But if you’re a mom, they are branded a little differently. Most are luring women to the pre-baby land. “Get your pre-baby body back” or “Bounce back to your old self.” There are mom-specific programs like “mommy boot camp,” “mommathon,” and my absolute favorite, “mommy makeover,” that promise to erase all signs of motherhood from your body.
The messaging for moms’ fitness programs almost always celebrates pre-kid life. In a subtle, not-so-direct way, we are lured by the idea of our pre-parenting energetic, carefree life with complete control of our schedule. As if achieving our pre-pregnancy weight would mean we will sleep eight hours or sit and have our coffee for five minutes in peace! It is a predatory emotional trap that feeds off of tired, vulnerable, and insecure moms.
There is a lot to consider when you think of a woman’s body after having a baby.
It’s not just the pregnancy and unimaginable physical changes it brings to the body but also the superhuman ordeal of birthing a fully formed human from what seems like a pathway meant only for teeny tampons that makes healing a fairly lengthy process.
Not only that, the 24/7 job of parenting starts the minute pregnancy ends with no sleep, rest, or even a peaceful shower in sight. If pregnancy changes took ten months, why do we expect postpartum changes to happen in six weeks or 12 weeks? Or even six months or nine months?
All this said, these boot camps and mommathons give me business. The programs that promise quick weight loss for “busy moms” (what other kinds of moms are there?) often disregard the hormonal factors and pure muscle weakness following pregnancy.
Moms are told to fit in high-intensity workouts in 20-minute nap times, often calculating their macros as their body struggles to nurture their baby. With broken sleep, tons of high-intensity workouts, and not enough food, their bodies refuse to comply. By spring of each year, my clinic (as a postpartum physical therapist) is full of women who signed up for mommy boot camps as their new year resolutions and hurt their bodies within the first few weeks.
But perhaps the most significant thing to consider with this messaging to mothers is the idea that a “mom bod” needs fixing.
We are told it needs slimming and cutting down. It needs reshaping, perking up, and a makeover. Society expects women to become mothers and then turn back time to act, look, and work like we are not mothers. There’s an implied cultural expectation that after you have a baby, you better look like you never had one.
But here’s the honest biological truth, barring a very few genetically gifted ones, an overwhelming majority of women will experience some permanent changes in their bodies. The lower belly hang, the extra skin, the boob sag, and some degree of vaginal canal widening are unavoidable.
In a society that celebrates motherhood but not the mother, we are sold the “remedy” to fix our mom bod instead of acclimatizing to the new normal. The reality is that postpartum is forever. And much like aging, these changes are not pathological or shameful. They are normal, and the subjective feelings around them are likely dependent on a woman’s innate desire for approval and society’s outlook toward them.
After I birthed my son, I knew my body would never be quite the same, just like my life would never be the same because of this one sweet little boy I now had the honor of parenting.
I am not against fitness and health goals. I am not even against weight loss goals (although I think they can be hard on mental health sometimes). I am against the villainizing of a natural female state of postpartum. I am against disrespecting the slow, long, and natural process of recovering from pregnancy and postpartum (which, in my experience, is more like a two-year timeline).
I am against making moms feel like they are not good enough. I am tired of companies and coaches talking to new moms like they NEED to lose weight. As if that is the ultimate goal of mothering.
Want to market to moms? Talk about body strength (not body shape). Talk about mental health. Talk about sleep. Talk about adding things to her life before cutting.
Talk about everything she does for everyone and ideas to optimize them.
Because guess what, it’s usually not the crazy workouts or discipline of eating that crushes fitness goals; it’s the nights of zero sleep, days of zero time to breathe, and a tender heart that never tires thinking about her babies.