Those who know me, work with me and follow me on social media know how strongly I feel about diet culture- and I hope this post provides some background as to the reasons why. Those reasons have continued to evolve over the past few years e.g. continued fatphobic articles, fitness and nutrition “influencers” spreading utter nonsense, but I remain truly passionate that no woman should have to worry about anything other than her and her baby’s wellbeing during and after pregnancy.
Recently in my conversations with friends and personal training clients, I’ve had some discussions around pregnancy, pre and post-natal exercise and how for some women pregnancy can signal the start of a change in the relationship they have with their body. Most pregnancy related media are filled with the promise glowing hair and skin, boundless energy and a perfectly shaped bump- whereas my own experience was vastly different!
I fell (very happily) pregnant with my son at the age of 27 and after years of feeling secure in my own skin I felt like my body was no longer my own. For the first trimester I experienced tiredness like I never have before, and I hadn’t reached 13 weeks before I had gone up a dress size. I gained a considerable amount of weight during my pregnancy, and here’s the thing no one is really supposed to say during pregnancy- I hated it, because for years I literally hadn't cared about weight gain. I felt I had no control over my body anymore and the constant diet culture driven media I was exposed to did nothing but make me feel even worse. The constant commentary from my work colleagues, friends and family (who I genuinely feel were well meaning and didn’t realise the impact of their words) would say things to me like “Wow- you look HUGE!” and “don’t worry, the weight will fall off you into him when you are breastfeeding”
Complications at 20 weeks lead to me being admitted to hospital for a week and I’m ashamed to say that it wasn’t until this happened that I got the heck over myself and realised that a few extra pounds were nothing compared to the health and wellbeing of my precious and much longed for baby boy. Every scan I had during that week and over the next few months made me more and more protective of my rapidly growing bump and cemented how much I hated diet culture for making me worry so much about my changing pregnancy body.
Even during pregnancy, a time that women should be left alone to focus on their own health and that of their baby, diet culture doesn’t let up. It doesn’t care about making you feel completely unattractive and about putting pressure on you to start dieting to “get the baby weight off” the second your baby’s umbilical cord is cut. It is there when you are breastfeeding “breastfeeding is a great way to increase the speed of post-partum weight loss, and can help flatten that tummy”, it is there when another celebrity is pictured leaving the Portland in their pre-pregnancy jeans and it is there when people close to you start to comment on your post pregnancy body.
I was very lucky (particularly given my complications) to have a very uncomplicated birth and I wish I had taken more time to appreciate that my incredible body literally allowed a 9lb human to exit it without so much as a paracetamol. (TMI but whatever) Instead, I felt like I had to rush back to work and back to my fitness routine and I will always regret not just giving myself a break.
If you, or someone close to you, is currently pregnant and struggling with the change in their body- know that you/they are not alone in feeling this way. Diet culture will try to make you feel awful- but it is based solely on lies and it feeds off negativity. Remember you are literally growing a human- and that makes your stronger than diet culture will ever be.