Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Post-pregnancy fitness selfies: Why do they make us crazy?

By Kelly Wallace, CNN
updated 11:52 AM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
Fitness blogger Maria Kang rankled some when she posted this image online asking why others couldn't maintain physical fitness as she does, despite being a mom of three young children. Fitness blogger Maria Kang rankled some when she posted this image online asking why others couldn't maintain physical fitness as she does, despite being a mom of three young children.
HIDE CAPTION
Why the post-baby body rage?
Why the post-baby body rage?
Why the post-baby body rage?
Why the post-baby body rage?
Why the post-baby body rage?
Why the post-baby body rage?
Why the post-baby body rage?
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Recent post-pregnancy photos and selfies went viral and sparked outrage online
  • Photo by Maria Kang with caption "What's your excuse?" seen more than 16 million times
  • Some moms say the angry response is due to "post-baby body fatigue"
  • "We're really just hit over the head with this message," said one expert

Editor's note: Kelly Wallace is CNN's digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.

(CNN) -- Before you're outraged at yet another story on Maria Kang, the mom who sparked outrage with her scantily clad "What's your excuse?" photo, or Caroline Berg Eriksen, the fitness blogger who created a firestorm after posting a shot that she claimed was just four days after giving birth, hear me out.

This is not a story about them, why they did what they did, whether they are "fat-shaming" by posting the photos or how on Earth they have time to look like that as moms.

No, this is not about them: It's about us.

Why do those post-pregnancy fitness selfies and photos get under our skin so much? And if they make us so upset, why do we keep looking at them?

Kang's Facebook photo, where she shows off her washboard stomach alongside her three toddlers, has been seen more than 16 million times.

"I think it makes us crazy because you are either one of two people: You either have the resources and ability and time to work your booty off all through pregnancy and immediately afterward in order to have that body, or you're genetically blessed, and not many of us fall into those two camps," said Stephanie Dulli, a Washington mom of two young boys and founder of the blog Stephanie Says.

Dulli, who battled an eating disorder when she was younger, said part of the frustration comes from having to no longer just compete with the models and actresses who seem to bounce back immediately after giving birth. Now there's also pressure from other moms on social media.

Viral post-pregnancy pic takes heat
'Fit mom' vs. curvy girls
'Fit Mom': Backlash has been unfair

"It taps into a really seventh-grade place in us where we feel bad about ourselves," Dulli said with a chuckle, remembering what she described as the "You're pretty, so I'm ugly," mentality of middle school.

"It can just be hard to take, but I think it says more about me when I get upset about it than it does the person who posted the picture."

Claire Mysko, spokeswoman for the National Eating Disorders Association, says the vitriolic online response to these post-pregnancy photos stems from women who "have had it up to here with this post-baby body reveal business."

"I don't think it's helpful to shame individuals who post pictures of themselves ... but I understand the frustration, and I think it's coming from this post-baby body fatigue," said Mysko, co-author of the book "Does this Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat?"

"We're just really hit over the head with this message constantly that (losing weight) should be our priority as new mothers, and it's a really, really skewed way of looking at things."

'Pregorexia': Extreme dieting while pregnant

Maggie Baumann suffered from an extreme obsession with weight during her second pregnancy, battling what's become known as "pregorexia." She worries about the messages these photos might be sending to women and girls.

"It's not just moms looking at these pictures," said Baumann, of Newport Beach, California, who is now an eating disorder specialist and trauma therapist. "There are teens looking at these pictures thinking, 'OK, this is how I'm supposed to look after I have a baby.' ... It can start eating disorders."

Baumann says "99.99%" of women who give birth won't look like Berg Eriksen four days later, but a good chunk of those same women can't stop themselves from comparing their body with hers.

"We automatically compare," Baumann said. "When you see pictures like this, it's kind of like, 'So what's wrong with me? Why can't I do that?' "

The Pregnancy Hunger Games

Radio host and television personality Jenny Hutt, co-host of HLN's "Dr. Drew On Call," said the driving force for the upset is our own insecurities.

"It is the same insecurity that makes us look at other people's Facebook pages and wonder if our lives aren't measuring up," Hutt said.

"We compare because the people who look thinner, more gorgeous, happier, better engaged in their relationships ... highlight our own feelings of less-than."

Why can't we turn away?

If these post-pregnancy photos ultimately make us feel worse about ourselves, why don't we try to avoid them in the first place?

Instead of turning away from them, we seem to click on them, share them and comment on them.

CNN\'s Kelly Wallace talks to moms and body image experts about why post-pregnancy selfies get under our skin.
CNN's Kelly Wallace talks to moms and body image experts about why post-pregnancy selfies get under our skin.

"It's culturally ingrained in us that our worth is graded by our beauty," Dulli said. "The first thing that's said to us is 'Aren't you cute? Aren't you pretty?' "

When we get older, logically we realize that we are about more than our looks, Dulli said, although she concedes it's so easy to fall back into bad habits.

IReport: The girl in the mirror is my enemy

"It still can tap a chord in you. ... It floods the system, almost, and you can't think logically. You react emotionally, and I'm guilty of that as well."

Mysko said it's especially hard for women to shut out the images because they're "in our faces all of the time."

When or if the images start to make women ask themselves the question, "What's wrong with me? Because I don't look like that," Mysko recommends some mental refocusing.

"It's just constantly repeating to yourself, 'No, it's not me. It's this message, and I need to not absorb this,' " she said.

Stay in touch!
Don't miss out on the conversation we're having at CNN Living. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest stories and tell us what's influencing your life.

Why can we be so mean?

The backlash against Kang and Berg Eriksen was immediate and overwhelmingly negative from the start and is another example, in my humble opinion, of how nasty we women can be to each other.

"The biggest issue to me is the lack of honesty," said Hutt, the radio and television host and mom of two.

"If we own our own insecurities and doubts ... then maybe we will congratulate each other when there's an authentic win -- like a job promotion or a great (picture) in a bathing suit after giving birth, or even the win of the best body gene pool," she said.

She added this nugget, which I love: If we focus on what makes us unique, maybe the "instinct to be bitter about someone who has something (we) don't will dissipate."

Mysko says we can also do something else. The next time we're about to comment on someone's post-baby weight, we can shift the conversation.

"When you find yourself tempted to compliment somebody on how (they got) the baby weight off, just take a moment and stop yourself and think about what else you could ask about and something that might ... take it to a deeper level."

Follow Kelly Wallace on Twitter, and like CNN Living on Facebook.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:03 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
An Atlanta judge reportedly reprimanded an immigration attorney for bringing her 4-week-old to court for a hearing -- a hearing she asked the judge to reschedule because she was on her six-week maternity leave.
updated 4:18 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Monica Lewinsky tweeted for the first time. She called herself "patient zero" of cyber-bullying.
updated 3:43 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Meet Shyanne Roberts, a 10-year-old competitive shooter with something to prove: "Kids and guns don't always mean bad things happen."
updated 10:57 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
"Breaking Bad's" Walter White may have cleverly dodged authorities during his career as a drug kingpin, but his action figure hasn't dodged the wrath of a Florida mother.
updated 9:50 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
strawberry ghosts
We love Halloween season. Sweets. Sweaters. Sipping hot cider (maybe spiked). Halloween can certainly get you in the spirit, and nothing warms our hearts like these healthy Halloween treats that help you stay energized instead of stuck in a sugar coma.
updated 3:23 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Does your baby cry during long flights, causing you to want to disappear from the glares of fellow passengers?
updated 10:52 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ask any teen if they suffer from social media anxiety and they would probably tell you no. But the truth is getting "likes" and the fear of missing out are adding stress to teens' lives.
updated 9:13 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Many photographers have taken it upon themselves to document stillborn and terminal babies' precious moments after birth.
updated 3:46 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
As part of the insurance coverage offered to its female employees, Facebook is paying to freeze their eggs.
updated 2:15 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Amal Alamuddin was well-known in many important circles long before she snagged the world's most eligible bachelor. But Amal Alamuddin is now Amal Clooney, according to her law firm's website.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Trends in young adult fiction have shifted from wizards to glittering vampires to bloodthirsty "Hunger Games" and now, to teens coping with illnesses and realistic issues.
updated 8:56 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Before he died this year, 14-year-old Martin Romero wanted to do something for his community.
updated 6:33 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
A 12-year-old girl called Dick's Sporting Goods out on its lack of female athletes in the Basketball 2014 catalog.
updated 12:36 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Before he was even born, Shane Michael Haley had already met the Philadelphia Phillies, been to the top of the Empire State Building and shared a cheesesteak with his parents.
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014
I couldn't quite believe my eyes when I read the initial comments from Microsoft's CEO on how women who don't ask for raises will receive "good karma."
updated 10:02 AM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014
A photo series "From the NICU to the Moon" imagines premature babies in future professions with a series of imaginative doodles.
updated 1:33 PM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014
Jessica Dunne and her father Michael P. Dunne
"I don't think anyone is ready for grief. But when it hits you, it knocks you out cold," Jessica Dunne wrote after the sudden loss of her father.
updated 10:09 AM EDT, Thu October 9, 2014
Most moms will say they long for a day when moms stop criticizing one another, but most of us are guilty of tearing each other down.
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
When we think of terminal cancer patients, we don't imagine Brittany Maynard -- 29, vigorous, happy. But she will soon take a handful of pills that will end her life.
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Wed October 8, 2014
"Back in my day, we used to walk five miles uphill, carrying all our books in the blistering cold and the pouring rain..." Some schools have found a new way to making walking to school safer -- and more fun.
updated 10:02 AM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
The death of a New Jersey boy, the first health officials are directly linking to Enterovirus D68, has parents wondering whether school is the worst place to send kids susceptible to the virus.
updated 10:22 AM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
It's a heartbreaking time for three families, football teams and communities after three players died last week. Investigations are under way, but some parents are wondering, is the sport safe for children?
updated 1:26 PM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
Here's what some schools are doing to create welcoming environments for transgender and gender nonconforming children.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
Nothing could prepare this mom-to-be for what she learned at her first ultrasound.
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A 15-year-old British schoolboy has struck a chord with his eloquent response to actress Emma Watson's United Nations speech encouraging men to join in the fight for gender equality.
cnn, parents, parenting, logo
Get the latest kid-related buzz, confessions from imperfect parents and the download on the digital life of families here at CNN Parents.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT