Postpartum Body Image With Eating Disorders
Postpartum Body Image With Eating Disorders
By Kamryn Bedore
Postpartum occurs after giving birth and can last anywhere from a couple days to a year (MediLexicon International). This postpartum period has a variety of different symptoms, but the main focus of this article pertains to eating habits. Postpartum has the ability to take a toll on mental health and make you into someone you are not.
The postpartum period can also be accompanied by what is commonly referred to as the “baby blues”, but this is a much more mild version. Feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what is to come is always normal, but the postpartum period can amplify these feelings. Many also refer to this period of time as the “fourth trimester”. An individual is experiencing all of the different emotions and uncertainties as they transition back into their non-pregnant state.
Body image is one of the main triggers for an eating disorder to occur postpartum. Pregnancy requires weight gain in order to grow a healthy infant inside of one’s body. Doctors recommend individuals gain on average twenty five to thirty pounds, this can be higher however, over the course of pregnancy (Rogers, 2020). Therefore, during pregnancy people can accurately attribute weight gain to pregnancy and often avoid social judgment. Once the birth has occurred, however, they may experience judgment for not losing the baby weight immediately or may be unsure how to healthfully adopt a postpartum pregnancy weight. They may then spiral into doing anything possible to get their pre-pregnancy “look” back. This can lead to the abuse of food consumption and mental health.
Developing an obsession with exercise after becoming a new parent leads to many negative outcomes. The desperation to change their body can sometimes take over and they begin overworking and underfeeding themselves to satisfy their wanted “look”. While it is necessary to have a period of healing and rest after pregnancy and childbirth, a parent with an eating disorder may find it difficult to sit still (Crystal Karges, 2020). They feel as if when they are sitting down relaxing, they are giving up on their body and their desired body image. This leads to an unhealthy amount of workouts, especially cardio, and lack of nutrition to go with it. Parents might feel like they can’t eat unless they have “earned” their food or feel like they have to workout in order to eat anything (Crystal Karges, 2020). Working out too soon and too aggressively can have such a negative effect on mental and physical health.
Abnormal eating behaviors and patterns can be characteristic of a postpartum eating disorder. Erratic eating patterns such as restrictive eating are negative ways to change your body image (Crystal Karges, 2020). Developing these kinds of eating patterns may create a downward spiral into pursuing multiple and becoming obsessive. Food can be a hard topic when adjusting to your new life and body but you cannot let it consume your entire existence. People also shouldn’t tackle these thoughts and motives alone. Have someone else encourage you to try something new everyday and branch out into different types of food and meals. Develop a schedule to consume three meals a day so you know you are not overdoing it or under doing it. Stray away from any erratic pattern that you see yourself developing.
Individuals with first hand experience regarding postpartum body image issues with eating disorders have spoken out publicly. One being well known Chrissy Teigen, she opened up in an interview after her experience and stated “You just realize you have to give yourself time and understand that you pushed out a baby, and it took this long to put on the weight, and it’s not going to peel right off, and that’s OK” (Ahlgrim, 2019). Everyone goes through these emotions regardless of who you are and it does not make you any less of a parent. Well-known celebrities speaking on their traumatic experiences is very brave and encouraging for people who admire them. This can give an individual the little push they need to overcome their thoughts and negative motives.
In conclusion, postpartum body image is a serious issue among new parents. Postpartum has the ability to change your eating habits and overall outlook on life itself. Your mental health becomes at risk and you’re likely to turn into someone you are not. Any normal feelings and worries you may have, postpartum amplifies them and turns them into nightmare-like feelings. Individuals need to focus less on their body image, not overwork their bodies, and stray away from abnormal eating patterns. New parents need to take control of postpartum instead of letting it control them.
Ahlgrim, C. (2019, April 17). 24 times celebrity moms were refreshingly honest about their post-pregnancy bodies. Insider. Retrieved November 5, 2021, from https://www.insider.com/celebrity-moms-talk-about-their-post-baby-bodies-2018-6#chrissy-teigen-wants-moms-to-be-able-to-enjoy-their-babies-and-not-go-crazy-trying-to-lose-weight-4.
Crystal Karges, M. S. (2020, December 12). 7 revealing signs of a postpartum eating disorder. Crystal Karges Nutrition – Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in San Diego, CA. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://www.crystalkarges.com/blog/7-revealing-signs-of-a-postpartum-eating-disorder.
MediLexicon International. (n.d.). Postpartum depression: How long does it last? Medical News Today. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/271217#how-long-does-it-last.
Rogers, M. (2020, April 19). Pregnancy, body image, and eating disorders. BALANCE eating disorder treatment center. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://balancedtx.com/blog/pregnancy-body-image-and-eating-disorders.