Taylor is a stay-at-home mom and lives in Minnesota with her husband, four kids, and a golden doodle. We talked to her about body image, what it means to be a plus size mom, and how other parents can reimagine the way they think and talk about their bodies.
Do you have any advice for someone preparing for postpartum or in the postpartum stage? What helps on the hard body image days?
Give yourself grace. Postpartum is wonderful, it’s unknown, it’s beautiful, and it’s really hard! No amount of creams or serums will make those stretch marks disappear. Loving yourself at every stage isn’t easy, somedays you won’t, and that’s okay. It’s nearly impossible, but try not to compare your journey with someone else’s.
And do you have any strategies for what to do when those thoughts of comparison do creep up on you?
Usually comparison happens on social media, so I’ll take a step back and try to figure out why I’m feeling this way. We have to remember that majority of people only post or share the highlights, and we see very small glimpses into their lives. Someone might look like they have the perfect picture life, but you never really know what they’re going through. We’ve all had moments where we’ve faked that everything is okay when it definitely was not.
So I just try to remember that no one’s journey is the same. And if you find yourself comparing, stop following those people. Find people who you relate to, that bring you joy. When you’re struggling with comparison and having bad body image days, take a moment to be kind to yourself. You’re doing the best you can.
I try to remind myself all of the things I’m capable of doing and all the things my body is capable of doing. I sacrificed my body for 10 months, technically 40 months (4 babies) to grow little humans. That’s not easy, and pregnancy is not easy. This might sound cheesy but nourish your body with food, practice self-care, and tell yourself daily affirmations until you believe that your body is good at every stage.
What does health at every size mean to you?
HAES to me is measuring one’s health beyond the scale. Your weight and outer appearance cannot determine your health. HAES to me is being able to go to the doctor for a broken arm or depression medication and actually being taken seriously. It means I’m not going to be misdiagnosed, ignored, or given weight loss advice when I didn’t ask for any.
What words are you saying no to?
There are so many I steer clear from: flattering, dieting, healthy/unhealthy, good/bad food, treats, rewards, earning food, or the saying “I feel fat.”
What do you think is missing from the conversation about plus-size pregnancy?
There is very limited representation in the plus size pregnancy world. “B” bellies and “apron” bellies are hardly ever shown. Some women don’t show until way later or they don’t show at all. I was so embarrassed by my apron belly for so long and had no one to relate to. Being plus size and pregnant isn’t a bad thing.
There is a ton of misleading information about plus size pregnancies. You can have a textbook perfect pregnancy and delivery as a plus size person. Just because you’re fat does not mean you have to or will have a C-section. It also doesn’t mean you’ll have a big baby.
How did the birth of your children change your feelings about your body?
Before my first child was born I was already plus/mid size. My expectations about my appearance weren’t realistic. I didn’t see or know anyone else who was plus size and pregnant. I expected to have the cute round belly bump and pregnancy bliss. Instead, I had an apron belly and was swollen majority of the time. I don’t have any pregnancy photos because I was so embarrassed about my appearance and I will always regret that.
I really started celebrating my body and rejecting diet culture when my son was 1.5 years old. (He’s currently 3.5). So, when I was pregnant for the last time recently (final baby is 7 months old), that was the pregnancy that changed everything for me. I really felt beautiful even when my body was changing. I embraced my pregnant body one final time. My biggest regret was waiting until that pregnancy to shift my thinking. I regret not taking pictures, and I regret not doing things because I was so embarrassed about my appearance. I wish I would have celebrated each time and embraced my body instead of hating it.
Does your rejection of diet culture impact the way you’re raising your children? If so, how?
Yes, greatly! I do not talk about diets, unhealthy/healthy foods, treats, etc. My kids try lots of things unprompted. They listen to their bodies when they’re hungry they’ll eat, if they’re not they won’t eat. They don’t have to earn treats or clean plates. My kids haven’t shown any signs of restricting or bingeing. I have seen articles that say girls on average will start their first diet by age eight and I’ll do everything in my power to prevent my daughter and kids from being that statistic.
I will speak for majority of millennials here — we grew up with diet culture impacting our lives from a very early age. Most of my friends and myself grew up with eating disorders and/or disordered eating. I missed out on so much growing up due to diet culture and body image. At my smallest, I was treating my body extremely poorly. I would burn over 2,000 calories a day and barely eat 1,000. I would workout until I puked. Diet culture ruined my childhood, and I don’t want that for my children. It’s hard to find others in my age group who weren’t negatively affected by diet culture.
What makes you feel beautiful and/or powerful?
My body is not perfect, or society’s definition of perfect, but it was my children’s home before they entered the world. To me that makes me feel beautiful. I honestly feel the most beautiful by being my authentic self — whether that’s no makeup and lounge wear or getting a little dressed up with makeup and hair done.
My first born was actually stillborn, so his birth story and surviving that time in my life makes me feel very powerful. I gave birth to my daughter a month after my stillborn son’s first birthday. That day was tough but I did it, and while grieving him.
I feel powerful when I say no to getting weighed at the doctor when it’s not necessary. I feel powerful when I’m wearing something that is out of my comfort zone (like a swimsuit in public with no cover up).
What would you say to someone struggling to find their stretch marks, cellulite, or body beautiful or worthy?
There are going to be tough body image days, especially when your body doesn’t feel like your own. But you created life! Your body stretched and changed to grow another human. You aren’t the same person you were before your kid(s) and that’s okay! Our bodies are meant to change. It took almost ten months to grow a baby, we shouldn’t expect it to “snap back” like nothing happened. You are amazing, and your body is incredible just the way it is.