Body positivity and losing weight— are they mutually exclusive?

If you scroll Instagram and search the hashtag #bodypositive you will find thousands of gorgeous, curvy women and men (!) flaunting their perfectly imperfect bodies. It’s pretty fantastic and helps us to realize that that the flawless, thin models that society has historically exalted just aren’t the norm. Seeing these men and women remind us that we, too, are beautiful and valued no matter the size of our jeans, the color of our skin, or any number of factors. Loving yourself, just as you are, is what the “body-positive” movement is all about.

I know what you’re thinking. “YES! I love this. But… what if I still want to lose weight after having a baby?” I hear you, and I’ve been there, mama. I struggled with learning to accept, and embrace my new squishy tummy, my tiger stripes, my wider hips, as well as the fact that I still looked pregnant months after my baby was born.

As new moms, we put on extra weight in order to grow and protect a new life as it develops. Your little one has arrived, and while much of that extra weight has been lost in the birth process, some of it still sticks around. Your uterus takes six plus weeks to return to it’s pre-pregnancy size alone. It is normal feeling to want to lose the weight you gained, and to return to your previous level of activity. You owe it to yourself, and your baby, to take care of your body by fueling it, exercising it, and embracing it so that you can be fully present for this precious new life you brought into the world.

So, what does that look like, day-to-day? Don’t make it a goal to fit back into your old jeans, or say you’ll be happier when you lose 20 pounds. Don’t set a timeline for yourself, and don’t you dare berate yourself if you can’t complete a workout like you used to! Your body has just been through a major life-altering process. Treat your body with kindness, listen to your obstetrician, and accept what your body can do for you today as your best. Give yourself some grace, and listen to what your body is telling you.

Recognizing and accepting every spot, line, scar, or jiggle may seem counterintuitive to wanting to lose weight because this implies a desire to change what you claim to love unconditionally. I don’t think it’s that simple, though. As we learn to embrace our flaws, we can also seek to become the absolute best versions of ourselves— the version of ourselves that feels stronger, runs a little farther, lifts a little more, and has more energy to dedicate to our family, our work, and the things we love.

Love your body for how hard it continually works for you. And if you get back to your pre-baby weight, but you’re still two sizes larger because your hips are wider, or your tummy is softer than it was before, that’s okay. Your body is not supposed to be the same after giving birth. Your body did an amazing thing, and for that, my fellow mama, you deserve all the praise.

Remember, happiness is NOT size specific.

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