Congratulations On Your Baby, New Mom! Now Quit Being So Fat

Ah, the miracle of life.

With the prevalence of parenting products, mommy blogs and pregnancy-themed reality shows, it’s often easy to forget what an insane accomplishment it is to create a human being from scratch.

I’m still a long way off from embarking on the baby-making journey, but I’ve seen many friends and relatives weather nine-plus months of ups and downs in order to produce an actual brand-spanking new person to the world. Cheesy as it sounds, it really is a miracle. But there’s an insidious epidemic affecting new moms, worldwide. It’s upsetting, unsightly and it’s threatening the very institution of motherhood. It’s excess body fat. And it must be stopped.

Luckily, media outlets and snarky bloggers the world over have committed themselves to ending this hideous plague afflicting new moms. The antidote? Public ridicule, of course.

It’s no secret that celebrities are held to an inhuman standard of aesthetic perfection. And a little thing like conceiving human life is certainly no excuse for physical flaws in Hollywood. But these unfair, unrealistic, unhealthy expectations are (unbelievably) getting ever-exceedingly out of hand. And the repercussions of wide-spread baby-weight shaming are not only affecting the actresses and models targeted, but the non-celebrity moms who are bombarded with the unflattering, invasive paparazzi photos and scathing headlines.

Like most toxic messages aimed at women, whether media-driven or inspired by cruel anonymous commentators, this one is seeping into the cultural consciousness. It’s become completely unacceptable to exclusively devote postpartum time and energy to baby bonding. Pilates classes, personal training sessions and juice cleanses better be scheduled before the due date, and pre-labor workouts are a must to ensure an easier bounce back from the havoc wreaked by that insensitive, fat-making newborn.

Yes, we’re all marveling at Beyoncé’s lightening-fast post-baby body transformation. Losing 60 pounds in less than five months is undoubtedly hard work. But her quick weight loss is overshadowing the reason she put on those pounds in the first place—to become a mother. Blue Ivy was hot news for a week or two, but her mom’s newly-redefined abs are the real headline-makers now. Sorry, Blue.

And I don’t know where to begin with Jessica Simpson. When has her body not been the subject of scrutiny? It was only logical for her pregnancy weight gain to be documented, analyzed, criticized and publicized for the world to see.

But in what may be her savviest business move to date, Simpson’s jumped on the Weight Watchers bandwagon, reportedly to the tune of $3 million. I’m almost tempted to give the woman a virtual high-five because the joke seems to be on us, or at least on the gross blogs and magazines that relentlessly picked on her throughout her pregnancy.

But despite being initially impressed by Simpson’s table-turning body reclamation, I can’t help but wonder if this really is the only way a woman can truly reclaim her post-pregnancy body; not by bucking the instantaneous weight loss trend completely, but by simply setting the terms and finding a way to at least profit off the stringent standard to immediately drop pounds.

So what happens when a celebrity mom really does eschew post-pregnancy Hollywood body norms? She’s raked over the coals, naturally. Exhibit A: Bryce Dallas Howard. As Jezebel reported, a Mother’s Day post on TMZ showing the actress “exercising her post-pregnancy legs” on a walk with her daughter four months after giving birth seemed to not only invite but encourage vicious comments.

“Damn, I think they left a baby in there” said one reader, who incidentally, chose not to upload his or her own photo. “Wow, she still looks pregnant!” added another observant commentator. “1 word=LAXATIVES!!! STAT!!!” offered yet another photo-less TMZ fan, who undoubtedly has the extensive medical background to confidently prescribe such a surefire weight loss method.

Did I mention Howard bravely chronicled her struggles with postpartum depression for GOOP, revealing how “mortified” she felt after gaining 80 pounds with her first child? Surely TMZ and similar gossip sites thought creating a forum for hateful readers to spew hurtful comments could only motivate her to drop the pounds quicker and spare her repeated postpartum pain, right? Even women known primarily for their seemingly superhuman beauty aren’t safe if they dare to pack on and retain pregnancy pounds. In fact, they may even be held to a harsher standard.

Exhibit B: Aishwarya Rai, the strikingly beautiful Bollywood actress and former Miss World apparently ignited a controversy in India (at least, according to always-accurate, never-hyperbolic media reports) when she dared to step out at the Cannes Film Festival looking less like a picture-perfect starlet and more like a woman who had just given birth six months earlier (which she had).

The Sydney Morning Herald claims “One website posted a video, complete with elephant sound effects, entitled ‘Aishwarya Rai’s shocking weight gain,’ which has been seen more than 500,000 times.” I thought about Googling it but quickly realized I couldn’t bear the thought of giving the site any more traffic.

Perhaps none of this is shocking or even upsetting, given the frequency with which we see women held to impossibly strict and narrow beauty standards. But that in itself is a major issue. This increasingly common expectation for new moms to prioritize slipping back into skinny jeans over child-rearing is ridiculous, and the window of time in which they have to do it is getting smaller and smaller.

I’m certainly not chastising women like Miranda Kerr for shrinking quickly post-pregnancy. But besides being genetically programmed in a particular way, women like Miranda Kerr are models who make a living off fitting into sample sizes. If she seemed to be in a particular hurry to shed pounds, she very well may have been, just to make a paycheck. Or maybe her body naturally slimmed down quickly. And what if it hadn’t? Would she have stirred up a heated international debate?

If she had, I hope she wouldn’t have cared. I’d rather believe that all the agony and energy spent suffering over post-baby weight gain could be channeled into something positive. Like caring for that new miracle. And feeling pretty kickass for having had created it.

For more on this topic from an actual mom (who also happens to be an amazing writer), check out last month’s piece from Sarah Spagenberg.

Images via TMZ, The Superficial, dlisted and Mamamia.

  • Thu Ngo

    Here, here. I’m sick to death of all the ridiculous fat-shaming that goes on in our society, and how no one (well, almost no one) seems to realize that it’s NOT okay.

  • Melissa Donahey

    THANK YOU Michelle for posting this. My youngest child is graduating high school this weekend, and I was a fortunate woman to have been back in my regular jeans within a month of giving birth. But the way that people are attacking women — especially since it’s usually other WOMEN who are doing the attacking! — is unconscionable! We’ve GOT to lighten up on each other and start cutting one another the slack we will eventually want for ourselves. And I can’t thank you enough for writing this piece. You’re a perceptive and fabulous woman who I know will look amazing after she has her first baby—– regardless of how much you gain or don’t!

  • Elisabeth Miller

    I love your posts, Michelle. I just nod along and mouth “Amen, sister.”

  • Allie Kingsley

    What a well written and incredibly powerful article! It’s such a shame that media and society is allowed to do this to these gorgeous women. Virtual high five from me to you… xo

  • Robyn Green

    I am over 5 months pregnant now. At 5 and a half months I am tired, sore, moody, and uncomfortable. I can’t even imagine how I will feel once the baby is born. I mean You feed 8-12 times a day in the beginning, your emotional, super tired, and your body and mind is adjusting after giving birth. For anyone to put pressure on new moms to shape-up and look super hot in a few months is very misguided on what it is like to be a new mom let alone be pregnant. Perhaps we could all be more understanding and realize were all human, and we all have faults.

  • Courtney Hosny

    Fantastic article! I always wonder how long, and how much work, it will take to reverse this incredibly unhealthy level of expectation the media has placed on modern women. Looks like HelloGiggles is making a good dent in it!

    Courtny Hosny

  • Bethany Bellows Tranby

    GREAT ARTICLE!!!! It’s so unrealistic and so unfair! Major props to mom’s who focus on their child first. You know, like mothers should. Props to women who lose the weight quick too. Be healthy and keep your baby healthy. It’s no one’s business.

  • Charity Brown

    I work with many women after there preganancy who want to lose their baby weight and increase their energy to keep up with the demands of being a new mother, strong is the new skinny we should try to make healthy the new hip in my opinion, as a body by vi promoter and down almost 60lbs since december 2011 simply drinking my shakes and walking my pug and dancing and having fun i truly believe that Healthy should be the priority not necessarily the pounds, come on ladies we all know its about the inches… how our clothes fit and how we feel if anyone wants to join me on a challenge or get more info just look me up on my facebook. I will not try to sell you anything but i will be a friend and listen to your goals and encourage you and if the challenge is of benefit to you i will help any way i can if not I have a new friend… women power.

  • Liz Haebe

    I find it so sad that Jessica Simpson signed up for Weight Watchers BEFORE she even gave birth. Women incubate HUMANS in their body…we should be allowed some time to get our bodies back in shape. And, you know what? What if we don’t? No one is going to die. The only thing that matters is that the baby is healthy and happy. It’s disgusting that people feel the need to mock those who’ve just done something superhuman.

  • Chrissa Hardy

    Wow, incredible piece Michelle! The obsession with speed of weight loss is so troubling. I try not to blame any particular party because we’re responsible for our own actions but the women that DO lose the weight at a rapid pace seem to set others up for failure. It’s gotten to the point where we expect women to lose the weight like minutes after giving birth and the ones that take longer to do it stand out. How ass-backwards is that? Thanks for this post! LOVED IT.

  • Kayan Wong

    In traditional Chinese culture, it’s unthinkable that you even leave the house in the first month after giving birth. (There’s even a name for that month: Sitting Moon) The idea is that your body needs time and rest to heal. There’s a series of soups to drink: a specific one for each week, to heal the body, recover blood loss, help regulate milk production, etc.. Even if you feel good enough to work off the pounds (cue Chinese grandma: “aiya!”), it’s more important to heal well for long term health.

    Notice: “image” and “looking good” is no part of the above equation. However, culture has shifted towards the Western mainstream. Many women in Hong Kong now regularly discuss postpartum weight loss as part of their prenatal planning. Sad.

    • Jordi Blythe

      I love that idea. I want to keep it in mind when I start having babies. In like 10 years. : )

  • Kayan Wong

    One more tidbit: some even attribute the “Chinese women age well” factor to the Sitting Moon, which recovers the body and slows the aging process in the long term. It’s part of the idea of “保“ which means “to mend / to protect.” Pre-emptive strengthening. Ok I’m done. You’re awesome, as always. xoxo

  • Ayanna Michelle

    It’s shameful how the media bashes these women. But what else is new? I could go on forever about how utterly ridiculous the media is and how terrible they make it for everyone. Celebs, normal people, everybody. I was born short and lanky with little to no curves (thanks dad), so with my children, I’m all baby. But you don’t see me sashaying around telling moms they need to get on it and lose the weight when they’re clearly busy raising a newborn baby! I wasn’t doing any working out until my baby was like 3 or 4 months old. So even if these women did start at that point, how do people expect them to just lose the weight over night?! Sickening.

  • Cassidy Johnson

    People need to realize it takes a woman’s body a good year to fully recover from child birth, and it’s really not healthy to jump into a diet/work-out program to drop weight rapidly – especially true if a woman is breastfeeding. People need to chill the hell out and let postpartum women be – yes, even the famous ones.

  • Anne-Marie Tonyan Lindsey

    I nearly cried last week when my nurse/midwife told me that if I ever felt insecure about that weight I gain during this pregnancy, I should simply turn my back to the numbers on her scale. I don’t have a scale at home. She told me to trust the medical professionals to tell me if there was anything to worry about. I think that should apply before and after baby! Your weight is your business and your doctor’s, and no one else’s. I wish doctor’s didn’t participate by talking about weight so much during pregnancy.

  • Ivy Shih Leung

    Great article! I too am disgusted with how media is so obsessed with–and perpetuating the obsession among the public–new moms returning instantly to their pre-baby bods as if they had never given birth to begin with. Not sure what it’s going to take to change this misplaced prioritization and obsession other than to have more and more women speak up about the ridiculousness of it all. I had actually blogged about this a couple months ago:

  • Marty Oldfield

    Yes! To the article and all pf the above. I am so tired of female actresses being ripped apart for their dress size, especially new moms and the message that sends to us all. Women are more than their waist size and it’s dispicable for any group of people, i.e. the trolls who comment on sites like TMZ and the irresponsible clowns who take the pics, write and post these hateful and unrealistic expectations. Show me one of them who has a medical license. Thank you so much for your thoughtful article.

  • Emily McKenzie Morrow

    I love this article and I’m glad that other people find those type of articles ridiculous! It’s disgusting and really depressing to constantly see.

  • Loma Morant

    I know what you’#re saying, but let’s not forget most of the famous mums have personal trainers, nannies, teams of stylists, dieticians etc – my guess is most of them baby-care for the cameras but just spend the post-birth period preening and hanging out with their paid entourage. I distrust any celebrity that is constantly papped cos there are plenty of hugely famous people who barely appear in the papers. I feel liek they all have a choice and these mothers who are papped looking super skinny and fab 3 months after birth are the ones who will now rely on the modern equivalent of a wet nurse to actually bring up theit lil darlins.

  • Loma Morant

    Oops! you’re* like *their

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