What exactly is ‘Snapback culture?’
If you’re fortunate enough not to know, good for you…or maybe you live under a rock? Either way, you’re probably better off.
Just kidding, but snapback culture is definitely not something you’re missing out on. It is essentially a derivative of diet culture and the concept is that after having a baby, a woman should somehow and immediately “snapback” into her previous body or possibly even a “better” (read: thinner and/or more toned) body.
For many mothers, this theory sounds harmless and therefore, the ultimate snapback is often a goal whether spoken or not. But why? Why is it seemingly so important for a woman who nurtured, grew, and birthed a child over the course of 40 weeks, to work toward her pre-baby body as soon as she’s cleared for exercise? Well, the answer is nuanced, but it is rooted mostly in diet culture and patriarchy. Women, though complex and full of great gifts and accomplishments, are often reduced down to one thing…their looks. Their value is derived from or at least heavily impacted by the way they look. If their look is pleasing (in general terms) to the majority of (male) society, then they are considered more valuable. If not, they are considered less. We know from history, research studies and personal experience, that women in larger or fat bodies are typically considered less attractive, less beautiful and therefore, less valuable.
In reality, we know that the way a person looks says absolutely nothing about their worth, value, knowledge or contributions, but we also realize that the less societally acceptable a person is, the more negative treatment they receive. So then, of course mothers want to snapback and be thin after having a baby. The world marvels at the large belly when there is a baby inside of it, but once that baby is out, the belly is regarded with disdain and disgust. No one wants to feel those feelings from themselves or others, so we do our best to snapback.
A lot of people would argue that this focus on losing weight and returning to the pre-baby body is healthy and will lead to positive health changes for mothers. But I don’t buy it. As a matter of fact, I believe (and current research has shown) that the more we focus on size, weight and fat, the unhealthier we become. The more diets we try, the more our weight cycles, the harder our heart works and the more likely we are to die from heart disease. The more time we spend seeking weight and body changes, the less time we spend focusing on health markers that actually matter (like blood pressure, cholesterol, endurance, flexibility, mobility, mental health, etc.) and when the weight stops tracking down, we are less likely to continue on any fitness plan.
So, what do we do to dismantle this false god and shrine to snapping back after having a baby? You guessed it…. it’s nuanced. It will require systemic changes addressing racism and white supremacy, patriarchy and sexism, fat phobia and weight stigma and so many other demons in society, but there are some very tangible steps that each of us can take to reduce our involvement in destructive snapback culture.
At the end of the day, we all deserve the freedom to live, love and BE. We should walk in authenticity fulfilling our purposes and enjoying life along the way. These goals are not remotely impacted by our stretch marks, extra skin, belly fat, cellulite, saggy breasts or whatever else we have gained along the journey of motherhood. These attributes tell a story, one that I hope has not just a happy ending, but a happy beginning and middle as well. The sooner we walk away from diet culture, snapback culture and anything else holding our lives hostage, the better off we, and as a result, this world, will be.
Dr. Lisa N. Folden is a licensed physical therapist and mom-focused lifestyle coach. As a movement expert and women’s health advocate, Dr. Lisa works to help busy moms find their ‘healthy.’ The owner of Healthy Phit Physical Therapy & Wellness Consultants in Charlotte, NC, Dr. Folden works with clients recovering from orthopedic and neurological injuries. Additionally, she assists busy moms seeking a healthier lifestyle by guiding their food, exercise and wellness choices through optimal organization, planning strategies and holistic goal setting.
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