How do you get your body back after baby? You don’t. You don’t get your body back after baby.
Your body didn’t go anywhere. It doesn’t need to be found. It doesn’t need to be “fixed.” There is only one thing to fix in postpartum and that is how we view our bodies and the bodies of other women.
Recently a well-respected local nutrition expert advertised a program to help new moms “get back into their jeans.” Well intended, I’m sure. The expert in question had her first child a couple of months ago.
Her program stirred up a bit of criticism. Fans wondered why she was suddenly framing her services in this light — why not offer benefits to energy levels, sleep, mood, and digestion, all of which can use a boost after baby? But digestion isn’t sexy. Being “skinny” is. Wraps, meal plans, shakes, programs, detoxes, teas, diets, and corsets. The weight-loss industry is exploding with postpartum gurus and “fixes.”
BECAUSE WE’RE EASY TARGETS.
We think we should look like we never had a baby in the first place. The jeans may be a metaphor, but they’re not a metaphor for health. They’re a metaphor for the stress, depression, self-loathing and self-harming that often envelopes a woman as she re-enters the world not as a lithe, flawless girl but as an ample, experienced, and often scarred woman.
Adjusting to the demands of new motherhood is no small task. Your relationship, schedule, circle of friends, career, familial ties, sleep, nutrition and — yes — body all change from the moment you pee on that stick. And then pee again, and pee again, and pee again just in case. That little pink line can be tricky!
When we feel pressured to “fix” it all and struggle to accept our new identity, the simplest solution seems to be controlling ourselves. We are not just supposed to look like we never had a baby, we are supposed to dress right, watch the right documentaries, read the right books, cook the right homemade organic baby food, have a fun & flirtatious sexual relationship with our partner, be mindful and express gratitude for every moment of every day, breastfeed with ease, abhor gluten, parent like we’ve got a PhD in child development, and document it all perfectly in colour-coordinated squares on Instagram.
The “low hanging fruit” that’s easiest to grasp is that which we believe we alone can control: our body & its appearance. If we can’t control a baby who cries every 20 minutes, we can control our diet. If we can’t control the shift in our marriage, we can at least put on a stretch mark cream. If we can’t go back and change the fact we had an emergency cesarean instead of a vaginal birth, we can at least run 10 km a day with the stroller. We can beat our bodies into submission. At least we can do that, right?
I’m calling B.S.
I’m here to tell you that I’m a fitness pro, my youngest is now 16 months old and I’m still not near wearing my pre-pregnancy jeans. Each of my three children has taken a different toll on my body and my mental health. I know I need about 2-3 years to bounce back each time. I choose to focus my energy on different things. I exercise, I cook homemade food, I journal, I walk. I also order takeout, drink wine, binge watch Netflix sometimes, and take the odd day hanging out on the floor/bed/couch with my youngest and barely lift a finger.
Because I can work out 6 days per week later. I can obsess over the perfect green smoothie later. I can’t mom forever.
Got a $20,000 work wardrobe you’d like to make use of again one day? That’s understandable. Give yourself a couple of years to focus on the priorities of motherhood and your changing, new world. It might take you 6 months to fit into your clothes. It might take you 18 months. Each woman, and each child, is different. You might find your perspective changes and you remain happily 10 pounds heavier than before pregnancy, despite working out and eating well. In that case, I recommend you hock that shit on eBay and get thyself to the mall. You might find you lose your “boobs” and your “butt” and can’t keep the weight on after baby comes. Same deal. eBay. Mall. Accept it.
You made a person. You changed the world. You perpetuated your bloodline. You put a piece of yourself into the future. You get the chance to do the best thing in the world. You are in on the biggest secret ever. You know the meaning of life.
You don’t need to fix your body. You need to fix your brain.
FIX YOUR BRAIN IN 5 EASY STEPS
Now I’m no shrink. And I won’t pretend that reading a blog is going to make you instantly start loving your postpartum body. But I have been through this rigamarole 3 times now, and I’ve coached hundreds of women. Here are 5 of the key things that helped me recover my self-esteem and have compassion for myself after babies one, two and three. If you work these steps, your life can only get better. I promise.
Step 1: Clean up your social media.
Unfollow anyone who makes you feel icky, insecure, jealous or negative. Single coworker always posting bikini shots? Remove from feed. Ridiculously perfect Southern Belle Instagram-Queen mom of 5 with nary a crow’s foot? Unfollow. You will know who belongs in your brain and who doesn’t. If they make you feel obsessive or drained, unfollow.
Here are 10 of our favourite healthy Instagrammers if you’re looking to add some new inspiration.
Step 2: Start looking at normal bodies.
One of my absolute favourite social media sensations (of a non-fitness nature) is The 4th Trimester Bodies Project, an amazing initiative “dedicated to embracing the beauty inherent in the changes brought to our bodies by motherhood, childbirth and breastfeeding.” Did you hear that? Change is beautiful. You are beautiful.
If you look around you, the average mother is not flawless with a 6-pack and a perfectly filtered selfie angle. She has emotions, she has body fat, she has bad days and grey hair. Start noticing how normal you absolutely are. As you normalize real bodies, you will not just stop judging other women, you’ll stop judging yourself.
Want to take this to the next level? Cancel fitness mag subscriptions. Cancel fashion mag subscriptions. Start thinking about the type of images with which you fill your head, and your children’s world.
Step 3: Keep a journal.
Not a food journal. Those have a time and place but they are secondary to a daily journal. If all you do is write one short line, record something each day that is positive. If you’re more crafty, make a scrapbook or “smash-book” and glue the receipt from lunch with a girlfriend or doodle an image from your day. Try to write one thing you are grateful for. Bonus points if you can jot down one thing each day about your body for which you are happy/proud/grateful/accepting. The act of writing is meditative, and gratitude is something which must be practised. You don’t suddenly wake up “mindful” one morning. You practise gratitude and mindfulness, even when it feels a little forced in the beginning, and one day you just feel it. Without even trying. Begin with a single word or a sentence, and commit to writing it daily.
Step 4: Practice self-care.
Invest time in caring for your body — whatever you can spare. No matter its size, no matter its “fitness,” your body is crying out for care and will pay you back in good vibes. Try to schedule at least one thing each day that is just for you. Whether its a bubble bath by candlelight, an hour sprawled on the bed with a novel, a meditative walk to listen to music or a book on tape, a pedicure, time to work out away from the kids, or just washing & blow drying your hair like you’re 20 again and have all the time in the world…take care of yourself. This may take a tiny wedge from your Netflix time or it might mean you get out of bed a half hour earlier. Paying attention to your physical needs will help you appreciate your body, and help it work for you. A rested, well-loved body will feel and look rested and well-loved.
Try exercising for how good it makes your body feel, not how it might make your body look. This full-body Sun Salutation flow is a gentle way to kick-start a great day or relieve stress before bed.
Step 5: Buy new jeans.
You guessed it. I can’t tell you how many times, over the years, I’ve heard clients, friends or relatives say, “I’ll buy new clothes when I lose the weight.” I’ve thought it myself. I’ve certainly held onto jeans that haven’t fit since two Prime Ministers ago. Finally, I chucked them. If I ever actually find myself to be a size 4 again and, horror of horrors, I have no fitting clothes… I’ll buy new jeans then, too.
Throw them out, pack them away, or give them to a friend who actually fits them right now. Stop wasting time. Stop letting a pair of pants dictate whether or not you are “successful.” Buy something that flatters your amazing new body now. After all, you’ve worn different jeans since you were born. When you needed bigger jeans at 9 years old, you didn’t punish yourself and refuse to dress your body properly because its appearance had changed. A girl’s gotta have a pair of jeans (or three). Choose something that looks and feels awesome.
My fave jeans, by the way? Yoga Jeans, which actually fit me throughout pregnancy — and since — due to their amazing, flattering stretch. Get a pair, put them on, and pour yourself a glass of wine. You, my friend, are just fine.