If I could remove one phrase from every post natal clients vocab it would be “get my pre baby body back”.
“I just want my pre baby body back” it’s the goal that I hear over and over again from my post natal clients. And I get it, trust me. Two kids and an adult lifetime of disordered eating and fanatical exercising allows me to feel all the feels when I hear those words come out time and again from the beautiful mothers mouths sitting across from me.
One of the most seemingly ridiculous but somehow accepted expectations of our times is that we (mothers) never look as if we are mothers. Literally, we are expected to ‘bounce’ back to our pre baby physique immediately after giving birth.
It’s not the only ridiculous expectation though. It starts in pregnancy, make sure you only gain a neat basketball shaped bump. If it’s much bigger people will ask if you are having twins. Then of course as soon as the baby is out, make sure you are making time for yourself. In other words, get back to the gym and get rid of that ‘mummy tummy’. Become a ‘yummy mummy’ even though you haven’t slept since you gave birth, are leaking milk and haven’t showered in approximately the number of days since you left hospital, or your significant other returned to work. Not to mention the fact that your ‘mummy tummy’, that little pouch that not long ago housed a small human, has already shrunk by any other extreme standard (except motherhood). But instead of accepting it and recognising that the majority of mums have this exact same pouch (in varying sizes) we do our best to shrink, starve and plank it away.
So I get it. But what if the message was different. What if the message was all about using fitness as a tool to strengthen your body to make carrying 247 loads of washing a day and every day activities easier? What if the message was all about how fitness can make life more fun with kids? What if… the fitness message wasn’t to tell women that their body is crap after they just grew another person inside their body?
Listen, don’t get me wrong, personal trainers and gyms (mostly) are just trying to help their clients the best way they know how. But when the current ideal for women is to look a certain way (thin with big breasts) we have a problem. Not all of us are made this way. Not only that, but we don’t need to look this way. Newsflash!! you can exercise without dieting and it’s still going to be great for you! You can exercise without killing yourself every time and it’s still going to be great for you! When every woman who comes into the gym has the same goal of shrinking her body, it’s no wonder that’s all that is on offer. And when we live in a society that tells us this is the body that is valued most, it is no wonder that is what we want.
Well I believe that as women we deserve more than this. We deserve gyms that cater for our postnatal bodies. We deserve trainers who understand that jumping might be a concern for some women due to LEAKING WEE all over the place! We deserve to have exercises modified to suit our abdominal separation or pelvic instability or whatever else growing a tiny human may have done to change our body. And most of all, we deserve gyms and trainers who do not encourage postnatal women to cut calories.
So what can women do? The first thing you can do is find a trainer or a gym that understands how to safely train a postnatal body! Seriously though. If they tell you to do star jumps, run! The second thing you can do is to change your mindset. Be gentle with yourself. You – grew – a – person! That is truly amazing. Take the time to listen to your body. Do the exercises that your body needs and slowly progress.
Exercise can be extremely enjoyable when your goals become focused on how you feel rather than how you look. And if you still want a hardcore workout that makes you drip sweat all over the floor – we can always do that too!