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Weighing in on Eriksen’s Instagram Debate

December 9, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, Caroline Berg Eriksen posted the following picture on Instagram:

eriksen

She captioned the picture “I feel so empty, and still not — 4 days after birth.”

This picture prompted quite a bit of argument – with some claiming that Eriksen was promoting the idea that women need to lose weight, while others claimed that Eriksen was just showing off a body she was proud of, and possibly promoting her body for her fitness blog. So I thought it would be fitting to talk about this controversy on my fitness blog.

I find the picture interesting, because I would not know, or even guess, that the model had recently been pregnant, if I was not explicitly told. I also have a feeling that most people have the same response that I did when they first view the photo: head tilts to the left, eyes narrow, and the questions: “Really? 4 days?” pop out of the mouth without even thinking.

Then, my mind turned to the safety of losing a large amount of weight that quickly.

Is it possible to drop the baby weight that quickly? Apparently, yes. Is it recommended or expected for a new mother to drop any added baby weight that quickly? Definitely not.

Caroline Berg Eriksen is a fitness blogger. Fitness consumes her life; it is her work, it is her passion, to a degree that other people, women or otherwise, do not need to duplicate. Fitness is important, but that does not mean that it needs to be all that you think about. Since Eriksen does devote a rather large amount of time to thinking about her fitness, however, her body is more likely to “bounce back” from giving birth than someone who does not devote as much time to thinking about fitness.

We all have different bodies, and that is okay. It is health that is more important than being thin. And for new moms, it is not recommended to begin exercising again until six weeks after giving birth – maybe four weeks, with the permission of your doctor. Maybe. There are so many things to learn as a new, bonding mother, that losing weight should not be anywhere in your mind. A lot of the pregnancy weight gain will drop, anyway, without any conscious thought being involved. But weight loss doesn’t matter. Drinking enough water, breastfeeding your baby, if at all possible, trying to remain rested, these things are so much more important than weight loss.

In Eriksen’s defense, it is recommended for a woman to remain physically active, and eat as healthy as possible, while pregnant. If a woman is living by these healthful standards, then she will not gain as much weight while pregnant, nor will she have as much trouble losing the pregnancy weight after the baby is born. Yet all pregnancies are different, as well. Many women cannot exercise very much, or need to stay on bed rest. And even if you are capable of exercising regularly, if you have a day when you lay on the couch all day watching reality television, is that understandable? Definitely. Healthy living is important, but we all have different needs at different times.

Thinking along this track brings me, again, to Eriksen’s caption. I’m not sure I really understand what she is saying. “I feel so empty, and still not…” Having had a child myself, I understand that your feel oddly light when you are no longer carrying your baby in your womb. It is the “still not” that I am unsure of the meaning. Does she mean that she still has more weight to lose? Does she mean that it is fulfilling to have her child out in the world? So while she has physically become more “empty,” her heart is full of love for her baby? I hope that it is the latter interpretation. If it is the former, then that interpretation is a sign of an unhealthy state of mind.

Mental health is just as important as physical health. In fact, it is difficult to possess physical health without mental health. If you are not happy with your body, then it can be difficult to accurately gauge how much of an effect healthy habits have.

Does it really matter if Eriksen was trying to make other mothers feel inferior? No. At the same time, I don’t necessarily think that Eriksen had that objective in mind. She had lost at least a large portion of the baby weight she had put on, and she was probably feeling proud of that weight loss, viewing it as affirmation that the things she blogs and thinks about are creating beneficial results. The important lesson from this incident is to remember that your health is more important than anything. This lesson includes your mental health. Someone can only make you feel inferior if you let them. But you are your most beautiful when you are your most healthy, and if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, you don’t need to listen.

And if Eriksen’s objective in posting this picture was to increase readership, then she certainly succeeded. Since this picture was posted, traffic to her website has doubled.

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