Confessions of a Personal Trainer - Post Natal Weight Loss Obsession
December 10, 2013
This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of "Killing Us Softly 4" which explores how women are portrayed in the media and it's harmful effects. Like most people at the screening, I felt depressed and nauseas afterwards and was left wondering "what they heck am I supposed to do about this larger-than-life problem?".
I am a mom and I'm in recovery from an eating disorder. Being in recovery for 4 years prior to entering mommy hood, I am mindful to steer clear of fashion magazines (and most magazines in general) and am armed with a barrage of tactics to combat negative thoughts when looking at advertisements. One thing I wasn't prepared for after giving birth to my now 18-month-old son was the pressure to look "hot" or "amazing" as soon I possibly could.
We all see it. The headline in People Magazine "(insert celeb's name here) looking amazing only 2 weeks post baby bump!" And we see it on social networks with new moms in selfies posing in their underwear or bikini showing off their instant six pack just weeks after giving birth (see this link)
Even Babycenter (a huge online resource for new and expecting moms) has a photo slideshow of women who post their postnatal tummy pictures (usually without their heads in the shot) as a way to display their post partum tummy "progress". The pressure to return to one's pre-pregnant body (or look even better) is definitely alive and well in our culture and has become somewhat of a contest and even an obsession amongst new moms. During those first few weeks and months, I was (and still am at times) a sleep deprived, hormonal wreck. The feelings of inadequacy were everywhere and the pressure (I put upon myself) to fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans was pretty intense. Everywhere I looked for online support about post partum recovery mentioned weight loss and exercise and pictures of new moms with their before and after tummy shots.
So without further belly aching (no pun intended) about this growing obsession in the new mom community, my thoughts after the movie screening was one of change and action. What can I start doing to make a change? I might not have any control over the media and its nasty influences but I can control how I act and what I say.
The one phrase I heard a lot after giving birth was how great I looked. I have heard many people tell new moms this whether or not they have bags under their eyes, poop stained sweat pants on or have the same body 5 months post partum as they did at 36 weeks pregnant. It is something people say to make the new mom feel good. So what is wrong with this? If it makes someone feel good in the moment, why worry about it? The problem lies in what it is emphasizing. Appearance. Importance is being placed on how the new mom looks and not how she is feeling. A new mom might not think anything of this comment and might even rejoice that someone thinks they look great but eventually it can backfire- especially for those struggling with an eating disorder (which is one out of every four women in America).
So what is my plan of action? I will no longer comment on a new mom's appearance. I will instead ask them how they are feeling and if there is anything I can do to help. Looking back, that is what I wished people would have sad to me instead of focusing on "how great I looked'. Will you join me? The change we want to see in the world starts with ourselves.