The transition to motherhood is one of the biggest changes that a woman can go though. For some it’s smooth sailing and for others it’s a bumpy ride – but either way, the last thing anyone needs is a lecture about they way they look.
This didn’t stop a Sydney-based personal trainer from making a series of abusive and shaming comments directed at new mums in order to promote his business. I loathe giving him publicity so would rather not give his name or website, but let’s just say that Allan Trinh is not on my good side at the moment.
“A lot of new mothers don’t prioritise themselves, they let themselves go, they put weight on, they just don’t care and they give up,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
“It seems having a child is a reason to stop looking after yourself. I hear this excuse all the time: ‘I have had no sleep and I’m too tired for exercise’. Another one is: ‘My kids are my workout.’
“I think some mums are giving up a little bit too easily.”
That wasn’t all, but it’s all I can handle repeating.
What I will say to Allan is that using words like “fat” and “lazy” to describe sleep deprived mothers is deeply offensive, particularly coming from someone that is A) a man and B) does not have children and therefore has no first-hand knowledge of the utter turmoil having a baby can entail. It is fat shaming at its very worst.
But what do the experts think? Are mums making excuses, or is it completely normal to carry more weight after giving birth?
Milena Katz, spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, says that far from sleep deprivation being an excuse, it is normal to eat more when you are getting up during the night.
Milena says that it’s important to make sure new mothers eat well, particularly if they’re breastfeeding or waking frequently, and suggests including plenty of protein and complex carbohydrates. “Don’t think about the weight, think about your health and the baby,” she says.
Rather than jumping straight into rigorous exercise and dieting, Milena suggests focusing on self-esteem. “It would be better to concentrate on self worth. What you are like as a mother is more important than how you look in a size 10 top,” she says.
Milena also notes that there is too much emphasis on appearance, and that rather than worrying about shedding their baby weight, mothers should concentrate on looking after themselves.
Kate Young, fitness coach and co-founder of online support group Operation Move, agrees. “There is so much pressure on women to be meeting some unattainable 'yummy mummy' ideal within minutes of giving birth. It benefits no one,” she says.
“When are we going to stop talking about how women look and start talking about how they feel? What a woman needs after birth is a loving, supportive community telling her that she is doing okay, because chances are we won't be feeling like that.”
While many personal trainers pedal the idea that saying you have a baby is just an excuse not to exercise, Kate acknowledges that for many women the logistics of having a baby do make exercising difficult.
“Anyone that says a baby is just an excuse has never been in a situation where a baby is on-demand breastfeeding or has separation anxiety. Sure, there are things that you can do like walking with your baby in a carrier or in the pram, but it's not as simple as people make out,” she explains.
Rather that using “fat shaming” tactics, Kate says a good personal trainer or coach will find a balance between what is safe for a postpartum body and what is challenging and enjoyable.
Crucially, though, Kate thinks that new mothers should just enjoy their babies. “Babies are little for such a short time really,” she says.
So Allan, I would say to you: it is true that some women struggle with their postpartum body image. But far from their babies being an excuse not to get back to the gym, the reality is that early motherhood is not the ideal time to be jumping on the fitness wagon. Some mums are too tired to exercise, some mums simply don’t have time to do it.
And some mums don’t actually care about their weight while they’re caring for their baby, and no amount of ‘shaming’ is going to change that.