth baby!
Bodies change and the experience of pregnancy is a slow, fast and furious whirlwind of change in your body.
Most moms struggle to adjust with the changes that happen during pregnancy and by the time you start to feel comfortable, the baby has arrived…
and EVERYTHING is different.
Including your body.
Postpartum Support International is running a campaign called #Lets Talk about IT to begin open conversations around maternal mental health.
In honor of that campaign, let’s talk about mom body image. Because body image and our relationship with our bodies is a part of mental health.
Rather, let’s talk about how to deal with your body after baby.
Body after Baby
We first need to get something straight- the entire idea of “bouncing back” after baby is just entirely off base.
As soon as those two pink lines show up, everything about your world changed.
A new part of you began to develop as the child within you grew.
Whether your pregnancy was complication free and relatively painless OR if your pregnancy was filled with a host of complications and stressors, pregnancy changes you.
It changes you emotionally, mentally, and of course physically.
There is no part of us that will be the same as we were before motherhood.
The diet culture world we live in tells us that as soon as that baby arrives, we better bounce back into jeans we wore in high school. We see pictures of celebrities, models, and influencers that have “lost the baby weight”.
We compare and we despair.
(Side note, I don’t remember who originated that saying, but it’s a good one!)
The problem is that when we shift to focusing on our bodies, we disconnect from ourselves and we disconnect from our loved ones (sweet baby included), and we disconnect from the fullness of our lives.
To help you connect and deal with your body after baby, let’s look at a four quick tips.
Recognize the Diet Culture Lies
First and foremost, see that this entire culture that tells us that “fat is not okay” is a lie.
Diet culture lies to us and tells that our bodies cannot change and they surely can’t have cellulite, rolls, dimples, stretch marks, scars, and fat. That being or having fat is the worst thing that could happen to us.
It’s all a lie, mama.
The weight loss industry is a 72 billion dollar a year industry. Let that soak in!
Billions of dollars are made off women hating themselves and thinking that the worst thing in the world is to gain fat on their body.
It’s deep work to undo diet culture’s messaging. It’s so ingrained in our culture- in our families, in our schools, in our medical care, in our churches.
The first step in this deep, hard, beautiful work of freedom is to recognize diet culture for what it is.
As a new or new again mom, the strongest diet culture lie is that our bodies need to look and feel and function how they did pre-baby.
Simply recognize this where it pops up- in dieting conversations with family or mom friends, in ads on your Facebook or Instagram newsfeed, in pins that say “Lose Weight while Increasing Milk Supply!”, and anywhere in between.
When the message to lose weight pops up, note in your head, on paper, or out loud that it’s diet culture lies.
The power of a deep, meaningful breathe is life changing.
Our bodies physically respond to emotion and when we see that diet culture message spewing venom at our postpartum selves, we tense up.
So just breathe.
There is so much power in taking a moment. In taking a deep, full breath to still your mind, your heart, and your body.
Deep breathing actually signals your body that its time to calm down. Our bodies cannot be in a state of relaxation and chaos. It will choose one or the other.
So just breathe. And keep breathing.
Offer yourself kindness
In the hum of all that is postpartum, we often aren’t very kind to ourselves. From trying to get the baby to sleep to feeding a baby to postpartum hormones and our entire life changing, we get caught in a funnel of stress, frustration, and general distress. (to name just a few postpartum emotions and experiences).
Taking that deep breath is the first step towards kindness, but we want to go deeper. We want to offer our body, our mind, and our heart kindness.
Offering kindness can look like
- kindly caressing your body
- repeating a gentle mantra to yourself
- drinking a really cold or hot beverage
- smelling your favorite candle or scent
- watching birds play or studying the scenery in your backyard
- eating a yummy snack or savory meal
- taking a nap
- talking gently to your body
Kindness is something we crave deeply in our world. Practicing kindness with ourselves is the best place to start. Its hard to be kind to the people around us, even the ones we love the most, when we’re busy berating and demeaning ourselves.
Find Your Village
Motherhood can be lonely. But it doesn’t have to be.
The body battle does not have to be a place where you are left alone.
So, find your people.
Find the people that will encourage you and lift you up. Not the ones that tell you to lose X amount of weight or fit into a certain size in order to heal your relationship with your body. Find the people that want to walk with you through those overwhelming moments of body hatred to victorious moments of body freedom.
Freedom from body hatred is much deeper than liking or even loving your body.
It’s a revolution of seeing your entire self in a new light.
That’s deep and tricky business, so you have to be selective about who you deem to be your safe people.
That may be a community online, a therapist, a dietitian, your best friend, or someone else you know. Make sure it’s someone who will help you sift through this motherhood experience without worrying about calorie counting, moderation, exercising to lose weight, etc.
If you’re looking for a safe group, join me in Body After Baby, a 6 week online group for Texas residents. The group is designed for moms of young children that want to break free from diet culture. For moms that want to heal their relationship with their bodies, but don’t know how.
You deserve freedom.