Not that I have an advice column or anything, but I received this question from my awesome friend Lea the other day and it got me thinking:
Girl, tooooootalllllly get it. So I pinged her back, and we had this rad conversation, which I have edited just a bit for clarity and asked her permission to post. Included are my ideas on how to not feel like shit as a new mama, including some unorthodox advice about selfies. Let's do this thing!
Lea: I would love more discussion about this. My partner has never made me feel bad about the 20 lbs I can't lose, I am totally not a dieter type person and yet my brain says it is a failure I haven't "lost the baby weight".
Kelly: So let's examine that for a second: where are you getting that message? Is it external? Like from society/media/etc.? Has someone asked you about it? Or is it internal? Do you have this idea of what your body should look/feel like, and this is not it?
Lea: I think it is a combo. I think there is a lot of media out there about losing the baby weight. I wish I could say I pay no attention but i think that would be a lie. but I also have struggled to feel back in my own body. I don't like breastfeeding and it was hard for me and now I have stopped. I thought when it was over I would feel more "me" again. But I still feel like a stressed mom in stained clothes who "can't lose the weight" does that make any sense? I am working on it...so I have been pondering this stuff a lot.
Kelly: So it seems like it's more an image of what a mom is that's messing with your head. Like, "this is what moms are" and there's nothing that feels like, I don't know, pulled together/sexy/fashionable/powerful about that?
Lea: Yeah, and also some fucked up idea that I should be more together and have more energy to work out. It feels frumpy you know? It doesn't help that I work from home.
Kelly: Plus, if you hated breastfeeding, there's that mess too. Like, you don't "fit the role of what traditional motherhood looks like", except for the shitty part of not having it all together.
So it feels like you're failing, and the weight loss is the part your brain is fixing on.
Lea: Yes! Not all the time and not every day with the failing, but on hard days that is where my brain goes, and it goes right to weight loss and not working out enough (side note: I walk like 70 to 100k steps a week so it isn't like I am not moving. This is something my brain is telling me that isn't really real.)
Kelly: Okay! So: I have some ideas if you're open to hearing them. (Because I struggled with this too, and then I did some stuff and it got better.)
Kelly: First off: is it possible to schedule one event a week, professional, or just friendly, where you can get out of the house sans children, and get dressed for it?
Lea: Yes! I just started doing that. It is brilliant. And I am going to buy a few new clothes.
Kelly: I cordoned off a section of my wardrobe that is "just for work" clothes. They're not nursing-friendly particularly, but they're cute. And forgiving of my new body. Or rather, they embrace my new body and make it look rockin'. Because hello, there's nothing to forgive. I birthed a whole person!
Lea: This. And I did it twice, so... I rock basically.
Kelly: YEAH, YOU DO!
Lea: I am also going to revelation fit now that I am not breastfeeding because I deserve two fancy bras.
Kelly: Yes to the fancy bras! Also, here are my sources: I bought stretchy jeans ON SALE from the Melissa McCarthy line. (Aside: I know I sound like a broken record with the Melissa McC stuff, but hello, girlfriend is a Mom AND a Ghostbuster, so you know her shit is durable and on fleek.)
And these jeans look bangin'!
Lea: Okay, this is making me happy.
Kelly: You have to shop the sales, because it ain't inexpensive, but they have a tummy panel that doesn't read as "control-top panty hose" and more like, "on trend mama with THINGS TO DO". I got three pairs of pants for $50. And I wear them CONSTANTLY. I did gray, deep blue, and black. I also got a bunch of looser fitting tops from Old Navy, Modcloth (on sale), and F21. Tops are what get spit-up on them on the off chance that I forget to change clothes when coming home.
Lea: Yeah, I tend to buy multiples when I find something I like.
Kelly: Also, I accessorize like hell. Necklaces, earrings, etc.
Lea: That I can't do right now. [Little Boy] is in a "Shiny things! I must grab them!" phase. But give me a year, or maybe just when I go out.
Kelly: So: make appointments, get dressed, put on a little lippy, and GO! And then when you get home, before hugs, before picking up your children, you change into "home clothes" IMMEDIATELY.
Lea: Yeah, good call.
Kelly: That's how I avoid getting strangled by necklaces or earrings pulled out of my ears.
Also, and this is crucial: when you are out, TAKE SELFIES.
Lea: Ugh, really?
Kelly: Don't post them to social media if you don't want to, but keep them on your phone.
This is so that when you feel shitty again, you think, "OH WAIT! Last week, I went out like a goddamn ADULT and see, HERE IS PROOF! I LOOK AMAZING!"
My dude makes fun of me for documenting my life as much as I do, of taking pictures and instagramming and whatever, but that process? Proof against the "where the fuck did my life go?!" doldums.
Lea: Ha! But yay going out like an adult!
Kelly: For real. And as for the working out stuff, here it goes: if you want to do more workouts, you probably will need to (a) make some time for it, and (b) integrate your kids somehow I am not an expert on this so much yet, because my kid isn't as old as your kids But some things I did were body weight exercises while the baby was playing, pushing her in the stroller at different speeds, lifting her as a weight (safely), and setting timers for all of it.
The setting a timer thing helped because I could tell her what to expect (she probably didn't understand, but there was fun countdown thing she liked) and also I could say "Well, at least I did 20 minutes of pelvic rehab + air squats + ab work" or whatever. It made me *feel* better, because there was something concrete to point to.
Lea: Yeah I was doing that, but I am finding it hard with a constantly moving toddler. I am trying to garden more and make time for little workouts like squats that I can do between things. It helps some. It was easier when [little boy] sat still. ;)
Kelly: Hey, chasing a toddler is a LOT of work!
So, I also think some reframing would be helpful. Body positivity is all about accepting the body you have, right now. Two kids is a huge amount of effort and change your body went through. So instead of seeing it as a journey to "go back" to the way you were, maybe start here and go, "This is the body that I have. It has accomplished so much. I love it just as it is." And then any changes you make, think of them as "I'm doing this to be healthy, to increase my overall health and to make my body FEEL better" instead of "to look a certain way."
I really think that making changes to your wardrobe and getting out for an adventure now and again, at the size you're at, will help a lot. And then all changes can be incremental. The weight may come off, it may not. But if you're already feeling good about yourself at the weight you're at, then that will just feel like delicious buttercream frosting on an already moist cake.
And that's where we left it for now. Comments? Thoughts? How did you handle post-partum weight issues? What do you think about loving your body as it is?