As a mother of four, an eating disorder survivor/thriver and the author of The Self-Care Solution: A Modern Mother's Must-Have Guide to Health and Well-Being, I am all too familiar with the body image battlefield on which far too many new moms spend an inordinate amount of time and energy.
As if new moms don't have enough to think about while adjusting to life with a new baby.
But instead of being kind and gentle with themselves during this transitional and oftentimes trying time, many moms do that thing where they look in the mirror with their most critical set of glasses on and make all sorts of negative and degrading comments that they wouldn't say to their worst enemy.
So, let's just stop right there. I challenge you amazing new moms to cut yourself some slack. Give yourself time.
And love yourself, your whole self—body, mind and soul—fully and completely. Right now. Not once you lose five pounds or can fit into a pair of jeans.
I mean right now, as you are reading this. And every time you look in the mirror.
The best way to love yourself is to connect with gratitude every day.
Gratitude toward yourself for doing everything you needed to do to create, grow and deliver your child, and gratitude for your amazing body that was able to produce the miracle you are holding in your arms.
Remind yourself that both you and your body are in a bit of a limbo state. You are no longer eating for two and your body no longer houses, nourishes, protects and carries your baby behind your abdominal walls. And yet the cavernous space your baby occupied for nine-ish months still remains, vacant and slowly healing.
Yes, this feels strange and looks a bit foreign to you. And not only is your stomach stretched from your baby's occupancy, but unless you were one of the few pregnant women who looked like she simply swallowed a watermelon and the rest of her body remained mostly intact, you probably have some extra layers elsewhere as well. And that is OKAY.
Because remember, you are loving your whole self! Each and every layer of you!
It is hard. I know. You want to feel good and look like yourself again. You don't want to carry extra weight around forever. And you are tired and drained and wonder how you will ever have the energy to do what it will take to lose the weight and get your body back. You question whether you will ever feel sexy again.
Trust that you will.
And trust that for now, the very best thing you can do is to stay in the present and be kind and patient with yourself. By being loving and compassionate with yourself and your body, you will find that the weight loss will happen more organically, and that you will be accepting of your body throughout the whole process.
Mantras for new mamas
Commit to making an effort to gently catch yourself when you make any kind of self-deprecating or disparaging remark about your body, either out loud or in your head, and challenge those thoughts with loving and compassionate affirmations. Say these out loud whenever you can, and if you can't, then think them deliberately. No skimming or mumbling.
1. My body rocks! It created this gorgeous baby!
2. This body nourished my baby in utero for nine months. [If you are breastfeeding, it still is!]
3. I will not compare my postpartum body with any other moms' postpartum bodies (especially celebrities), nor will I measure the speed at which other moms are losing their “baby weight" against my progression.
4. I will trust my process and be honest with myself.
5. I will talk about the feelings I have about my body with my partner or a trusted friend who will remind me to be kind and gentle with myself, and remind me of my inner and outer beauty.
6. I will have honest conversations with my partner regarding my feelings about my body and sex.
7. I will start to incorporate exercise into my daily routine as soon as I am able and will start slowly (even 10 minutes of gentle stretching) because it will help me feel more connected to my body, increase my energy and boost my mood. I will gradually add more movement and rigor as I can. I will honor what feels good to my body rather than do whatever exercise I think I “should" be doing.
8. I will not be obsessive about the number on the scale, calorie counting/burning or fitting back into my “skinny" jeans. Instead, I will remember that I gained the weight over a nine-month period, so I will give myself time for the weight to come off.
9. I will use these words as I approach my weight loss progression:
10. I will listen to my body's signals and honor them as I need to care for myself so I have the energy to care for my baby.
11. I will not be ashamed of my postpartum body and will wear clothes that are comfortable but are not intended to hide my body.
12. I will accept that my body may never be exactly the same as it was before I had the baby, just as my heart will never be the same. Both are a blessing.