There has been a lot of discussion about self love, body image, bikini and post baby bodies of late. This has prompted me to share some of my personal journey following the birth of Byron 13 weeks ago, as well as some thoughts following a recent segment on Channel 7's Sunday Night covering these topics.
The following is my view on body image (whether post baby or not), self love and our ego’s. Included are some images of me ‘rocking’ my bikini body. These images are not designed for you to judge, ‘shame’ or compare yourself to. It is me being real, uncensored and (now) vulnerable.
Firstly, I’m not going to go into detail about my opinions on either of the women interviewed in the segment – that would be conflicting to what this blog is actually about. Secondly, I feel that both Ashy and Taryn were selling the same message - love the skin you're in, however there was body shaming all throughout.
Healthy comes in so many shapes and sizes and the perfect body means different things to each of us.
Personally I believe there is nothing wrong with having goals and wanting to keep healthy, active, strong or in shape. This becomes a problem in my eyes when it is not done in a balanced way and becomes obsessive; because to most people, there is more to life than working out. As Taryn mentioned when referring to her ‘bikini body’ – ‘there was no balance’. Regardless of whether you look like a bikini model, excessively overweight or somewhere in between, if there is no balance in your life you most probably will not be happy. Yes, there is pressure on females and their body shape regardless of if you have had a baby or not, and whether this pressure is real or perceived, it is there. For me personally being a health and fitness professional, I definitely felt pressure to look a certain way pre, during and post pregnancy. You feel that you need to (and want to) be a positive role model to those around you. This pressure though mainly came from myself and no one else.
There is WAY too much body and exercise shaming these days. There really is no one way to be fit and healthy. Whether you love cross fit, running, team sports, Zumba, the gym, walking the dog - whatever it is you do to keep active, make sure you do it in a way that you enjoy. That's the only way it's going to be sustainable.
Let's focus on what the body can achieve and how it performs, rather than how it looks. If it's appealing to your eye that's just a bonus - beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all.
Yes, we need to be happy with the skin we are in but we don’t necessarily need to accept that we cant, or that it is bad to change anything about ourselves. Not happy with your relationship, job, hair colour etc? The beauty is that we can actually take control and change or influence these things. Not happy with your fitness level or strength? Why just accept that you are unfit when you can actually change this (only if you want to though of course). You can even do the same for your dietary habits! No one is forcing you to eat a salad, but no one is forcing you to eat a big mac either; the choice is yours. My point? Don’t settle, but don’t obsess either.
The big one - I am all for keeping active and maintaining a healthy diet pre, during and post pregnancy. First and foremost for your mental wellbeing. I'm a much nicer person when I've had some movement in my day as opposed to when I don't. Why do I exercise? Because I love it! The countless other benefits that come with it are just a bonus (which I could actually talk about for hours but I won't – refer back to my Exercise During Pregnancy blog for more on that topic, link below).
I truly believe regular movement; whole nutritious foods and positive affirmations (much of these aimed at affirming my self worth and acceptance of my body) have aided my post birth recovery.
I now know that once you've carried and birthed a baby your body will never be the same again. This is something that needs to be accepted. What it doesn't mean though is that it won't ever be fit, strong or healthy again. It can be, but is something that needs to be worked at. There is absolutely nothing wrong with people wanting to find their strength and fitness again. It does however need to be done in safe, effective and timely manner appropriate to each individual's needs. Bottom line, keep moving, but again do so in a safe, effective and timely manner suitable for you.
MY POST PREGNANCY JOURNEY
For me personally I had a really positive pregnancy and birth, however my birthing experience has somewhat impacted my recovery which until recently affected my perception of my body. Throughout my pregnancy I was sure to do my pelvic floor exercises regularly, avoid high impact exercises and maintain consistent activity in a safe manner. It helped that I am trained in pre and post natal exercise prescription and nutrition to assist in ensuring I kept healthy and active without putting myself at risk. However you can do all the right things leading up to and during your pregnancy, but your delivery and genetics also have such an important role to play in how you will recover from child birth.
Byron weighed 9 pound and was 56cm long. I had a relatively short labor for a first time Mumma that was drug and intervention free; however, just over two hours were spent pushing. Byron was an asynclitic birth (meaning asymmetrical, it’s when a baby’s head is tipped towards one shoulder. The tipped head has a harder time passing through the narrow part of the pelvis. Labor becomes longer, sometimes baby doesn’t fit out the pelvis, and the Mum has to do the work). So despite my conditioning during pregnancy, having a baby over 4kg and a long pushing stage ticked a couple of boxes to put me at risk of a longer recovery and prolapse. This means my return to particular forms of exercise that I really enjoy (such as high impact training) is going to be a longer process for me than I might have hoped for. I also had a 4 finger abdominal separation. Post birth I have really had to reset my expectations, embrace my new body and accept my ego – but is this easier said than done?
Ego; Noun, a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance. The part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity.
I’m not saying I am always in love with my body. I have crappy days just like everybody else where I feel heavier, my skin breaks out or I just really need to wash my hair. I have accepted that my body is and never will be the same as it was – but that is not a bad thing. It’s been through a trauma and undergone radical change so I am doing my best to embrace every bit of me following the amazing experience that is child birth and becoming a Mumma, to be a positive role model for Byron and those around me.
Despite my new six-pack of rolls that is comprised of a combination of loose skin and body fat rather than firm abdominal muscles, I have now actually come to be pretty comfortable with my post-baby body and proud of what it went through to carry and deliver Byron. What has been harder to accept is that physically I feel great and that I should be able to return to my pre baby exercise activities and intensities, however internally my body still has so much recovering and repairing to undergo. I needed to lower my expectations and stop comparing myself to others (which we are all guilty of doing), and where they may be at 13 weeks post their baby as we each have our own journey to follow. I have been seeing a Women’s Health Physio regularly to keep track of my progress, completing a home program and making sure that I can still move daily but in a way that wont hinder my recovery.
Ego aside – I simply don’t have the strength or fitness that I had prior to falling pregnant, so these things will take time to build back up. Now that my ego isn’t in the way and I have readjusted my expectations I have accepted where I am at and what I am able to do. After all I am only 13 weeks post partum and I know that one day down the track I WILL regain my strength and fitness. There is no need to rush.
Acceptance is key to letting go of your ego, and there will come a time in our lives where we need to set it aside. In doing so it doesn’t mean we need to admit defeat, it just means you need to get a little closer to our true inner self and embrace the situation whole heartedly.
This blog may be a little long winded, but it gets under my skin me when people exercise / body shame. C’mon ladies let’s uplift and support one another on our own personal journeys to a healthier, fitter and happier life, however we choose to do it and regardless of our body shape and size.
Self-love is something that constantly needs to be worked on and doesn’t come easy. We have to keep persisting with positive affirmations and begin to see our bodies for what they can do for us rather than how they look. The relationship we have with ourselves sets the tone for every other relationship we hold, therefore it is so important to get this relationship right.
What is a balanced lifestyle to one will mean something else to another. We all have bikini bodies, we just need to rock them with confidence and a little less shaming.