To the Newly-Postpartum Mom: Consider Intuitive Eating, Not Harmful Dieting

Even though I had my first baby a mere 13 months ago, I feel like it was yesterday. Those last few weeks of pregnancy were tough, even with all of the work I had put in on my intuitive eating journey prior to getting pregnant. (More about intuitive eating later.) Simple activities I took for granted – finding a comfortable position to sleep, walking up a flight of stairs, putting on socks – had become tasks that took more forethought, planning, and failed attempts than I ever thought possible when I was in a pre-pregnancy body. 

Intuitive eating aside, I had watched my weight increase steadily during those nine months. I watched my stomach stretch and expand to accommodate the life inside, the life that would usurp all others in love and importance. This I had come to wholeheartedly accept after I had discovered intuitive eating and healed from my eating disorder.

A Complicated Past (Before Intuitive Eating)

To The Newly-Postpartum Mom: Consider Intuitive Eating, Not Harmful Dieting

Five years prior to getting pregnant, I suffered from orthorexia, the obsession with eating only “clean” and “healthy” foods, body dysmorphic disorder – the preoccupation with a perceived flawed body part (in my case, my stomach), and binge-restrict cycles, where restriction from dieting causes inevitable bingeing or overeating. If only I had discovered intuitive eating sooner.

To make a very long intuitive eating story short, I developed these eating disorders at the nexus of being groomed to people please for validation as a child. Developing perfectionism was a way to shield myself from criticism. It also provided a sense of control as my time in graduate school (with my perpetual role of “student”) was coming to a fast end. 

My goal throughout my recovery and my intuitive eating journey was to fully heal my mind, body, and spirit in time to have children. I didn’t want to hurt my unborn baby with disordered behaviors while I was pregnant because I was anxious about gaining weight. Intuitive eating or not, I didn’t want my child, no matter their gender, to believe that they weren’t enough unless they were in a certain body, that they needed to use their body to gain a sense of self-worth or validation that they were enough for this world. 

And I met my goal, with the help of intuitive eating. When I got pregnant in 2019, I was fully healed, and in July of 2020, I had my son, Archer. 

READ MORE: Body Shame And How To Defeat It

Avoiding a Disordered Dieting Disaster with Intuitive Eating

To The Newly-Postpartum Mom: Consider Intuitive Eating, Not Harmful Dieting

If you’re already a mom, then I don’t have to tell you that those first few months are a blur; a blur of cobbled together sleep, cries you can’t yet ascertain the reasons for, cold coffee reheated three times, and a wardrobe that comes with an accessory of milk or formula stains. Sure, intuitive eating would be fantastic, but during those days, you’re lucky if you’re eating at all!

READ MORE: 19 Best Baby Products You Need This Baby Safety Month

You have control over very little in those first few months (although, as I’m starting to see, the control you “regain” as they get older is lost again in other ways). When you combine this feeling of your life not being your own anymore with the societal pressure to “get your body back,” you have a recipe for disordered dieting disaster. Time to try something new – intuitive eating.

Intuitive Eating Saves the Day

To The Newly-Postpartum Mom: Consider Intuitive Eating, Not Harmful Dieting

The philosophy of intuitive eating is what finally healed me. No more listening to messages about diet culture, which caused my eating disorder in the first place. Shortly after Archer was born, I made the decision to become an intuitive eating coach.

Intuitive eating is an anti-diet philosophy that trusts the body to know what it needs to nourish and satiate itself. Someone who embraces intuitive eating eats when they’re hungry, stops when they’re full, honors cravings, allows all foods, and knows that weight cannot be truly controlled through diet and exercise. Intuitive eating also considers how the body will feel after it eats certain foods. 

Aside from physically allowing all foods and trusting your body to know what it needs, intuitive eating is predicated on the mindset that you are enough as you are; that this thin ideal that society tells us we need to achieve in order to be worthy, loved and accepted is a falsehood. Intuitive eating can help us discover that cultural norms (like the thin ideal) are not unequivocal truths. Consider Somalia. In Somalian culture, larger women are revered. So which culture is “right?” The answer is neither, and that should help take the pressure off. 

READ MORE: 5 Healthy Tips For Long-Term Success: Best Weight Loss Programs

Beautiful You, Thanks to Intuitive Eating

To The Newly-Postpartum Mom: Consider Intuitive Eating, Not Harmful Dieting

Mamas, please give yourself some grace. You literally created and birthed an entire human being. I don’t really believe in miracles, per se, but creating a life is as close to a miracle as I can imagine. 

Celebrities often “get their bodies back” through punishing workouts; extremely restrictive (and unsustainable) diets; personal trainers, nutritionists, and chefs. Let’s be honest, tummy tucks also get scheduled at the same time as their scheduled c-sections. Maybe they should consider intuitive eating instead.

You don’t need to compare yourselves to them. You don’t need to be that. You need to be you. Your child needs you to be you. Embrace intuitive eating and feed your body what it needs. And if your body slowly – as slowly as it took for you to grow your child – goes back to what it once was, that’s great! If it doesn’t, that’s great, too, because it marks another season of your life. Your body never was, and never should be, what makes you valuable or interesting. You are the same person you were before your baby. Actually, let me take that back. You are stronger, braver, more compassionate, and more full of love. 

READ MORE:  5 Tips For Encouraging Healthy Eating Habits Early

You also have a huge responsibility in raising your child or children. Before kids, it was really mostly about us. Now we have another human being to mold and who is largely molding themselves from what they see in us. Do we want them to see us intuitive eating or constantly body-checking? Eating foods different from everyone else in the family? Talking ill about our bodies and how they need to be changed? 

Bodies are simply vessels we use to get us through this crazy journey we call life. They allow us to experience the beauty within, to endure the hardships we inevitably must bear, and make our mark on the world as our unapologetic selves. We can’t do all of that if we’re dieting and restricting, worrying about some external ideal that, at the end of the day, won’t bring us the magic happiness and safety that we think it will. 

Consider intuitive eating. Listen to your body. Let go of who you were and the unrealistic expectations you had for yourself, then and now. They don’t serve you. They don’t serve your child. So, serve both in a way that springs from self-love, self-compassion, and self-worth. And maybe, just maybe, intuitive eating can help you get there, as it did for me.

If you’re looking to try intuitive eating, find some great recipes ideas in 21 Healthy Instant Pot Recipes For Quick Autumn Meals.

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To The Newly-Postpartum Mom: Consider Intuitive Eating, Not Harmful Dieting
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