Learning to love my post-baby curves and bumps
By RUTH ANDANJE | 2 months ago
We have all seen them, celebrities on covers of magazines or Instagram, weeks after giving birth with washboard abs and looking just like they did pre-baby.
But the reality, especially for the everyday woman, isn’t quite as rosy. A 2017 study from researchers at the University of Illinois and Brigham Young University found that 46 per cent of new mums are frustrated by their post-birth physique.
Three women share their experiences trying to get back their pre-baby bodies.
I hated the woman in the mirror: Joy Alividza Bodo, a mum of three
I've always been a big girl. I especially remember being teased about it in primary school. In my 20s, I oscillated between 82to 87kg depending on the season. But after I became a mother, keeping my weight down became a constant battle. I have three little boys, all under age five. By the end of 2020, I hit 120kg. I'm no longer afraid to admit this.
The most significant change after having a baby is my waistline. I have a belly that looks like I am in the second trimester of pregnancy. I have since found out that part of my weight gain was from the fact that I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a hormonal disorder causing enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges.
As the weight crept on, I didn’t realise it. I think it was because I spent most of my time in stretchy tights or dresses with big skirts. When I finally faced the woman in the mirror, I hated myself. For almost two years, I didn't take pictures, except at events and even then only when forced by my husband.
In October 2020, I finally decided to do something about my weight. I got rid of all the clothes that I kept for when I became smaller and shopped for items in my correct size; size 22. This year, I have managed to lose 10 kg. I did this by adapting a better eating plan. I did lots of research on a diet that favours PCOS and also became deliberate about managing my mental health.
Even as I choose to get healthier, I desire to love myself as I am. I have learnt that stress from self-loathing works against any dietary or exercise changes you make. I wish people would realise that women's bodies are complex, with so many hormones and factors affecting how we look and weigh.
My health is more important than how I look. I was always big, but my body functioned normally. The changes I have made help me handle my body better and reverse the pre-diabetes that came as a complication of PCOS.
I have seen just a handful of people 'snap back' after having babies. I think that, for most of us, our bodies change permanently. And I think we should accept ourselves. For those who haven’t yet had children, I say don’t speak to another woman about how their body looks.
In a circle…tiny pull quote in her story
For those who haven’t yet had children, I say don’t speak to another woman about how their body looks.
With age came new aches and pains: Lilly Githui, a PR specialist and mum of one
In my early 20s, I weighed between 45-47kg and was a size 10. The heaviest I have ever been is 65 kg. And this was a few months after I had my son in 2019. I am currently back to my pre-baby size even though my waistline is about two inches thicker.
After I had my baby, I hated my body. I had a bigger tummy, bigger bust and stretch marks where they hadn’t existed before. I really wanted to snap back as soon as possible. This led me to begin exercising every morning and trying to control my eating. This was a really tough time for me. I had just had a baby and my appetite was at an all-time high.
I got mixed responses from women around me. They would tell me to eat properly as I was breastfeeding, and the same person would later berate me on my weight gain and advise me to cut down on my portions.
It took a while to be at peace with my new body and I can say that my relationship with my body has improved because I now give it more care and attention than I ever did. In my 20s I felt like my body was invincible. Then I got into my 30s and now my once smooth machine was developing aches and pains. I have learned to be more intentional in maintaining good health at all times.
I have always had a have a mesomorph body type; a medium frame that develops muscles quickly and has more muscle to fat ratio. My trick to getting back in shape was embracing as many house chores as possible and pouring my energy into them. I ran up the stairs instead of walked, took the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible, poured energy into lifting and playing with the baby, danced… Slowly some muscle definition started coming in and I was able to lose weight much faster.
Dressing up nicely has also helped me maintain body positivity. I always ensure I love what I see in the mirror as a matter of priority, even when I am not leaving the house. I would tell woman to find clothes that make them feel great and to dress their best at all times. Hire a professional stylist if you must. Your body deserves to be researched about, to be paid attention to, and to be splurged on.
The lie I wish people would stop telling about a post-baby body is that there is one standard way it should behave. The post-baby body is always uncharted waters for every individual. Some people put on more weight than others; some can shed the weight through exercise while others just won't. To have good health is the priority. Focus on dieting and exercising, not for your body shape and size but for your health.
Small pull quote
Find clothes that make them feel great and to dress their best at all times.
Postpartum depression shrunk me: Gathoni Kimuyu, TV producer and mum of one
My body has changed significantly over the years. I gave birth in 2010, but I never got any pressure to snap back because I went straight into postpartum depression. The depression caused me to shrink. I went from weighing 82kg to 45kg in less than six months. Every part of my body changed. My face was slimmer, bust smaller, and I was now a size 6/8.
The weirdest and most frequent advice I got after giving birth was that I should wrap my tummy with a leso for three months to get a flat stomach. I however didn’t.
I got into fitness in 2016. Weetabix was running a competition dubbed #FitbixChallenge, and I was one of the influencers they picked, and that’s how my journey started. Fitness means everything to me. It’s what keeps me sane.
I am an Endomorph. I gain fat as fast as I gain muscle. Staying fit was really difficult when I started, and I didn’t really stay consistent until 2019. Now it’s effortless, and I can proudly say it’s me and my coach's efforts paying off. I have planned fitness programs all year long. My coach knows what works and what doesn’t. When it comes to food, I know what works and what doesn’t. We barely eat processed sugar in my house. My child’s snack box always consists of fruits and homemade oatmeal/peanut butter muffins.
Age has taught me that I am the master of my body, and I only have this one body, so I must always take care of it. Self-love is the most essential thing for new mums. Accepting your body for what it becomes after childbirth is very important. You have to keep eating healthy as a breastfeeding mum to be able to nourish your baby. Give yourself time before you jump into fitness for that super body.
The weirdest and most frequent advice I got after giving birth was that I should wrap my tummy with a leso for three months.
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