One of my friends told me the other day that she needed to lose some weight. “Look at this” she said, as she grabbed the skin on her stomach. “Ever since I had the baby, my belly is no longer flat. I hate it. I have to lose some weight.”
Ugh. So, this is what body image issues looks like post pregnancy. It’s become such a mainstream issue that I even talked about it on The Tyra Show with one absolutely beautiful yet devastated mother who was so embarrassed by her body after pregnancy, she wouldn’t allow her husband to see her without clothes on.
After submerging myself in the body image issues of teen girls, you would hope that somewhere along the lines, body image issues would grow up…fade away…disappear.
But they don’t. In fact, according to Claire Mysko, author of Does this Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat?;
We interviewed more than 400 women for our book; seventy-eight percent of them said that they worried about the body changes of pregnancy and motherhood. Unfortunately, those concerns are often intensified by all the “bump watch” and “lose the baby fat” messages in our culture. Instead of being encouraged to get support for body image issues, moms are expected to be waging war with their bellies, hips and thighs.
She’s right. We see it everywhere—not just fear of fat but a blatant refusal to accept the changes that come with age, experience, and yes…pregnancy. Jillian Michael’s of Biggest Loser fame recently told Women’s Health that getting pregnant was not in the cards for her—not because of fertility or health issues—but rather, because she doesn’t want to compromise her body.
“I’m going to adopt. I can’t handle doing that to my body,” she told the magazine. “Also, when you rescue something, it’s like rescuing a part of yourself.”
Now look. People can do whatever they want—and adoption is the best thing that ever happened to my family. Please don’t even get me started on this statement of “rescue” that Jillian makes since that would be an entirely different article. So let’s just keep on the track we are on—
It does indeed frustrate me, though, when celebrities with clout—celebrities that are public symbols of health and wellbeing, say things that can negatively affect the way the girls and women who look to them for inspiration feel about themselves. Of course, celebrities can make whatever choices that work for them– and celebrities are people too– and yes, they admit to having deep- rooted body image issues. But with statements like these, it’s no wonder that women hate their bodies after pregnancy and turn to surgery, diets, and other means to try to get back what they once had—post pregnancy bodies are simply not accepted as they are. One of my friends told me that her Aunt confronted her with a snarky look; “Isn’t it time to lost that pregnancy weight? You need to lose it before you can even think of having another. Otherwise you’ll never lose it.”
And then what? You’ll be considered ugly? Less of a person? Worthless?
Women have so many choices to make once they decide to have a baby. Will they stay home? Go back to work? Breastfeed? Bottle feed? Get help? Do it all themselves? Is it REALLY necessary to pile body image problems on top of all that? And let’s not forget what their AMAZING bodies just went through to have that baby in the first place.
As a new mom myself, I know that the reflection in the mirror can sometimes be jarring. But I’m also in awe of what my body has accomplished. I want to teach my daughter what it means to have healthy attitudes about food and weight–and I won’t be able to move forward with that important task if I’m fixated on getting my body back. –Claire Mysko
Claire is hitting on something very important here. The most frightening aspect of all of this is the cyclical nature of body image issues. If Mom has them, they are often easily and quickly handed down to their daughters like heirlooms that become part of the family’s legacy. In my book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat (forthcoming, October 2010), countless girls reiterated criticisms that their mothers would repeat when they looked in the mirror. Now the girls say the same things to themselves.
As my colleague, Dara Chadwick, author of You’d Be So Pretty If…told me today;
We moms must be vigilant about the messages we send to our daughters because they’re always watching and listening to how we treat our own bodies. We are creating a body image blueprint for our girls every step of the way, so we moms need to stay conscious of the message we’re sending and make sure it’s an example we’d want our daughters to emulate.
Mothers are beautiful because they love their children but also because their bodies have just done amazing things. There bodies are not the same as they were but that doesn’t mean they are worse. To make a difference here, we need to start on ground level. Have a Mom? Know a Mom? Go tell her she’s more beautiful now than ever.
Happy Almost Mother’s Day!