I usually try to keep this blog pretty positive. I’m not 100% sold on the Law of Attraction, which states we attract what we are focusing on into our lives, but in this area I prefer to take the precautionary approach of Pascal’s Wager.
In case your not up on 17th century French philosophy, Pascal’s Wager refers to a philisophical argument by Blaise Pascal. It essentially says that if you don’t believe God exists and you’re wrong, then you go to hell. Not good. But if you do believe he exists and you’re wrong, nothing happens, so it’s a safer bet to believe in God. FWIW, this may be the only time this concept has been referenced in a post about postpartum body image, but never say that 4 years studying the humanities at university had no value!
Anyway, if I believe that positivity attacts positive outcomes and I’m right, then good things come my way, and if I’m wrong, nothing bad happens. But the thing is, I’m not 100% positive all the time. No one is. And if I want to uphold one of my strongest personal values, that of authenticity, sometimes I need to be honest that I’m struggling with something. So here it goes. Lately I have been pretty disheartened with my ‘body after baby.’
Ostensibly, I have lost ‘the baby weight.’ Or at least I think I have. I haven’t owned a scale in over a decade, but I go by how my clothes fit and I can wear nearly all of my old clothes, although some are a bit snug. So some people would probably look at me and think, ‘she has nothing to complain about.’ But body image is so much more than weight and I don’t like the way my body looks. My arms are flabby, I have a slightly pouchy ‘mummy tummy’ and my legs, oh Lord, the cellulite. I feel like it looks like I’m smuggling a tub of cottage cheese in each thigh, which sucks when you live in the tropics and shorts are de rigeur all year round.
This would usually be the paragraph where the writer bemoans advertising and celebrity culture for making women believe they need to ‘bounce back’ immediately after leaving the delivery suite. And yes, I know advertising is ubiquitous and a bit like air pollution – you don’t realise you’re breathing it in, but it’s still doing damage. But I can honestly say, cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye, that I do not in any way compare myself to models and Hollywood celebrities. I stopped reading gossip magazines around when Britney shaved her head, I never watch E!, and if you showed me a picture of the latest hot young thing I probably wouldn’t know who she is. I know that celebrities have personal trainers and chefs and nannies and hello, looking good is kind of their job. The problem for me is I compare myself to real, flesh and blood people that I actually know, and I fall short. Enter the mum’s group.
I am in a mum’s group comprised of women in my town with children aged within a month or two of AQ. There are weekly catch ups that I sometimes attend and we see each other at other baby-centric events. I’ve met loads of lovely ladies, some of whom I hope will one day become long-term friends. But, a substantial amount of the meet-ups have included swimming. And some of these women honestly have ‘better’ bodies postpartum than I had before I was pregnant, and I used to work out a lot. I’m talking size 6-8 (Aussie, equivalent to size 2-4 US), thigh gap, perfectly flat stomach, not a stretch mark or lump to be seen. And compared to them I just feel yucky. Needless to say, I did not go swimming at the most recent event. In fact, I was so covered up –midi skirt (but it’s so on trend…) and top with sleeves that it probably looked like I was auditioning for The Book of Mormon rather than hanging out poolside.
I don’t know what their secret is, because I believe that weight, like how much money you make, is something that should not be discussed in polite company. They may be genetically blessed or they may go to the gym every day. But as long as they’re not starving themselves to get there I applaud their bangin’ bods. And I want to thank them for making me uncomfortable, because I believe that experiencing discomfort is a signal that I need to grow in some way. And I feel that this growth involves a reexamination of the role of healthy eating and fitness in my life as a new mum.
So, where am I starting from? Well, I look after my daughter, I eat reasonably balanced and healthy meals during the day (spoonfuls of peanut butter straight from the jar are OK for lunch, right?) And then I eat at least a half a block of chocolate every night once she’s in bed. And sometimes when I’m driving around town trying to get her to nap I swing through the Macca’s drive-thru and get a large fries. OK, putting it this way makes it seem obvious what my problem is, but wait a minute, breastfeeding! Isn’t breastfeeding supposed to be the magic pill for weight loss? Like, you can eat nothing but cake and ice cream and the kilos will simply melt off your bones because you’re burning a zillion calories making sustenance for a small human? Or at least that’s what I got told.
Doctors these days do a lot to dispel the myth of ‘eating for two’ during pregnancy (you only need 200 extra calories a day…) but the actual truth about the correlation between breastfeeding and weight loss is not really spoken about with such candor, or at least it wasn’t to me. So today I finally hit up Google and found the answer I was looking for in approximately 2 seconds – breastfeeding burns up to 500 calories a day. Not bad, but not going to cover all those delicious little Lindt squares.
Writing all this down has made me realise that I could have looked this up months ago, and I probably would have reigned in the choc’n’chips much sooner, but the truth is I didn’t want to. They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but I wanted breastfeeding to be a (calorie) free lunch, and endless treat day because I was so busy and overwhelmed with learning to care for a brand new person that I just did not want to think about healthy eating.
I’m glad that I spent the first months of AQ’s life devoting all my energy to her, but as she approaches the half a year mark (!) I sense that it’s time for the balance to shift slightly. I don’t want to end up one of those mums who is unhappy with her appearance and subtly resents her children because of it, or feeds them negative messages about body image, consciously or not. And whilst part of me would like to be one of those women who is all, fuck beauty norms, I love my cellulite, I’m not there and I honestly don’t think I ever will be. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is a topic for a whole ‘nother post, but in short, I tip my hat to those who love their bodies regardless if they resemble what society considers beautiful. But, this pride has to come from a place of honesty. I know I will never be a supermodel and I don’t aspire to be, but throughout my life I have worked hard to maintain what medical professionals consider to be a ‘healthy’ weight and stay physically active, and it is such an embedded part of my psyche that saying I suddenly don’t care about it would be dishonest. And dishonesty is not a healthy place to be.
So, consider this my catalyst for change. The first step is to eat more conscientiously. But we all know that diet is only one part of the equation. In the next post I will look at exercise – something I love (stress reliever, keeps anxiety at bay) and miss dearly, and map out how the hell I am going to make time to do more of it.