Jessica Simpson has never shied away from being herself, even if that means laughing along with those who are laughing at her.
She made a name for herself in the 2000’s as a pop star and then later on her reality show Newlyweds when she hilariously asked her then-husband Nick Lachey, “Is this chicken what I have, or is this fish?” as she ate from a bowl of tuna.
Earlier this year, Jessica had pregnant women everywhere cheering for her as she shared the struggles she was going through with her third pregnancy. She documented pregnant life on her Instagram account, sharing photos that included the toilet seat she broke, the inverted chair she slept on because she was sick from acid reflux, and her extremely swollen ankles. She kept it very real, which is more than can be said for the majority of celebrities (except you, Amy Schumer!).
Jessica had her baby girl Birdie Mae in March of this year. Then, on September 24, the mom posted a photo of herself six months postpartum. The singer-turned-fashion-designer captioned the photo by saying,
“6 months. 100 pounds down (Yes, I tipped the scales at 240 😜) My first trip away from #BIRDIEMAE and emotional for many reasons, but so proud to feel like myself again. Even when it felt impossible, I chose to work harder.”
The problem with this celebratory update is that it’s a promotion of diet culture and it can easily serve as a “goal” or “inspiration” to women who are pregnant or recently had babies. In fact, this isn’t the first time Jessica has promoted diet culture as a means to drop the baby weight. After the birth of her first child, Jessica signed a $4Million deal to serve as the Weight Watchers (now known as WW) spokesperson — but she became pregnant with baby number two and had to bow out of the deal.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight or celebrating the work you’ve put into yourself. However, targeting the pre- and postpartum audience with diet culture is dangerous. Every year, about 600,000 women report and are treated for postpartum depression, and those who have previous mood disorders (including eating disorders) are 30-35% more likely to develop postpartum depression. Additionally, research has shown that there is a direct relationship between women with pre- and post-baby body image dissatisfaction and perinatal and postpartum depression.
New moms are dealing with raging hormones, exhaustion, are lucky if they even get a real meal on any given day, and are responsible for keeping a tiny human alive. They’ve taken on a difficult and draining role and have to adapt. On top of that, their body is likely very different than it was prior to pregnancy and they have to find a way to come to terms with it. To say that new moms should be handled with care and compassion is an understatement.
Still, new moms are constantly hearing stories of other women who “bounced back” right after they delivered their baby and many feel immense pressure to “get their body back” as soon as possible. This discouraging narrative is a result of diet culture because the reality is that it takes most women nine months (or more) to drop their baby weight, assuming they are even able to lose it all.
Between the pressure to be the perfect Pinterest mom and the unrealistic expectation to lose weight at an unhealthy rate, new moms can’t seem to win. It’s no wonder so many women feel like they don’t measure up.
Jessica Simpson isn’t the first celebrity to indirectly (or directly) promote diet culture to this vulnerable group of women, and sadly, she probably won’t be the last. In order to put a stop to these promotions, the narrative of what the “ideal” mom looks and acts like needs to change across the board. The veteran moms need to look out for the newbies by showing the reality of motherhood, not just the “after” shots and the staged highlight reel.
There needs to be comradery and honesty among women in the trenches of motherhood so they know they are not alone, and that despite what society is telling them they are beautiful, great moms.
READ THIS NEXT
Feature photo: Jessica Simpson / Instagram
Aside from being a writer, Ashley is a mom of two girls and a wife to a passionate public school administrator. When she does have free time (cue laughter from working moms everywhere) she loves going to hot yoga classes, watching anything on Netflix that isn’t a cartoon, and weaving her way through every aisle of Target while listening to one of her favorite podcasts.