If you are a new mum then chances are you’re thinking about how you can lose the baby weight. And even if you’ve been a mum for a while, perhaps the desire to drop those extra pregnancy pounds is still as strong as it was at first. It’s not surprising. New mums are bombarded with messages about how they can lose the baby weight fast. Or get their ‘pre-baby’ figure back (spoiler – read this post on the one secret you need to know about getting your pre-baby body back to find out why it won’t happen). But there are very damaging pitfalls of losing the baby weight that you probably haven’t even considered yet.
We live in such a diet-centric society that wanting to lose weight is expected. It’s normal. Every woman has been on at least one diet. Most of us are obsessed with that number on the scales. Especially after a baby. We’re horrified at the thought that our body won’t go back straight away to the way it was. We concentrate on dieting way too soon and exercise far earlier than we really ought to. Pretty much every mum I’ve ever met has tried to lose the baby weight as fast as they reasonably can.
But trying to ditch those extra pounds has it’s risks and consequences. Not all of them good. There are pitfalls to losing the baby weight and they can have a long term effect if you aren’t aware of them.
#1 – You might not like your body even when you’ve lost the weight
There is a big difference between losing weight and getting your ‘pre-baby’ body back. I’m a fan of telling it like it is so to be blunt, your body will not be the same again. It’s just not possible. Pregnancy stretches your skin and makes fundamental changes to your body. And some of these changes are permanent. You might have stretch marks. Your boobs might be saggier. Maybe your hips are wider or your bust is bigger. Perhaps you’ve been left with varicose veins on your legs. So you can lose all the weight in the world but it doesn’t mean you won’t still struggle with your body after a baby.
#2 – You might reinforce a belief that you are only good enough when you are thin
The reason why we struggle with our weight is because we’ve been conditioned from a very early age to associate fat with bad. We’re taught that socially attractive women are slim and pretty. We rarely see images of plus size women in magazines, on TV or on social media. We’re told that being overweight is unhealthy, undesirable and unsexy. So most of us, at a subconscious level, associate our weight with a measure of how ‘good’ we are.
The problem with that is as follows. Let’s say you aren’t feeling good about yourself after a baby because of your weight. So you diet to lose that weight and then feel better. But what you’ve also done is reinforce your belief that you need to be thin to feel good. Not only is this a damaging belief to have about yourself but it will get challenged as you get older because your body will keep changing. There will come a point where you can’t diet or exercise away those negative feelings about yourself.
#3 – It could stop you from bonding with your baby as well as you might
A 2014 government report found that mothers who worried about their body image after a baby were more likely to struggle building a secure, strong bond with their baby. To a certain extent this is logical – if you are focused on planning diets, worrying about your weight and finding time to exercise then you aren’t focused on nurturing the bond between you and your baby. Now that’s not to say that any mum who exercises or eats healthily will struggle. But there is a correlation between the two and it shouldn’t be ignored. Put simply, your mental energy when you become a mum should be on getting to know your baby and finding your way as a new mum. Everything else can wait.
#4 – It’s HARD to lose the weight and you might be setting yourself up to fail
If anyone gets the desire to lose weight rapidly it’s me. But the reality is that diets often fail and we end up adding guilt, shame and failure to the list of things we are feeling about our bodies. A lot of the post-baby weight loss products are also fairly hardcore. They require daily exercise or significant changes to your diet and the way you cook/shop/plan food. Most of them are paid products too. So if you don’t stick to them you’ve got the added bonus of feeling like you’ve wasted your money.
They all offer a quick fix but they don’t always tackle every aspect that might be affecting your weight. Hormones, sleep deprivation, stress levels, health problems etc. are all things which can derail weight loss and are generally out of your control as a new mum. All of which means that even with the best efforts, you still might find yourself unable to shift those pounds. So by focusing all your energy on losing weight you set yourself up for serious disappointment if it doesn’t happen as quickly as you expect (or at all).
#5 – It’s not future proof
Losing weight to make yourself feel good is only ever a temporary fix (read this post on how to separate your self esteem from your weight if this is something you struggle with). Let’s say that you do, in fact, lose the baby weight and do end up loving your post-baby body as a result. What happens if you have baby number 2? Or 3 or 4? What happens as you get older and bodily changes mean your metabolism slows down? Or when you go through the menopause and put on 2-10 lbs a year?
Yes, you can focus on losing the baby weight to feel good but without a permanent shift in your mindset to love your body regardless of size you will inevitably end up struggling with your body again. Whether that’s because you are like 90% of people who put all the weight back on (and maybe more). Or because your body changes are you get older and it becomes harder to stop your weight going up.
Losing the baby weight is not always the answer.
So many women look in the mirror after a baby and think “I’ll like my body again just as soon as I lose the weight”. But this isn’t how it works I’m afraid. The above pitfalls are just some of the issues with linking your self esteem and body confidence with how much you weigh. It’s a problematic solution at best. At worst, it’s a road to constantly feeling shitty about yourself because you never reach that magic number.
So if you’ve just had a baby (or if you still struggle with your post-baby body) the answer might not be to lose weight. It might be about building your body confidence overall. Or learning to love your post-baby body just the way it is. It might to go against everything you currently believe about how to feel good but make no mistake. These are skills that will last a lifetime and mean that you feel amazing about yourself. However you might look.