WHY WEIGHT LOSS DOESN’T DEFINE A NEW MOTHER’S POST-BABY SUCCESS

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There is often a superficial focus around a mother’s weight loss journey as she adjusts to her post-baby life. Rather, let’s celebrate all the amazing feats she’s accomplished to support and bring life into this world.


BY: CRYSTAL KARGES, MS, RDN, IBCLC

In the space between birth and raising a baby is a mama who is rediscovering who she is and letting go of what she was. Except, there is no road map that guides you on this unknown path. There is only the void, the feeling of overwhelm that comes at the juxtaposition of new motherhood, where piecing together our past and present seems like a disjointed collage.

With this space brings a tide of emotions that ebb and flow as you become acquainted with this new person birthed alongside your sweet babe. Pregnancy is just the beginning of a transformational journey that is motherhood.

But when that void is met with fear, lacking support, and confusion, it is easy to feel like you are grappling in the dark unknown. It is common to feel like you have lost yourself, like you no longer recognize the person that was when you look in the mirror.

And that can be a frightening feeling.

Coupled with this transition are the gnashing messages that play to your fears: “Get your body back!”, “Lose the baby weight!”, creating an illusion that the way to rediscover who you are is by returning to the body that once was.

This is the trap that many new mothers easily fall in during their most vulnerable moments, in the identity crisis of crossing into motherhood. Postpartum success is defined by how quickly the baby weight is lost, or if they are able to get back into those pre-pregnancy clothes. In the space of the unknown, taking charge of our body size and weight gives a pseudo-sense of control; when in fact, we are seeking a defining sense of self when everything we once knew has changed.

Wellness in postpartum has been watered down to mean weight loss, which puts more value on the appearance of our bodies as opposed to its functioning.

This dangerous mentality can cause poor body image and overall body dissatisfaction, which is connected with many potential problems postpartum. Postpartum moms often see themselves as needing to lose a certain amount of weight, which has been shown to trigger body image concerns, increased mental health issues, and eating disorders. Research has also found that high levels of body dissatisfaction in the postpartum period may be connected with disordered eating behaviors and lower breastfeeding self-efficacy.

In many ways, the pursuit of postpartum weight loss and putting greater emphasis on appearance over function of our bodies creates a vicious cycle that negatively affects both mother and baby during a critical time of development.

Could it be that the overwhelming desire to lose weight after having a baby is related to something deeper, like the fear that is connected with a loss of identity? Is the possibility of regaining your pre-baby body mean more about finding yourself again?

As women, the postpartum period is a time when we are experiencing tremendous change (physically, mentally, emotionally, etc), coupled with pressures from society to meet unrealistic appearance standards.

Focusing on weight loss as a solution for “control” during such a stressful time can only further complicate things.

What if you could take a step back and figure out how to redefine new motherhood without focusing on weight loss postpartum? What if you took dieting out of the equation? How could you best support yourself, and be kind to yourself during this vulnerable time of transition in postpartum?

While there is no denying the internal and external pressures faced to change your body in the postpartum period, could you let go of some of those unrealistic expectations? Choosing to care for your body by not forcing an arbitrary standard of weight loss does not mean you are letting yourself go. It means you are proactively being kind to yourself and your body for all it has brought you though.

Do you deserve anything less than that?

The postpartum transition is one of the most grueling times experienced as mothers, and the added pressure to lose weight only makes things more difficult. By being gentle with yourself and caring for your body, mind and spirit, you are creating a secure foundation from which you and your family will blossom.

In the process, you will learn to become better acquainted with the new mother birthed along this journey. You will find that within her is sound wisdom and innate sense of worthiness that has always been there. You just need to give yourself care, compassion, and time to bloom where you have been planted in this new season of life. In the end, when you step back and look at the big picture, you will realize that those mismatched pieces you were piecing together have in fact created a mosaic, a stained glass picture of your one and beautiful life.

And it is an amazing one indeed.

Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: DAIGA ELLABY

Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Board Certified Lactation Consultant, & mama of 5. With a virtual nutrition practice, Crystal helps overwhelmed mamas nurture a peaceful relationship with food & their bodies, end the battles at the dinner table and transform their kitchens to place of peace & joy. Learn more at Crystal Karges Nutrition.

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