Submitted by Heidi Tash, TEP Dietetic Intern
Over the last year there have been several commercials and magazine articles praising the ability of celebrity women to lose weight fast post pregnancy. Jenny Craig sponsors Mariah Carey and Scary Spice, Weight Watchers signed deals with Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Hudson and magazines like US Weekly have paid for bikini clad stars like Kourtney Kardashian to grace their cover. These ads and articles, aimed at all woman of child baring age, incorrectly project the message that the size of one’s body after giving birth defines one’s ability as a mother.
It is amazing the ways in which the body can adapt and change, to create and care for a new life. True part of this process does involve fluctuation in body weight, but this is a beautiful and natural part of pregnancy that should be honored and accepted. It’s upsetting to think that our society has neglected that which should be respected and instead honors the message projected to young women that a certain body is required to be a good parent. It could be argued that at its core the message is intended to be a positive one, “be healthy for your baby”; but the way it’s delivered creates the underlying innuendo of “be thin and you will be a better mother and role model.” The women in these ads and articles are not depicted as healthy and nurturing but instead are frequently pictured in tight clothes or swim suits and displayed as sex symbols glorifying their extreme weight loss.
Ads and articles like these create unrealistic expectations for real mothers. Pressure to be thin can lead to distorted weight gain goals while pregnant, and unrealistic weight loss expectations post partum. Having a baby is rewarding and exhausting all at the same time. New mothers should be focusing their energy on their mental and physical wellbeing, as well as that of their children and family, not consuming themselves with thoughts about dieting and body image. Ideally this type of media is designed to elicit feelings of happiness, connectedness, and success. In reality they most likely lead to feelings of failure and insecurity as women struggle to live up to distorted societal expectations. It is time the media, marketers and spokeswomen rethink ads and articles like these and honestly reevaluate the message being conveyed.