A wobbly tummy, slightly saggy boobs and not even a hint of a thigh gap. This is my post-baby body reality.
And yet for many, the post-baby body, or mumbod, is an inconvenience. A freak of nature. An eyesore. A passing phase that we need to hurry out of as quickly as possible.
Surely by now we – and society in general – should have evolved to accept this change in our lives. There has been so much debate over the last two decades about positive body image, and yet I cannot help but feel that we are still stuck at square one.
There have been a couple of things that have been in the news this week that have got my goat and made me worry for the future sanity of womankind.
Both are linked to the hottest show of the summer, Love Island. I am totally addicted.
I just love watching the banter, the crushes, the budding romances and the tearful break-ups. Then there’s the hilarious Iain Sterling voiceovers, which for me are the best thing about the show.
But there’s one thing that I do not love about Love Island. And that’s the way it puts pressure on women, and young girls, to live up to television’s idea of a perfect female.
This isn’t just fuddy-duddy old me getting my knickers in a twist because I don’t have a flat stomach like the ladies of Love Island.
New research by YouGov, commissioned by the feminist organisation Level Up, found 40 per cent of women aged 18-34 feel more self-conscious about their body after watching Love Island.
It also found that 30 per cent of female fans of the show had considered going on a diet to lose weight after watching it.
The problem is exacerbated by the advertising during the show. There have been adverts for diet pills and plastic surgery. The message there is: look at these women, they are perfect, this is what you should like look, here is how you can achieve that.
The Love Island opening show was watched by 3.4million people. The programme is light-hearted entertainment, but it also holds a LOT of clout.
With that power it is influencing women – and making a LOT of money in the process – and it needs to accept that that is a huge responsibility.
After Level Up and the NHS took ITV to task, the broadcaster has had to stand up and take notice.
The chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, criticised ITV’s decision to run “explicit ads aiming at young women around breast cosmetic surgery” and said it was part of a culture that increased pressure on the NHS’s eating disorder services.
As a result ITV has admitted some ads were not quite right, and is looking at how it can do things differently in the future.
However it’s a far deeper problem than pulling a few adverts.
Girls and women are constantly bombarded with images of so-called perfection. It’s on the news, gossip websites, television and social media. As a mother of girls, it terrifies me that I will not be able to protect my two daughters from being made to feel bad about their image.
Companies want to sell products, and in order to do that they seem to rely on putting down women and girls. You are not perfect, but this product will help you to achieve that perfection.
When it comes to having a baby the pressure is still there, and yet the ability to snap back or achieve this perfect body is even more impossible.
I’ve gained weight rapidly over the last six months and while I don’t particularly like growing out of my clothes, I don’t see why I should change.
And because we as a society are bombarded with these images of perfection, told that we should look like this and if we don’t we are ugly, we start to believe it. And this fuels trolls and keyboard warriors, people who feel safe behind the anonymity the internet provides them with.
Scarlett Moffett appeared on the post-Love Island show Aftersun on Sunday night.
She appeared looking lovely in a red dress, discussing her views on the show, just like dozens of other panellists have done before her.
And yet straight away she was hit with comments on how she looks.
She took to Twitter to reveal the remarks had left her in tears, saying:
“I’m honestly ashamed of some people on here. Hard to pretend I’m ok and be a good role model to others about how it’s ok to just you when the comments from grown adults on here have resulted in me crying my eyes out!
“I hope you’re very proud of yourselves.
“No wonder the amount of people including myself with social anxiety is increasing.
“Feel like I can’t even film tv shows without hating the way that I look after – from constantly being attacked because of my size and my appearance!”
Scarlett is not a mama, but I feel like the issues she has raised here are so relevant for mums. Particularly in the early years of parenthood.
Scarcely a day goes by when I don’t see a headline pop up about so-and-so’s “stunning” post-baby body and how incredible they look. This narrow message of what you are supposed to look like after giving birth is simply unrealistic, and not only that it’s complete nonsense.
How on earth are new mums supposed to feel happy with their own post-baby body, which will be vastly different from their pre-pregnancy one, when the world is telling them they should be skinny and preened to perfection within six weeks of delivery?
We need to start getting real about the mumbod and help women to embrace it. But how can we do that?
How about we stop focusing on what our bodies look like and instead look at what they can do?
They can create and grow a baby, deliver that baby safely into the world, feed the baby and suffer through years of little to no sleep while chasing round after the little darling. That to me is one amazing post-baby body!
So while I may remain a big fan of reality TV for many years to come (there’s at least two more seasons of Love Island coming I hear!), I will also be embracing the reality of my mumbod.
And I’ll remember that while it has given me a wobbly tummy, saggy boobs and podgy thighs, it has also given me two healthy and happy children. And that is worth a thousand stretch marks.