At this point, it should go without saying that you should never comment on someone’s body — for any reason. This is true tenfold when it’s someone who has recently given birth, or, hell, anyone who has ever given birth. Even if you mean well or think it’s a compliment, another person’s body is none of your business.
As with all things related to parenthood, people sometimes feel the need to share their opinions on your appearance after you’ve birthed an entire human being. And after decades of “post-baby body,” “bounce back,” “snapback,” “losing the baby weight” headlines, stories, and narratives, it’s f*cking enough. But somehow, these comments prevail, doing little but making new moms feel like they’re under a microscope when they’re simply trying to keep their growing family happy, healthy, and safe.
So, what do you do and say when someone catches you off guard with a comment about your postpartum body? Jennifer Rollin, M.S.W., L.C.S.W.-C., a therapist and the founder of The Eating Disorder Center in Rockville, Maryland, is here with some solid expert tips to help you navigate this situation you never asked to be in — and would like to be excluded from, thankyouverymuch.
First, a round-up of winners that just might make your skin crawl:
- “You’ll lose the baby weight in no time!”
- “You don’t look like you just had a baby!”
- “Wow, you look great for just having had a baby.”
- “You don’t even look tired!”
- “You’ll bounce back soon!” or “You’re so lucky to have bounced back so quickly!”
- “You already look so thin!”
- “Are you pregnant again?”
- Breastfeeding is great for weight loss!” or other unsolicited “health” advice
The Ripple Effects
On the surface, these remarks may not seem all that terrible. But they only perpetuate a few pretty harmful and outdated narratives: that a woman’s worth is rooted in what she looks like, and that being a certain size or looking a certain way is the ideal we should all strive for.
These seemingly positive and well-meaning comments serve to enforce the thin ideal standard of beauty,” says Rollin. She emphasizes that every person’s relationship to their own body is different, and every pregnancy is different. You don’t know whether someone is struggling with their mental or physical health. But honestly, it shouldn’t matter because every person deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, no matter their health status or what they look like.
“Even body-based ‘compliments’ reinforce anti-fat bias and perpetuate the idea that someone’s body size is important. This can lead to someone having a preoccupation with food and their body, as they may be afraid that if they gain weight, the compliments will stop,” says Rollin. “These kinds of comments enforce the idea that thinness and weight loss is desirable and valuable and can be highly triggering for folks in eating disorder recovery.” In fact, multiple studies have shown that “bounce back” narratives only serve to harm postpartum mothers, increasing the risk of eating disorders and postpartum depression.
“Our bodies will change and grow throughout our lives,” adds Rollin. “The postpartum period is a vulnerable time already, and having an increased focus on weight and body size can be a recipe for disaster.”
How To Handle It, Olivia Pope
Rollin recommends a few key phrases you can store in your memory bank when someone comes at you with some body-related nonsense.
- “I’ve been more focused on my baby than my body size.”
- “Yep, my body is amazing — it just grew a baby!”
- “I’ve had so much going on postpartum that I haven’t been focused on my body.”
- “My body grew my baby, so that’s what I’m focused on, rather than its size.”
- “I’d like to ask that you not make comments about my body. I find these kinds of comments hurtful and harmful, and they can also negatively impact others who are listening.”
You’re also well within your rights to change the subject quickly or excuse yourself from the conversation altogether.
It’s worth repeating that your body is beautiful and amazing as it is, and you don’t have to tolerate other people’s sh*t — no matter how “well-meaning” — when you’re likely already in a pretty vulnerable spot. From sleep deprivation, hormone shifts, and adjusting to a new normal, the last thing someone needs is for toxic ‘bounce back’ culture to get in their heads and add more pressure and judgment around their body size. Your body did something pretty incredible (growing human life), and that’s what truly matters.”