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- 28 Sep 16

So apparently the thigh gap is so last year and the ab crack is now very much in vogue, if you’re looking to ‘perfect’ you’re body image that is. It sounds pretty painful if you ask me. And I can assure you I’m not currently in the business of sculpting my six pack any time soon.

We have a pretty unhealthy obsession with body image and it often comes under the spotlight when women become pregnant and even more so in the fourth trimester, post baby. There is a huge pressure felt by many women to shift the baby weight and squeeze back into their skinny jeans, as well as dealing with sleepless nights, changing nappies and that small matter of adapting to looking after a new person and keeping it alive!

Now if you’re a Victoria Secrets model with super human powers you may bounce right back to your former cat walk form. But the majority of us don’t have an army of dietitians, personal trainers or nannies and you probably haven’t booked in for a tummy tuck post elective c -section. Squeezing into your old wardrobe as you leave hospital isn’t and shouldn’t be a priority.

There are good reasons doctors ask you to wait six weeks to hold fire on your old exercise regime, if you had one. You’ve just grown and housed a frickin human being over the course of the last nine months. Too much, too soon can lead to painful consequences and will take it’s toll on a body that already feels like it’s been steam rolled by a high speed train. I’ve been there and worn the T-Shirt.

Pregnancy has put body image into a new perspective for me. And it’s a great leveller. I have a whole new appreciation for my body and what it’s capable of, regardless of how it now looks and jiggles.

This new perspective is much more pronounced as throughout my early 20’s I had an unhealthy obsession with exercise and food. What I deemed to be healthy, really wasn’t. It was an obsession and an attempt to exert control at a time when I was starting out on the career ladder as a young single woman who had the world at her fingertips. Consequently it took it’s toll on my body, my mind, and relationships. Size 6 clothes hung off me, my periods stopped for three years but I was in control, or so I thought. Ironic really, given today I derive so much pleasure from food and drink and it plays such a massive part in our lives.

I was fortunate however and this unhealthy relationship with food and exercise, with time and support, subsided. Nevertheless, the element of control is something that never vanishes from your life. What has emerged however is an appreciation for my body and it’s capabilities regardless of what it looks like. An appreciation which really came into focus when I was pregnant with Otto and one which I’m reminded of again as my due date creeps closer.

Admittedly when pregnant with Otto I found the changes to my body hard to accept. At times I felt like a Christmas bauble, but without the glitter. However with time I grew to accept these changes and really embraced my growing belly, widening hips and bigger bum and boobs. My husband had no issues either. As cliche as it sounds I was growing a small miracle, someone we were very lucky to be able to welcome into our family.

Likewise I have embraced the changes after delivery and after breastfeeding, something which the project Fourth Trimester Body Project has put the spotlight on. This moving photography project celebrates the very real and uncensored image of motherhood, post pregnancy and also captures those who have sadly lost babies, but still bare the marks.

Perhaps it’s an age thing but as I approach 33 I feel so much more confident in my own skin and this is vital in order to encourage positive body image vibes and to teach our own children the same messages. The negative thoughts and scrutiny we put ourselves under are picked up by children and send out all the wrong messages. Your children aren’t going to care about what you see as imperfections. They just want love.

The body is an exceptional instrument. Wobbly bits, scars, stretch marks post pregnancy and delivery and boobs post breastfeeding that resemble pancakes rather than watermelons are the norm and should be celebrated. It’s what happens to real women compared to the airbrushed versions we see in the media.

And afterall you don’t see the “dad bod” coming under the same scrutiny that women so often do after having a baby, and his widening waistline is more to do with one to many pints and takeaways.

I’m not saying eat slices of Victoria sponge and double mocha chocca cappacinnos every day, but give yourself time before you get back on the treadmill and cut yourself some slack. Feel liberated by the changes and step out with confidence.

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Helen Cross

Mum to Otto, wife to ex professional egg chaser, fuelled by coffee, enthusiastic about gin, musing about motherhood while cooking up a storm in the kitchen & stirring up homemade memories. Food & drink writer, blogger & copywriter taking time out living in London having moved from Edinburgh.

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