Your new-mum client walks into the gym. You congratulate her on her recent arrival, move through her pre-exercise questionnaire and then it’s time for goal setting!
Goal setting with a new mum is easy, right!? Clearly she is here to ‘get her pre-baby body back’ and you will do everything you can to help her do exactly that.
You have been taught to help her emotionally connect with her weight loss goals and so you start talking about how she feels now she’s a new mum and carrying extra weight; how she feels when she tries to put on her old jeans and she can’t squeeze them past her thighs; how she feels when her husband wants to make love with her and all she can think about is how her tummy will jiggle and how she’d just rather not.
You drill into all the ways she feels crappy about her postnatal body, giving her ALL the incentives you possibly can to help her truly feel more and to connect into all of the things she’s not.
Little do you know that this woman has a history of body image issues.
She has spent her late teens, 20s and right up until she has had this baby beating herself up about what her body is or isn’t, and truly believing that her worth is wrapped up in what she looks like.
And now, even though she has grown and birthed another human, put her body and mind through huge challenges, and is adjusting to being a mum – sleep-deprived, sometimes alone and confused as to whether she is doing it right – upon stepping back into the gym to find that little bit of solace for herself, it has been confirmed that she is not enough just the way she is.
She must once again strive to be ‘fit’, to be ‘smaller’, to meet society’s expectations to ‘get her pre-baby body back’ and she believes she will not be enough until she does exactly that.
And so, with new goals written down and instructions to hang those jeans in a place where she can see them EVERY SINGLE DAY, you lead her into the gym to begin her workout.
I know that we do this as Fitness Professionals as I have done it myself with clients. I have asked them about clothes they can’t fit into anymore. I’ve requested they dig around in their wardrobe and find that item they can use to ensure they stick to their aesthetic goals which I wrapped up in emotion so they would be driven not to fail.
I have also been that client, and when I look back at my fitness journey I know my relationship with disordered eating BEGAN when I got my first a trainer. I was pinched and measured, given my goals, and told to eat half of the sandwich and only the low-calorie yogurt.
Don’t get me wrong, I was a willing participant and I loved the results I got. But I recognise now it simply fuelled the ‘not enoughness’ I had felt my whole life and my mission to be smaller was driven from a place of wanting to be loved rather than of love for myself.
Throughout this time I was congratulated when I lost weight, people complimented me only based on my appearance and my self-confidence was inevitably wrapped up in my aesthetics. It’s time for change.
It’s time for us, the fitness industry, to change our language and encourage women – especially women who have now become mothers – to no longer strive to become something they once were.
It’s time for us to stop complimenting our clients only on the way they look and the weight they have lost.
There is SO much more we could say if only we put our mind to it and understood the impact of this.
Mothers cannot go back in time and their bodies will never be the same. We are not doing our clients a service by asking them to compare their post-baby body with their pre-baby body and to imply that ‘happiness’ comes with being the goal to achieve what once was.
For many women becoming pregnant and having a baby could be the trigger she needs to learn to love herself inside and out, in every phase and stage of her journey.
To break the habit of self-criticism and hate for her body and to learn acceptance and love herself. And then, from a place of love, she can feel empowered to choose what she wants for herself and her body.
So the next time you are sitting down to talk about goals with your mum-clients I encourage you to consider the language you choose to use. And know that your influence has the power to change her perspective of her whole life – and also of the little person that is now watching her.
Jen Dugard & her Body Beyond Baby team recently launched a #nomoreprebabybody campaign – calling for women to embrace their post-baby body and to remove the pressure many feel to get their body back. Look it up & share your #nomoreprebabybody message.
2020 dates for Safe Return to Exercise, pre and postnatal education for Fitness Professionals have now been released. You can make an enquiry by visiting the website to locate a trainer – www.bodybeyondbaby.com.au.
Article written by Jen Dugard for the What’s New in Fitness Summer 2019 Magazine.