I’ll start by saying that I know a lot of mums lose weight after a baby. I did too for the first few months. But I also know I’m not that unusual. That there are a lot of mums out there who gain weight after pregnancy and have really struggled with this.
So I wanted to write this to show an alternative view of what can happen to your post-baby body. That sometimes, for whatever reason, the weight doesn’t drop off. It won’t melt away with a bit of healthy eating or some exercise. And I also wanted to write this to let you know that, if this is where you are, it’s OK!
Let’s start by thinking about the reasons why we can gain weight after a baby.
Weight is a very complicated thing. The idea that if we eat a calorie deficit and increase our exercise we will lose weight in proportion to how hard we are trying is utter rubbish. Yet we’re told this over and over again. Here’s what that very simplistic view doesn’t take into account;
- Sleep deprivation: we need sleep for our body to function properly. It’s that simple. If we are tired then our bodies won’t work as well. We might also be reaching for sugary foods for energy boosts or feeling too tired to exercise.
- Hormones: our hormones play an important part in our weight. It’s why women put on weight during the menopause – the hormones change and affects the way we store fat.
- Health problems: there are lots of health problems that cause weight gain. Common ones are thyroid problems, PCOS, stress or certain medications but there are lots of others too.
- Age: I could eat whatever I wanted when I was 20. Now I’m near 40 I’ve put on a lot of weight without changing a single element of my lifestyle. I even went to the Dr because I was so concerned when it happened but her diagnosis was simply “You’re older”.
- Genetics: I come from a family of larger women. The chances that I was going to be wafer thin as I got older were always nearing zero. I read somewhere that genetics determine about 70% of your body shape and size meaning all the dieting in the world won’t get rid of big hips if that’s just the way you were made.
So losing the baby weight isn’t as simple as you are being made to think it is. After all how many new mums do you know who aren’t sleep deprived, stressed or hormonal?
But what happens if you do gain weight after a baby?
I’m not so interested in the physical side of things here although I will admit that tight clothes, aching joints and still looking 6 months pregnant when your baby is a year old is a little demoralising.
It’s the emotional side of it that really floored me.
You see, after baby 1 and 2 I lost all the baby weight and didn’t give it a second thought. I expected the same to happen after baby 3 but didn’t factor in how much older I was or how my body had changed in the 5 year gap.
I did lose a little bit of weight to start with but when baby was 5 months old I put it all back on and then some. Within 3 months I ended up weighing more than I did the day I came out of the hospital. Which was also about 3 stone more than I’d ever done in my life.
It was a really difficult time for me.
I felt like my body had betrayed me. I couldn’t work out where the weight had come from. My lifestyle was more or less the same so it was a little galling to put on weight without doing anything to make that happen. And I certainly hadn’t expected to gain weight after pregnancy.
I also felt like people would judge me because I was even bigger than I was when I’d had the baby. My expectations were that I should lose the weight so I ended up feeling like other people expected that too.
Plus I was paranoid that my husband wouldn’t find me attractive and became utterly self conscious about how I looked. It was a hard journey to get to a point where I could look in the mirror and love what I see again.
Gaining weight after pregnancy can be really hard to process and deal with. It goes against everything we are taught to expect and believe about what will happen to our bodies. And it makes it really hard to adjust to and love our post-baby body.
But gaining weight has taught me a few important lessons.
- If I can only be body positive when I’m thin then I’m not really body positive at all. I’ve had to learn to love my body exactly the way it is, extra pounds and all.
- Basing your self esteem on your weight is really damaging. If you can only feel good about who you are when you are at your target weight then you will really struggle if your weight goes up (read this post on how to separate your self esteem from your weight)
- My weight can only define who I am if I let it. I used to judge how good I was in terms of how I looked. Now I measure my self worth in the hundreds of other characteristics that I have and feel so much better for it.
So yes, for some of us we do gain weight after pregnancy but that’s OK. There’s nothing to be ashamed about and it’s certainly not because we are doing something wrong or not trying hard enough. We’re sold a narrow view of what is attractive in terms of body shape but the reality is that we all come in different shapes and sizes.
If you have gained weight then don’t worry. It doesn’t mean you aren’t a good mum. Or a loving partner. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Or that you aren’t doing what you’re supposed to do. It just means that you’ve gained weight. That’s it. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not even that unusual.
You are still you. You are still perfect. And your body is still amazing just the way it is.
(Psst… if you’re struggling with weight gain after pregnancy or struggling with your body after a baby join my free 5 day challenge on how to learn to love your post-baby body below).