Alex Light: ‘I Wasn’t Prepared For Postpartum Weight Gain’

Exhausted and craving comfort as she adjusted to life with a baby, influencer Alex Light found herself struggling with her body image for the first time in years

Alex Light

by Grazia Contibutor |
Published on

I was prepared for pregnancy weight gain. In fact, I watched on with an almost detached awe and fascination as my body stretched and expanded to accommodate a growing human. Being pregnant was the most comfortable and at peace with my body that I’ve ever felt. But what I wasn’t prepared for? Postpartum weight gain.

Initially after giving birth, I very quickly dropped a lot of weight – most of it likely fluid as I was very swollen towards the end of my pregnancy and ultimately diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. Things felt different, of course – my C-section scar had left a stomach overhang and my boobs had changed shape – but two weeks after my son was born, my body felt like it was roughly back to my pre-pregnancy size.

I was aware of this mainly through others: my friends and family, having seen me swell during pregnancy, were quick to comment on my rapidly shrinking body. But I couldn’t care less about how I looked: I was deep in the newborn fog, consumed with taking care of a brand new, tiny human, recovering from a C-section, battling sleep deprivation and struggling with unrelenting waves of unfamiliar and powerful hormones. We also discovered that our son had a dairy allergy, which added an extra layer of intensity to those first few months.

Time passed, and I slowly emerged from the haze, which felt wonderful: we were settling into a semblance of a routine, sleep had improved and my hormones had somewhat levelled out. We started leaving the house more, and I began to put more effort into my appearance, which meant reaching for anything other than my trusty postpartum uniform of leggings and baggy jumper.

I knew people put on weight during pregnancy, of course, but after? That wasn’t a thing, was it? I’d never heard it being discussed, and subsequently, I felt embarrassed and alone.

This is when it dawned on me that I’d gained a significant amount of weight since giving birth. I hadn’t even noticed it happening, but I suddenly found myself unable to fit into anything I owned and looking at a body in the mirror that I just didn’t recognise. I was shocked – I knew people put on weight during pregnancy, of course, but after? That wasn’t a thing, was it? I’d never heard it being discussed, and subsequently, I felt embarrassed and alone.

It's probably a good time to tell you that I am a body image influencer, something that came about after a lifelong battle with eating disorders. I’ve spent years working on my own body image, documenting it on Instagram and striving to help others who are also struggling. I even wrote a book, called You Are Not A Before Picture, into which I poured as much help and guidance as I possibly could. It had been such a long time since I actively felt negatively about my body, thanks to all of this work that I’d done, that I – naively – considered myself immune to any future body image wobbles.

Yet here I was, suddenly finding myself in brand new territory, and I was confused.  I turned to my husband, who has always been an incredible source of support and had been instrumental in helping me finally battle my eating disorder demons. Externalising how I felt to him about my current situation helped me gain perspective almost immediately.

There is very little public discourse around gaining weight after pregnancy, but for lots of women, it’s inevitable. There are biological factors at play, like hormonal changes (particularly in women who are breastfeeding) and increased caloric intake or increased appetite from breastfeeding, as well as environmental factors, like a lack of sleep.

I didn’t breastfeed, I wasn’t able to, but I did turn to food as a coping mechanism during this mentally, emotionally and physically challenging time. Food has always been my way of coping and so it made sense that I was using it as a source of comfort, safety and control. I was also utterly exhausted, and constantly craving sugar – specifically in the form of almond croissants.

Postpartum life is wonderful, but it can also be really hard, and it makes me sad to think of how many women have to navigate postpartum weight gain feeling entirely alone because there just isn’t enough (if any?!) discussion around it. We need to understand and talk about the possibility that it may happen, in order to promote positive expectations of body image after pregnancy, as well as prepare women and reduce potential feelings of shame and embarrassment.

So here I am, telling you that it happens and it’s absolutely OK. I don’t know if my body will revert back to how it was or whether this is my new normal – but I know that both are fine. I am giving myself the compassion and grace to adjust to where motherhood takes me in all aspects of my life – including physically. I owe myself that.

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