The Center for Eating Disorders Blog

In Search of…

One of the most frequently used phrases in marketing to mothers is “How to get your body back… .” The ending varies and generally goes something like, “How to get your body back…after pregnancy…after baby…after having children…,” but the specific ending is less important than the underlying message.  When women are told repeatedly that they will need to “get their bodies back” after pregnancy doesn’t that seem to imply that their bodies are lost, damaged or missing as a result of the pregnancy?

The truth is, a pregnant body does not represent a loss of one’s body or even a damaging of it (despite a recent celebrity comment which seems to suggest this).  To the contrary, pregnancy can actually be a very visible expression of the body’s resourcefulness, strength and utility, and that is beautiful. You’ve owned your body the whole time, and it’s been doing important things for you and your baby.  During pregnancy, the body does go through changes, albeit sometimes difficult or painful ones that are a necessary part of pregnancy and childbirth, but it is still your body – the same one that climbed the jungle gym when you were five years old, the same one that walked up on stage during graduation and the same one that embraced a friend when they needed a hug.  Bodies are not lost; they don’t disappear because they change size or shape or because they’ve accumulated stretch marks or c-section scars.  Bodies work hard and deserve to be cared for, respected and appreciated.

It can be very easy to fall into a pattern of rebelling against weight gain and other physical changes that accompany pregnancy and childbirth.  That is after all, the strategy most often proposed by our image-obsessed media, a relentless diet industry, and even sometimes further encouraged by well-intentioned family members or friends.  But in reality, it’s not helpful to spend significant time and energy in search of a body you’ve been told you lost.  This quest too often ends up spiraling into years of yo-yo dieting, excessive exercise, negative body image or even serious eating disorders – all of which can be detrimental to physical and emotional well-being.  Too much time spent focused on “getting your pre-baby body back” can also have the unfortunate and undesired consequence of interfering with important bonding time between mom and baby.  This might be one reason why authors, Claire Mysko and Magali Amadei, named the phrase “get your body back” to their list of the top 5 most detrimental tabloid catch phrases for new and pregnant moms.

Search no more.  Trust your body’s natural changes and processes, including hunger and fullness cues and your unique set-point.  Nourish yourself appropriately.  Respect your body’s journey and its accomplishments; appreciate your body for what it allows you to do, not solely for how it looks.  Remind yourself that nurturing your body with enjoyable movement, adequate rest and unconditional kindness is the best way to be a healthy and beautiful mom.

If you enjoyed this blog, you may want to read these previous entries from CED’s Nurture Blog Series:

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