What's With the Post-Pregnancy Fitness Wars?

Women are getting mixed messages to both make time for fitness AND sacrifice all personal time for child-rearing. It's like a postpartum sorority, complete with e-hazing.
Publish date:
December 15, 2013
baby bump, hazing, fitness

My avid runner friend, Patricia, has a photo of herself running a 5K, with a pregnant belly breaking the finish line.

I threw in the sweaty gym towel after my first trimester and embraced -- or braced for -- weight gain. Now I have 20 pounds of post-baby weight to lose (if I can still call it that; my newborn is now almost two years old).

I prioritize time with my son, and carbohydrates as a sleep-replacement program. But I grew up in a different culture.

Until recently, Middle Eastern women were lauded for being overweight. It was sexy. It was uncommon. It meant you were rich. No one gave a crap if a pregnant woman stayed pregnant-looking between all five of her children.

The global culture now dictates the opposite, and there's a sick trend of postpartum one-upmanship coupled with a sanctimonious reprimand of moms who prioritize fitness.

Women are getting mixed messages to both make time for fitness and to sacrifice all personal time for child-rearing.

Tailgating on "fit mom" Maria Kang, Norwegian blogger Caroline Berg Eriksen’s four-day-postpartum abs are in! Your! Face! To remind moms we’re just pummeling toward morbid obesity, impressionable newborns in tow.

Kang posted a photo of her toned self with her three children under the tagline, “What’s your excuse?” Eriksen posted a photo of her fabdominals four days after giving birth with the tagline, “I feel so empty.” Then Kang posted a pious side-by-side shot of Eriksen and herself a week after delivery and not yet thin. Then the world commented on the volleyball-playing shot of Kate “Oh My Gosh Her Fabulous” Middleton three months after delivery.

And countless mommy bloggers launched a counter-attack on all three. It's like a postpartum sorority, e-hazing each other.

My unsculpted gut reaction to Maria Kang was "Yes. We. Can!" Her stated intention to motivate-not-deprecate worked on me. At least for about five minutes before I closed the tab and ate a German chocolate cake. But this Norwegian lady bugs me.

Maybe it’s the fact that it's a selfie. When most women are nostalgically memorializing the month-to-month growth of their pregnant bellies, this postpartum selfie seems like a dick move. Maybe it’s that I’m not sold by her feigned finger-to-lip, innocent “I miss my baby right here where this chiseled cut now lives, and I wanted to commemorate this emptiness” crap. But my irritation has more to do with being disingenuous than weight.

Unless they’re pregarexic, attacking women for choosing fitness and being able to lose weight is just left of crazy, especially considering these women are fitness experts for a living.

Eriksen said she worked out four to five days a week until she was 25 weeks along. At age 26, she only gained 22 pregnancy pounds. That accounts roughly for the weight of the actual baby, her blood volume which triples during pregnancy, amniotic fluid and other factors that go away after delivery. Losing 22 pounds after pregnancy isn’t the greatest feat of life. The recommended weight gain during pregnancy is 25-35 pounds.

I swam laps (considered one of the safest exercises for pregnancy) during my first and some of my second trimester. Then I didn’t want to buy a new sized swimsuit each month. My diet didn’t change until the last two months. That alone did it, and I gained most of it then.

I continue to stare longingly into my own closet like I'm window shopping. There's maternity clothes for the pregnancy, but there is the postpartum transitional wardrobe that no one talks about. I am still in the transitional wardrobe.

Meanwhile, my friend Patricia is raising her girls full-time and continuing her doctor-approved running pastime, well into her third pregnancy. And neither of us are knocking each other for our choices.