New motherhood: I feel fat and out of shape, and it's bothering me...

It's common for new mothers to feel uncomfortable about their bodies. Here's how you can deal with it.
New motherhood: I feel fat and out of shape, and it's bothering me...

During pregnancy, a woman is encouraged to eat for two, gain weight and get healthy. A few weeks or months after the baby is born, the mother feels immense pressure to lose weight and get back into shape.

This is the time when many mothers have recurring thoughts about being unattractive, too fat or out of shape. Body image issues may crop up due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • You may be coming to terms with how your body looks now

  • You may be overwhelmed with your new responsibilities, and miss your normal routine and favorite activities

  • You may feel confined at home while your spouse goes out to work everyday

  • You may be under pressure, or receiving criticism from friends and family to lose weight and get healthy

  • Media portrayals of celebrities getting back to looking fit and perfect soon after giving birth

It’s important to remember that nearly all mothers go through these thoughts to some extent. However for some women these thoughts trigger depression, or may be caused by depression. In rare cases, they may lead to the mother developing an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.

Coping with body image issues

If you’re a new mother with concerns about your body image, here are some things you can do to feel good:

  • Remember that post-pregnancy weight doesn't go away immediately after the baby is born. Most women needs months before they are able to get back into shape.

  • Don’t compare yourself with other women or with your own body during or before pregnancy. Every woman’s case is unique. What happened to another person doesn’t necessarily have to happen to you.

  • Don’t push yourself to exercise too early. Check with your obstetrician about when it’s okay for you to begin. You can start off with some stretches and bends, or walks in the park. Use a pram to take the baby out for a walk, so you can get some fresh air and activity.

  • Take care of yourself in other ways until you lose weight – you could get your hair done, get a pedicure or a manicure, and wear comfortable well-fitting clothes so you don't feel unattractive. This will help you feel good about your appearance and lessen your body image worries.

  • Remember that the celebrities who look fit and perfect soon after the birth of their baby often have additional support in looking after the baby, and professional help to get back to shape. Try not to compare yourself with them, because your situation is different.

  • Try to take out some time for yourself, even if it is a short outing, a nap, or meeting friends for coffee.

  • Make your needs important; it’s perfectly okay to ask your spouse or family members to care for the baby while you exercise or take a break.

Role of spouse and family

The spouse and family of the woman have a large role to play in helping her deal with body image issues. Often, families remark at the new mother’s weight, or criticize her for not being fit.

When she is feeling insecure, the woman may ask her spouse or other family members if she looks fat, or unattractive; she is mostly looking for reassurance. Rather than dismiss her worries, family members can help her by acknowledging her concerns.

Experts say that new mothers’ body image issues often stem from feedback they receive from people around them. Ensure that you don’t criticize her for not losing weight. You can offer to care for the baby so she has some time to herself.

Be supportive and encourage her to reach out for help if she seems overwhelmed.

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