My Top 5 Tips for Positive Body Image Postpartum
Many women understandably struggle to feel themselves as they were pre-pregnancy after birth
Former dancer, now fitness instructor and mum Ashley Verma shares the 5 body image tips that helped her postpartum
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An undeniable sense of power and complete awe of our body’s capabilities – that is what mothers would ideally feel after giving birth. But that isn’t always the case, and that's OK – you are in a new stage of your life with a new body.
That body will have done so much shifting within, changing, and accommodating a new life. Then there’s the next stage: in addition to healing from the birth, the body is also tasked with feeding a new-born and providing the energy to do everything else required to care for a child. And this is done on very little sleep.
The time it takes to find a ‘post-baby mojo’ will differ from individual to individual, but to help you shake off any post-baby body blues and build back your body confidence, here are five top tips that helped me along my mom journey:
1. Your body needs fuel
Give yourself permission to eat what makes you happy and fulfilled. Restrictions can quickly flip the narrative and can create negative thoughts and unhealthy relationships with food.
Don’t skip meals. You need the fuel for both your body and, more importantly, your mind. Sticking to regular mealtimes and portions can help keep you on a great path.
Healthy protein, high-fibre foods, and nutritionally dense fruits and vegetables will not only keep you energised throughout the day but will also provide the key nutrients needed postpartum.
2. Practise loving yourself
I had a very difficult time postpartum. I come from a Broadway performance background so at a very, very young age, the strive for body image perfection was ingrained in our “dancer brains”. But I knew approaching postpartum with that dancer brain was not going to be beneficial to me or my daughter.
From my years as a fitness trainer, I knew I needed to teach myself self-love. So start with finding body neutrality. How on earth can you go from hating your body to loving it overnight? It is certainly not a light switch. Find a middle ground first. Try finding acceptance that your body is different, neither good nor bad, simply different.
How to find acceptance? Little steps each day: an extra walk; a 10-minute stretch in the middle of the day; head to YouTube for free quick workouts. For example, I share free workouts on my Bizzimumzi YouTube channel. A lot of moms do not have the luxury of being able to spend two hours a day with a trainer. Grab quick and efficient workouts (10-20 minutes) that you can do with the little one(s) around.
I’m all for exercising with the kids around because if they are napping, so should you. Rest is just as important as the workout.
My daughter is 2.5 years old and I am still a work in progress. My progress and your progress should never be measured by a social media square.
3. Recognise when negative body thoughts occur
What are you doing? Where are you? How has your day been? Were you offered help and you said no?
These are key factors to acknowledge to help you recognise where the extra noise is coming from.
Are you dwelling on mirrors around the house? Hide the mirrors! That may sound extreme but more often than not when a mirror is placed in front of us, all the extra negative noise can easily creep in.
Write these thoughts down, share with your partner, your therapist, or a friend. These are triggers that need to be acknowledged and then worked through so that body positivity and self-worth can shine through.
It can be hard at first to speak up, but your mental health needs to be top priority, not only for you but to sustain a healthy environment for your child. Working to eliminate the negative headspace will only enhance all the aspects in your (and your child’s) daily life.
4. Do not pressure yourself to bounce-back
I did not get my pre-baby clothes out until a good six months after the birth. Try to stop pulling them out and comparing yourself. There is no award for a quick bounce back. Trust me when I say your next door neighbour does not care about the number inside your jeans. Why is there so much shame in our culture if you are not bounce-back ready in four weeks postpartum?
Wear clothes that flatter you and feel good on your body. We need to be in the mindset now of healing and honouring our bodies. The only person that knows the size of your clothing is you. Yes, shocking but so true!
I have trained countless postpartum moms. There is a frantic energy I always feel when a new mom starts back training. You don’t need to feel this way. It's added stress. Stress can be a huge factor for actually gaining weight postpartum.
5. Dump your scales
The number on your scales is another one no one really needs or wants to know. In full transparency, I have no clue how much weight I put on when I was expecting, and I do not own a set of scales in my house. The thought alone gives me anxiety, so why would I allow it?
Even when I was pregnant, I turned around on the scale when they weighed me. I also, politely, asked the nurse to never tell me my weight. I said that if I was gaining too much and it was affecting my health then tell me but otherwise do not let me know. The number on the scale does not define you. Self-love and self-worth acceptance surely does and has greater meaning.
Ashley Verma is a mum, founder of the Bizzimumzi podcast, and Define London fitness studio
Watch our interview with counsellor Miriam Christie and maternal health advocate Clio Wood