Anger, Acceptance and Awareness: My Postnatal Eating Disorder Journey

One of the hardest parts of the post-partum period was to accept, my new mum bod. My body changed so much, and I was sick and tired of being asked how I planned to get my body back. This just infuriated me more and more.

“My body back” that phrase in particular never sat right with me. It seemed to suggest my body had gone somewhere, disappeared? I was never sure. My body had been on a journey, yes. It has changed, but that is okay. I had to take a social media break too, the dieting adverts were just too much to handle. Scrolling through Instagram all I could see was “perfect” post-partum bodies, and I snapped.

I took to Instagram on a bit of a rant;

Can we normalise REAL post partum bodies please. I am sick of being asked how I am going to lose my baby weight? How am I going to get back into shape? What creams I am using to get rid of stretch marks? Get lost.

Over the last 9 months my body has grown a tiny miracle. I was told it would not be possible to carry a child due to the damage my eating disorder had done to my reproductive system. We are overwhelmed with what we have managed to produce. The last thing my body needs is to be manipulated, punished and starved. My body has done an incredible job over 9 months, it needs to be cared for, nourished & loved.

I have seen so many ‘insta-perfect’ post-partum bodies. I am also being targeted by adverts to join weight loss programmes, enticing me to hate what my body has become. Making me feel crap about my new figure. It is beginning to drive me mad. I feel the need to compare myself to these accounts and images, thinking…

What am I doing wrong? They seem to have their shit completely together! Am I failing?

Toned bodies, hair done, make up on looking refreshed and well. Here I am with my stretch marks feeling sore and tender, hair greasy and messy, breasts enlarged to the point they hurt, stomach and legs stretched and now soft, bags under my eyes, tired. Not remembering what day it is, constantly worrying if I am doing a good enough job, spending my spare time knee deep in washing and trying to get some rest. Very different from the ‘perfect’ lives we see in the magazines and on Instagram.

However this post and image is normal. A normal post-partum body. Not toned, not smooth and far from glamorous. A normal post-partum life. Tired, hormonal but incredibly rewarding; spending every waking moment in awe with the tiny human we have created.

I would not change anything about my body right now. Without it, I would not have my beautiful daughter. So no. I do not feel the need to crash diet. I do not feel the need to get rid of the marks my daughter made on my body. I do not feel the need to change. I am doing my best, and that is enough. I am enough.

My body has changed. But so has my life I could not be happier.

I stayed in maternity clothes for months after giving birth. A few comments were made to me, such as “oh I fitted back in my jeans in four weeks” I wanted to scream, well good for you! What do you want a medal? But I bit my sarcastic tongue and resisted. I knew I would not fit back into my pre-baby clothes, and if I tried it would just anger the voice and my mind would be flooded with ED thoughts.

Instead I allowed myself extra time, and focused on being comfy; baggy tops and leggings were my go-to. Then one day, when I was in a good frame of mind, feeling well and ED thoughts nowhere to be seen, I tried on my old jeans. They did not fit; I laughed as I looked in the mirror, and reflected on what my body has done for me. I stroked the roundness and smiled down at Rosie who was asleep in her Moses basket. How could I hate my body? Look at what it has done for me? Does it matter that these jeans no longer fit? What is more important to me? Getting back into these jeans or continuing to spend my time and energy on this little miracle?

That weekend my husband and I went shopping, and I was able to buy some new jeans that again, were comfortable and fitted well, and a few new jumpers. I was not going to attempt to squeeze into my old jeans, and walk around un-comfy making that ED voice scream. Remembering and reminding myself that the label and size mean nothing. Reminding myself of all the body image work I had previously done, revisiting it all.

My set point has changed, my size altered, and my heart is now full. Full of unconditional love for this little one, and amazed at just how incredible my body is, in awe with what it can do, my Rosie lines (stretch marks) a constant reminder of what my body once did. It carried and grew my little girl. Accepting my new body whole heartedly and remembering what is truly important. I look in the mirror and find myself giving thanks to my body.

Thank you body for all you have done. You have done an amazing job, and produced something so beautiful. I refuse to hate you.

Contributed by Zoe Burnett
Senior Specialist Support Officer