As I write the title to this article, I feel an uneasy energy wash over me as loving my post-baby body is not actually something I’ve managed to achieve yet.
To give you a bit of a context, you may be aware that I have struggled with an eating disorder (you can read about that here). My weight has always been problematic for me, and still a very sensitive area. So of course when you throw pregnancy into the mix, you’ll understand why, as a new mother, I was ashamed to go out into the world the same way I used to before having a baby.
Whilst I actually managed to “slim down” during pregnancy (terrible nausea, heart burn and food aversion made it difficult to eat much), I stacked on the weight once my daughter was born. My body was in a state of stress due to emotional issues, lack of sleep and all the not-so-fun (stressful) bits that having a baby brings.
Once my daughter was about 4-5 months old, I decided it was time to focus on myself again. Rather than focusing on dieting and weight loss, I decided to focus on self-love and acceptance. Here are my suggestions on how to see your post-baby body and yourself with love:
Accepting the present moment, and the way things are, means that you drop your resistance to things being different. To me, acceptance is all about turning a negative into something neutral. It meant letting go of my expectations of how much weight I should have lost or how my body should look. It didn’t mean giving up on myself and wanting things to be different in the future. After all, the decisions made today is what creates tomorrow.
Although I wanted to lose weight and look vibrant again, I tried to focus on accepting how I looked in that moment, good or bad. It was just as it was. And it wasn’t going to change just because I said something nasty to myself in the mirror. In fact, if anything, the critical self-talk only leads to more anxiety and stress, increasing cortisol levels and leading to more weight gain!
This was probably the hardest thing to do. It’s a very simple process but very confronting, and I’m not even talking about looking at yourself in the mirror naked!
Mirror Work a widely used technique for personal development, created by Louise Hay, in which you look at your face in the mirror and make eye contact as you say to yourself: Your Name, I love you. I really, really love you.
Over time, it becomes easier and you actually feel like you mean what you say. This adds on to acceptance, turning the neutral into a positive.
There were 3 affirmations (from the work of Louise Hay) which I said to myself on repeat whenever I started feeling ashamed of my body and how tired and worn out I looked:
- I am totally adequate at all times and I approve of myself.
- I love and accept myself exactly as I am, right here and right now.
- My body is 100% acceptable and I appreciate my body.
At times the affirmation was hard to believe, but when I thought about what my little baby girl thought of me, I knew she believed I was acceptable, adequate (or more than!), and worthy of appreciation.
Praise Your Body
Sometimes, during some difficult and dark times, I definitely slipped back into being critical and frustrated with how I looked or how little weight I had lost. It was easy to be angry with my body. In those moments, I tried to remind myself of the amazing gift my body had given me – my daughter. Think about what our bodies have just been through, whether you gave birth 3 weeks or 3 years ago. Our bodies are always doing the best they can with what they have. And they take a lot of nurturing and a lot of time to heal from that monumental effort. Not only is labour taxing on the body, but think of the 40 weeks prior, creating your little one cell by cell. It’s pretty amazing! Your body definitely deserves some praise, even with some extra kilos.
Nourish Your Body
I have always been pretty comfortable with my food choices since overhauling my diet in order to fall pregnant. I was fortunate enough to find it easy to maintain a S.L.O.W food diet (see here) throughout pregnancy without too many cravings for bizarre food-like substances. Knowing that my food choices were being transformed literally into the building blocks of my baby was enough of a driver to stay pretty committed. This was also true for me whilst breastfeeding.
However, as I wanted to lose weight, I was more careful with what I chose to eat without focusing on how much. I just tried to eat when I was hungry and stop before I felt too full. I was simply trying to take the focus off dieting and weight loss, and instead eat to nourish my body. Here are some mantras:
Eat for wellness, not for weightloss. Stop counting calories and start counting chemicals.
Build Up Some Strength
Shortly after birth I commenced Mums and Bubs Yoga. This was a very gentle practice that gave me the time and space to connect with my daughter and also my body. I enjoyed this special time, but I absolutely hated getting dressed for class. I was really critical and felt really uncomfortable in my exercise clothes. But when I arrived for class, I remembered that every other woman there (including the instructor) were also feeling very sensitive in their post-baby bodies.
It wasn’t until about 6 months after I gave birth that I started doing some Barre classes (a combination of ballet and pilates). I chose these classes simply because they offered a Barre Baby version where you could bring your baby whilst you worked out. These classes helped me to regain my strength. Although I was still feeling pretty miserable about the way I looked, increasing my strength brought about some more confidence.
Act As If You Are Already Slim
Since my daughter was very little, I wanted to take her to swimming lessons. But this meant squeezing into swimmers and being seen. I couldn’t imagine anything worse. I also wanted to have some professional photos of our new family. But I didn’t want to invest in photos that years later I would cringe at because I was overweight. Maybe you can relate?
As time passed, I wasn’t much closer to my weight loss goals but my daughter was growing up too fast. I had one term left before returning to work and still hadn’t made it into the pool.
I had always let my weight hold me back from doing things, now I was about to let my weight hold Piper back from experiencing swimming. Talk about selfish! This was a huge hurdle for me, but I decided that if my weight wasn’t going to change, I would have to change my attitude towards my weight.
So we signed up for swimming lessons, and once I was there, I realised that every parent that was at the pool was so focused on ensuring their baby was safe in the water. No one really paid attention to me. The only critical voice that I heard was my own. But then I saw the love in my daughter’s eyes and the critical voice died down a little.
Life is short – we all know that. But there is nothing like a growing baby to remind you of just how fast time moves. Don’t have any regrets and miss out on things you want to do when you lose the weight. Just do them now while you can and remember that your biggest cheerleader is the little one who looks up at you with those big eyes full of unconditional love.