monthly theme, May 2013: “body image”

Body image after having a child is a tricky enough subject– but what about body image after an ALI journey? For many mothers, there is an inherent conundrum of feeling like less of a woman at the exact moment in time that they have less time than ever before to focus on themselves and their body/health.

With summer quickly approaching, I’m guessing that many of you will have thoughts on this. I know that I personally have struggled with embracing my post-baby body, and beyond that, I have struggled to find the time – or really, to MAKE the time – to squeeze in exercise and to make healthy meals for myself and my family, even though I know how important it is.

This month we are curious to know how you feel about your body now that you’re pregnant and/or parenting after an ALI journey. As always, here are some prompts to get you thinking, but feel free to write on any topic:

  • How do you feel about your pregnancy / post-partum / post-adoption body?
  • Did you have weight gain in addition to pregnancy gain because of depression, fertility meds, etc?
  • How did you handle the psychological effects of weight gain from a pregnancy(ies) that you lost?
  • If you adopted, did you turn to food during the seemingly endless waiting period?
  • How do you / have you made time to focus on your health/body since becoming a mother?
  • Do you focus more on healthy food, good exercise, or a mix of both?

As always, if you don’t have a blog we welcome your comments on the topic below and we’ll link your comment in the post listing.

Entries for this month’s theme are due Wednesday, May 22nd at midnight, EST. The full list of links will go live on Thursday, May 23.

news item: ‘letting myself go’

In college I joined the cross-country team. Now don’t think I was, or am, some healthy runner chick. Yeah, no. I joined because I knew I had to start exercising regularly and I knew I wouldn’t keep it up on my own. I figured a team sport would motivate me to stick with it, and also, the cross-country team at my college didn’t make cuts, so I was in! And I did stick with it. I became a runner.  My senior year I went for my annual physical that all athletes had to have to play a team sport. The college nurse, who I knew quite well, remarked that since joining the team I had lost some weight and gained a lot of muscle. She said to me, “Boy I wish I could love running like you do.” I looked at her point-blank and said “No, no, I hate running.” She asked me why I was doing it. I told her quite simply that I knew I had to do something to keep me healthy, running was a cheap sport to do, and if it meant I could eat a cupcake or ice cream and not have to worry about it, then I would do it. Mmm, cupcakes…where was I?  The nurse laughed and said that was one of the most honest statements she had ever heard from a college student.

My point, and I do have one, is that I am still a runner today, but it is not some grand love of running that gets me up at 5 am to run, or sneaking in a quick run while the baby naps. It’s the fact that I know, we all know, we should stay physically active.  And we all know just how hard that is once kids come into the picture. So when a well-known trainer, gives an interview in which she shames pregnant women and new moms for “letting themselves go” I get a little upset.

Tracy Anderson, Gwyneth Paltrow’s personal trainer, gave an interview in which she said that not only had she dropped her thirty pounds of baby weight in six weeks after giving birth, but that,

“A lot of women use pregnancy as an excuse to let their bodies go, and that’s the worst thing.”

This comment implies that not only are “a lot” of women lazy and unhealthy during pregnancy, but as the author of the article states:

“…it’s unrealistic to suggest that women who don’t lose the baby weight quickly are ‘letting their bodies go,’ or using their children as excuses to put off fitness.”

There are so many levels of ‘wrongness’ I feel about this story.  On the surface are the trainer’s comments.  They are inflammatory and insensitive.  And I am quite sure Tracy Anderson knew what she was doing; you see this interview was given along with the promoting of her new DVDs for, wait for it…pregnancy fitness workouts!  And the rule in media is ‘any press is good press’.  So Tracy got lots of attention for her new line of DVDs.

The author further goes on to state another level of ‘wrongness’:

“And, while it’s normal to lose weight after the birth of a baby (some women have an easier time of it than others), losing all of it by six-weeks postpartum, as Tracy Anderson did, is not the norm. Most doctors won’t even clear women for exercise until their six-week checkup, and if you’ve had tearing or complications (as I did with all three of my boys) then the wait can be even longer. And, too much exercise and dieting can also interfere with breastmilk production, so it’s best to go easy while you’re nursing and while your baby is so young.”

And yet this article only begins to hint, in my opinion, at the real issues here, the real ‘wrongness’, that this is yet ANOTHER story about a woman casting judgment on other women.  Why are we so damn ready to judge each other?  I was constantly asked, by relative strangers, how much weight I was gaining during my pregnancy.  Since when is it suddenly ok to ask a woman that question?  And why does it matter?  I gained in the range my midwife told me to gain and that is all that counts.  And what if, and I don’t, but what if I had a history of an eating disorder, and being asked that question triggered my old issues?

The fact is that no one ever really knows another person’s back-story, or if they do, they don’t know how it truly feels unless they have lived it themselves.  And yet we continually judge each other:  amount of weight we gain, non-medicated birth or epidural, breast-feeding or formula, co-sleeping or crib, and it goes on.  When the only thing that really counts, the only thing that should matter, EVER, is the fact that a healthy child was born, game over, miracle created.

And so the day I wrote this post my little girl napped like a champ, three naps over an hour each.  I did not choose to go for a run on the treadmill however, just didn’t feel like it.  Instead I rested and made brownies.  I’ll try again tomorrow to fit in a run.  But my exercising will never be about trying to fit into some unrealistic expectation that the celebrity culture puts on women.  My exercising will be to make myself healthy so that I can be the best Mom I can be and hopefully model a healthy body image and healthy eating to my daughter.  (And also teach her that cupcakes are little bites of heaven.)

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What do you think about trainer Tracy Anderson’s statements?  Were they motivating or derogatory?

Almost all parenting topics seem to come with some form of judgement, do you feel the ALI community is less judgemental?  In what ways?  Are there any ways you feel the ALI community is more judgemental?

Tracy Anderson gave a followup interview trying to explain her comments (see a video of it here along with a write-up * that is a bit catty *) but didn’t actually apologize.  Do you feel she explained herself any better?

How do you feel about the ‘judgemental culture’ we seem to live in?  How do you handle it?

Have you written a blog post on this issue?  Or if this article inspires you to write one, share the link in the comments!

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