It may be because I recently had a baby, but I feel bombarded by post-baby body success stories in the media lately. It seems that celebrities have a race for who can get back to their pre-pregnancy body the fastest. Once you have arrived there, you need to announce it with a magazine cover, preferably one that suggests you are of superior health and fitness (see Beyonce on Shape magazine cover, and Jenna Dewan Tatum on Self magazine cover). Bonus points if you wear a bikini and hold your infant up like a trophy. There are other celebrities who may not be promoting their post-baby bodies themselves but are nevertheless scrutinized by the media and end up on a number of covers anyway (see Kate Middleton on OK magazine cover, and Kim Kardashian on Star magazine cover). Most recently, I saw photos of Gisele Bundchen in Vogue Paris that features her nude “athletic body” and the media coverage highlights the fact that she is a mother of two. She also happens to be a supermodel, who herself states that she does martial arts, yoga, and pilates weekly and runs and swims when she isn’t doing those classes. This is feasible when your job is to maintain this physique, but less attainable when you are a regular mom, who wasn’t a supermodel prior to giving birth. Then there is the non-celebrity “what’s your excuse?” mom, who posted her fit body with this controversial headline on her Facebook page, sparking big debates in the mommy blogger community about whether or not you are a lazy mom if you can’t pose for a fitness magazine after giving birth.
I am not ready to bare my abs on a magazine cover, but I wouldn’t have done that pre-pregnancy either. I am happy with my post-baby body though. Maybe it’s breastfeeding or genetics, but losing my baby fat hasn’t been a problem after either of my children. That doesn’t mean though that I don’t have some extra cellulite and stretch marks compared to five years ago. It also doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement– my body would definitely look better if I hit a Zumba class once in a while. So this post isn’t driven by a bitterness of why can’t my body look like theirs but rather a frustration over the headlines alongside these bodies that ask silly questions like, “how did she get her body back?” that suggest that regular moms can follow these celebrity moms’ how-to guidelines for weight loss. I remember one headline about Kate Middleton that asked “how the new mom stays so fit” and the answer from the Duchess was “long strolls with loved ones,” which last time I tried didn’t give me washboard abs. The article went on to describe that she has a personal trainer, a gym in her palace, and a personal chef making healthy, low-calorie meals. The answer to how most of these celebrities regain their toned bodies comes from a strict dietary and fitness routine, supported by personal trainers and chefs, and then adorned for public appearances with the help of Spanx, stylists, makeup teams, hairstylists, and airbrushing. Jessica Alba promotes wearing a corset as the best way to get your body back, something that I thought was done torturing women since World War I.
Beyond the ridiculous question of how they do it though is that there is an emphasis on doing it at all. Women who have recently had a baby shouldn’t be focused on weight loss. The post-baby body that I am worried about is that of my infant. Instead of focusing on my weight loss, I am focused on her weight gain. The rush to lose every ounce of baby weight in the first three months postpartum conflicts with the goals of bonding with my baby and establishing breastfeeding, which I think are much more important goals for the 8-12 week maternity leave that most women take. A breastfeeding mom needs to be with her newborn almost constantly and needs to eat and drink extra calories to maintain her milk supply, which are hard to do on a strict diet and fitness schedule. There is plenty of time to work on squeezing back into my skinny jeans, but right now the only jeans I’m squeezing anyone into are made for infants 0-3 months.
When googling celebrity post-baby body magazine covers there are pages of examples of celebrities baring their abs and buttocks and flaunting their svelte figures, however when changing my search criteria to celebrity moms breastfeeding on magazine covers I only see one of Angelina Jolie on W magazine and the controversial Time magazine cover of a woman breastfeeding her school-aged child. It’s time that we start celebrating the important work that women’s bodies do postpartum and not just how attractive they appear.