It’s not uncommon for moms to feel intense pressure to “get their body back” immediately after giving birth. Or honestly, just getting their pre-pregnancy bodies back at all!
As we know, our society glorifies thinness and one’s ability to achieve thinness. Naturally, as a person with a uterus is carrying and CREATING A FREAKING HUMAN, their bodies will change. Your body prior to pregnancy, never had to care for another living being, and now it does! So, it’s important that it adjusts accordingly! In fact, that’s a great sign that your body is doing what it’s SUPPOSED to be doing.
Everyone’s journey looks different and yet we still always strive for the same, specific goal. Which is to be the portrayal of the “hot mom” who barely looks like they gave birth, only a few weeks or months postpartum.
There is so much we could cover on this topic, but let’s dive into the relation between body image and postpartum.
Please note, although there are many people who have the ability of being pregnant who may not identify as mothers, I will be using the term mom/mother throughout this text to generalize the messages that are often targeted towards cis-gendered women, postpartum.
Okay, if you haven’t read my blog post on diet culture, I suggest you do so by clicking here because we will be bringing this term up a lot!
Think of diet culture and pregnancy as a Christmas gift. The pregnant women is basically like a very extravagantly wrapped Christmas gift. Leading up to Christmas (or the birth of the baby), everyone is so excited and keeps saying how beautiful the present looks. They have a deep curiosity and obsession to know what could be inside this gift! It’s all so magical!
Then Christmas day arrives (aka, baby is coming)! You are ripping apart the nice wrapping paper only to get what’s inside (sorry I know that’s a little graphic but it’s true). As the pregnant mom, the baby is the gift and you’re like the discarded wrapping paper. For 9 months, people are all like “wow, you’re so beautiful! You’re glowing!” and then the baby comes, and you are left in the dust.
There is this expectation that moms are supposed to have kids and then look like you’ve never had a child in your life. You’re supposed to go back to normal as if your body is supposed to bounce back, you should be back into your pre-pregnancy weight and into your pre-pregnancy clothes. It’s as though there is the narrative that “Okay, our bodies changed for 9 months, as it should, but now that period of my life is over so it should go back to what it was”.
BECAUSE OF THIS… we are setting people up to engage in unhealthy behaviours to try to meet that expectation.
It’s like when we take a shower. We go in because our bodies have been through a lot and need some cleanin’, and then we expect to walk out feeling refreshed and just like we used to feel the last time we took a shower. It’s not the same after you’ve had a BABY! Our bodies don’t just bounce back and that’s one of the hardest thing to accept. Your body may continue to change and adapt for a long time. For example, if you are breastfeeding, you may continue to have increased hunger since you are still feeding yourself AND being the sole source of nutrition for this other fast-growing human.
Trying to have rigid meal times and rigid snack times when you’re up all night, or you are trying to sleep when the baby sleeping, may not be helpful to make sure you are getting enough nutrition. You may find yourself sleeping through lunch, so you need to have the flexibility of just being able to eat whenever it feels comfortable to you, whenever you are hungry. Make sure that you are eating because sometimes people get busy and your hunger signals may not be going crazy, because there are other things going on. BUT if you’re going a full day or long hours without eating, maybe we need to set more active reminders for ourselves to make sure that you have enough nutrition to support yourself and the baby whenever they need it.
Giving ourselves permission to eat when we’re hungry, is a big step. Being mindful and intuitive with when your body is hungry, even if that means it’s hungry 10x per day, it’s important to honour this to make sure YOU and your baby are getting the nutrition you both need to thrive.
Let’s not punish our body for this miraculous thing it has gone through by dieting or restricting ourselves to fit into an unrealistic ideal.
Think about it… We (and diet culture) are always so quick to blame our bodies, especially its size, for reasons why we are not happy or not feeling fulfilled. But, are we may be using our body as a scapegoat for the other ways our life may be different now?
I know this is easier said than done. I agree with you 100%!!
However, showing our body some respect, regardless of what it may look like is beyond important to improve our relationship with our body.
Treat your body like its own entity! We don’t need to wait to respect her, we need to respect and nourish her every single day and thank her for showing up for you today.
When trying own clothes, it’s true that they may not fit you as well as they used to and maybe they don’t feel as comfortable. Your core strength may now be what it was before but there are so many NEW things that your body can do and endure.
We don’t need to be thinking about our body all the time. And can we take it easy on ourselves at this point.
“Give yourself so much brace and just permission to just exist for a bit. “
The biggest take away is to practice being kind to yourself as you explore this new chapter in your life. Whether it be our first, second, third time or more having a baby, the same societal expectations are present.
Do your best to treat your body with respect and dignity and nourish it regardless of what it may look like. Your body is worth nourishing!
Check out my podcast episode “Postpartum and Body Image” with registered dietitian Jennifer Neale To hear more about her experience with postpartum expectation and challenging diet culture!
The Balanced Practice is a team of professionals specialized in eating disorder outpatient treatment, disordered eating. Our mission is to help as many folks heal their relationship with food and their bodies so they can live happily outside of diet culture!
We strive to provide evidence based nutrition counselling to support you, or your loved one, in achieving full recovery. Schedule a connection call now.
Marie-Pier Pitre-D’Iorio, RD, B.Sc.Psychology
Lead Registered Dietitian and Founder of The Balanced Practice