Vanity, Forfeiting, and a Little Thing Called “Baby Weight”

No one ever told me that marriage, and then motherhood, would systematically alter my self-esteem. My husband is amazing, beyond amazing actually. He does not deplete my self-esteem, only adds to it, but upon being married, I realized just how insecure I actually am. Suddenly, the idea of being spiritually tied to someone made me examine every square inch of myself.

Motherhood did something similar. I realized that so much of the junk I thought I was healed of, was actually only laying dormant, like a slumbering bear, ready to be awakened when toddlers colored on walls or when I was acting less than Jesus-like.

And don’t even get me started on the toll that baby weight has taken on my self-esteem. Those extra pounds make me feel more insecure than the pack of “mean girls” I used to avoid in junior high. As of right now, I have an 8 month old baby and yes, my baby weight is still holding on strong.

Then, the other day, I stumbled across an article that I felt confidently was written to encourage women just like me. The author wrote about the need to banish the term “baby weight.” I began reading with great interest and a sliver of hope that when the article was done, I would feel freed from the pressure to lose. But the exact opposite happened and I found myself cursing at my computer screen.

As I read on about why women should retire the term “baby-weight” in an effort to be easier on ourselves, or what us Christians would call, giving ourselves grace, I realized that I didn’t agree at all. And I got angry.

Very often, what we desire to change about ourselves are not the things we actually need to change. Women are especially guilty of this. We look in the mirror and focus on each flaw, each blemish, each inch, instead of seeing what others see–our kindness, our loving hearts, our charisma, our sex appeal.

But every once in a while, the thing we desire to rid from ourselves really does deserve to hit the road. Baby weight is no exception, but somehow we have been led to believe that when it comes to physical appearance, well, we should just relax and take it easy.

I became angry at the idea of retiring the term “baby weight” because at the end of the day, I don’t want to settle, or be content, or find peace in 15 extra pounds. I don’t want to look softer, fuller, rounder. These terms are all euphemisms for “extra weight.” I don’t want to lose the term “baby weight.” I want to lose the weight. Period.

I don’t want to get comfortable in the new me and why should I? Why should I roll over, offer up one deep heavy sigh, and conclude that this is just how I’m going to look from now on?

Of course, someone reading this might feel offended when they consider that all I’m talking about are some extra pounds. Anyone reading this could very easily think I sound shallow, vain, or self-absorbed. And that’s sort of my point. If I work my tookus off because I don’t want a new body that is  “substantial and meaningful” chances are another woman might consider me preoccupied with physicality.

But is it wrong for me to not  want “a heft that is curvy and vibrant to the touch”? Is it wrong for me to fight for what I once had? Does motherhood mean forfeiting who I once was for a plumper version? I don’t want to have to choose between the old me and the new me, the past versus the present. I don’t want to be left feeling like no matter what I choose, I somehow gave up on myself.

What I want is to not have another woman judge me if I choose to work out 5 days a week and count calories to get back in shape. Just like women who lovingly accept their new post-baby shape want to feel free to do so,  I want to feel free to not do so.

What I want is for this whole, let’s-embrace-the-new-us-philosophy to die. What I want is to see people take responsibility, take action, take aim instead of settling, rolling over, or turning a blind eye.

What I want is to feel okay for wanting more…even if that means not wanting more pounds to go along with it.

What do you think? Have we created a culture that makes excuses for our shortcomings, disappointments, or less-than-desirable traits instead of doing something about it? Or am I just being sensitive?

18 thoughts on “Vanity, Forfeiting, and a Little Thing Called “Baby Weight””

  1. You have every right to want to go back to the body you feel comfortable in. It’s your body, if you feel like losing weight, who’s to stop you?
    I say go for it, Nicole, have fun.
    Lose weight.
    Oh the beauty of losing baby weight.
    And weight in general.
    I’m young so I don’t really know about the baby weight.
    Don’t want to go there.
    I’m rambling…..

  2. I encourage you to look forward, not back. The goal weight may be what you used to be, but your whole life is different now and that was then. Focus on a new weight instead of an ‘old Nicole’.

    Feel free to punch me in the face though, if I’ve offended :) I’ve never had children and don’t know what it’s like.

    But I totally agree on your main point. I think we do settle and we look to others to feed our laziness. I struggle with this a lot. And I struggle not to listen when people go ‘oh it’s fine, you’re body is fine’. Because I don’t feel fine, I know I would feel a lot more confident if I shed a few kilos!

    1. Micaela,
      No punching in the face necessary. I think you’re right that when we settle we look to other to justify our actions. This applies to so much more than just our weight too.

  3. Didn’t you just post about your greatest fear?

    You said “What I want is for this whole, let’s-embrace-the-new-us-philosophy to die.”

    This is a segue to that greatest fear–mediocrity. It doesn’t have to be that we just take what comes. Sure we need to be prepared to endure what may come but only in light of not being able to change it.

    BTW I wish I had “baby weight” to explain my expanding borders but it just doesn’t work for a guy. ha

  4. I think it’s all about being comfortable in your own skin, however you want that to be, and being healthy. If you are comfortable with your “baby weight,” wear it with pride and don’t apologize. But that does not necessarily mean adopt a bum mentality and stop caring about yourself or your appearance, especially if you have a husband who is also adjusting to the new you. On the flip side, if you want to lose that “baby weight” and reclaim that body you’re proud of, set that goal and aim for the stars. As long as it doesn’t affect your health, the health of your sweet baby, or your overall sanity, there’s no difference from losing that weight and losing weight in general.

    And when I say “you,” I don’t mean you specifically, Nicole, just all the “you’s” out there reading.

    Keep in mind, though, that this comment comes from a woman who has never dealt with this (no kids of my own) but I have nannied for quite some time and seen both sides of the spectrum with my moms. It’s all about you and what you need to do for yourself, in my opinion.

  5. When I say “you” below, I mean it all generally. :)

    I think you have to view it as not “giving up”, but accepting a new reality. Motherhood does change a woman. I would love and consider it a privilege to see my body change due to pregnancy and motherhood.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to lose the weight you (I mean you in general, not specifically) gained while carrying a baby, but I if it becomes a burden that compromises your mood or takes too much of your focus, it probably does need to be released. I would rather be a happy, “curvy” woman than a miserable, never-satisfied woman who finds her identity in the size of her clothing.

    There are lots of things in life that are outside of our control (like our genetically determined appearance to some extent) and I have found so much peace and happiness in accepting life. There are things that I can and do change in my life, but there are also things that I cannot change or are not worth changing. For some women losing weight is an intense battle that brings a lot of frustration into their lives. And maybe not everyone is meant to be their “dream weight”. Regardless of whether you attempt to lose weight, I think the first step is accepting yourself and not condemning yourself for your perceived flaws.

    I find that focusing on health instead of strict weight loss brings a lot of balance into my life. Ultimately it’s about priorities: being healthy, happy, and fun to be around should not be compromised in the pursuit of being skinny.

  6. I haven’t had kids, but I did gain 25 needed pounds when recovering from an eating disorder. I had to become ok with a different body for health reasons.

    I think it comes down to what the motivation is. I recently began an intense workout program and I make more of an effort than the average person to eat nourishing food. My motivation is to have more energy, think more clearly, have a more stable mood, increase strength to reduce back paon, and increase health. Working out gives me greater capacity to love others because I function better. I also find that emphasizing being strong over skinny is a real confidence booster.

    I think emphasizing health is the way to go, and I strongly believe that it honors God as long as it does not become an obsession. It’s also important to try and not judge others if they have different priorities.

  7. Speaking directly about the baby weight, in my opinion it should simply be about attaining a healthy physical state. So many issues arise when we are physically inactive, just one of those being “overweight.” Whether you had a baby 8 months ago or you’ve never had a baby at all, fitness is important!

    To answer “Have we created a culture that makes excuses for our shortcomings, disappointments, or less-than-desirable traits instead of doing something about it?”

    I think so. That’s one of my issues with the whole “everyone is a good, great, grand, wonderful person so you just stay exactly how you are, sunshine!” movement. It creates a culture of people who can’t take constructive criticism and don’t have any motivation to better themselves. It’s ridiculous for us to just tell one another how fantastic we all are, when it’s obvious we’re not.

  8. I agree. We shouldn’t have to settle, or be made to feel like we have to accept a new reality. Too many times I’ve had people judge my body and praise my unwanted weight gain because they felt I had finally come from the dark side and was now “looking healthier.” It is amazing how freely people feel they can speak, so long as they are on the “you’re too thin” side of things, rather than “you’re too heavy” viewpoint. Just as rude, either way.
    Not up to them, plain and simple. I’m not comfortable carrying around this body, and I don’t appreciate the pittying looks from those who believe I’d be giving up this “new and improved version” when I decided to go back to the way I was.
    My weight is not baby weight. I like to think of it as married-to-an-Italian-food-lover-and-senselessly-trying-to-keep-up-with-his-eating-habits weight. A whole other problem to be addressed there, but the bottom line for me is to strive for a comfortable goal, make choices that honor God, and ignore the culture that makes excuses rather than does something productive.

  9. I think you are absolutely right. Unless you become obsessed with it, that’s when you need to give yourself “grace”. I let my weight go for years. I was too skinny until I got onto some fertility meds. I gained some, actually felt better, but then let it keep coming on. No baby weight, just weight weight. Now I’m actively losing it and feeling so much better. It has nothing much to do with how I look. I’ve never been a beauty. But it certain makes me feel better, thus my whole outlook is better!

    I really think that’s more of how God wants His children to feel, not worrying about the overall look but more how you feel inside so you can better take on whatever things He tosses your way.

    I actually thought I was just fine… then began to realize that I probably wasn’t. Rather than waiting on a trip to the Dr to confirm, I started on my own. The weight isn’t coming off with lightening speed, but one lb at a time. And the great things I see on my walks and exercising are well worth it!

  10. We definitely have a culture that doesn’t like to be told that they need improvement or even that they are wrong (“Don’t call me stupid!”). Of course, no one REALLY likes to be told that they are wrong, but some people are better at receiving it than others.

    I’m trying to lose my baby weight (my baby is now 7 years old), which is probably more like two or three toddler’s weight, mainly because I am tired of feeling crummy, tired of being enslaved by sweets, and tired of having to buy new clothes at bigger sizes because I am “outgrowing” old ones. And I don’t think I am honoring God with my eating habits that say “what you provide for me isn’t enough.”

    For those who say that we should be happy the way we are, I would say that there are a lot of verses in Paul’s epistles that talk about running the race with perseverence and training our bodies submit to spiritual disciplines, which indicate that we should not wallow in stagnation, but seek God and let His Spirit help us to become more like Jesus. One of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory.”

  11. Atta girl, Nicole!

    Thank you so much for this post! I, too, even though I’m not a mother, married, nor even engaged, have already started worrying and being discouraged about what I’ll look like after having children. How terrible is that? And, when I’d talk to people about it, well, I didn’t hear anything that made me feel free.

    Thank you so much for reminding me that I have the right to choose! I have the right to fight for what I want. This was exactly what I needed to listen to! Thank you for being brave and for giving me the opportunity to follow, Nicole. Thank you so much.

    I really want to hug you right now.

  12. You’re not being sensitive at all. We’re in a society that is all about making people happy and content with everything and someone who dares to hold to any standard is held out for scorn.

  13. Yes, yes, a million times yes!
    I nearly ruined my health by staying out of shape for years at the end of my childbearing days. All I ever got from my girl friends was ” rah!, rah! yay, babyfat!” It took staring down the possibility of albuterol, painkillers and steroids, plus extensive testing followed by medication, for my arthritis, asthma, and IBS to say “Enough” and shed the weight.

  14. Very true i agree with you . This is the same thing i am trying to do . I keep being told it is vain , however i don’t think it is , i think it makes me more healthy and i am able to spread the word of Christ better when i feel more conifident. So right on Amen to this

  15. I love this post. I think it’s SUCH a fine line though. I have an eight month old and am in the same boat, wanting to lose fifteen pounds. I think it’s great to want to be back to your post-baby body (or in my case, even a few pounds lighter since I was already packing a bit more cushion than I wanted to pre baby!)

    I just read Candace Cameron Bure’s book Reshaping It All, and it touched a bit on what you talk about here. Although I think it’s great to be motivated to get healthy and have a body that you feel comfortable and confident in, I also think that the journey to getting that body is one that needs to be bathed in prayer. As I journey towards my weight loss goal I struggle with guilt over that itty-bit of butter consumed, whether I SHOULD count calories (because I turn into a freak when I’m hungry), and whether I’m pulling that scale out too often. It is a fine line, because I don’t want to idolize food and be lazy, but I don’t want to idolize this skin I’m in either and consider myself better or worse based on a number on a scale.

    okay – end rant! :) good luck with your weight loss goals!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *