Saturday, January 16, 2021

I’m Years from Motherhood and I’m Already Sick of Post-Baby Weight Loss Stories

By Catherine Weingarten–“Sexy, post-pregnancy body” articles don’t just affect pregnant women and mothers. This is my story of learning how to be critical of these messages and think for myself.

Growing up, I was an avid trashy magazine reader. Okay, I’ll admit that I still read them, but in a more distanced way. There was a time when I would devour everything from Us Weekly to Star, to anything with a hot young celeb I was too intimidated to imagine myself dating on the cover. I learned so many life lessons from these magazines: how to flirt with a boy, how to decorate my future college dorm room and how to get washboard abs. In every magazine, I would make sure to read over celebrity diets to see what I could get from them.  I stared at the pretty celebrities and imagined them laughing and eating egg whites while sitting next to their celebrity suitor. That should be me eating those egg whites. Why couldn’t it be me? Those magazines taught me how to grow up; in a way, they taught me what was important, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

I am currently a helpline volunteer at NEDA, where every day I talk to people struggling with body image issues. Working here has shifted my perception of the way we evaluate the body in our culture.  One thing that I have recently noticed is how we frame pregnancy in our diet-obsessed culture. A lot of girls fantasize about growing up, getting married and having adorable children with dimples—myself included. But in our culture, we now experience pregnancy—and even the thought of having a child in the future—with the anxiety of how to stay fit before and after.

When I was younger, I would stare at the post-baby body celebrities in awe. Two weeks ago they were pregnant and growing and then suddenly, like magic, they were back to their usual thin, hip celebrity size again. WOWEE!!! How did they do it? I fantasized about myself looking fat and pregnant one day, and how I could look like those pretty, pretty celebrities if I worked out and ate right.

I even came across one website giving celebrity baby weight loss tips, which mentioned how many calories you could lose from breastfeeding! It talked about breastfeeding as an awesome diet! Clearly something is off when we are losing touch with why people breastfeed and only focusing on weight loss. For some reason, it seems that losing weight needs to be applied to everything, like standing up or eating an apple. No wonder people can become so obsessed!

We live in a yo-yo dieting obsessed culture. When we’re constantly staring at celebs losing and gaining weight for movies, we can feel like our bodies are Silly Putty and we can mold them however we want. But they’re not! Celebrities are people and not magical reincarnations of Greek gods. It is not healthy to lose and gain a lot of weight in a short time period. That’s why it is so important to choose mindful eating over rigid dieting, eating when are you hungry and stopping you are full.

Through this yo-yo thought pattern, we are missing out on what it means to be a parent. I’m not a parent yet, but I became so focused on the idea of how I could lose weight after pregnancy that I got distracted from the bigger picture: what it would be like to celebrate my own mini-me. And I worry that other young women are getting caught up in this kind of thinking too. When people are starting to calculate how many calories you can burn through breastfeeding (something sacred between a parent and child), then something is very wrong.

What do you guys think about post baby weight loss diets?  Do you think they’re too extreme?  Is there a more positive way to talk exercising and being healthy after having a baby?  If you’ve dealt with an eating disorder in the past, does that change what you think about getting pregnant and your body changing?

About this blogger: Catherine is (about to be) a senior at Bennington College in Vermont.  She is a drama concentration and enjoys feminism/female empowerment and being a helpline volunteer at NEDA.  Her favorite dessert is a pink cupcake with lots of sprinkles and icing.  She hopes to one day be an edgy professional playwright who talks about body image/eating disorder issues in a hip way.

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