I always see hashtags on Instagram like #BeatTheMomBod or #BounceBack after someone has a baby—but why? There’s an enormous pressure put on postpartum women to return to our pre-pregnancy shape. Whether it’s someone you know showing off how they returned to their pre-baby weight in just six weeks or a headline sharing how a Hollywood actress was back in her pre-prego bikini just four months postpartum.
Advice all over the internet that tells women they can “bounce back’ and erase the fact that they’ve had a baby is misguided at best and dangerous at worst.
That messaging is doing us all a disservice. It’s unrealistic for most postpartum women who are getting little sleep, experiencing hormonal shifts and still healing after a vaginal or surgical birth. And, it’s still unrealistic for some postpartum women a year, two years or more postpartum.
My new hashtag is going to be #HonorTheMomBod. Why shouldn’t you honor it? Your body was put under a huge stress and load to carry and nurture your baby or multiples, then you went through childbirth. Of course, your body has changed. Your body is fierce and strong and what it went through is pure magic.
The most important postpartum mindset shift that needs to happen around how you see your postpartum body is this: It’s not about getting your body back, it’s about figuring out how to move through life in this NEW body that you’re in today. It’s the same body that grew a tiny human and yet it’s a different, and forever-changed, body.
Here’s how to practice honoring you postpartum body:
1. Get out a pen and your journal or a sticky note and write down this mantra “I honor my body.”
Post it on your computer, your wall or in your journal—somewhere you’ll see it several times a day. Repeat it to yourself. Often. Repeat it so often that you believe it to be the absolute truth.
2. Look deep inside and at your biases + perceptions.
What is it about thinness or a smaller body that is so much more attractive? What made your pre-pregnancy body so much more attractive, sexier, better than your body right now? Did you carry a child with it? Nourish a tiny human with it?
3. Reconsider your definition of self-worth.
Is it a number that’s on the scale or on a measurement of your waist? Have you always done this? We all struggle sometimes to look at our bodies in the mirror with acceptance and grace, if not love. For many of us, our body types aren’t represented in mainstream media or health and wellness advertising and we’ve spent years trying to come to terms with that.
I’ve struggled most of my life with body image issues as a ballet dancer and yogi. For most of my life, I compared my body to others in these industries. It’s taken a ton of work to develop an admiration for my body and to be comfortable with its size and shape—but you can start by looking at how you value your self-worth.
4. Admire your body for its strength, power and grace.
When I take a step back, I admire the ability of my body to mother two little boys with my entire body—to carry a 35lb 3-year-old and a 25-lb 1-year old while maintaining a supportive alignment. To get up and down off the floor 500 times a day. To get a huge double stroller in and out of the trunk of my car.
Your body is powerful, mama.
It’s very possible to be strong and healthy and also have a curvy shape. As strong and capable to lift car seats and strollers, carry and rock tiny humans. As energetic to keep up with non-stop crawlers, early walkers, runners, climbers.
5. Move your body and do the things you want to do.
Whether that’s strength training, yoga, biking, swimming, running— you will be able to do it again! But, don’t let yourself feel pressured by outside influences or unrealistic “fitspo” images that you need to get back to doing those things before you’re ready.
Don’t feel that you need to punish yourself or to force yourself into some smaller, tighter mold. I tell my clients to move their body to nourish it. We can use exercise to push our bodies in ways that feel good four our mind, body and souls.
It takes time, but you can take steps to find contentment with your body as it is right now. Remember that you’re a powerful, incredible mama just the way you are today. You’re strong and resilient and your body—whatever size it may be—nurtured and birthed a tiny human. Choose one of the practices above and implement it into your daily life.