Becoming a mother is a remarkable journey, filled with joy, love, and wonder. But it's also a journey that can bring significant changes to your body. The postpartum period is a time of transition, physically, mentally and emotionally. While it's absolutely normal for your body to change after giving birth, it's not uncommon for new moms to struggle with body image. Let's explore ways to be able to embrace the changes that come with out postpartum body and see the strength and beauty of our mom bodies! We are going to explore self-talk, the idea of health at any size and food freedom, and engaging in self-compassion and tips for building a healthy body image!
Understanding Postpartum Body Changes
The postpartum body undergoes so many changes! I mean, how can it not, we grew life inside of our bodies! We have shifts in our hormones, the gray matter in our brain shrinks, and we have weight fluctuations only to mention a few. It is essential to recognize that these changes are not only normal but are a testament to the incredible journey and stregth of pregnancy and childbirth. Your body has accomplished something truly remarkable, and every scar, stretch mark, or soft curve tells a story of strength and resilience.
The changes in our body can be significant and each body and pregnancy is different and will have different changes. For some, it's the physical signs like stretch marks, weight gain, or C-section scars that bring about feelings of self-doubt and insecurity. For others, it's the less visible but equally impactful changes, like shifts in hormones, loose skin, or change in breast size and shape.
The Path to Body Neutrality
Body positivity is sometimes too far away to reach when we have really negative thoughts about ourselves. Rather than trying to go from negative to positive, let's get to being neutral about our bodies first. Recognizing the facts of our body and its experience. It is hard to argue the fact that it takes a lot of strength to grow a human! Body neutrality is working on accepting and celebrating the facts of what your body has just done for your baby. It's not about denying the changes and only talking positively, but recognizing the beauty and worthiness your body deserves for going through such an incredible journey!
One of the cornerstones of body neutrality is rejecting the idea that there's an ideal body shape or size. Instead, it promotes the belief that every body is worthy of love, respect, and care. That every body is strong and capability of wonderful things. This includes your postpartum body, which deserves the same love and care you would give to your closest friends going through this journey.
Tips for Building a Healthy Body Image
Building a healthy body image takes time and effort. Here are some practical tips to help you on your journey:
Practice Self-Compassion: Whenever negative thoughts about your body arise, counteract them with self-compassionate statements that grounds yourself in the facts. Tell yourself something that you actually believe that may be more neutral or positive than the negative thought that you are having. Be gentle with yourself, and remember that your body has been through an incredible transformation.
Challenge Societal Beauty Standards: Recognize that societal beauty standards are made by a small subsection of the population that are often touched up post shoot. The bodies that we see as the standard, are not even achievable by the models themselves. Celebrate the diversity of bodies around you and see their strengths.
Surround Yourself with Healthy Mindsets: Spend time with people who are grounded in reality and are willing to be with you in your struggles and help you work through the pain. Surround yourself with people that will uplift and support you without being toxically positive. You might also consider limiting your exposure to social media influences that promote unrealistic body ideals.
Move Mindfully: Do physical activity that makes you feel good, not as a means of punishment or for the sole purpose of "getting your body back." Choose activities that bring you joy and that fit into your current life. For new moms, this might be going for a walk with the family, or having a dance party with your toddler.
Nourish Your Body: Focus on nourishing your body with balanced, satisfying meals. For new moms, sitting down and having a whole meal might not be possible all of the time. Keep snacks on hand that provide sustained energy like a protein shake or hummus and veggie sticks. Get to know your bodies hunger and thirst cues and its full cues. Listen to them the best you can and seek out support if you need it!
Find Inspiration: Seek out role models in person and online that are honest about their bodies, insecurities and also where you feel safe talking about your insecurities. Find people that have done the work on self-compassion, being non-judgmental and have practice taking care of themselves. Have people around you that confidently embracing their postpartum bodies can be empowering about their journey to get there.
Positive Affirmations: Use positive affirmations to reshape your self-image. Remind yourself daily of your strength, beauty, and worth. If making positive comments about how your body looks currently, do not start there. Start with positive affirmations like, "without this body I would not have my child." Or, "This body has been through so much, it is strong and worthy of love."
Engage in Self-Care: Self-care is quite literally taking care of yourself. It is an essential part of being human and helps build a positive body image. Make time to do things that are for yourself, even if it means getting up and getting dressed rather than staying in your pjs, or brushing your teeth and washing your hair. Take a moment to work on your personal hygiene. Make time for activities that feel good for your body and mind. Find joy and pride in making healthy choices for yourself.
Health at Any Size and Food Freedom
How do the concepts of "Health at Any Size" (HAES) and food freedom interact with embracing your postpartum body? If we are constantly looking at our bodies in the mirror and saying "If I was only the size I was before becoming a mom, then I would be healthy." or "I can't eat these foods because they are not healthy." Then we spending time shaming ourselves and are far less likely to meet our goals of feeling confident. HAES and food freedom is a concept that emphasizes health as a holistic measure, rather than being solely determined by weight or looks. It promotes the idea that individuals of all sizes can pursue health and well-being. In the context of embracing your postpartum body, HAES encourages you to focus on health-promoting behaviors rather than chasing a specific number on the scale.
Similarly, "food freedom" encourages you to develop a healthy relationship with food. It's about letting go of diet culture and embracing intuitive eating. This means listening to your body's cues when it comes to hunger and fullness and eating for nourishment and enjoyment rather than restriction.
Mindfulness and Embracing your Postpartum Body
Mindfulness and self-compassion play crucial roles in improving body image. By being present in the moment and treating yourself with kindness, you can transform your relationship with your body. We have all been there. We are at an event with our kids and we start to look around and compare our bodies to the other mommas bodies. We hid behind the camera so there aren't pictures or us, or we hide behind our children. These thoughts bring us out of the moment we were enjoying and then bring us down. We stop enjoying the moment and we stop being fully present with our children. Mindfulness is not just something that you do during meditation or yoga. It is a practice that you do when you are with your children engaging in life with them. We can start to appreciate our bodies for allowing us to be with our children and experience life with them, rather than worrying about the other moms thoughts. Your children are the ones that will remember how present you were with them. Embrace the body you have, and thank it for allowing you to experience life with your family.
Embracing your postpartum body can be an emotional journey, and you don't have to go through it alone. Seek support from peers, friends, or support groups where women can openly share their experiences. Talking about these issues can lead to greater self-acceptance and emotional well-being.
Remember Momma, You Are Not Alone In This Journey Called Motherhood!
Your postpartum body is a unique and beautiful part of your journey into motherhood. Remember that beauty comes in all sizes and shapes, and your worthiness is not determined by your appearance. Prioritize self-love, self-compassion, and self-acceptance, and you'll find the freedom to truly embrace and celebrate your postpartum body.
Hi, I’m Kristina Anzell, I am a Clinical Social Worker dedicated to providing specialized and compassionate mental health support for moms postpartum. My mission is to empower you to thrive in your role as a mother while nurturing your own well-being. If you enjoyed this blog post, check out my blog here! If you want more information or are seeking treatment, feel free to reach out!