Postpartum: looking forward, not bouncing back

“Bounce back after baby!”
“Lose baby weight in 3 weeks!”
“Secrets of Hollywood’s most dramatic post-baby bounce backs!”

Postpartum bounce back headlines make me want to stick forks in my eyes.

WHY is the world so desperate for new moms to look and act like they never even had a child? For many women, having a child is the one thing they wished and hoped for harder than anything else in the world. They may have even had a few devastating false starts to get there. Pregnancy can be a long road. It is exciting, but it can also induce some anxieties and worry. It is physically uncomfortable at times, a hormonally wild ride, with a pretty major marathon at the end to get that baby into this world and into your arms. Can we all agree that carrying and delivering a baby is a MAJOR life occurrence that deserves respect, recognition and, at the very least, TIME for recovery?

Your body goes through some staggering physiological changes to accommodate and provide a first home for that little nugget of yours. Trying to rush its recovery is both unfair and unrealistic.

YOU worked hard to bring that beautiful little baby into the world. So YOU deserve to enjoy and soak up the snuggles, snacks and sofa snoozes. Newborn days are a haze of broken sleep, feeding, and endless laundry. It leaves a new mom mostly tired and hungry (and insanely thirsty – seriously, why did no one tell me about the thirst?!). The days are never-ending but they also go in a flash… and it breaks my heart when moms spend their precious energy reserves trying to find hacks to hurry their body into looking like it did before it created life.

You’ve got your body for your whole life, but – as all mamas have come to learn – babies don’t keep.

Let me lay down some permissions here for anyone who gets sucked in by postpartum body image pressure or magazine headlines:

You do NOT have to track calories or inches gained or lost
You do NOT have to have a meal plan or track macros*
You do NOT have to follow advice of ‘how to lose baby weight fast’ articles
You do NOT need to do juice cleanses
You do NOT need to cut carbs out of your life
You do NOT need to take before and after photos

Here’s a headline: weight loss plans DO work. BUT… if you follow a plan that is so rigid, restrictive, or rule-based to achieve a number on a scale within a certain period of time, I can assure you that eventually, after the goal has been met, the motivation will wane, and pounds will come back.
And then one day you’ll resolve to start again, and you’ll lose some pounds.
And then you’ll have a splurge weekend and let loose.
And then the “diet starts Monday.”
Rinse and repeat.
THIS is why so many moms struggle with “baby weight” for years beyond actually having a baby.

For me, it went like this: by not doing ANYTHING drastic, but just slowly, gently incorporating more exercise into my weeks and starting to eat more veggies and nutrient-dense foods, over time, my body shape started to look more familiar. Without any major sacrifices to my new-found mama bear lifestyle. That first year of my son’s life was about so much more than scrutinizing my body or ‘bouncing back’. It was about trying to find my new normal.

Moms have a whole world of things swirling in their brain at any given moment. The one thing I desperately wish for new mothers is this: free yourself from the BS pressure of ‘bouncing back’. We are moving forward.

Fitness and wellness is for your whole life. All of it. And it includes your mental health. In time, in YOUR time, find routines and movement that make you feel strong, empowered, confident. This is how we let fitness enhance your busy life instead of dominating it.

If your motivations for your body are about proving anything to anybody else, it’s worth a reframe, babe. Because if you are a strong mama enjoying quality time with people you love and radiating joy and confidence, then literally who cares if you have visible abs? (Nobody. Nobody cares.)

When you’re ready, move your body. Go for walks. Do some bodyweight movements. Then add some resistance. Then add a little more. Where there’s consistency, there are positive gains. First in the way you feel, then in the way you think, and then in your body composition. But, just like everything else in motherhood, this is your journey, and remember – there’s no deadline. 

*disclaimer – this is absolutely not intended to shame anyone who does track calories or macros or use meal plans. You do you, honestly. It’s just my personal philosophy and experience that rigid rules are not necessary to have a fit and healthy lifestyle – and use up way more energy than I’m prepared to give for the long-haul.

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