Throughout my pregnancy I promised myself that I would wait a full year after having my baby before trying to lose the “baby weight”.
“It takes almost year to gain the weight”, I had heard, “so give yourself a year to lose it.” That was my plan.
My daughter was 2 days old the first time I weighed myself postpartum. I was happy with how much weight I had already dropped and optimistic that the rest would come off easily as I nursed my sweet baby. At 8 weeks postpartum, I went for my first run; I bled a little, but told myself I just needed to push through and help my body ‘get back to normal’. By 10 weeks postpartum, I was doing headstands and practicing yoga again, surprised at how much muscle memory my body had retained. She was only 3.5 months old when I ran a 5k while pushing her in the stroller. I came in second last for my age category and beat myself up for my slow pace. I told myself that I was just getting back to my favorite hobbies – running and yoga – and that any weight loss was just an added bonus.
The truth is, I was not ok with my postpartum body. And during the next 5 months I did exactly what I said I wouldn’t do….
I hated on my body.
I felt like a failure and feared that the “baby weight” would never come off. I started working out at least once a day. I considered calorie counting and researched restrictive diets so I could drop the weight as quickly as possible, all while exclusively breastfeeding a baby that did not love sleep.
I was especially stressed because my husband and I planned to have our children close together. This meant I had put myself on a short timeline to lose weight between children. I would sometimes ask my husband, “what if I can’t lose the weight? What then? Should we wait to grow our family?” All of this because of my obsession with wanting my “pre-baby body” back.
By the time I was 5 months postpartum I was consumed with the pressure of losing the weight. I had failed at my plan to “give it a year” and had spent the beginning of my journey as a mother hating my body.
One day I said to my husband, “I work out more than any of my friends, and I’m really trying to eat well. Why can’t I drop any weight??’”
He responded, “who cares? If you’re taking care of your body, and your body is taking care of you AND our baby, isn’t that the point? You’re healthy, and that’s what matters.”
That’s when it hit me: I wanted to be thin more than I wanted to be healthy. If being healthy didn’t also mean being thin, I wasn’t interested.
I realized that I cared more about the aesthetic of being “healthy” (re: looking thin) than about actually being healthy. If I wasn’t going to lose weight from working out and eating well, then why bother? My husband’s response helped me realize that like millions of women around the world, I was chasing the thin ideal.
I personally believe that having weight loss goals is fine, but we need to explore our motivation for weight loss. Why did it feel so important to me that I was willing to put my life plans on hold? Where was my obsession of becoming smaller coming from?
I realized, in time, that I was confusing thinness with healthiness. I wanted to be ok with who I was, and that meant confronting my body image issues. I needed to be ok with being healthy, just to be healthy, even if it meant I was never going to be thin.
As a mother of a baby girl I had already been rediscovering my identity as a woman, and my identity as a feminist. One night I sat down to watch the documentary Miss Representation. I was both infuriated and inspired. The documentary explores how women are treated in the media and politics, how we are used as a marketing tool, and how money is made off of us obsessing over our “flaws” and thinness. This movie was a real catalyst for me to begin exploring, writing, and learning more about feminism, and specifically the way our patriarchal society has shaped how women view their bodies.
I began asking hard questions, like ‘who benefits from me hating my body?’ and ‘why is only one body type shown in advertising?’. The answers I found were terrifying and lead me to publicly ‘denounce’ diet culture in this Facebook post I wrote:
Dear fitspo culture and companies that want me to hate my body:
I’m not buying it.
I’m not buying any of it.
This is my body, this is my vehicle, and I’m not buying into the lie that it needs to be a certain size or look a certain way.
This is my journey, this is my life, and I’m not buying into the lie that there is one way to be healthy and one way to eat well, or that being ‘healthy’ should be an all consuming quest, dominating all of my time and mental capacity.
I am not buying the lie that healthy = skinny. I am not buying the lie that if I’m not losing weight while eating nutritious food and being active that I’m doing something ‘wrong’. I am not buying the lie that the scale is the ultimate measure of health and happiness.
I’m not buying anyone of this.
This is my body, and it’s an INSTRUMENT, not an ornament.
This is my money to spend and I am not buying from companies who prey on women’s self hate and low self esteem and use them as marketing strategies.
This is my time to use and I’m not spending it on endless and empty conversations on how much weight I need to lose until I finally accept myself.
This is my social media account, and it’s my choice to not view or like accounts or companies that use fear and shame based advertising to sell ‘health’ products to women.
These companies are not going to make any more profit off of me hating my body and will not cross my news feed.
I AM NOT BUYING.
After months of trying to lose THE WEIGHT with no success, exploring my new identity as a mother, and now having faced the reality that diet culture was a money machine designed to make women hate their bodies and become lifetime consumers, I was in the perfect storm. I had lost the blinders, I had seen the light, and I was changed.
I realized that the idea that you can somehow get your pre-baby body back is a diet-culture lie meant to prey on new mothers so they’ll spend their time and money trying to erase the effects of motherhood from their bodies. I had been buying into the lie that I needed to get my pre-baby body “back” – as if I had ever lost anything.
Once your body has had a baby, that’s your body! Your weight may fluctuate but that body you have will ALWAYS be a postpartum body. And once I realized that, I felt free. I wanted to do better, as a woman and a mother, for myself and my daughter.
No matter where you fall on the ‘feminist’ spectrum, I hope we can all agree on this:
- We don’t want our children to start dieting as young as we did.
- We don’t want our children to feel pressured to sexualize themselves at a young age to get power or feel heard.
- We don’t want our children to struggle through years of disordered eating and body image issues before finding self acceptance and healing their relationship with food.
- We don’t want our children to develop eating disorders, use dangerous ‘health’ or diet products, or obsessively exercise and ‘watch’ what they eat in order to have the ‘ideal’ body.
- We don’t want our children to believe there IS an ideal body.
- We don’t want our children to believe that thin = happy, beautiful, better, smarter, healthier.
- We don’t want our children to hate their bodies – so why do we? Why was I?
I didn’t know how to find my way, or where to start my journey, but I knew one thing: as a new mom, 30 pounds heavier than what I had thought I would be, rocking my sweet daughter in my arms, I would not – I could not – I absolutely refused to pass my body image issues on to her. I wasn’t going to be 60 and still chasing a number on a scale. I wasn’t going to waste all my time, energy, and abilities on something as fleeting as a body. I wasn’t going to exist for someone else’s viewing pleasure, and live in fear of taking up space. I wasn’t going to to teach her, through my actions and the way I talked about my body, that being or having fat is the worst thing a woman can be or do.
Somehow, I was going to reject the lie that something needed to change in my body before I could accept myself, and that my purpose as a woman was to be thin.
That’s how I found feminism; by facing my fear of fat.
And it’s also how I found Balance365 Life!