The pressure that new moms face to bounce back to their former selves fuels the challenges of early motherhood. Here’s what you can do instead to care for your well-being.
Many new moms face a multitude of obstacles that can make it difficult to care for their bodies.
From poor cultural practices that glorify weight loss to the lacking health care policies that don’t provide adequate time to heal and recover after childbirth, mothers are facing immense challenges as they try to recover from their childbirth experiences.
In general, wellness for mothers has been misinterpreted as weight loss, and many women lose so many precious moments of their life hyper-focusing on the size of their bodies. Diet culture has taken advantage of moms during the most vulnerable times of their lives, making them believe that they need to achieve a certain weight or jean size to be happy, successful, or worthy.
In reality, your physical health goes beyond the number on the scale or the size of clothes you wear.
As mothers, your bodies go through so many transformations, and you don’t need to miss your children’s childhood or your own by engaging in self-destructive food and eating behaviors.
The truth is that growing, birthing and raising children is physically taxing and requires intentionality to replenish, recover, and heal. It is not about “bouncing back”, but being intentional about engaging in practices and behaviors that allow us to thrive physically and mentally.
So how can you set a healthy foundation through nutrition, movement, and self-care that restores your body? How can you break free from the normative pressures to engage in dieting behaviors and weight loss tactics, which are justified in the name of health?
1. LEARN TO BECOME THE EXPERT OF YOUR OWN BODY.
When life or motherhood feels chaotic, it’s normal to want to feel some sense of control in other areas of your life. For many women, this means feeling in “control” of their food and weight.
Unfortunately, this leads many mamas down the path of being preoccupied with their body or following unrealistic diets that give a rigid set of rules to follow.
Self-care means trusting your body as the expert of what you need and honoring the signals your body gives you. You don’t have to live at war with your body. Give yourself the respect you deserve by treating your body kindly and taking care of the one and only place you call home for life.
2. REJECT SOCIETAL EXPECTATIONS OF “BOUNCING BACK”.
Your body is meant to change throughout your lifetime, and motherhood is no exception. Mothers are more than their bodies, and bodies don’t’ “bounce”.
You don’t have to be a certain size or weight before you can start living and enjoying your family and life. You are worthy and deserve to take up space in this world, no matter what anyone says.
3. SHIFT THE FOCUS AWAY FROM PHYSICAL HEALTH.
Remember, you can absolutely care for yourself and prioritize your health without focusing on changing your body or your weight. Why is this important? The intentional pursuit of weight loss typically results in poor mental health and physical complications that result from yo-yo dieting.
Instead, choose to engage in behaviors that prioritize body kindness, like effectively managing stress, feeding and nourishing your body well and eating foods you enjoy, and moving your body in ways that feel good to you (not punishing yourself with exercise). Ultimately, this mindset will make you healthier overall than any diet possibly could.
4. BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT NOURISHING AND CARING FOR YOUR PHYSICAL BODY.
Yes, #momlife can make it challenging to find the time to take care of yourself physically. But when you make it a priority to care for your physical body, this means being more intentional about parenting yourself.
Maybe this means going to bed earlier instead of staying up scrolling, or taking the time to feed yourself a meal rather than skipping out on eating. Self-care means choosing to care for yourself and your body in a way that cultivates kindness and compassion rather than choosing what is convenient – because you deserve it.
Remember that your motherhood journey is a constant evolving process, one that might look different from season to the next. The important thing is to understand that you are worthy of caring for yourself, and giving yourself the same attention and effort that you constantly pour into the people you love.
Find what works for you and be committed to attuning into the life-giving practices that help you thrive – whether you’re herding toddlers or high-schoolers.
You deserve it, mama, because you are worthy.
Adapted from the original post.
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 a place of peace & joy. Learn more at Crystal Karges Nutrition.