The Postpartum Comparison Game

5 tips on how NOT to let social media impact your postpartum fitness routine.

A few years ago, a California mom of three caused an uproar among mothers and the general public when she posted a photo  of herself on Instagram only 8 months postpartum with a very toned mid-section, asking others “What’s your excuse?”

Following the negative backlash, she released a statement telling women that if they interpreted her picture as judgement or hybris it was in fact their own problem. While she was willing to apologize for how it was perceived, she was not willing to apologize for how she looked; she was just a hard-working mother that practiced consistency, discipline and persistence.

Unfortunately with social media being omnipresent, it is hard not to notice the increased documentation of baby bump journeys and postpartum fitness regimens. While most of it is in the spirit of sharing one’s own story, it’s typically only the fastest, most impressive mamas who are sharing. So it’s no surprise that the rest of us, mere mortals, feel like we need to rebound from pregnancy weight-gain just as quickly.

The danger is that women attempt their own version of an accelerated postpartum journey, and they can risk injuring themselves. As a specialist in prenatal and postpartum training, I have been contacted about postpartum training within 9 days of delivery. I have seen mothers start running too soon after delivering. I have seen mothers trying to get their core back with exercises that can cause long-standing health issues such as diastasis recti . I have been told by mothers that they would like to look like a certain celebrity postpartum. And I’ve seen women limit their food intake to a caloric deficit that sent their body into starvation mode, risking losing their ability to nurse their babies.

I understand you want to get rid of that baby weight. And the best place to start is during pregnancy. I preach to  women to make sure that they are fit going into their pregnancy and to stay as active as possible during (barring any pregnancy complications) to set a great basis for postpartum recovery and weight-loss.

The fastest postpartum weight-loss that I have witnessed was a combination of keeping up a workout regime during pregnancy (well into the third trimester), a disciplined approach to the postpartum recovery, and consistency in nutrition  and training after the health provider gave the green light to resume exercising. Within that, women needed a big amount of laissez- faire dealing with sleepless nights, setbacks in their journey, physical complications and the reality of time constraints.

So what can you do when you see pregnancies and postpartum recoveries that seem too good to be true?

  1. Dig a little deeper into the woman’s circumstances before she was pregnant. The smallest pregnancies are often seen on women that were previously incredibly fit and small or who work in the fitness industry.
  2. Comment by asking questions. Social media for moms should be a community to exchange information and empower one another instead of tearing each other down and comparing bodies.
  3. Make a plan for yourself and find friends ‘IRL’ who will hold you accountable to go for a 30 minute walk each day, attend a yoga class together or sign up on myfitnesspal  as a group to track healthy nutrition.
  4. Hire an expert. There are conditions, such as severe diastasis recti, that you cannot conquer yourself. With the help of a licensed trainer, you can address those while working on getting fitter and stronger postpartum.
  5. Go offline. If you find that it winds you up and you get feelings of anger, jealousy, resentment and ultimately turning on yourself, stop looking at Instagram photos for a while and focus on the wonder that your body is creating or has recently undergone. Carrying and delivering a healthy baby.

As usual, share your thoughts and comments below and on social media to let us know how you felt about your pregnancy and postpartum journey.

 

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Roma van der Walt

Roma van der Walt

Roma van der Walt is a former Member of the German national team for Modern Pentathlon who has made her passion for sports, her work. As a trainer she focuses on making exercise fun, diverse and stimulating emotionally and physically to ensure the sustainability of her clients' progress. She is a firm believer in positive encouragement and holistic approaches to fitness and food to help people embrace healthy living. Roma draws from disciplines such as traditional conditioning, cardio, strength, yoga, martial arts, and dance. In her prenatal and postpartum work Roma incorporates the same principles to help mothers be healthy and glowing during and strong and in shape post pregnancy.

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