The postpartum body image issue is one that I am passionate about and is still an ongoing issue for new moms. We are surrounded by constant pressure from society to “bounce back” after having a baby. The bookshelves are full of new diet fads, everywhere you look in the media there are ads about how to achieve the body you want, not to mention the unrealistic insinuations of what you *can* look like after having kids, that is portrayed on social media.
It’s also totally socially acceptable to hear “body talk” comments from friends, acquaintances or even strangers:
“It’s only 2 months until bathing suit season!”
“If I lose 10 pounds now, I will be able to “cheat” while I’m on vacation.”
“I better go work off that piece of pie.”
“A moment on the lips, forever on the hips.” (Mildly joking about this one… but bonus points if you can name that show!)
Are we surprised that so many moms no longer feel good in their own skin after having babies? Do so many of us look in the mirror and no longer recognize our own body?
I was not prepared for how different my body would look after having kids, and I know many of you share this surprise. (I mean what is up with all that extra skin?? Wasn’t it supposed to just shrink back? And no one said ANYTHING about boobs looking smaller after having kids!!)
How to move forward in a healthy way
I think it’s safe to say that the whole postpartum body piece is a LOT.
So what do we do? Do we just ignore our feelings about our new postpartum bodies and try and push onwards? Or is it ok to want to change? Is it even possible to make a change in a healthy way? In an enjoyable way??
And most importantly, how do we prepare our children for having a healthy body image, a healthy relationship with food, and a healthy relationship with exercise?
This may surprise you, but I am here to tell you that there IS a healthy AND enjoyable way forward. A way to optimize our health, make changes to our body, and foster a healthy body image in our children.
In this blog post, I am going to show you how. I’ve broken it down into 3 important parts:
- Start with love and gratitude
- Create change by nourishing and caring for your body
- Talk (and act!) like your kids are listening
Start with love and gratitude
Before we can begin to even think about making changes or “working” on ourselves, we have to start with love and gratitude. Before you close this tab, hear me out.
We’ve all been told that it’s fruitless to try and find love if we don’t love ourselves first, right? Well, this is the same idea.
If we try and affect change from a place of negativity or ill feelings towards ourselves, we end up taking the “punishment” route. This can look like restriction diets, pushing ourselves towards a reward (“if I run for 30 minutes then I can have 1 donut”) or using a “tough love” (aka drill sergeant) approach to motivating when exercising. More often than not, this ends in us giving up, failing to meet goals, feeling like sh*t about ourselves, and not to mention, fostering an unhealthy relationship with ourselves.
So before we begin making a plan to meet our goals, we first need to start with having an appreciation for our body and all that it does for us, and then work towards radical acceptance.
Radical acceptance is the idea that we FULLY accept what is. The “good” the “bad” and everything in between. Once we have radical acceptance, then we can make change in a healthy and lasting way.
If you want to learn more about “radical acceptance”, check out my Mom Bod guide. I talk about why it’s important, how to achieve it, and how mindfulness exercises will help you deepen your gratitude and radical acceptance so you can achieve lasting change.
Create change by nourishing and caring for your body
Restrictions and elimination diets don’t work. They are a form of punishment and we know that’s not a lasting way to healthy change.
Instead, we want to come at this from the lens of nourishing our bodies and moving them because we love them. Start small and ADD in movement and food that feels good for your body.
If you usually eat leftover pizza for breakfast, it would not make sense (or likely have a high success rate) if you had the goal to eat salmon and a quinoa salad for breakfast every day, from now on. (If you watch my Instagram stories, you know this is straight from personal experience!) And if you haven’t been to the gym in 10 years, starting your day with a 10-mile run may not be such a hot idea.
In my Mom Bod guide, I have a whole section on how to nourish your body and “exercise” in a healthy way that will have longevity. I help guide you in tuning into how great your body really is, and making a plan to optimize YOUR health by starting at where YOU are at.
I also talk about how you start your day. Is it by throwing on the first outfit you can find, chugging some caffeine and feeling guilty about the drive thru breakfast bagel you ate? Or is it with some morning sunshine and a yoga pose? A drive thru breakfast sandwich AND a yummy smoothie?
Again, we want to start small and ADD IN nourishment and movement so we feel motivated and good about ourselves, instead of taking things away and “punishing” ourselves.
Talk (and act!) like your kids are listening
Whether it seems like it or not, our children are paying attention. They learn from what we say, what we do, and how we act. It’s the modelling that we do over time that will shape our children’s inner voice.
So, the best way to protect your child from body image issues is to start with your own body image.
There are a million little pieces to this. From going to therapy to figure out what the false narratives are that you have about your body, to giving yourself a compliment every time you pass by a mirror, to reframing what you say (and what your children hear) when you don’t like something about yourself.
Obviously, I’m not saying it’s realistic that you will love every single thing about yourself every single day. But when you put on a shirt you haven’t worn in a while, and immediately no long like, do you say, “Gosh this shirt makes me look so fat!”, or do you say, “I’m not sure if I love the look of this shirt on me anymore. I think it’s time to donate it/maybe I’ll go shopping this weekend for a few new pieces of clothing”?
The key is starting with where YOU are at and being mindful and purposeful in how you model your relationship with food, exercise, and your body to your children.
Recap on postpartum body image and the “bounce back” culture
By starting with love and gratitude for your body, and then adding in small attainable goals, you CAN optimize your health and enjoy doing it!
If you have fitness goals, and you care about having a healthy body image for yourself and your children, then I highly recommend grabbing my Mom Bod guide. It’s a 30-day plan to ditch toxic diet culture, improve your body image, and optimize your health!
It doesn’t matter what your health goals are, it is the perfect addition to guide you in meeting those goals in a healthy and enjoyable way, while feeling GOOD about yourself!
You deserve to love yourself AND feel like your best self!