The pressure for new mums to lose their baby weight is in the spotlight again, with celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson saying women use pregnancy as "an excuse to let their bodies go".
Anderson, who’s credited with sculpting the post-pregnancy bodies of Jennifer Lopez and Gwyneth Paltrow, got back to her pre-baby weight just six weeks after giving birth. In the September issue of Dujour magazine, she argued that while the “journey of getting back to your best level of performance physically is very hard" it’s also an "incredibly empowering place to be".
I can already hear you shouting at the screen in indignation. So I thought I’d write a response to Tracy, on behalf of those of us who didn’t lose our baby weight in six weeks.
Firstly, good for you! You look amazing, as does J-Lo and Gwyneth, so kudos to all of you. I’d love to look like you guys at any time in my life, let alone six weeks after having a baby.
We know we’re doing the best we can, focusing on being good mums and doing the things that make us happy
But here’s the thing: we all know that to look like you ladies do, it takes WORK. Hours of sweating, pain and effort. And you know what? Most of us just aren’t that into putting ourselves through that, because we just had a baby! And we want to hang out with those babies. Feed them, hold them, get to know them, and try to figure out what the hell we’re doing. Many of us waited a long time to get these babies, longed for them for years, and went through trials to get them. So now they’re here we kind of want to soak them up for a bit.
We also find that on some days, just getting out of our pyjamas - let alone out of the house - is tough. We’re tired, we’re not sleeping much, and, quite frankly, when we do have a moment to ourselves we’d rather eat cake than go to the gym.
Look, your dedication to fitness is impressive, and your intention to encourage new mums to be healthy is fair enough. But when most of us read your words and look at your body we don’t feel inspired - we just feel bad. Bad that we don’t look like you do, that we’re not motivated to go to the gym in the little time we have, and that people will judge us for "letting ourselves go".
We don’t want to feel bad. We want to celebrate the amazing achievement of having a baby. We want to feel like superheroes. To be applauded and praised because a baby came out of our body. Not inferior because those bodies don’t look like they used to.
Being fit and looking good is your job; it’s what you’re paid to do, your passion, and clearly what you’re good at. We have passions, jobs and things we’re good at too, but you don’t see us in magazines proclaiming that everyone should do what we do. I wrote a musical in the weeks after I had my second baby. I would write when she was asleep, and sometimes in the middle of the night when I was feeding her. I wrote in every moment I had spare, just like you work out. It made me happy, it stimulated and inspired me. So should I do interviews suggesting all new mums write a musical, because it’ll empower them? Um, no, because the mums who weren’t into writing musicals before they had babies probably aren't going to be into afterwards. It’s unlikely to be a helpful suggestion.
Some people are saving lives in the months after they have babies. There are mums coming up with scientific discoveries, teaching, nursing and representing people in a court of law. Do we compare ourselves to them and feel inferior because we’re not doing what they are? Are they in magazines proclaiming how "empowering" their life choices are post-baby, and encouraging us to do the same?
Of course not. That would be silly.
But here’s the thing. Sometimes we forget that comparing ourselves to people like you is equally silly. We let your toned post-baby body make us feel inferior, instead of realising that the vast majority of us didn’t look like you before we had kids, so it’s unlikely we will afterwards. We forget that we don’t have the time or the money to dedicate our lives to looking like you and Gwyneth, and that even if we did we’d probably want to spend it on something less exhausting and more fun.
You are right - we shouldn’t lose ourselves when we become mums. We should allow ourselves a bit of time to eat cake and not leave the house, but also stay healthy. For our children and ourselves, our mental and our physical confidence. We should go for walks, eat vegies, drink water and do our pelvic floor exercises. We know that. We don’t need to see you in a bikini to remind us of it.
So from now on when we see a picture of you, instead of feeling bad about ourselves, we’re going to try to remember that we’re just different. We have different lives, passions, skills, priorities and body shapes, and we don’t need to aspire to be like you any more than we need to aspire to be like the mum who is saving lives. We know we’re doing the best we can, focusing on being good mums and doing the things that make us happy. And that is what is empowering.
Mums who haven’t lost their baby weight xx
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