Inside: Struggling with body image after having a baby is one hundred percent normal. But you don’t need to stay there! These tips from a mom of two and postpartum personal trainer are tried and true ways to change perspective on your post-baby body and develop a strong, healthy postpartum body image.
Once upon a time – you know, in my pre-baby body – I was a personal trainer. I absolutely adored working out, and I wanted to share that passion with others.
Exercise was an essential part of my life – as natural as eating and drinking. I looked forward to working out and loved my strong, kick-ass body.
When I became pregnant, I assumed I would quickly go back to my pre-baby workout routines and get my post-baby body back ASAP.
You can imagine my surprise, then, when I actually had said baby and quickly realized that even with all my fitness knowledge, I had no idea how to restore & rebuild my body postpartum.
I struggled with my body image after baby intensely – especially when it seemed like my post-baby body was gone for good.
I loved my baby, but I most certainly did NOT love this “new me”. I wanted my old body back.
I searched everywhere for a trainer with the expertise needed to guide me in this new – kinda scary – chapter in my body’s story, but I just couldn’t find one.
So finally, I decided to become the coach I needed.
I worked my butt off to earn two certifications for postpartum fitness (Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism Coach and Postnatal Fitness Specialist). And I figured out how to help myself as a new mom to come to terms with my “new body”, and to grapple with all the things that come with it.
You know what I’m talking about – things like diastasis recti, that pesky post-baby belly and building a healthy body image postapartum. And all the while building strength and exercise back into my routine in a healthy, mom-friendly way.
Did I get my old body back? Not so much. What I did do was learn how to restore, heal, empower and strengthen my post-baby body and develop a new, healthier body image.
Having a baby isn’t a body image death sentence. You just need to be intentional about reshaping your body image after baby.
7 Tips for When You’re Struggling with Body Image After Baby
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Here’s what I did when I was struggling with my postpartum body image, and what I coach new moms to do in my membership group…
1. Remember that it is normal for bodies to change, and a lot of that is out of your control.
Somewhere along the way you might have believed that your body was supposed to look the same forever. The media and all the celebrities in the spotlight don’t help matters.
Here’s the God-honest truth: all bodies change, and it’s been that way since the day you were born and will be that way until the day you die.
Your body wasn’t the same at 5 as it was at 15. It won’t be the same at 30 as it was 20, or 40 as it was at 30.
Your body won’t be the same post-babies as it was pre-babies, no matter what the “get your pre-baby body back in 60 days postpartum” (can I just say I hate those articles?). Your body won’t be the same post-menopause as it was pre-menopause.
Remind yourself it’s okay if there are things about your body that are different after having a child—maybe it’s some extra weight, maybe your breasts are different, maybe you’ve got stretch marks, or a scar, maybe your hips just seem a little wider, or the cellulite more prominent.
Bodies change, and all versions of your body are good.
And, so much of this is OUT of your control – sleep deprivation, hormones, hello!
Let go the obsession with getting your body to look like you’re 20 for the rest of your life. It’s not serving you or your body image in the slightest.
2. Prioritize healing, and don’t put yourself last.
Although our bodies will change over the course of our lives, we don’t have to accept everything as just “part of having babies.”
Women too often accept things as normal, when really, there are solutions!
Things you don’t have to accept about your body just because you had a baby:
- peeing yourself when you sneeze, jump, or exercise,
- unhealed diastasis recti (ab separation),
- pain with intercourse,
- pelvic pain, hip back, back pain, vaginal heaviness, etc.
Prioritize yourself here. I know you probably rolled your eyes if your midwife even suggested these things, but seriously, make the time to see a pelvic floor physical therapist or hire a qualified fitness coach.
All the unhealed things in your body postpartum can often lead to an unhealthy body image, a lack of sense of self, and poor self-esteem in the bedroom.
It’s worth taking the time to restore your body in the journey of postpartum body acceptance.
Exercise is an incredible tool to heal so many of these issues, and strength training the whole body, in a variety of ways can bring so much restoration to your post-baby issues.
3. Figure out what triggers negative feelings about your body, and get rid of those things.
What triggers negative thoughts around your body? Some things you can’t really change, but there is so much more in your control than out of your control than you might think…
Is it the social media accounts you follow always promoting a certain beauty ideal? Unfollow them.
Is it certain conversations your friends have about their bodies? Set boundaries, and change the subject.
Is it the environment in your gym? Find a different place to workout.
Is it the number on the scale when you weigh yourself? Throw away the scale.
You are in charge of your thoughts, so if you don’t like them, work to eliminate the triggers that start those negative thought cycles.
4. Discover what contributes to a healthy body image, and embrace those things.
When do you most love your body? Add in more of those things.
Is it a certain dress? Wear that dress more.
How about social media—are there accounts that encourage you and make you feel good about yourself? Fill your feed with those people.
Find a type of exercise that makes you feel like a badass. That exercise might be different than what made you feel good pre-baby.
Maybe that’s a Crossfit class that makes you feel strong & powerful. Maybe that’s a Zumba class that makes you feel sexy. Maybe it’s a Barre class that makes you feel strong & relieve stress.
It might take you a while to figure out what works for your new post-baby body. Give yourself grace, and think of it as getting to know someone new. It takes time and patience.
5. Wear clothes that fit.
I’m not talking about wearing your maternity jeans six months postpartum, I mean, buy and wear REGULAR clothes that fit your body NOW.
The goal here isn’t just to “give up” on yourself. The goal here is to FEEL GOOD IN WHAT YOU WEAR!
Wearing clothes that are too tight, or wearing your maternity clothes, does NOT help your body image at.all.
So get clothes THAT YOU LIKE and that FIT YOU.
If your budget is small, hit up the thrift store, or borrow from a friend. But whatever you do, put clothes on that make you feel good.
6. Center your postpartum fitness journey around empowerment, not punishment.
So often we as women set fitness and health goals that feel more like punishment than empowerment.
We choose restrictive diets that take away all of our favorite foods. Then we go crazy and binge on a package of cookies.
We choose hours of cardio even though we don’t love it because we think it will burn the most calories.
Rather than chasing health goals in ways that center around always shrinking yourself, choose health goals that make you feel good, that empower you, that add things to your life.
With nutrition, maybe this looks like adding in more vegetables (rather than restricting sweets).
With exercise, maybe this looks like choosing the forms of exercise that are most enjoyable to you, even if they don’t result in the most calories burned.
Or maybe it’s trying strength training for the first time so you feel strong & confident.
7. Don’t wait until you love your post-baby body to live your life.
Have you ever stayed covered up by the side of the pool while your kids splashed around & played, because you felt insecure in your bathing suit?
Let me guess…you didn’t feel any better about your body staying out of the pool as you did getting in the pool.
Am I right?
Here’s the secret to loving your postpartum body: living your life as if you already feel confident in your post-baby body, as if your body image already is healthy.
Make choices like these:
- get in the pool with your kiddos,
- put on that lingerie for your partner,
- wear those shorts this summer,
- say yes to that part invitation.
Taking steps like this move us towards a healthier body image and truly loving our postpartum body.
Make choices that a woman who is truly enjoying her life and living it to the full would make, and your body image will catch up to those choices.
When You Care Holistically for Your Post-Baby Body, Healthy Body Image Will Follow
Loving your body doesn’t always have to center around physical attributes. Loving your body can be the choices you make to care for, nourish, empower and strengthen your body.
Many women find that exercise alone boosts their self-esteem, even if there’s no change in the number of the scale.
Focus on loving your postpartum body in a more holistic sense.
Take time to heal and rehab your body. Prioritize a life of enjoyment, and don’t waste these years with your kids obsessing over your body and hopping from diet to diet. You deserve more, and kids – girls and boys – benefit from a mom who has a healthy body image.
So live your life to the full in the body you have. It’s a good body – move it in ways that make you feel good.
You are an amazing mom—and oh so worthy of feeling like the strong woman you are!
Lauren is passionate about seeing mamas FLOURISH postpartum, one workout at a time! A Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism Coach and Postnatal Fitness Specialist, she works 1:1 with moms in-person or virtually through my Postpartum Strong Mentorship. Sign up for her e-mail list HERE to see all she has to offer or follow her on Instagram @strongmamatribe.