Many of us have struggled accepting our postpartum bodies. Regardless of the truly miraculous things our bodies just accomplished. In the same instance, for many of us, it’s not the first time we have hated on ourselves. After struggling to lose all of the weight of my second pregnancy and feeling badly about myself, I finally got to the point where I’m just fed up with negative self talk and started making steps to love my postpartum body. And not just small changes to mask my real feelings, but try to dig deep into why I can’t truly love everything I am.
Think about the titles of articles about our bodies and what intrigues us to read them:
“How to love your body even when you don’t”
“Follow these Tips to Accept your Postpartum Body”
“How to Love a Body you Hate”
There is still a negative connotation towards ourselves. We need to learn to love our bodies. Period. Not mask the fact that we don’t look at ourselves in a positive way.
The bigger picture is that our society’s conversations about women and their bodies is very small minded. It whittles us down to way less than we are. And feeds on our insecurities. Look at how many articles are out there on how to love your postpartum body (or body in general), and millions of fitness programs geared towards moms. There is nothing wrong with those things, but it’s sad that we are targeted as such an easy and vulnerable group. And why is that? Why are moms so targeted in needing new fitness routines and motivation? It’s so overwhelmingly the message, that it probably has even the healthiest moms questioning themselves! Now that my body has had two babies, it’s been an evolution of positive self talk to love my postpartum body and enjoy this phase of my life.
This is a revolutionary thought for me. Because I’ve been on a rollercoaster ride for some time now about how I treat my body- and in turn how I feel about myself in general.
I listened to a Ted Talk from Brene Brown about shame and read some articles (reading her book is on my list!). These are a couple of things that stood out to me:
“Shame, for women, is this web of unobtainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be. And it’s a straight-jacket. Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
In reflecting on our history with our own self talk and image, we can hopefully figure out the root of it all and work on changing it. So this is my vulnerable story that I had to explore.
High school was a pivotal point for me and pretty much started my rollercoaster on how I viewed myself. I’ve always been a more introverted person. Always had a small group of great friends, but I don’t go into new situations talking to everybody or make friends really fast because I take my time getting to know them. We moved my 1st grade year, 3rd grade year, 6th grade year, 9th grade year and then again 10th grade- beginning of my sophomore year. When I had to go to my second high school and start over again I kind of fell apart.
I got really depressed and uninterested in meeting any new friends. I thought there was no point. Everything that I did during that time was so against my natural personality but I felt lost. Probably broke my mom’s heart multiple times those three years, but I don’t think she realized until later that I wasn’t just acting out- that I felt broken myself. This was the start of my emotional eating and roller coaster of weight gain and loss. I was lonely and sad, so I self medicated with food. It’s a super vicious cycle that carried me into adulthood.
Transitioning to “Grown Up”
Thankfully in college, I started to become myself again. Definitely going through phases trying to find out who I really was and really wanted to be. But I was generally happy and made some amazing friendships and connections. The problem that kept following me: I still correlated love for myself in how I looked and you could see it in my romantic relationships. If you don’t truly love yourself, there is this little voice in the back of your head telling you that you don’t deserve better and you should settle for less.
I moved to Chicago after college at 23 years old. For the first four years, it was definitely a time where I felt grown up in that I had a career as a teacher, but still figuring out myself in relationships. Again my internal image of self love was developing, but not fully there. There was a period of time with constant drinking, going out to eat, traveling and just enjoying life. Physically, I completely let myself go. Kind of like in high school, but not because I was depressed. Or maybe I was in a way, again at a crossroads trying to figure out what the next steps of my life would be. Four years into it, teaching had become incredibly stressful and exhausting. And I wondered if I’d ever find someone to start a family with, which I dearly wanted.
As I reflect on this time and my time in high school- it’s clear that at times when I feel at my lowest- I treat my body the worst way possible. Since I feel so many things about other aspects of my life, I can’t even find room for healthy foods and exercise. Which is terrible, because that is when I should be taking care of myself most!
Around my 27th birthday, I decided to kick my butt in gear and make some changes. I started working out and eating well, which led to my healthiest weight and look in a long time. I was happy and met my husband a year later.
This is what is sad about that.
I didn’t feel confident enough during my “unhealthy” phases because I felt so much shame for how I looked and who I thought I was. It’s sad that I couldn’t feel good when I wasn’t being perfect or when life provided challenges. We shouldn’t wait until we think we are perfect before experiencing life and loving our journey.
The Era of Pregnancy
My most vulnerable. I have wondered at times if my husband would still love me if I didn’t get back to how I was when he met me. Which is sad. And that’s so hard for me to admit out loud. Because it truly is absurd! But it’s a thought I’ve had at my lowest points. Those types of thoughts don’t do anything good for your soul! And he always tells me how beautiful I am, it’s just sad that there are times I couldn’t even believe him.
After my first son, I had gained a little over 40 pounds but managed to lose all of the weight by working out and eating healthier. My second pregnancy, I gained 50+ pounds and am still working on losing the last 10 (he’ll be one in a few weeks).
I’ve been working out, eating healthier, even did a sugar detox and I felt like I was getting nowhere. All the things that have worked for me in the past. Maybe it’s my age or my second pregnancy or my habits. Who knows? Finally I thought…and who cares?!
My aha moment.
I want OFF of this rollercoaster once and for all. I set goals to be more consistent. But also be even more aware in times of real stress where I am the hardest on myself. Waiting until I’m perfect to go out there and feel good enough is not okay. Or feeling so much shame because I feel like I should be looking a different way.
But this is my revelation. I need to love myself at every point of my life. Be proud of all the things I’m doing. Not strive for a former self or imaginary self. I’m so much healthier and my mood is euphoric after working out, regardless of how quickly or not quickly the physical changes happen.
8 Things to Help You:
- Follow a variety of positive body models and influencers on social media. I recently added @powertoprevail and her posts are so inspiring! Not only the images but little tokens of knowledge that really make you think and motivate your self talk.
- Reflect on your story. Why and how did you start viewing yourself in a negative way? What can you do to shift your self talk?
- Set goals for yourself. Not just how you look, but things to aspire to that can lead to an overall healthier life. Physical and mental.
- Try and tune out the advertisements. “Look how these celebrities got their perfect bodies 1 week after labor!” “Do you have that summer body yet?!” Think about how you feel when you consume certain types of media and make changes that are the best for you.
- What your body can do and has done is flippin’ AMAZING. Focus on that!
- Work out and eat healthy because of all the benefits to your life, not for vanity measures.
- Remember to tell yourself you are beautiful. Because you are.
- Spread the self love to others around you.
When I look at myself in a positive light, it doesn’t matter what the number on the scale says. Yes, I’m working out regularly. I eat healthy the majority of the time. I’m enjoying my life. I’m going to take my boys to the pool, even if I’m not perfect. And I’m not going to second guess my husband when he tells me I’m beautiful.
I’ll just smile, take it in and simply say “Thank you.”