Welcome back to Real Moms Real Bodies! I am so excited to share Rabiya’s story today. Rabiya is a rockstar working mom (she’s a dietitian) who faces life’s challenges with a fierce attitude. We met in our internship class and I’ve been lucky to keep in touch with her. I’m thrilled to feature her in the series and I hope you enjoy reading her story.
Check out Rabiya’s Facebook page for recipes, body positivity, tales of feeding kids and more.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family and your lifestyle.
My name is Rabiya Dharsi-Bower and I am a registered dietitian working in a grocery store. I have an inquisitive four-year-old daughter, a husband, a rambunctious German Shepard and a daughter in Heaven. We are a two parents working full-time household, with lots of co-curricular activities, both for our daughter and ourselves. My husband is a physical education teacher who loves to coach and play baseball in adult leagues. When I’m not working, I can be found wandering Target aimlessly (by myself), getting my nails done (by myself) or traveling to my alma mater, Penn State, to visit my best friend and participate in my college’s mentoring program. We are busy and on the go, but make sure to plan down time as a family at least once a week.
Tell us about your relationship with food and your body pre-baby.
Oh, my pre-baby body – how I hated it! It was never small or thin enough for me. I would get into cycles of binging and restricting my food, based solely on my emotions and the social situation I was in. While I had rigid concepts of “good” and “bad” food, I never shied away from any it. I also have type 1 diabetes, so my relationship with food was not a healthy one. I knew if I didn’t manage my diabetes properly, I could lose weight quickly – and I did.
And now? How would you describe the changes you’ve experienced in your body after having a baby?
After pregnancy, I am AMAZED by my body. I am in awe that it created my daughter. I am surprised she arrived with no health complications. After a rough start, I was able to successfully breastfeed my daughter until 14 months – I nourished her for that long!
I won’t lie: I was a miserable pregnant woman. I had nausea my entire pregnancy, acne, all sorts of aches and pains…but I delivered a baby and managed my diabetes well enough to create my wonderful daughter.
I never thought I could birth a child, so the cosmetic symptoms of pregnancy, like acne and stretch marks, didn’t bother me. I was just happy I was progressing through pregnancy as normal as possible.
Immediately post pregnancy, I was too focused on healing from my C-section and establishing nursing. I ending up losing the baby weight through nursing, but I wasn’t thinking about it.
Especially because I have a daughter, I try to maintain a body positive and weight neutral atmosphere at home. Diet culture is so pervasive and toxic, so I want to shield her from that as much as possible. Now that I can see all the negative ways it has affecting me growing up, I want much better for her. I’ve stopped saying things like, “I feel fat,” or commenting on other people’s bodies entirely.
What about changes to your schedule and the stresses of being a parent? How do you think these changes have impacted your body?
Pre-baby, I ate on the fly – whatever I wanted and whatever was convenient. I was also an emotional eater. If I was bored, sad, stressed, I would eat. Usually chocolate.
Having a child forces me into a schedule in the best way. My daughter usually only acts out if she’s tired or hungry, so I have to make sure I have the appropriate food to feed her. It’s impacted my body positively. Since I pay attention to her hunger cues, I’ve started paying attention to my own and responding properly.
I try to practice a philosophy of gentle parenting, so snapping out because I’m hungry doesn’t fit into that framework. I’m also a firm believer that a good mother is a happy mother, so I have to take care of myself first. Whether that’s my alone time or eating well, I can’t expect my daughter to make good choices for herself if I don’t model that behavior for her.
In terms of stress, I still emotionally eat sometimes – I just recognize it and don’t feel guilty about it. I also realize that chocolate cake won’t actually fix my problems, but it does taste good! I can better judge when I feel full and stop eating.
How did you/do you cope with the changes?
The biggest change for me was mental. If something isn’t acceptable enough for my daughter, why was it good enough for me? Whether it’s the negative self-talk or restricting food, I don’t want to model that behavior for her. I still have to remind myself to stop the body hate self-talk, but I’m doing it less often and recognize it more quickly.
Would you share a few pictures of yourself post-baby and tell us how you feel about them?
Doing this exercise I realized I think I look best in the photos when I’m truly happy – with friends or family. I may not have on makeup or dressed well, but I feel happy and have happy memories.
There are some photos I dislike where I’m dressed up and wearing makeup, but maybe I felt anxious or insecure about the situation or my outfit. I may look good in the photo, but maybe I don’t feel good internally.
For example, I think I look “good” in my pre-baby photo, but I was so uncomfortable – my skirt was too tight and kept coming unzipped!
What do you want to share with other postpartum women?
Please be kind to yourself. This idea of your body “bouncing back” is made up by diet culture. It took you 10 months to grow that baby! You’ll need much more time to feel like yourself – and you may never feel or look like your pre-baby self. Finally, if you wouldn’t want someone making those comments about your child, why would you say them to yourself?