Dismantling Snapback Culture in Motherhood

Snapback culture says 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. It is rooted in diet culture and patriarchy. It’s time to dismantle snapback culture.

By Dr. Lisa Folden, PT

What is Snapback Culture?

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.

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.

- Dr. Lisa Folden

Why is Snapback Culture Harmful?

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. 

How Do We Dismantle Snapback Culture?

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.

 

  • First, we can stop participating in it. Sounds simple, but it’s not. In order to do this, we  need to abolish the thought process in our minds that tells us thinner is better. We need  to establish a more weight neutral approach to life. When we begin to see fluctuations  in weight as a neutral (not moral) phenomenon, there is no urgency to lose weight or  get back to any body at any time.  

 

  • Next, we have to stop comparing ourselves to others. Many people fail to acknowledge  this, but body size and weight are heavily controlled by genetics. We have only slightly  more control (and I mean slightly) over our body weight than we do our shoe size or  height. Understanding this makes it futile and unnecessary to even consider buying in to  a fitness plan for postpartum moms to “blast the fat” and look like your favorite  influencer on social media. It makes no sense to set body goals, especially from another  person’s body, because genetically, they are nothing like you and vice versa.  Comparison is the thief of joy and contentment. Stop wasting your joy & peace on self loathing from comparisons. 

 

  • Lastly, we have to speak up. Call out the BS, when you see it, when you read it, when  you hear it. Specifically and especially when the rhetoric is directed at you. Let people  know that you have no intentions of engaging in diet or snapback talk. Your body is  doing what it should when it should and your only job is to feed it, move it, love it and  use it to bond with your new baby. Let them know you’re no longer beating your body  into submission for some external glory that’s not even worth the hype (speaking from  experience, here). Dissociate yourself from it by unfollowing or muting social media  accounts that make you feel bad about your body (that is not motivation, I promise) and  curate a feed (online & in real life) that normalizes all sized bodies living, loving and  being free.  

 

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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