Elisa Donovan’s Blog: The Waste of Talking About Our Waists

01/24/2013 at 08:00 PM ET

Elisa Donovan's Blog: The Waste of Talking About Our Waists
With Scarlett on Christmas – Courtesy Elisa Donovan

Thanks for welcoming one of our newest celebrity bloggers, Elisa Donovan!

Best known for her roles as Amber in Clueless and Morgan on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Donovan currently stars in the ABC Family franchise The Dog Who Saved Christmas. Following that, she will costar in MoniKa, set for release this year.

Donovan, 41, is also a writer and yogi. A recovered anorexic, she assists in counseling and supporting young women struggling with eating disorders.

She lives in San Francisco with her husband, Charlie Bigelow, and their 8-month-old daughter Scarlett Avery.

She can be found on Facebook, as well as Twitter @RedDonovan.

Okay — I want to talk about my body. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to get weird.

I hate to state the obvious, but women’s bodies — especially after they’ve had a baby — still seem to be an obsession of society. It’s a challenge to find a women’s magazine that doesn’t have at least one item about weight loss or body on its cover; or a women’s talk show that doesn’t have at least one feature on the same thing.

Since I had Scarlett, more people have wanted to talk to me about my body than anything else, so I thought I should jump on the bandwagon. (If you’ve read my previous blog, you’ll know how I feel about a bandwagon…)

Having recovered from anorexia many years ago, I’ve made it a way of life not to talk about my body, or your body or anybody else’s body. I learned long ago that at their core, eating disorders and “body image” issues have very little to do with the physical body at all. They’re about control, perfection and the size of our feelings and desires — not the size of our hips. For years, any comments made to me about my body — positive or negative — were twisted into a soup of insanity that only made me feel more fat; further convincing me that my restricted and unhealthy ways were the path to perfection.

It took many years of therapy, determination and love to overcome my disorder. Through my persistence and care, I have come to be grateful for the challenges I once faced. For my recovery brought me not only to the spiritual basis from which I now lead my life, but also gave me great knowledge and insight into the true goals and desires I have for my future.

One of the more literal and quantifiable assets to my recovery is this: I never judge anyone (including myself) by the physical body one walks around in. I am far more concerned with what is going on inside rather than outside. Skinny or fat, tall or short, sculpted or curvy — the body is truly one of the last things I focus on.

When I was anorexic and bulimic, I had a field day listening to what other people ate — creating my own contorted diets and restrictions in comparison. Then I would berate myself when I would inevitably fail at sticking to any of them; a process which inevitably led me back down the dangerous dead-end road of starving.

This is why today, in general, I don’t think that talking about food and body is healthy. I believe putting the focus on feelings, desires and goals is far more useful. So whenever I’m asked what I eat I usually dodge the question, not wanting to give women more reasons to create obsessions with their bodies, food and exercise.

But not even when I was severely anorexic and people would whisper things like, “I just want to give her a sandwich” was my body such a template for commentary as it has been since I got pregnant and had a baby. So I thought maybe this was the time to break my silence in discussing this directly. I hope that by sharing my personal experience, it may help to demystify the process of being healthy and fit.

Of course, every woman’s body is different. Hence, my experience is unique to me. As yours is to you. But it’s my hope that anyone who might be struggling with this can find the places they identify with what I’m writing and be brought some comfort; maybe our dialogue about this will help propel a shift in the collective consciousness.

Elisa Donovan's Blog: The Waste of Talking About Our Waists
Collage I made for Scarlett while I was pregnant – Courtesy Elisa Donovan

This stuff is really tough to talk about. See how I’m talking in circles around the subject so far? I’m cagey because, well — everyone goes bananarama-looney-tunes about this issue. We are all hyper-sensitive. And the last thing I want is to contribute to any of the insanity. I’m actually trying to stop the insanity, and bring us back down to earth. So here goes…

Throughout my pregnancy and post, it has been revelatory to discover just how much the body is what everyone — both men and women alike — feel most compelled to focus on. I’m not suggesting that people are instinctively mean-spirited in doing this. In fact, I’m trying to point out that I don’t think most people even realize it.

When someone comments about a woman’s pregnant or post-baby body, they think it is perfectly acceptable to do so. As if simply because a woman is about to have a child, or just had one, that makes her an open target for public discussion and invasion of her privacy.

I once watched a man at a party dig himself an Olympic-sized hole as he compared the bodies of two expectant women standing next to him (one of which was his wife). “You’re SO much bigger,” he said to the other woman. “You must be due really soon.” A bit stunned, the woman replied, “No, not for another three months.” “No way, really? It’s just that you’re so much bigger than her,” he said, pointing to his wife (who was mortified). “Maybe it’s the color of your sweater that’s making you look huge,” he offered, totally unaware of the gigantic gaping pit he had created for himself.

One friend told me that when she was six months pregnant a woman said to her, “You are ENORMOUS!! You look like you’re having twins!!” (She wasn’t.) Another woman, a complete stranger, said to me when I was almost five months, “You must be having a girl — you’re carrying it sort of … everywhere,” as she gesticulated grotesquely around her entire frame.

I’m just asking — in what universe are these appropriate things to say to a person?

Comments from “You barely look pregnant!” to “Oh my God — you’re huge!” to “You barely gained an ounce!” and “She gained a ton!” lead to “How did you lose the baby weight?” “Are you worried about losing the baby weight?” “Don’t worry — you will lose the baby weight!!” — and they all pre-suppose that one’s physical body is the main concern.

I can say with 100 percent honesty: I never worried about my weight when I was pregnant. Not once. Even during those periods where I felt like a water mammal trapped on land laboriously straining to lumber down the sidewalk, I didn’t worry about it. This is not because I have a super-human sized ego and gargantuan self-esteem. It is because of two things:

1) Everything I’ve already stated about my lessons in body image, and 2) I never looked at the scale when the nurse weighed me at each doctor visit. I told her I didn’t want to know what I weighed, unless there was something abnormal or unhealthy about it. I understood it was necessary for the doctor to know my weight, but it was virtually useless for me to know the number. I hadn’t looked at the numbers on a scale in over 15 years, so why should I start now?

Though I was never one of those women that felt AMAZING while pregnant (I did not see unicorns and rainbows all day and feel “sexier than ever!”), I did feel extraordinarily lucky that for the most part (aside from that brutal first trimester), I felt okay. Though much of this could just be chalked up to the luck of the draw, I believe my choices were an equal contributor.

Elisa Donovan's Blog: The Waste of Talking About Our Waists
Charlie and Scarlett at SFMOMA – Elisa Donovan

I didn’t change the quality of what I ate (aside from several fierce cravings which I will get to later, I am an organic and non-processed foods person). I didn’t take “eating for two” to mean “overindulge in every sugary, fatty food I can get my hands on for 10 months.” I ate when I was hungry (which was often) and made sure I got the proper vitamins and minerals from the foods I ate. (Roasted chicken was a favorite, I could not get enough of it. And lemon water. I would have swallowed an entire lemon tree if I could have.)

I also practiced vinyasa yoga nearly every day, when I wasn’t working. Especially on the days when I didn’t feel like getting off of the couch — those were the times it actually felt the best. I even practiced the day before I gave birth. (I loved knowing that I was carrying a baby in my belly in yoga, as I moved through the age-old postures and chanted at the opening and close of class.) I walked a lot. These things cleared my head, energized my body and lifted my spirit. They made me feel like an active participant in nourishing this little being, rather than sitting back and letting something just happen TO me.

Just so you don’t think I’m some out-of-touch-granola-hippie — you should also know that during my second trimester, I developed an insatiable desire for chocolate bars. This trimester fortuitously coincided with Halloween. I would send text messages to my girlfriends with photos of mini-Milky Ways, with the title “FUN SIZE!.” (To be clear: I believed I was maximizing the fun by eating three or four of them.) I would text my husband while he was at the office, “Can you bring me home a Snickers? Don’t judge me.”

For anyone that knows me, it was hilarious and a great source of joy for them to see me delight in eating these things. My chocolate bar fetish was soon replaced by a wild rampage in pursuit of anything red velvet. This is a story that requires its own blog altogether — so I will just tell you this: I have tasted every red velvet cupcake in the greater San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles County areas, and was known to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge just to purchase mini-bundt cakes.

After I had Scarlett, people very quickly said they couldn’t believe I had just had a baby. “OHMYGOD I hate you!” some women would even say, as if I had committed some personal crime against them by physically recovering what they considered to be too quickly. I know these sorts of comments were meant to be compliments, and on one level they were very nice to hear. But this didn’t mean I didn’t feel like a cow.

The reality was, I HAD just had a baby. So regardless of what my body looked like, I still felt predominantly crazy and pudgy. Emotionally, I was no different than anyone else who just had a baby, but because my body seemed to come back quicker, people equated that with everything going back to normal. Back to pre-pregnancy.

Let me take a moment to rally on behalf of striking the term “back to pre-pregnancy” from the lexicon we are allowed to use with regard to — well, anything. Because guess what—nothing is the same as it was before. Nothing. So why do we even pretend it is, or strive to make it so? People have told me I look just like I did before having the baby, that “you can’t even tell!” This is both very kind and very false.

For one thing, my hips will never be the same … simply never be the same! I also think that my face, my boobs, and my everything else are all forever altered. And I don’t mean to say it’s all change for the worse. I think women’s faces change in a really deep and lovely way once they’ve had a baby; there’s an openness and a brightness that, even amidst the exhaustion and insanity of those first couple of months, is beautiful. I wouldn’t take my pre-pregnancy face back for anything … even for the circumference of my pre-pregnancy hips.

Like most women, I didn’t have an expensive trainer barking at me and kicking my ass into squats at 5 a.m. to “lose that pregnancy weight.” I didn’t have a fancy chef cooking me tastily gourmet but calorically feather-light meals; nor did I have full-time help to watch my kid so I could run to the gym and yoga and spinning in order to “get my body back.”

But also like most women, I did have the natural workout (which felt like what I imagine prepping for a marathon might feel like) of suddenly being responsible for the survival and well-being of this tiny human. Between that stunning revelation, the sleep deprivation and the sheer adrenaline required to metabolize both, my body was operating at maximum capacity from the second Scarlett was born.

To me, it felt like the constant actions of carrying her, walking up and down stairs while lifting car seats and strollers around, burned more calories than an hour on the treadmill could ever hope to.

Elisa Donovan's Blog: The Waste of Talking About Our Waists
Upside-down reading – a good start – Elisa Donovan

I guess what I’m trying to get at here is this: are we so concerned with what we look like that even a woman who has just given birth is supposed to make her primary focus and primary source of pride be “getting her body back?”

I am not condoning using childbirth as an excuse to not take care of yourself, nor am I suggesting that we completely stop complimenting one another altogether. But I am talking about the danger of body obsession taking over the psyche and trickling out into everything we do, and I am asking if we can find additional ways to support and applaud each other, not just for our physical appearance.

How did we get so far away from what matters, that living up to some ill-conceived standard of physical perfection has become so important? I wonder about how I will instill my beliefs in Scarlett, when there is an epidemic of body obsession surrounding her everywhere she looks.

How will I make sure she understands that an emaciated waistline and injected lips are not what make for a fulfilling and inspired life? Charlie and I can infuse our values in her daily and teach her by our own example what we believe is right; but how do I make sure she knows that our values are better, if the majority of images and words around her defy them?

Rather than focusing on diets and losing dress sizes, wouldn’t our energies be better spent figuring out how to love one another more, and how to enjoy the wealth of opportunities that are afforded us in 2013? Can’t we do better at encouraging curiosity and inner strength? Couldn’t we focus just a little more on cultivating expression and gaining wisdom, rather than on how to lose 20 pounds in 20 minutes?

I’d like Scarlett to know that her mom isn’t a total loon, just because she is not in constant search of the perfect diet. I hope that Scarlett grows up asking me about books and art and achieving goals, and not whether her stomach is too fat for the dress she is wearing.

I realize this may be a tall order. And I know I can not and should not shelter my child from everything the world will reveal to her. But I can strive to make sure she knows what her mom believes: That her brain, her spirit and her heart are far more valuable than the size of her behind.

– Elisa Donovan

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Showing 78 comments

Sarah on

Thank you, Elisa! A lot of people who comment on this website could learn a thing or two from you.

Northern Girl on

Wow. Well said. I love the last paragraph; I hope I can relay this message to my daughter as I try to raise a smart, interested, and engaged girl in our superficial society.

Susan on

I could not agree more…well said.

blessedwithboys on

Excellent post! I’m 10 yrs post-partum and still have not shed the “baby weight” completely. heehee

One thing though…I’m not sure if that pic of Scarlett is in a car seat or a bouncy seat, but if it’s a carseat, you may want to make an appointment with a car seat tech. There are a number of things wrong with the set up you’ve got going (thick-ish coat, fur collar, straps too loose, chest clip not up high enough). If it’s a bouncy seat on your kitchen floor, then just ignore me! :)

Shannon on

I love her. Fabulous blog.

Michelle on

THANK YOU for this! I’ve been exposed to many comments lately, both positive and negative, about my 3rd trimester body and what it will be postpartum. My general response to both is “Thanks, I’m growing a miracle”, but I’d be remiss to say it doesn’t play with my hormonal psyche.

I’ve never allowed myself to be defined by my body type and I especially won’t when my son arrives…I’ll be too busy raising my miracle!

silvia on

Bravo! I totally enjoyed your blog this week, i’m in my 9th month and completely understand everything you were talking about. I can’t believe the gall people have and the way they dont think twice about making you feel horrible. it’s like just because we are pregnant, they can say whatever they want.

This just happened to me again this past week, one of many times now through out my pregnancy, and it came from the nurse at my doctors office. It’s like really? I’m that much bigger than anybody else, you work for a freakin OB and you don’t realize it’s bad taste to comment on how big i am and that i still have a month to go?!!

I hope I will have enough sense and will to stand up for myself once this baby is here. and i will do my best to not indulge the nosy nay-sayers. Way to go on getting this discussion going.

Amanda on

This really helps to read. My son is only 7 weeks old, and I am struggling with the mental berating of myself for losing the baby weight. I gained 53 pounds and have already lost 33, but I keep thinking of how big my belly, hips and thighs still are (I am one size up from where I was pre-pregnancy).

It’s nice to hear that others struggle too, it’s a good reminder that I’m not in this alone.

Ella on

Excellent blog post! Well done, Elisa!

Bugsmum on

Wow!! I love this (I’m loving all your blogs) entry.

Abbie on

This was such a wonderful blog Elisa. I think all woman need to read this (pregnant or not). We need to stop judging others on physical appearances, be eachother’s support system.

BTW your daughter is beautiful, just like her momma.

martine on

Elisa, you are SO on the money. This obsession with post-baby body is just sickening. It’s important for a new mom to take care of herself, both physically and emotionally – but who cares if the belly is flat 3 months post-partum??

I am a mom of two and a yoga instructor. I have new mom clients that beat themselves up for carrying 5 extra pounds within a year of giving birth. It’s heart-breaking. Instead of enjoying the miracle of creating a new life, they are obsessing over their waist size.

Lilly on

Brilliant

Sweet on

Beautifully written!!!

veronica on

I loved this blog…I hope to hear more from you soon.

K on

You are truly gifted at expressing your thoughts in a tactful, appropriate, and moving way. This post was beautifully written and on point. I always cringe when I read posts by women who are bashing other women for being too big or too small post-baby.

Enjoy your time with beautiful, baby Scarlett! She is gorgeous, just like her mama.

Kelsey on

Such a great wonderful blog, and a different way too look at things. I especially like the part about not looking at the scale. That just struck a chord for me. Thank you for sharing!

TM on

Over the past three years, I’ve lost 70 pounds, and my goal was to simply find my way to the normal weight range (according to the bmi scale). I’m now just twelve pounds away. It was always about health for me, and it just so happens that I do feel better about myself.

Everyday I find myself admiring the strength and beauty of women. Let’s all strive for health and happiness! Also, I will never, ever, stop eating chocolate! Thanks for this blog post, Elisa.

Glorianne on

It really helps to read your blog! I’m in my first trimester of my first pregnancy and having the same worries!

I recently had to cut ties with my bestfriend of 11 years because she made a comment that hurt me deeply! The sad thing is I knew she would be excited when I got prego, mostly because I would get big but I never wanted to admit it to myself. I gave her the good news and told her I was nervous about this life changing event and what did she say? “You’re gonna get FAT!” Wow!!!!! Feed into my fears why don’t you!!!!

I don’t need that and I don’t need to always wonder each time I see her if she is enjoying watching me get bigger. So, I did what I felt I had to do and even with a hollow apology that she gave me, I cut off all ties! I just felt for me it was the right choice. That is not a true and caring friend. So, thank you for being honest and helping me to continue to try and focus on what really matters in life :)))

amanda on

wow ! so inspiring ! im having a boy this march , and i want him to grow into a great young man who does not judge people by their body type, i also want him to grow up and be happy with himself ! we as a society need to take a page from you ! we nee to quit being so body obssesed. elisa, you are a inspiration to woman everywhere !

Lee on

This is really great Elisa! I am trying to have your outlook while I’m pregnant. It is not about body image now, it’s about taking care of and nurturing the little life that’s growing inside me.

Harley on

Well said! I’ve watched my friends mentally struggle for ages with their bodies after baby…heck, with baby for that matter. I always remind them that they are even more beautiful with a child in their arms or a baby in their belly than they were in size 2-4 jeans. Instead of thrashing themselves, it’s important to remember how they got there’….it sure wasn’t out of laziness!

Minor diet changes and activities can be made and endorphins are key to feeling better. Nothing says you have to dedicate your soul to the gym after creating a human lol; just find the joy in them and in those around you.

Angela on

Love her!

aliciaesq on

I don’t think there is a way for me to thank Elisa enough for her blog right now. I am currently 25 weeks pregnant and every entry has been so thoughtful, reassuring and what I needed at that moment of my pregnancy. I’m not sure how she can read my mind but I will thank her nonetheless. This week’s was especially helpful. More than words can really express.

Amber on

Well said.

When pregnant with both of my girls even days before I was due people would say “you can’t tell you are pregnant” that hurt just as much to me as someone saying “you are HUGE” would. It made me feel as thought maybe there was something wrong, and I should be doing something different. I’m amazed at how insensitive complete strangers can be to soon to be and new moms.

Another thing that I was mortified with was “are you breastfeeding” What a personal and emotional question and how dare a complete stranger judge a person if they are or are not breast feeding. Yet you become the jerk if you say “I’m sorry, that’s very personal and I’d prefer not to answer.”

downinfrugalrock on

This was beautiful! THANK YOU. Very well said. Just so much truth in all of this.

I really appreciate you sharing this and your story, I know it’s not easy.

Congratulations on your beautiful daughter and congratulations on overcoming anorexia, I don’t have this particular disorder, but I have a panic disorder and I know how hard it is to overcome something like that (I’m still working to overcome mine) and it’s always nice to hear success stories. So, thank you.

Ashley on

The point of her post was not worrying about your size but you had to post yours, Amanda. Way to totally miss the point. Get over yourself.

Christine on

Fantastic…Inspiring & Brilliant! Thank You, Elisa!

kristileks on

THANK YOU! I have begun to wonder how all of these pictures and articles and comments about “post-baby bodies” will shape the next generation of mothers. The shift to parenthood is so enormous, and the transformations both inspiring and daunting. When we stop sharing those with each other to compare superficial benchmarks, we completely lose sight of an appreciation for women’s amazing bodies and the true and deep challenges of parenthood.

If a magazine such as People someday takes a stand and refuses to print images of women comparing them to each other in any way, pre- OR post-baby, I will be interested in buying them again. Until then, I will keep myself far from those images and comparisons. Children deserve to be the focus of parenthood, not the bodies who created them.

Kathryn on

Thank you for writing this post! I am almost 6 months pregnant and am struggling with accepting my body as it changes.

I am a competitive athlete, and even though training has been put on hold, I am finding solace in concentrating on what my body CAN DO instead of what it looks like. And even though my “post-baby body” wont be able to do what my “pre-baby body” could (at first), I will continue to concentrate on all the amazing things my body is DOING instead of what it looks like.

Sara on

This is probably the best thing I have ever read from People magazine. I wish they would remove everything about weight and body size from their website and magazine.

As a professional who has been working at an eating disorder treatment hospital for the last 5 years it is very inspiring to hear someone talk about themselves and recovery the way that Elisa does. My patients can’t believe there are people who never use a scale or talk about their body. It gives me hope for those currently struggling. If only the world would listen to how damaging negative body talk and dieting are.

Thank you Elisa!

Krissy on

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is exactly what I needed today.

Lauren on

What an adorable baby!!

Lauren on

First off, congrats on your beautiful daughter! Second, thanks for sharing your story. Third, loved it!

I wish and hope that people read it , comprehend it and get it. I get overly frustrated at the ignorant comments people make at the size or looks of other people, especially fellow mothers. Even though you and the other celebs are in Hollywood, you are still people and commenters throughout the world seem to forget or not care. I didn’t know your struggles and thank you for sharing them. We need more strong woman like you to speak up about motherhood and their experience.

Lila on

This is one of the best blog posts I’ve read on here, ever. Well said, Elisa.

Jenna on

This is a wonderful post. I am currently 20 weeks pregnant and it just baffles me how everyone feels they have the right now to comment about my size. I don’t look 20 weeks pregnant, but that is because I was a little heavier to begin with so didn’t start showing as early. The comments make me absolutely paranoid. My doctor says I am healthy, the baby is healthy and that’s all that matters, but I don’t get why other WOMEN feel the need to make comments. We should be lifting each other up, not tearing each other down.

Thank you for your honesty and candor.

lisa riley on

thank you for this post…..it is a relief when i read commentary on other first time mom’s pregnancy details and all the stuff that comes with it that no one wants to talk about!!! well written article! hope to see more from you!!

Jessica on

Woah! Someone needs a midol! Chill out Ashley.

Jesse on

I’m thinking that she’s in a stroller, blessed with boys.

Suzanne on

Very well said. Thank you for being so open and honest. You are an inspiration.

M on

Great blog post. I appreciate your openness about dealing with body image issues.

Anonymous on

THANK YOU!!! I have never had the experience of being pregnant, but my mind is so boggled by how people approach and react to pregnant women. Some of the things I’ve heard said to my friends, or online about celebrities, etc., are so ridiculous, rude, bizarre and frankly leave me wondering what the heck is wrong with people.

After my friend had her daughter, all I heard come out of peoples mouths were exercise plans and wondering how she was going to lose weight, blah blah blah. She handled it very well, but it was clear to me, and anyone who bothered to pay attention, that none of it mattered. She had just brought this beautiful being into the world. THAT was what mattered.

Dawn on

You are amazing, Ms. Elisa. I enjoyed this blog very much. I am so happy your spirit is healthy, honey.

Mel on

Elisa, you are just bloody fabulous!!

Lynnette on

I have a 16 month old, gorgeous, curious, smart and wonderfully funny little boy at home! Every day he brings us so much joy and that is the most important “thing” that came from my pregnancy!

I am an older new mother (I was 38 when my son, our first, was born). I definitely did not obsess when I was pregnant, but I did look at the scale to be sure I was keeping on track as I’ve struggled with my weight in the past.

I did get comments about how “big” I was at 7 months along and it was quite annoying, but I didn’t let it bother me much. I had a breech baby with long legs, so that accounted for some of the extra girth as well as the fact that when he was born, the doctor said I had a ton of amniotic fluid, so…

Anyhow, I know it’s not nice, but I like to think the women who made those comments about my big belly have tons of stretch marks while I have none ;) Is that mean?? LOL :) In any case, health is the most important thing to focus on, pregnant and otherwise! Great article!

cloeyny2mn on

Modern society is obsessed with outside appearance because 1) it is MUCH easier to manipulate than the heart and soul of a person and 2) there is billions of revenue to be made by making women and men feel inadequate so that they can sell us products to “fix” it. We have allowed ourselves to become bought and sold and every moment we watch t.v., open a magazine or drive by a billboard, we are programmed to if only we were “THIS” than we could accept ourselves and be happy. It’s truly sad.

jeanmarieok on

I don’t know this person/actress at all, but I have to compliment a well written blog packed full of common sense and encouragement to women everywhere. I am interested in what she writes next.

Catherine on

Thank you Elisa! As mothers, we judge ourselves and guilt ourselves about everything under the sun.

Our bodies should be off limits for discussion! Being healthy is way more important! Bottom line is, when we have babies, our bodies change. They change to help nuture the baby until birth and after. It’s okay to have hips and boobs.

I am lucky in that my husband likes my curvy post-babies body better than my pre-babies figure. We should be free to allow our bodies to be what they will be. I will never again have a flat stomach, bony hips, and perky boobs, but I have a husband and two wonderful sons who love me like I am!

Joanna on

I truly love your comments. It’s so sad that women are even expected to have perfect bodies during and after pregnancy. Beautiful words.

Rachel on

Beautiful piece. This is the best thing I have ever read in People. Thank you Elisa. I look forward to more posts from you. Have a great day.

Wendy on

I really appreciated reading this. I have 2 beautiful children and have been struggling with how my body is not the same, and this blog and some of the comments are really helpful.

I encountered a nurse in the labor & delivery floor who asked me if I was having twins, just hours before I gave birth to my son, which pissed me off more than it would have if the person might not have been likely to know how offensive those comments can be.

My son is now 1 year old, and I’m healthy and fit in the sense that I am strong and active… though I get frustrated with how I look – especially amid the images of celebrities who appear so thin just after having babies.

I appreciate this perspective on it, and hope to see more of her positive blog posts.

Mommy22 on

I never comment on anything online, but I am so compelled to this time! Elisa, your article is brilliant. I could personally relate to so many of your experiences. Thank you for sharing. My hope is by the time my two daughters have children of their own, this social obsession with appearance during and after pregnancy will be nothing more than a distant memory. Congratulations on your beautiful family!

Lindsey on

Amazing article! Im a recovered anorexic/bulimic for 6 years and your blog opens the dialogue for what happens next. What happens when you make it to the other side of the disorder. Putting all the hard work into praise of emotions and recognition of bringing a baby into the world should always trump waist size. Children are what they see at home. The blog has a new follower… Me! Thank you thank you :)

Shawna on

Bravo! What an inspiring, thoughtful and profound post. I loved every second of it!

Charlene on

Thank you for a thoughtful and well written perspective. There are so many things you said that were so spot on that I want to address.

I’ve never been pregnant myself (maybe someday), but I’ve often been shocked at how forward people can be with pregnant women, anywhere from commenting on their physical changes to touching them without permission. In fact, I had a conversation once with one of my sisters-in-law in which she brought up how terrifying it was for her to be on the bus when pregnant and complete strangers would come up to her and start touching her belly. Not only is it a total invasion of space, but what if they had a cold or the flu or something else that could be harmful to the mother or child? People should always at least ask the mother first and respect her if she says no.

I also appreciate how you talk about body image in general. I remember mentally beating myself up about being overweight and it never helped me to become healthier or happier. A few years ago I made myself start thinking about the things I like about my appearance rather than focus on the negative. Sure, my weight has fluctuated over the past few years, but I feel so much better about myself, and that’s a greater gift than fitting into size 2 jeans.

A few years ago I led a therapeutic parenting class. One thing I brought up was how important it is for children to see their parents feel good about themselves. I said that it can create a really positive example for kids to look at and acknowledge what they like about themselves inside and out. A few of the parents looked at me strangely and one even said, “I don’t want my kid to do that, because then they’ll be vain.” Personally, I think there’s a huge difference between feeling good about oneself and being vain. I don’t understand why we live in a culture that values people hating themselves for things they can’t always control. It’s wrong and really needs to change.

Thank you so much for sharing your experience and thoughts. I passed this article on to my mother, a preschool teacher and parent educator, in the hopes she can share it with the mothers she works with.

Andi S on

That was an amazing post! I spent most of my teens and early twenties in and out of hospitals because of my anorexia. I was lucky to find recovery three and a half years ago. Only a year into my recovery I found out I was pregnant.

Everyone was worried I would relapse, but to be honest it was the first time in my life I wanted to gain weight. I was weighed backwards every week and only my doc and husband knew my weight.

After we brought our son home, I was just so exhausted all the time I couldn’t even focus on my weight. My son is two and I am still adjusting to my new mommy body, but every time I see my son I’m reminded how much of a gift he is. I’m twenty seven now and I still don’t know my weight – I’ve discovered my limits.

Renee on

That was so meaningful to read. Menopause has wreaked havoc with my metabolism and weight resulting in my having a terrible body image. Thankfully my new husband thinks I’m a gorgeous goddess just as I am and encourages me to love myself as I am and to focus on health rather than weight.

lynn on

I NEVER comment on these things – LOVELY LOVELY words. And obviously a lovely woman – truly lovely from the inside. Thank you.

Charli on

Great pics and great blog! I appreciate her honesty. The writers of those other post pregnancy articles should take note. All the scrutinay and pressure placed on women isn’t fair.

Mandy on

I was one of those that didn’t gain a lot of weight during my pregnancy. All I heard was “You’re so tiny!” or something similar which made me feel like crap. I felt like people thought I wasn’t eating enough even though I gained the recommended weight for being pregnant.

I lost most of the weight pretty fast, but am still a little over what I was before I got pregnant & my daughter is almost 9 months old. I have been exercising, but only do it so I can be in shape, not a certain number on a scale. My daughter is a fast little sucker so I have to keep up with her. I also have wider hips that no exercise is going to make any different.

I think we all just need to stop the obsession with our bodies & focus on what is important.

Michelle on

I am 22 weeks pregnant right now and just starting to really embrace my bump. My sister in law is also pregnant at 35 1/2 weeks. When I was about 16 weeks (and had a pretty decent bump going on) she told me that I really didn’t look pregnant, that I looked like I had just had a big lunch. Nice…. I agree, too much emphasis is placed on our bodies, especially during pregnancy, when you have no control over your own person! Great article!

AG on

Well done! My son is almost eight months old and being pregnant really opened my eyes to how much our society scrutinizes pregnant women and new moms.

During my pregnancy, it got to the point where I would select my clothes very carefully in the morning in order to minimize comments at work. It was exhausting receiving constant feedback from all of my coworkers every time I had to walk down the hall to the bathroom. “You look great!” or “You’ve really gotten bigger in the last week!” or “You’re a lot smaller/bigger than so and so.”

One time, a woman stopped dead in her tracks and just said “WHOA!” I had enough by that point and actually asked her, in what universe is it socially acceptable to react to someone’s body like that?? She responded by saying I should “embrace” this time. She didn’t understand that I had no issue with my size, my issue was with the fact that everyone felt entitled to remark on my body CONSTANTLY.

Thank you so much for everything you said. I’ve always believed that the body is what carries us through life and should be respected as such. We should care for it and nurture it because its health enhances our journey through life. But our body ISN’T us. Taking pride or shame in it is a dangerous exercise.

Much love to you and your family!

Jenn on

Love this. And her. And her baby. What an intelligent woman – I’ll be reading more!

Eliza J. on

Thank you for this blog. As a woman who has never been pregnant but has been overweight since I was a child, I completely understand how unnerving it can be for people to comment on your size, offer diet tips, tell you how great you look if you lose a little weight, tell you how to get thin (without asking what you’ve tried), etc. I however never really thought about the things people say to pregnant women or new mothers (beyond touching the belly without asking and questions about breastfeeding…both of which are beyond rude).

My husband and I have been attempting to get pregnant for the last 5 years. For me, when I see a pregnant woman I am always in awe of how amazing her body is…it doesn’t matter her size; in my eyes she is just spectacular! So to all my pregnant sisters out there and new moms, know that you are beautiful and no matter what your body looks like, you are healthy, you are strong and your body has the capacity to create little miracles. I would give anything for someone to be able to comment on how huge my pregnant belly was or the opposite that I don’t look like I’m pregnant!

It’s all perspective; just know there are lots of women everywhere wishing they could have a belly just like yours! I will also be more sensitive to the fact that just because I am amazed that there is a life growing inside a woman; she doesn’t need me to remind her!

Jill on

By far this is my favorite posting by a Celebrity mom on People.com! Such a good perspective and food for thought! Elisa, your daughter will respect you for your intellect and ability to focus on the things that are important rather than those that make us more vain!

Jenni on

As someone that has long struggled with an eating disorder, I am inspired by you. If only there were more people out there that were like you, maybe our world would be a much less cruel place for our young gilrs and women to live in. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Erica on

Thank you so much Elisa! As somone who has also suffered from an eating disorder in the past and is still working through her self- acceptance issues, your blog really made my day!

Angela on

Fantastic Post!

sandy on

Yeesh! What a beautifully honest and direct analysis of the psychological and physiological ramifications of too much focus on the body: This near-thesis blog eloquently illustrates the diabolical cycle of second- (and third-) guessing that occurs when women, in particular, persist in tending to their outsides before their insides. Each and every detail of her experiences serves a purpose, so the blog has greater depth than most.

Thank you so much for your energy and time taken to write this.

Jennie on

Fantastic blog post, Elisa. I’ve never commented on any article/post on people.com before, but I wanted to commend you for your honesty and openness on this subject. Especially in the face of all of the more important subjects one could address post-birth – mainly, the amazing little person that suddenly consumes your every thought – it is strange how there’s so much focus on the body.

I admit to a heightened concern about weight gain during my pregnancy, partially due to my own history with an eating disorder, but I also tried to keep the focus on staying healthy (exercising, avoiding actually eating for two, etc.) I am a petite person, but my body has also changed post-pregnancy.

I’m also frustrated by people telling me that I “look the same” as I did pre-pregnancy, because I do not, and why should I? There are physical changes that happen during pregnancy that can be reversed. In any event, I’m happy to embrace a slightly larger pants size in exchange for my wonderful little boy.

Thank you for such a perfect post and congratulations on retaining such a healthy body image through pregnancy and birth.

Jenny on

What a beautiful post! Thank you so much for sharing.

Libby on

best blog EVER.

Jane on

Thank you so, so much. Being the mother of a 10 month old daughter myself, not only have I struggled with how I’m “supposed” to look now almost a year after giving birth, but also how I’m going to keep my daughter grounded, loving and accepting of herself and others someday.

Meredith on

I agree with the sentiment, but I wish people wouldn’t say your body will not and cannot go back to the way it was…I know plenty of women whose bodies go back to how they were prior to pregnancy. It just takes time…9 months on, 9 months off (or for me…more like 13 since it took weaning to lose the last 10 lbs). Should your body be the focus? No…but there’s really no reason to worry because if you take care of yourself, and have good genes, you will once again fit back into your jeans :)

Erin on

Well said. I appreciate your words as I recently gave birth. As a woman raising daughters, the task of highlighting their best attributes has nothing to do with their size, shape, or weight. In our home, creativity, joy, and intellect are celebrated. Thanks for expressing your thoughts!

Brenda on

Amen Sister! Beautiful, eloquent, and oh so wise… If only everyone women out there, could read this. Thank you!!

M on

Good Luck, you have described a perfect situation in a perfect world. Not going to happen. Sad comment I just made but not going to happen. Unless you child doesnt grow up or stays by your side every minute of the day forever. We live in such a horrible society for women. We are expected to be the “perfect” woman especially in body image. And all those horrible little girls starting in preschool, and especially in highschool will destroy your fantasy world for your daughter. I really hope you are sucessful. But I truly doubt it.

Anonymous on

I am 2 years post partum and still up 10-15 pounds and some days I care and somedays I think I want more Nutella, I have a two year old throwing a tantrum…Who cares what someone else looks like anyway. I have heard people talked about how ‘big’ I was when I was pregnant and I think Geez-us how bored can you be talking about who was huge while pregnant, I was making a person…who cares if I gained 50 lbs.

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