Dream & Inspire
The first time I saw my post-baby body in a swimsuit, I was mortified. I knew after seeing those pictures, I would NOT be posting them on any type of social media and they would just stay tucked away in my phone until...forever (at least for now!). I actually really wanted to post the pictures because it was such a happy time, but I personally couldn't live with that photo being out there for judgement. Being pretty fit, and quite honestly feeling really great about my body before baby, had me thinking that it would be all good after having her. I'd seen "everyone" (a.k.a celebrities, influencers, etc.) snapback after like 2 months of having their babies, or showing their 2-day-postpartum pictures looking like they never had a child, so I thought it wouldn't be THAT hard because everyone else made it look SO easy. "I'll just start working out hardcore after my 6 week check up. I'll eat super healthy. I'll go back to being vegan like I was before getting pregnant. Breastfeeding will help me lose the weight." All of those things I said and thought...and damn, was I wrong. Seeing all the snapbacks made me completely fall back from doing something I loved...
Prior to having Aria, I loved posting pictures. Let's be honest, when you've been putting in the work, you want to show it off. Whether it was photos with friends, going out, being on TV, or anything, I was always down for a photo...a full body photo. I worked out hard and was vegan for a year and a half prior to getting pregnant. Once I got pregnant, I only worked out lightly (I was scared to workout even though I was assured I could continue) and I gave up being vegan (my craving was bacon and ice cream!). Postpartum, if I post a full body picture, it's because I've pondered over it for like a smooth hour making sure it looks good enough--in my eyes--to actually live on the internet. Even just typing that, I can't believe we're in times of making sure everyone else is ok with what our post looks like before ourselves.
I gained about 52lbs during my pregnancy, and I still have about 22 more to go to get back to pre-baby weight. From larger hips to the stretch marks that appeared in the 8 month, my body became unrecognizable. There's so many myths they tell you once you have the baby like, "You'll drop the weight when you breastfeed." Welp, for me it was the opposite. I was literally so hungry while breastfeeding/pumping that I typically had to eat a snack either before or after, which means I just ate the calories I burned while feeding. I thought about cutting a few things from my diet (I juiced for a week, I cut out meat for a week, etc), but I felt incredibly selfish for doing that knowing my baby needed all the nutrients possible...so I stopped depriving myself for me. I'm sure that slowed down the weight loss, but I was ok with the temporary pounds for her health. (She's 9.5 months now and we're still breastfeeding/pumping but not as frequently, so it's a bit easier now.) I'm consistently working out now and making conscious healthy food choices, but the pounds are definitely melting slower than I'd like. Guess that's the new reality for now, and I'm learning how to accept it.
The hardest part about the entire process for me was honestly social media. It's so funny because I use social media for fitness inspiration, but in that, seeing people snapback so quickly after having their kids had me feeling some type of way. Granted, it truly depends on your body type and some women just naturally snapback with ease, so kudos to them for sure...but I was working out, eating fairly healthy, and nothing was happening. With me having a baby in January, I just KNEW I'd be #SummerTimeFine - June was 6 months after Aria was born, that's plenty of time right? For ME, it wasn't. June crept around and I think I would have rather had been in a sweater and jeans than shorts and a tank top. Between having to buy so many different sizes of clothes because your old clothes don't fit at all or don't fit the same or because different parts of your body have shifted (hello larger hips and lop-sided boobs!), I was exhausted from spending money and trying to figure out what fit for my body. I think I threw the whole summer away clothing wise, and if you see my social media, I had like 2 pics on there from the Summer...that wasn't intentional, I just hated how I looked in EVERYTHING.
It's always nice when people say or write nice things about your appearance on a post, but I'm also the first person to say "Girl..SPANX!!" or "Thank you, but it's been a struggle." So many times I've wanted to post a picture because I think my face looked cute (lol) but my body just wasn't IT: I was REALLY tempted to use one of the editing apps that can pull your waist in, lengthen your limbs, and make your frame look smaller...but instead, I just chose not to post. No shade to anyone who uses those apps, but I couldn't fathom going through all that for a picture just for someone to see me in person and be like "she does NOT look like that." That's too much work, and quite frankly, I don't want other women to feel like they're alone. I'm not a celebrity and don't have hundreds of thousands of followers, but I also know the type of responsibility I have as a real woman to be honest about my thoughts, feelings, and experiences in hopes that someone reading this will not feel alone. There's already a lot of pressure on you as a new Mom especially with the lack of sleep, and to feel like you're by yourself can just be a enough to push you over the edge.
We don't know what these celebs or influencers are doing to get their snapback in 2 months, nor may we ever understand the immense amount of pressure that's on them to make sure their look is flawless. I just know how it made me feel, and I wish more people of influence were honest about their post-baby--and even just regular body image-- issues. So many times, things have been nip tucked, taped, shaped, pulled in, tied up, or whatever to make them look fabulous...and that's OKAY. So while I was wondering how someone snapped back so quickly, I was losing focus on my own snapback and becoming a hermit. I didn't really want to go out to events in public because it was such a task to find something to wear that (A.) Fits and (B.) I felt comfortable in. Working in media and being on TV, I feel like I have to always be connected to what's going on. In looking back at all of this, the saddest part is that I pushed back my own projects because I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin when it totally contradicts everything I stand for. I didn't realize the affect that this new digital age really has on me, and really, everyone. Literally, it's mentally draining and I knew I had to get my mental-ish together...quickly.
The turning point for me was when I went to New York Fashion Week in September. It was my first time attending in a year, and I was both excited and nervous about it all. Surprisingly though, with the fashion help of my good friend Darryl, I was photographed the most by outside photogs than ever before. I never go there with the intention of being photographed--I'm there working--but it was cool to feel okay with someone else taking my picture. I didn't know why, but I was able to have a certain confidence that exuded, and my whole thought-process was, 'Hey, this is my body right now. I have to love where I am to get to where I'm going.' It worked. I felt so confident--even in my Spanx and nursing bra--because I had the opportunity to just be me, do me, and feel happy because of the moment. It felt good not worrying about it and just accepting me... my body is doing something amazing for my child and that was worth it to me.
Look, whether you've given birth or not, this fall back mentality feeling can go for anyone. If you're not the same size you were in college and you have homecoming coming up and you want to look and feel like that 22 year old you once were; if you've been stressed out with work, school, or home and you've gained weight; if you have some health issues that have caused your body to reject it's normal state; or if you're slim and want to gain weight and people keep telling you you're too skinny...whatever it is, we've ALL been there and no one is immune from feeling inadequate.
As I type this article while Aria is taking a nap next to me, I just challenge all of us women to keep it real with each other. Just because someone looks like they have it all together and beautiful on the outside doesn't mean they're not battling with themselves on the inside. No man, woman, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, parent, or sibling can do the internal work for you...you have to CHOOSE to be the positive affirmation speaking voice in your life or have a good friend who will cheer you on along the way.(Shoutout to my girlfriends!) I choose to share my experiences and thoughts instead of suffering in silence in hopes that one person can say, "Girl, me too! I'm going through the same feelings...let's talk!" and we all can grow, learn, and celebrate our accomplishments together. So the next time you're feeling like falling back in the snapback culture, just remember that you speaking up could save someone's physical and mental health.
What are some body image struggles you've gone through and how do you handle them?