By Louise Hurley
On some small level, the health and fitness industry has had some big shake ups when it comes to promoting what it means to have a healthy body thanks to more and more influencers on social media now talking about positive body image. If you follow influencers spreading the word on body acceptance and body positivity, you’re likely to see more images of real bodies – by that I mean post baby tummies, stretch marks, cellulite and scars.
However, in general there’s still a long way to go when it comes to recognising that a healthy, well functioning body comes in all shapes, sizes and weights. Whether unconsciously or consciously, many people and fitness businesses still spread the message that the typical post baby body, with it’s loose skin, tummy rolls, stretch marks, veins and scars is flawed in the way it looks. I’ve lost count of the number of “health and fitness” services I’ve seen that promise you a flat tummy or tell you that by following their diet plan you can get your pre baby body back. Whilst these messages may mean well (because they’re supposedly helping mums to regain their health), what the message actually says is “your postnatal body shows that you’ve had a baby, and it’s not as good as it was before”.
I’m on a mission to let all mums, no matter what stage of motherhood they’re at, know that they are more than their post baby body. So I want to share a few truth bombs with you with the intention of helping you to 1) understand why trying to get your pre baby body back should not be a goal and 2) to encourage you to show more self compassion towards that wondrous, capable and resilient mum body of yours.
truth bomb #1
you will never get your pre baby body back
We need to get rid of the phrase “get your pre baby body back” from not only the fitness industry, but everyone’s vocabulary. Your body is not meant to be the same after you’ve had a baby, it has changed on so many levels, even down to the width of your hips and the size of your feet! (Did you know that? Yep, you can go up a shoe size after pregnancy!) But this doesn’t mean your post baby body is worse. You can be fitter and stronger than ever before after having a baby with the right team of professionals in your corner. Nevertheless, your body will still be different, which is not the same as worse. Different can mean resilient and strong.
truth bomb #2
your body naturally holds onto fat after you’ve had a baby…and it’s completely normal!
The trouble is, we don’t see enough of it in the media. We’re constantly exposed to headlines and images telling us how this or that celebrity lost their baby weight. Very rarely are we exposed to images of normal mum bodies in the media with a positive headline attached.
There are several factors involved with holding onto body fat after having a baby, including age, the number of babies you have, hormones and how much weight your body gained during pregnancy. Most women (but not all) very slowly lose most of (but not all) the weight their body gained during pregnancy. One study suggests that the majority of women over 30 who have a baby will retain 2kg over their pre pregnancy body weight (Janney, 1997). It is 100% normal to not return to your pre pregnancy weight.
truth bomb #3
reset your expectations
Getting back to somewhere near your “normal” body weight can take up to 12–24 months, or, as discussed in point number one, it may not happen at all. Reset your expectations of bouncing back after having a baby, because it’s impossible (not to mention extremely dangerous to your health) and only leads to feelings of failure, stress and tiredness. All the things you do not want when you have a baby to look after!
truth bomb #4
your weight, size and shape does not equal your worth!
The number on the scales or on your clothes tags is just a number, which can fluctuate due to a whole range of factors. What your body looks like does not equal your worth as a woman or a mother.
So, with these truth bombs in mind, what practical things can you do to make yourself feel like you again?
- Get moving for physical and mental health benefits rather than weight loss or to change the shape of your body. We live in a culture where we have body autonomy meaning you have a choice with what you do with and how you present your body so if you really want to weigh less and change the way you look, that’s your right and I certainly do not judge anybody for it. However, making it your primary goal to lose your baby weight can often damage your relationship with food and exercise and affect your mental health. Find a mum’s fitness professional who can help you safely become fitter and stronger and help you to feel more like yourself again, without focusing on the way that you look
- Prioritise self care and invest in yourself, which can include booking a women’s health physio appointment, working with someone to improve your relationship with food and your body image, getting regular massages or just scheduling in time to go for a walk outdoors and clear your head. When we are relaxed and content, our thoughts tend to be more positive and we have more self compassion
- Practice gratitude regularly. Your body has done some incredible things and it’s so powerful to be able to bring this to mind. Tune in to your gratitude towards your body and the baby that
Louise Hurley As a MumSafe™ trainer and Pregnancy and Postnatal Corrective Exercise Specialist, Louise’s mission is to help mums at every stage of motherhood safely start or return to exercise. Louise is the owner of Strong Mums and runs small group training and 1:1 PT. Find out more at www.strongmums.com or on social media @strongmumsgosford