I’m writing for all the mothers who struggle to embrace the body they now have after bringing life into this world…the saggy boobs (kinda like folding a pancake when putting on your bra…anyone?), the pouchie muffin top, the cellulite, the stretch marks. Et cetera. The struggle is real and can be very isolating.
I guess I really want to share my personal journey and the struggles I’ve had with this. There are a lot of really great internet articles and social media movements in support of embracing our new bodies and loving ourselves and I don’t need to write another one of those. But I struggled with exactly how to do that. Maybe my journey and tips can be an encouragement to someone.
I gained 47 pounds with a particularly difficult pregnancy with my son, Micah. So particularly difficult, in fact, that I had those tubes cut, burned, and tied to never again have to endure such an experience. I’ve never regretted it and I have an amazingly beautiful little boy who is my pride and joy, almost 11 months old at the time of this writing.
I lost a good 30 lbs effortlessly in the first 5 weeks postpartum. Great! The rest didn’t come off so easily. In fact, I nearly killed myself trying to lose another 6 whopping pounds. Unacceptable! Where had my metabolism gone? Why did I have to work SO. DARN. HARD. just to lose a pound or two? I became obsessed. I tried several very sound dieting plans, and some medium to somewhat more extreme exercise routines, I fretted, I measured, I weighed. I became a slave to the number on my scale.
I thought I was ugly. Unloveable. Going back to work full-time, adjusting to the new “normal” in our new marriage, a new child, that question of “Who am I now?” and trying to fit into this mental mold of how I should look, weigh, or feel became torture.
So I decided to change. I have a long way to go, but I’ve also learned a lot along the way. I’m not ashamed to admit I found a good counselor to help me conquer this. Hopefully these tips may help other amazingly beautiful mommies out there…even if it’s just you who’s reading it now.
Reaching out for help. I think many times we (particularly women) like to think we are Superwoman and don’t need help. This is such an ugly lie. There is strength in numbers. I started talking about it. I found a good counselor and I opened up to my best friend about it. I have tried talking to my husband about it, and he is very loving. But all of his reassurance means nothing because in MY head, he’s just trying to be nice while not telling me the “truth.” In short, surround yourself with encouraging women.
Ditch the scale. Seriously. It was so hard for me to do this. How will I know if I am making progress? Dude. You KNOW. You can feel it, and it’s so important to be able to feel confident in your body now. That scale is a torture device and you are its slave. At first, I put it in the garage. But that really wasn’t good enough, because I knew it was there and accessible. So I finally gave it to my friend to “hold” for me. I don’t think she’s ever going to give it back, and at the point I’ve reached now, I don’t want it back. This is probably the single best thing I have done to free myself from my self-body hate.
4. Go clothes shopping. I don’t care if this is taboo or what, but I am still rocking some maternity jeans. Not the kind with the part that pulls all the way to your chin, but the ones with the wide elastic belt thing. You know what I’m talking about. My regular jeans cut into my new mommy tummy and made me overly-conscious about it all day long. So uncomfortable. Buy some comfortable clothes, people. When you are comfortable, you spend less time thinking about how awful your body is.
5. Realize the truth about our media-frenzied society. We as a society are bombarded by half-naked women everywhere. In the line at the grocery store, billboards, television, the internet, etc. Take a good honest look. Every woman you see is heavily photoshopped, airbrushed, Botoxed, cut, and snipped. And what a great way to market products…take a good hard look at the diet industry. Make the common woman feel unbeautiful and unworthy…she’ll start buying the quick fixes they are pushing.
This is NOT REAL. My body, right now, with all its postpartum imperfections…THIS is what a real woman looks like. And it’s so beautiful.
6. Attack the lies. I don’t know how so many women have gotten to the point where we loath our bodies. Media, society, traumatic childhoods, who knows? But it’s that perpetual lie that “I’m not good enough.” We tell ourselves these lies all day long. “Look at that tummy, if only I had enough money for a tummy tuck.” “Those stretch marks are awful, my husband will never love me again.” Etc. So, on my mirror, I have an index card that says “I reject the lie that I’m not good enough. The truth is I’m an unrepeatable miracle, created exactly as intended, and I am good.” Yup. Sounds corny. But I’ve been saying it daily for over 60 days and I’m starting to really believe it. The way I talk and think about myself is changing enough that other people are starting to notice.
7.Filter your social media. This will vary person to person on what triggers you. For me, I had to filter out all social media accounts and friends that post half-naked pictures of women, or any and all beauty quick fixes (pills, wraps, creams, exercise programs, etc) that made me feel bad about myself. I even had to unfollow some women that I just personally feel are absolutely gorgeous postpartum and therefore make me feel like a failure. It’s nothing personal.
If it doesn’t feed my soul, then it’s tearing me down and I had to eliminate it until further notice. I can’t tell you how much this has helped me! I started following pages and groups that build up mothers emotionally and spiritually. I’ve also connected with some amazing women who are going through exactly the things I am.
8.Gratitude journal. Yup, another corny one. I really had to try it out. I downloaded a quick gratitude journal app and try to write down at least 3 things every day that I’m grateful for. Micah is always on the list, so I usually do 4 things. Over time, this has started to seep into my daily thought patterns and real change is happening just from this one small act.
9.Look at yourself in the mirror. This one is hard. I’ve spent so much time avoiding mirrors, especially when undressed. But I try to make a point to do this daily. Those thoughts will pop up immediately… “look at those thighs…blahblahblah”. I immediately attack it with the truth. “This stomach made a whole new PERSON. And he’s amazing.” “Those thighs helped me carry him as he grew.” “Those hips are mature mommy hips that sway to the beat of his love.” Stop looking away.
10. Eat. I eat sensibly throughout the week. So when I want to eat something like a piece of cake, I do. I don’t count calories or portions or carbs or anything. I eat when I’m hungry. I drink water to make sure I’m not really thirsty when I think I’m hungry. I stop eating when I’m full. This takes some practice on mindfulness, but it’s doable. And I’ve surprisingly LOST weight by not stressing about it anymore. Who knew?
11. (Bonus) Eyeliner. This one may seem like it doesn’t fit because it’s somewhat shallow and superficial, but hey, it seriously works for me. Make time for eyeliner. It makes me feel like a queen. Queens hold their heads a little higher and I know I can use that little extra boost.
And that’s it, the top 10 (11) things I’ve changed to change my MIND. I’m still a work in progress and I have some days that are better than ever. But now I find myself going days before I realize I haven’t obsessed about my body. This is nothing short of a miracle, people.
We need to start being kind to ourselves. We are MOTHERS. We created life with our bodies. We will never be the same and I really don’t want to be, do you? That pre-baby woman was a child in so many ways.
I look at my baby and the way he looks at me…he loves me unconditionally. I need to honor that by loving myself unconditionally, too. My breasts fed him. My squishy tummy is his soft resting spot. My hips sway him to sleep. I was made perfectly to give him life…it’s time I start believing it.