Despite our highly enlightened modern world, body-shaming is a common experience for many people.
You would think that having the power to connect and inform would reduce this somewhat, but the shaming comment remains a popular way for people to bring out the worst in each other and themselves.
An easy-to-reach, low-hanging fruit is a person’s self-image. Body shame is something I noticed before falling pregnant, during my pregnancy, and immediately after.
I couldn’t help but wonder if the elusive pregnancy glow I was exhibiting was just frustration!
Prior to falling pregnant, I was a vegetarian marathon runner and triathlete. I played soccer and did weekly Park Runs. This lifestyle left me with a 12-year-old boy body, so the novelty of bouncing breasts was something I looked forward to.
Note, this wore off very quickly the first time I tried to do Park Run with an underwire bra.
Prior to pregnancy, people would make comments about my body with great frequency.
“You should eat more. Vegetarianism is making you weak.”
I found myself perplexed. I could squat more than I weighed, my best 5km time was under 23 minutes, and I was in the Brisbane female top 20 for goal-score counts in the 2014 season of soccer. I also completed a marathon in under 4 hours.
Weak? Only when the potato chips were in arm’s reach.
When I started IVF treatments, I took steroids to aid with implantation. These tablets forced me to visit the drive-thru as soon as work finished each day.
The worst part about working in a small community is that the whole postcode knows you caved in and had junk food by 8am the next school day.
“Hey Miss, saw you at the KFC. Did you get fries with that?”
Cravings aside, steroids also have a positive impact on helping a woman get pregnant on an assisted reproductive cycle.
Yeah, I got pregnant.
You know what else I got? Fat. I got fat.
Actually, these are not my own words. I harboured a tiny bump up until I was induced, 4 days overdue. I got a job at 23 weeks pregnant and nobody I worked with (except for my boss) knew until I was 30 weeks along.
It was my midwife who told me at my 36 week appointment.
“You’ve gained 20kg. This puts you in the upper percentile – so yeah, you are overweight. You should watch what you eat.”
This got me thinking. I knew that my weight was fine. You can’t use a BMI scale when a person is carrying a baby, extra blood, and fluid.
However – what if I had been more vulnerable? What if I struggled with body image?
Imagine the consequences for a child in utero when a Mum starts cutting her calories out of fear of being “fat.”
Sure, there are risks when you have a significant weight problem, and I’m not suggesting that medical practitioners should dance around this.
What I am concerned about is where the threshold is – whether it’s worth it to add stress to a person who is growing a tiny human if they’re just a bit above par with their weight gain.
The moment I left the hospital, most of the weight dropped off very rapidly, which I was expecting, given my body type and the percentage of fluid retention.
Now, the “concerned” comments have come back.
“Are you sure you should be breastfeeding? Just give yourself a break and a chance to recover. Fed is best.”
I am sure that if I had an inappropriate fat percentage in relation to my individual body, then my milk supply would have dried up.
Au contraire. My son is a beast – wearing size 00 at the ripe old age of 5 weeks old.
They say that pregnancy helps you to embrace your body because you see what it is capable of. Absolutely, that is the truth. But do you know what else you learn to embrace?
The fact that you just can’t win, no matter what your size is.
We should all be more considered with our words – if we can’t fight against the media saturation and the advertising, the least we can do is support one another as women.
And yeah, I’ll have fries with that.