There are 2 extremes in the postpartum fitness industry.
On the one side you have the “Lose the baby weight fast”; “Look like you never had a baby”; “Fit back into your jeans” stuff.
On the other end you have the “Love your body – stretch marks, loose skin, scars, and all!”; “Only think positive thoughts about your body”; “Never think about losing weight. That’s just society trying to force you to change” stuff.
The truth is that both extremes aren’t helpful.
They’re not taking an entire woman’s health – mental, emotional and physical – into consideration.
They’re both dogmatic approaches that try to control a woman and the choices she makes instead of giving her the option to make an informed choice about what’s right for her.
So we need to take a step back from the extremes and meet in the middle.
A place where you aren’t shamed for looking a certain way, and you aren’t shamed for wanting to look a certain way.
Where weight loss isn’t the only priority, but it can be a priority if you want it to be.
Where you’re taught to accept (and hopefully even love) where you’re at. But you’re also allowed to change how your body looks – even if that means getting a tummy tuck or other cosmetic procedure.
Proponents of the one extreme will say, “But a woman has a right to look however she wants to look and she can workout and eat and do things to make that happen.” That’s 100% true.
Advocates of the other extreme will say, “But a woman shouldn’t feel pressure to fit an unrealistic ideal.” That’s 100% true.
This is why we need to take a step back, set our judgements aside and remember what postpartum fitness is truly about – empowering moms to feel good in their bodies.
So how do we do that?
How can you get to a place where you aren’t driven by a hatred for your body, but you’re also allowed to make some physical changes?
This isn’t an overnight process. And there are some key things we want to remember along the way. But it’s possible. Here’s how to get started…
Is Your Why Empowered?
You know that age that every kid gets to where they’re constantly asking why?
“Why do we have to wash our hands?”
“Why do we wear shoes?”
“Why are cucumbers green?”
While you may get to the point where you feel like screaming, “Because!!! Now stop asking me why!!!!!” You also understand that your kiddo is just trying to figure out their world. They’re trying to make sense of things.
And – in some cases – they’re questioning whether they should, or shouldn’t do something. They’re getting clear on their motivations – the key reason behind their actions.
Because the more clear they are about why they should (or shouldn’t) do something, the more motivated they’ll be to follow through and actually do (or not do) that thing.
If they know that washing their hands will keep germs at bay and make it less likely they’ll get sick and feel yucky, they’ll (probably) be more motivated to wash their hands.
Knowing why is powerful.
It can drive us in every action (or inaction) we take.
So before you decide whether you want to change your body (through exercise, nutrition, or medical intervention) you need to take a step back and consider why this is important to you.
Is it what you truly want? Or simply what you think you should want?
Is it coming from a place of appreciating and respecting your body?
Or from a place of hating the way you look and disgusted at your own reflection?
Does it feel like it’s a good, empowered why?
Or a sad, disempowered why?
You’ll know that it’s an empowered why if it makes you truly happy, excited for the future and like you’re running in the right direction toward something that you feel is exactly what you want.
You’ll know that it’s a disempowered why if it makes you feel like you’re doing it to impress others, you’re fearful that this isn’t going to get you the results you were hoping for because it’s not what you truly desire, and like you’re trying to run away from something instead of toward what you actually want.
Getting clear on whether you’re approaching the changes you want with an empowered why or a disempowered why will give you a good indication of whether following through and making those changes is the right choice for you.
Question Your Uncomfortableness
When I was a teenager I wanted nothing more than to have thigh gap.
Thigh gap wasn’t even a buzzword thing when I was growing up but I definitely wanted it.
But I come from German-Russians.
I’m built like a gymnast.
A gymnast with thick thighs.
I was never going to (and will never) have supermodel-sized legs.
And that’s okay.
I’ve learned to embrace my thick thighs because they’re mine and they’re pretty incredible. They’re strong and muscly and powerhouses in the gym.
I’ve learned to understand and appreciate my thick thighs. My uniqueness.
Because no matter how I workout, no matter what I eat, no matter how much I use the Law of Attraction, I’m limited by my genetics.
My thighs can only change so much.
And that’s okay.
Sometimes you just need to roll with your uniqueness.
Everyone has something unique about them that they’ve needed to learn to live with, appreciate, respect, adore, relish in.
And if you’re coming from a place of wanting to erase every unique thing about you simply because it’s not what’s considered “traditionally beautiful”, it’s time to question if “traditionally beautiful” is even a thing you want to be.
You really need to question why you’re uncomfortable with your perceived flaws.
Because if you got enough plastic surgery to look “perfect”, would that make you happy?
You know this. You know that confidence isn’t about how perky your boobs are or whether your thighs jiggle when you walk.
So if you feel like you should erase your perceived imperfections and look a certain way – because society is telling you to look like you never had a baby and you’re adopting those beliefs as your own – instead of making an informed decision (based on an empowered why), then making changes to your body from that headspace likely isn’t the best choice.
Be Okay with Okay
I don’t love my cellulite.
I don’t love my stretch marks.
I don’t love that my boobs are forever changed from breastfeeding.
I don’t love these things.
But I’m also not interested in spending my days obsessing over them.
If you have a c-section scar, you don’t need to love it.
If you have stretch marks, you don’t have to love them.
If you have saggier boobs, you don’t need to love those either.
If you have more fat, blacker bags under your eyes, more stress-induced wrinkles… you don’t have to love them. You don’t have to love any of it.
But you also don’t have to hate them.
It’s possible to find some middle-ground.
You can start by catching your negative body image thoughts that are – based around how a woman should apparently look according to the media – and ask yourself…
- Is this actually realistic for me?
- Is looking this way the right choice for me?
- Can I just be okay with looking the way I am without worrying about looking like her?
The truth is that 99% of the world does not look like that magazine cover (that woman on the cover probably doesn’t even look exactly like that photo on a daily basis).
But knowing that doesn’t automatically make it easier seeing that photo, right?
It can still bring up feelings of lack and a nauseating amount of confidence-bombing thoughts.
Which is why we need to remind ourselves that the constant comparison that the media pushes upon us on a daily basis can make it challenging to fully, 100% love our bodies 24/7, 365 days a year.
Loving your body all the time is a nearly impossible goal.
Even the most body positive woman will have bad body image days.
No one is perfect.
We all have moments where we struggle to overcome the overwhelming notion that we should look different.
So instead of focusing so hard on loving our bodies, I wish we could encourage women to start with just being okay with their bodies.
And specifically being okay right now. In this moment.
The feeling may not last all day.
It might not even last a minute.
But is it possible to think for a second about how amazing your body is for creating and nurturing life?
Can you enjoy a few seconds of appreciation for what your body has done?
Can you be okay with the stretch marks and extra skin because you honestly weren’t meant to create a tiny human and then look like it never happened?
Okay is okay.
You don’t have to love every part of your body.
You don’t have to love it all the time.
And if you’re feeling pressure to love your body when you don’t, that’s a clear indication that you’re feeling forced to feel a way you don’t truly feel and a different approach might work better.
Maybe instead of starting with the lofty goal of loving every inch of your body, you start with the idea that being okay with it for a minute (or less) is okay.
Because making choices about changing your body from a place of acceptance instead fear is a much more joy-filled experience.
Hating your body into looking a certain way won’t make you happy.
Appreciating and accepting your body on the path to looking a certain way can.
I know that this is hard.
I know that sometimes you wish your body looked like it did before.
I know that you may feel ashamed, guilty, embarrassed about any of these feelings.
But you don’t have to.
You’re allowed to feel the way you truly feel. And then – if it’s not a feeling that brings joy into your life – I hope you get the support you deserve to bring more positivity into the picture.
Because my mission is to help you make choices from a place of joy and acceptance instead of hating your body into a certain pant size.
My mission is to give you a shame-free, non-judgmental space where you’re allowed to say, “Some days I hate my body and I’d love things to be different.” Because that’s your truth. And that’s okay.
At the end of the day, you’re allowed to make the choices that feel right for your body. Because it’s your body.
Your feelings matter. Your feelings are valid.
I hear you. I’m with you.
So let’s cultivate some positive change.
Whatever that looks like for you.
P.S. Have a friend who’s struggling with this whole “love your postpartum body” thing? Send her this post.