If you are pregnant, or have recently been pregnant, or plan to get pregnant in the future, or just live on earth, the term “baby weight” is probably familiar to you. Most people who carry a pregnancy gain a certain amount of weight as it progresses (sometimes more, sometimes less) in addition to the weight of the fetus itself. This leaves most people a bit heavier after giving birth than they were prior to conception. There is this idea, one that’s very prevalent in our size-obsessed culture, that every new mom must want those “extra” pounds gone as soon as possible. In fact, the world is full of diets, exercise plans, and more, all designed to help new parents with what seems to be the ultimate goal: losing the baby weight. If you work out every morning in an attempt to get back to your pre-pregnancy body, that’s cool, you do you. As for me, though, I’m never going to try to lose the baby weight.
I wasn’t interested in our diet-obsessed culture before having my son either. I’ve tried hard to be as body positive as possible in my lifetime, and it’s an important value I'd like to pass on to my child. There was nothing wrong with my body that needed fixing then, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with it now.
After my son was born, I was overwhelmed by how much I loved him. But there was another thing I was overwhelmed by, and that’s how much time I suddenly didn’t have. Being a new mom meant that I was suddenly never alone, always engaged in caring for this tiny helpless person, doing oodles and oodles of laundry, and just generally feeling burnt out while also healing from giving birth. It was an incredibly big deal, and I hear it’s also that way for most parents.
As my son has grown, I’ve adjusted to the work load, but he’s also upped his demands. Whereas he used to happily sleep on my chest for half the day, he now requires rousing renditions of his favorite songs, help trying to learn new skills, and to have his favorite books opened to his favorite pages every five minutes. Plus, I work. My to-do list is about a mile long. You know what’s not getting added? Going to the gym.
When I do get a tiny (read: minuscule) break from the endless tasks of parenting, I want to do something that makes me feel fulfilled and whole. For me, nothing connected to weight loss is ever going to fall under that category. If I have the energy to do anything besides change diapers and nap, it’s going to be something awesome.
So I write (fact: I am writing right now), I draw, I spend time with the close friends that I really miss now that I live in baby land, I cook big delicious meals, I call my mother. I do things that make my life feel happy and satisfying. I don't worry about what people will think of me or what assumptions they'll make on my life and my health based on the way I look. If they want to judge, that's on them. I'll be over here, being happy. I love my life and I have so many beautiful things I can do with it, and I’m going to enjoy it every chance I get.
After giving birth I was told that breastfeeding makes a person hungrier than pregnancy did, but there was no way I could prepare for that reality. As soon as my milk came in, I was shocked by how constant and all consuming my need for food was. And there are breastfeeding cravings, too. Before breastfeeding, I never understood why some people are so obsessed with chocolate. Now? It’s basically all I think about. But you know what I don't spend time thinking about? Feeling guilty or ashamed over the foods I crave and want.
I eat plenty of healthy foods in addition to my chocolate regimen, but I just cannot imagine how miserable I’d be trying to diet. I already feel like I’m starving. Just give me all the food.
When people ask me about losing “the baby weight,” they’re implying that some of the pounds on my body are “extra pounds” and that my real, regular body lies somewhere underneath those. That just doesn’t make any sense to me though, because my whole body is my body. All of these pounds are a part of me, and I can’t think of any good reason why some of them would be keepers while others need to be quickly shed.
As a body-positive person, I strive to love my whole body exactly the way it is today. Does it look a little different after creating and growing a whole other human? Sure thing. Does it still wake me up in the morning, carry me from point A to point B, and ensure that my son is happy, cared for, and loved? Hell yeah. My body is my body, and it’s great.
I was underweight as a child, and often sickly. As an adult, I’ve been some version of overweight for years, and that has coincided with me actually getting a lot healthier. I walk almost everywhere (sometimes with 20 pounds of baby strapped to me in a fancy carrier!), I eat my greens, and my body just in general feels capable and good. I can’t see any reason to make changes that have absolutely nothing to do with my health and vitality if they aren’t going to make me feel any better. But even if I was in less than great health, being healthy is not a moral imperative, and I still might not want to lose any weight, baby related or otherwise, and that’s fine.
There are a lot of things that are really wonderful about my body, and all of those things make me love it just the way it is. For one, it’s the only body I have. Also it is literally keeping me alive right now, it’s this wonderful marvel of evolution that is allowing me to live this magical life where I have a son and write articles on the internet and am happy and fulfilled and able to eat ice cream whenever I want. Why fix something that's not broken?
I’m 30 years old and I have a 7-month-old baby. My body looks different than it did when I was 25 and child-free. And that body looked different than it did when I was 19 and in art school. And they all look a hell of a lot different than I will when I’m 50. And all of that is fine. In fact it’s more than fine, it’s great. I don't want my body to always look the same. Now I carry the signs and scars and stripes that remind me I brought a human being into this world. Why would I want a body that doesn't look anything like the way I feel inside? Human beings are not static, and we're constantly changing and growing and becoming ourselves. There is nothing wrong with that looking different at different life stages, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that looking a little (or a lot) bigger because I had a baby.
The pressure to lose weight, look a certain way, and fit into a certain size is basically everywhere in our culture. And I don’t believe that it’s doing any of us any good. Pressure to be thin makes people constantly criticize themselves and checking and rechecking the mirror and the scales daily to see if you've achieved the goal is stressful. And I have to wonder, what is all that extra, unwanted stress worth to me? It isn't good for me or the baby I’m trying to raise, and I definitely don't want to define the success of my life based on whether or not I was able to look a certain way six minutes after my son was born.
Children learn from watching their parents. I want my son to know that no matter what he looks like, no matter how thin or fat or short or tall, he is worthy and he deserves love and respect. And that has to start with the self. And the only way I can model love, self respect, and self worth for him is by actually loving myself.
Maybe I’ll lose weight chasing a baby around, and maybe I won’t. What matters is that my kid is going to grow up seeing that my self respect — and self love — is not dependent on a number on a scale.
So if you need me, I’ll be marveling at my fat body, eating cookies, and reminding myself that self love begins within you, not with what you eat.