There’s so much unnecessary pressure on mums to get their pre-baby body back and it has got to stop.
Our culture is so fatphobic that it shames people who have just given birth for the changes their body went through to grow a human. The words used around this topic, such as “bounce back” or pre-baby body, have negative connotations to them; as though there is something wrong with a body that has given birth. This results in people jumping straight back into exercising and reducing calories after birth in an attempt to make their body look like it never grew a baby, when instead, this is an incredible feat and should be celebrated.
Social media also gives access to thousands of images of celebs and influencers who seem to go through pregnancy with visible abs and then don’t look any different after they give birth – this is a combination of genetics and photo editing. Their feeds are curated and when body fat and cellulite are deemed to be horrible flaws, it gets edited out to maintain a certain image.
If you’ve just had a baby, or are pregnant and worrying about your body changing or losing your pre-baby body, you haven’t lost anything. Our bodies are designed to change and adapt and growing a human is a pretty significant process your body has to adapt to.
Growing a human requires significant energy. Your body will store more fat so that it can draw on these energy stores as necessary. The hormonal changes your body goes through will also affect the way your body stores and metabolises fat post-pregnancy, so you might have a higher body fat percentage than before you got pregnant. This is totally normal and is your body’s way of ensuring you have energy stores for breastfeeding and recovery after giving birth.
Your body also goes through structural changes during pregnancy to accommodate the growth of the baby. After pregnancy, it’s common and normal for these changes to be permanent. People who have given birth often discover their feet have grown a whole size and never go back to the size they were pre-pregnancy. If this can happen to your feet, why wouldn’t it happen to other parts of your body? If your hips are wider or you have loose skin on your stomach, this is a normal physical side effect of growing a baby and not something you should feel ashamed of or feel like you have to get rid of.
Rather than jumping straight back into exercise and stressing about fat loss after giving birth, what should you do?
Get as much rest as you can. Pregnancy and labour are major events and your body will need rest and time to recover. Couple that with broken sleep and your body will be struggling to have the energy to hit the gym hard. Let your body rest and recover and engage in low intensity, restorative movement under the guidance of your doctor or post-partum physiotherapist.
Eat plenty of nutrient dense foods and adequate calories. Your energy demands will be high during the post-partum period as your body recovers and if you’re breastfeeding. Putting yourself into a calorie deficit will add extra stress on your body and mind that you don’t need. You might need to eat more often or you might eat bigger meals than you used to – this is ok. Try to eat balanced, nutrient dense meals and snacks that include a protein, a fruit, a veggie, a starchy carb, and a healthy fat. This might be hard with a newborn, especially if you have other children or don’t have a partner or family support, so just do the best you can with what you have.
Your body has done something incredible and has been through a lot. Instead of immediately trying to erase all signs of pregnancy, treat your body with love and kindness, despite diet culture telling you otherwise.