Body image. What do you feel when you read those words? Chances are you feel something. If you’re anything like me you feel confused, sometimes frustrated and tired.
Body image alone, apart from any life altering event ,is a huge topic for human beings-women in particular. In definition body image is:
“The subjective picture or mental image of one’s own body.”
Here are some statistics put together by the website statistic brain.com in February of 2017 about women and body image.
- 91% of women today are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting.
- 80% of women say that images of women in media make them feel insecure
- There are 8 million people with eating disorders in the US today.
- Total annual revenue of the weight loss industry today is $55,400,000,000
You can read more statistics from the article quoted above, here.
The way our society portrays “healthy body image” is very extreme. Either it’s about being supermodel thin, incredibly ripped, obsessed with fitness, health and nutrition OR being excessively overweight. Neither of those extremes seem healthy, do they? Where is the middle ground? It can all be so confusing.
So now, lets take something that is life altering such as having a baby and apply that to body image. I mean, where do we even begin? It’s inevitable that pregnancy and childbirth can (and will) drastically alter a woman’s body. I appreciate that God made us each so uniquely, no woman’s body will be the same in these course of events. Some women gain a little weight, some women gain a lot of weight. Some women “pop” immediately while other women won’t look pregnant until they are well into their 2nd trimester. Some women will look like they never had a baby, after giving birth while some women will continue to look pregnant or carry extra weight long into their postpartum journey. Some women develop stretch marks and extra skin that never goes away. There are also the issues of diastasis recti.
We are talking more and more about PPD (postpartum depression) and PPA (postpartum anxiety) which is absolutely fantastic. It’s great that these important issues are being discussed, women are being supported and getting help. I think part of the struggle in PPD and PPA definitely stems from body image. How do you accept yourself again after having a baby when sometimes your body may not look anything like what it did before? We can be so hard on ourselves as women. I love those quotes I see floating around about how every stretch mark and extra pound is worth that sweet little baby. And while it’s true that we would give up anything for our children, I know that it can be very difficult to have a positive view of one’s own body when it’s altered so much.
When I had my son, I quickly lost about half of what I had gained in pregnancy. I felt really good about losing that weight but honestly it happened on its own. I was really happy to see some of my old self again after my son was born. When I hit a plateau with weight loss a few months into postpartum, I was already in the thick of my struggle with PPA. I was also eating and drinking more than I usually would, to cope. I didn’t realize this at the time but looking back I can see where I didn’t make the best choices, health wise. I share these things because I take some responsibility with my body. It is up to me what I eat and drink, after all. When I saw my same midwife a week ago, I apologized for weighing more than I did at this point in my first pregnancy. I had been dreading the routine weigh in before my appointment. My midwife was great though. She laughed at me and said, “You look great and your blood pressure is excellent! You don’t need to apologize for anything!” I know that she would (and will) tell me if I need to change my eating habits and be careful of gestational diabetes.
Other people really do see us so different from how we see ourselves. Whatever we see when we look in the mirror is often not what other people perceive. It’s good to remember that we are our harshest critic. But again, where is the balance? We want to be healthy, right? We want to feel physically capable of caring for our children and think about how our health is important in the long run. Every woman’s journey with postpartum is incredibly unique. I’ve found that talking with friends and having a healthy perspective of how we may be different but can support each other, is so important. I have friends who work out HARD to get that pre-baby body back. I have friends who will meet me at the mall for a cheeseburger. I have friends who will only order a salad if we get dinner. Every single mama friend that I’ve talked to has expressed their desire to lose weight or see a change with their body, post baby. I need all these women in my life because it keeps things real. Their journey might not be mine but it’s good to dialogue, encourage and not compare. I talk with my sister and my mom every day, through text. They are such a great encouragement to me, in my health journey. We share common goals and ideas of how to have a healthy lifestyle while practicing balance. I can bounce ideas off of them and they share new ideas, recipes or goals with me. It’s important to have a community of support during postpartum, for SO many reasons!
Will you do something for me today, mama? Go to the mirror and find five things you love about your body. If it takes you an hour or the entire day, do it anyways. You don’t have to share them with anyone but yourself. I’m going to do it too. I hope you are able to see the beauty that is there. I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!