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  • MOM UNFILTERED: Motherhood and the Need to Fit in Your Old Jeans. Sigh

    A mom reflects how rare it is to find assurance for an insecure, exhausted and slightly fluffy new mom.
    by Dedet Reyes Panabi .
MOM UNFILTERED: Motherhood and the Need to Fit in Your Old Jeans. Sigh
PHOTO BY iStock
  • “Mommy, I love hugging you,” my daughter said, curling into my side like a contented cat. “Your tummy is so big and fluffy.”

    Well, that’s about the sweetest way to call someone fat. But I didn’t feel bad (okay, maybe just a little, but the hug made everything better). My daughter wasn’t judging my body because of what it looked like, she loved it because of everything I meant to her. To borrow from an Ed Sheeran song, it was the shape of You.

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    The big fat lie

    That’s the way all of us should feel about our weight. Unfortunately, most of us are programmed to chase unrealistic standards. One survey found that 80% of moms feel pressured to go back to their pre-baby body. 

    "We are sold an unfeasible image of lollipop lady celebs and their post-pregnancy bodies — celebs whose ‘job’ is looking thin for TV and film. Ordinary women don’t have the luxury of disappearing from public view while they hone their figures with personal trainers and personal chefs."

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    And when you do an Internet search on weight loss for moms, you’ll get headlines like “Get your pre-baby body back!” or “Real ways to lose weight while breastfeeding!” Ads and social media images praise the thin, glowing mama. “She doesn’t even look like she has kids!”

    Very few articles will assure an insecure, exhausted and slightly fluffy new mom that, “Hey, you look great, you’re doing great. And if you want to lose pounds, that’s fine, but know that you’re amazing just the way you are now.” That’s the kind of support that moms need, not the promise that they can “Lose the baby weight in 30 days – download/buy now!”

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    You’re beautiful right now

    When did a postpartum body become such a bad thing? This body brought a new life into this world. This body soothes away tears, gives tight hugs, and does about 1,795 things every day on just a handful of sleep. Am I supposed to hate it for changing, or blame myself because I can’t fit into my old jeans again? It’s somewhat unfair for society to push the conflicting message of “Being a mom is the most amazing thing in the world...as long as you don’t look like one.”

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    I’m not hating on sexy moms or moms who are working hard to lose the weight (you go, girl!) If it makes you happy or feel stronger and healthier, then you do it. But do it for yourself, and do it when you’re ready. And most of all, don’t focus on the number on the scale the inches on your waist. It should never be about being sexy or beautiful — because you already are — but taking care of your body the way you take care of your kids. 

    Unhealthy body issues affect yourself and the people you loveWhen weight starts to define self-esteem and triggers emotions like insecurity or jealousy, those extra pounds becomes emotional baggage — and that’s a lot harder to lose than a baby belly.

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    You are your daughter's idol

    “Five- to 8-year-olds who think their moms are unhappy with their bodies are more likely to feel dissatisfied with their own,” says this CNN report on the ripple effect on girls when moms struggle with body image. Laura Choate, author of Swimming Upstream: Parenting Girls for Resilience in a Toxic Culture told CNN that when we talk badly about ourselves, we teach our daughters to do that too. 

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    "Any time that we are criticizing ourselves, acting negatively or saying negative things about ourselves or engaging in dieting behaviors or other kinds of unhealthy eating behaviors, our daughters are watching this, and then they internalize that message and feel badly about their own bodies in return.”

    Choate also says it’s crucial to give daughters strong role models. They will grow up surrounded by media images of women who are idolized for their looks and perfectly curated Instagram life. But they need to know about strong, smart, brave women who overcame personal setbacks and failures and succeeded in their fields. These are the people they should look up to – not just someone who is “beautiful.”  

    But of course, their number one hero and role model will always be the mom. So be careful about what messages you’re sending. If you want your kids to be confident and believe in themselves, don’t just praise or love them — you gotta love yourself too.

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    Now give yourself and your fluffy tummy a hug.

    Dedet Reyes Panabi was editor-in-chief of a parenting magazine for seven years, then quit to work from home and spend quality time with family and Netflix. She now works from home as a digital communications and social media manager for a multinational. (Or has her son described it on Career Day, “My mom’s on Facebook the whole day.”)

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