Diet Culture and my Postpartum Experience

Let's start this off with the punch line - at my 2 week postpartum check up I was down 10 pounds.  By my 4 week postpartum check up I was down 20 pounds total.  To a lot of people that sounds great, right?  Personally, I was at the lowest weight I'd been in a long, long, long while.  But being 20 pounds down wasn't cause for celebration.

I'd lost 20 pounds in a month because I flat out wasn't eating.
Hi, hello, how are you.....I've not regularly posted in quite a while because I've been very busy.  Very busy is a very big understatement.  I was growing a baby over the last year and nothing I used to do really gave me any excitement.  If you've followed this blog for a while you'll know that I don't force things if I'm not feeling it.  The blog, YouTube channel, Instagram, Facebook, my planner.....none of that sounded like a fun idea so I didn't do it.  It wasn't the plan to leave all of these things high and dry...yet here we are.

So, I lost 20 pounds.

After I gave birth to Marcus I lost a lot of blood and my blood pressure dropped.  It wasn't scary in the moment to me because I do this thing now where I speak up because my doctor has made my comfortable enough to do so......so I said 'hey I feel dizzy, I think I may pass out' and then I heard my blood pressure reading being called out every few minutes as they monitored me and my doctor stitched me up.  In the days after giving birth my iron was also low.  I was also sent home with very little breastfeeding support (in my opinion), with a newborn, and a set of whacked out hormones.

Long story short when I got home I just stopped eating.

I'm not sure if I cut out eating subconsciously because there was so much going on or what but there just wasn't enough time for it.  I'm not sure if it was the ridiculous hormones, the pressure of breast feeding, the fact that my child was dehydrated, the lack of sleep, or like I said JUST PLAIN ALL OF IT.  But I literally just stopped eating.

When I start to tell my story I make a point to mention that in a month, in 4 weeks, in 28 days I lost 20 pounds.  That means I almost lost a pound a day.  When I tell this to people the first thing they say is 'OMG congrats! That's so great!'  To which I say 'No, its not.  I wasn't eating anything.'  And that doesn't seem to give them pause like it would me.  Not eating meant I wasn't getting the nutrients I needed to heal let alone the extra nutrients I needed to produce milk.  My lack of milk production lead to even more stress which compounded not eating.

If you're not familiar with the term, you're probably familiar with the definition.  NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) defines Diet Culture saying:
  1. Diet culture conflates size and health, pathologizing some body types.  (This means that the view that fat = bad seeps into the medical field and instead of prescribing evidence based medical intervention patients are told to 'lose weight' as the cure to their ailment.  I am so thankful that my OB/GYN did not treat me this way...man I love that woman!)
  2. Diet culture encourages following external rules about what, when, and how much to eat.
  3. Diet culture suggests that people are more or less good/moral/worthy based on their body size.
  4. Diet culture creates thin privilege, which makes thinness a gatekeepr for jobs/benefits/comfort/accommodation.
  5. Diet culture suggests movement as a punishment for, or prevention of, being fat, rather than for other reasons like fun or personal goals.
  6. Diet culture views fat people as less valuable and more risk-able.
More long story short - Diet Culture means that losing 20 pounds by any means, at any time, especially after pregnancy, is a good thing.

While diet culture can affect anyone, women truly feel it the most.  Being a woman means your body open for commentary and is meant for either the enjoyment of, or disapproval by, others.  Your body is not yours.  Your body is seen so your body is expected to conform.  It's ok to be 'fat' while pregnant but afterwards, if you drop the baby weight and more - that is to be celebrated!  But what about the mental and physical health of the mother during this weight loss?

My stress, my hormones, my inability to cope with what just happened to me exacerbated by the anxiety I felt when the sun went down and while breastfeeding led me to stop eating.  I stopped eating and thus I stopped producing milk and thus it was impossible to feed my child.  The life I'd just brought into the world was jaundiced, dehydrated, hungry......and in a few short weeks it would be 'great that I'd lost 20 pounds.'

When I was 10 pounds down at my 2 week appointment I thought I was lucky.  By my 4 week appointment the second 10 pounds concerned me.  It also concerned my doctor.

When I stopped breastfeeding my hormones balanced and I have to say currently, right now, I literally feel 200% better.  And I'm not using the word 'literally' in a figurative manner here.  The way I felt from week 1 to week 5 compared to how I feel now and how I felt even 2 days after stopping breastfeeding is literal night and day.  I was 100% not myself and I didn't realize how scary that was until I started to feel me again.  I also gained my appetite back.

Why am I sharing this with you all?  Because it is important to tune into our bodies.  It is important to listen to gut feelings, to listen to our bodies, and to have the courage to tell someone (like your doctor) that you're scared.  It is also important not to get discouraged and if someone doesn't give you the support you need you continue to search for it.  I am thankful that my friends & family were with me during the first few weeks postpartum.  I think I would have given up on seeking any answers if it weren't for them. 

I'm not sure if it was the hormones that balanced after stopping breastfeeding or the fact that stopping breastfeeding meant there wasn't one more thing on my plate.....but stopping breastfeeding made me sane and allowed me to eat.  I am able to show up better for my child and for myself.  And as for my body after pregnancy?  It just grew a life and delivered a child so I don't care if my belly is a little jiggly still and my boobs hang a little lower, I care that it is still carrying me and I'm able to carry my child.

I want to share this with you all because I want at least one person out there to realize they are seen.  Our postpartum bodies do not need to get back into shape, we do not need to bounce back to what we once were.  We are jiggly and saggy because we are clay.  We are being molded into the women we are meant to be.  And that journey is not the same for everyone. I want women to know that your body just did a thing that we still don't fully understand and we are on the other side of it.

Did you know that we as homo sapiens evolved to walk up right, accommodating our huge brains, but that the plates in our scull overlap each other as we exit the birth canal in order to fit?  Did you know that the cervix stretches an enormous amount and is under enormous strain during birth but then will shrink right back to pre pregnancy size with no problem?  Did you know the elasticity the cervix tissue when not pregnant is dramatically (and I mean dramatically) reduced?  Did you know we still don't understand a lot of this?  Woman literally have life erupt from them.  You try giving birth to the universe and being the person you were before that.  It is hard to become. 

I wrote the majority of this post in the beginning of October 2019.  It is currently January 2020.  Rereading this made me happy that I'd written this down because I've already forgotten a lot of the trauma that I'd experienced immediately after Marcus's birth.  I am in such a better place right now that I even was in October 2019.  I transformed into so many women since giving birth and I can't wait to see who else I can become.  The truth is though you will discover the you that you become is the you that you were all a long.

xoxo, Moe

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