How to Find Acceptance for Your Body After Baby

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How to Find Acceptance for Your Body After Baby | Wit & Delight
Photo by Cheyenne Doig on Unsplash

As I was preparing for my third baby, I thought about what my body would be like after the birth. This wasn’t my first rodeo. I knew about the big, soft tummy that would hang around for a while. I knew about the huge, leaky boobs. It was a process I was familiar with, to an extent, but every birth is a bit different. Every baby is different. And in this way, each postpartum experience is different.

The first few weeks went as planned. I wore my oversized sweatpants and recovered in bed as much as possible. I relished in the weirdness of my body. When I took one of the hundred baths I would try to take each day, I would marvel that the baby bathing with me, resting comfortably on my chest, had been INSIDE that belly just a few days before. WILD!

Then, the first few weeks were over and I started to take a walk every day. The walk then extended into a light jog, mostly for the alone time, I would tell myself. Mostly to get away from the loudness of the house. A jog felt good. It was a nice way to blow off steam. 

The jogs were great until I started to feel more like a regular person and I would forget that I was still pretty freshly postpartum. My body felt too jiggly while jogging. I couldn’t go as far as I used to! I was less in awe of my body and more pissed off that clothes weren’t fitting and that, if they were fitting, goddamnit they weren’t fitting right. Overall, I was over it. I wanted to be a “normal” person again.

I experienced a shift in myself postpartum: My body didn’t feel like me.

This feeling festered for a bit. It was harder to appreciate my body and feel comfortable after this third baby. Every time I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror I would think, That’s just not me. I thought a lot about how to morph my body back into something similar to my prepregnancy self, which didn’t feel good. Or healthy. Trying to “diet” while nursing is counterintuitive, in many ways. My body had just done this incredible thing for a third time. My rational mind wanted to revel in that spectacular feat, while my feeling mind wanted my old self back ASAP.

My body had just done this incredible thing for a third time. My rational mind wanted to revel in that spectacular feat, while my feeling mind wanted my old self back ASAP.

I didn’t set out with a plan to overcome my postpartum body blues, but as I look back over the last three months, a few things really helped, so I’ll share them with you all below. Perhaps someone else is feeling stuck in their body and these insights will be useful.

If you have specific questions about your postpartum experience and are looking for a professional opinion, please seek out the support of a health care professional.

Have conversations about your body.

I talked about my evolving body with friends and with my partner. Maybe this is obvious and you’re thinking, Of course I’d talk to my friends about it. Are you even qualified to write this? (Disclaimer: I literally don’t have any qualifications. This is just my perspective.) 

For me, it wasn’t an easy topic to bring up at first. Talking about weight and body issues felt strange. It was a subject I had to broach out of nowhere. I was like, Have you ever cross-country skied and also do you ever feel weird in your own skin? I was worried it would seem like a ploy for compliments. Fortunately, my friends and partner understood right away and made lots of room for the conversation. 

Once the subject had been raised, I felt less alone. My partner commiserated, which was surprising. Another friend suggested some interesting Instagram accounts to follow. A different friend just listened and validated. A few days later she complimented me, out of the blue, knowing I’d been feeling down about my body, telling me how great I looked in my new jeans. It was such a nice lift. 

Once the subject had been raised, I felt less alone. My partner commiserated, which was surprising. Another friend suggested some interesting Instagram accounts to follow. A different friend just listened and validated.

Talking it through gave me new context for my feelings. Instead of feeling icky about myself, I had some new perspective, which helped. 10/10 would recommend using your friends or partner to help reframe your thoughts if you’re thinking mean things about your body.

Buy new postpartum clothes (fancy ones if you’d like!).

Speaking of new jeans, I bought some new clothes. I didn’t just buy crap that would tide me over until I could wear my old stuff again, I invested in a few things I really like and things that (I think) complement me as I am now. Like, I ordered the most expensive pair of jeans I’ve ever bought. And a really nice dress from a fancy store.

Buying clothes at this juncture could be construed as strange because my body is definitely in flux. Who would buy fancy things for a body that’s changing? I would. Because my current shape is worth celebrating and enjoying! (If you’re not able to or interested in buying new, there are other options, like a clothing swap with a few friends or thrifting.) (Sidenote: Do you ever wish there was an emoji with its fist under its chin and a serious face, like a Glamour Shots pose or standard senior pic from the 2000s? It would come in handy often, IMHO.)

As my body continues to do its postpartum thing, I’ll continue to enjoy these new clothes, and if they don’t fit at some point, I’ll swap them out. Maybe I’ll sell them and use the money to buy other things that fit and flatter me as I change. I prefer the effort and investment to having a closet full of clothes I don’t or can’t wear.

Have a good look in the mirror (you look way better than you think).

Another little trick that worked for me but might seem truly bizarre was working out in front of a mirror, in my sports bra. (Emoji with fist under chin.) This began as a lazy accident (i.e., I didn’t feel like digging out a t-shirt and my laptop happened to be near a mirror).

I don’t enjoy observing my body because I like perfecting my form or because I’m trying to track results. Almost the opposite, honestly. The mirror began to help me appreciate myself exactly as I am. I was thinking of my body as schlumpy, but I’d watch myself complete tough workouts. I’d face myself in the mirror and realize that some of my thoughts were irrational. It was a chance to get to know and get comfortable with the new me. It also gave me time to recognize that I was being super hard on a body that’s doing great!

Remove the pressure of set fitness goals.

As for working out, I’m also trying some new things in this department. I downloaded an app that offers all kinds of fitness classes lasting different lengths of time. I’m a big fan of doing a quick cardio workout to get my endorphins flowing and my serotonin secreting. (I’m not a scientist, but I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how it works. Emoji with fist under chin.) I like to work up a sweat and feel my muscles. This makes me feel strong and good. I try not to work out with results in mind because then the practice starts to feel stressful for me, and less healthy to boot.

This is how I’ve decided to approach postpartum exercise: Keep it fun, keep it brief, try new things, enjoy the movement, and enjoy your body with no goals in mind.

This is how I’ve decided to approach postpartum exercise: Keep it fun, keep it brief, try new things, enjoy the movement, and enjoy your body with no goals in mind.

When it comes to food, my motto is this: Eat literally everything.

Then, I changed up the way I was thinking about food. During the first two weeks of postpartum, I was extremely critical about what I ate. I kept thinking about the food I ate as being converted into breast milk, so I felt it needed to be uber-healthy, which ultimately became stressful. I had been reading about food as medicine, but in my opinion, food isn’t medicine. Food is food. 

I want what is best for my baby, which means I need to eat a lot of calories to make a lot of milk. Even now, my go-to lunch is a nice salad with a spicy Trader Joe’s vegan dressing, because it makes me feel good. But sometimes, calories are calories and you want them in treat form. Balance, for me, is key. Doritos are super good and so is fresh fruit. Peppers and hummus are yum and I also love an over-easy egg on sourdough with science cheese! (Science cheese is American cheese, which I highly suggest as a component of a well-rounded breakfast.)

Lots of foods are great for different reasons so I let myself enjoy them all! I try to place less emphasis on being “healthy” all the time and more emphasis on enjoying food and eating in a way that makes me feel good overall!

Give meditation a try.

Finally, I found some meditations online. (Emoji with fist under chin.) The meditations aren’t necessarily about body acceptance. Ones that include a body scan help me feel more present and relaxed in my body, and feeling present and relaxed is the best. I often listen to them when I’m folding laundry because it makes that chore slightly more tolerable.

I’m sure there are other, maybe even better, things one can do to help themselves accept their changing body after having a baby, but this is what is working for me. It can be a long road to feeling completely comfortable with your body postpartum, but any steps down the path are well worth it. If you have any thoughts, please share them below!

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