Women who diet after childbirth are less happy with their weight loss than those who eat intuitively, according to a new Australian study.
Nutritionist Megan Lee, co-author of the study out of Southern Cross University, said the lack of education about the body after birth played a part in how women were feeling.
“When you go to prenatal classes they teach you about labour and how to look after the baby,” she said.
“But they don’t teach you about what’s going to happen to you psychologically after the birth, and how your body changes.”
With the increased focus on celebrities’ bodies after they give birth, new mums were finding it harder to accept their body image and may have unrealistic expectations of what is achievable.
Two thirds of women wished to return to their pre-pregnancy figure within two weeks of having a baby, but Miss Lee said there was a solid hurdle to be overcome mentally.
“It’s really hard for women after pregnancy to accept your natural size and shape because you’ve changed so much,” she said.
Abe Hatch, a psychologist working with new mothers, said it was dangerous for a new mum to compare herself to what the media portrayed.
“If the underlying thing is comparisons to other people, like on social media, then she may be left with more feelings of self loathing or not feeling good enough,” he said.
Miss Lee discovered new mums who ate when hungry had better self esteem, greater psychological wellbeing and also were physically healthier than those who were going without food to try and diet.
“We found mothers out there who were just eating intuitively; so eating when they were hungry, stopping when they were full, and they were listening to their body and what they needed,” she said.
“Women who were eating in this way had higher self-esteems, were healthier, and had a greater psychological wellbeing.”
Acceptance of body image could be a challenge for everyone, but for new mums, that acceptance lead to greater health and better mental wellbeing for their future.