By Rebecca Drew
THIS MUM is celebrating her incredible post-baby stretch marks and curves after seeing photoshopped mums on social media to combat the pressure on mothers to snap back into shape but has been told she is promoting an ‘unhealthy lifestyle’ and that she will never find love by trolls – despite being married to her high school sweetheart.
Stay at home mother, Kristyn Dingman (27) from Peoria, Arizona, USA, struggled with body image in her teens and always felt like the biggest of her friends. Constantly comparing herself to her friends and airbrushed women in magazines and on TV, Kristyn felt ashamed of her body and would always cover up in the Arizona heat.
When Kristyn and her high school sweetheart husband, Jeremy (27) found out they were expecting a baby in 2017, her shame towards her body turned to awe as she saw how much her body can change. After the birth, she learnt to love herself for keeping her son, Benjamin who is now 16-months-old, safe during pregnancy and stopped worrying about how she looked.
With so many women unable to have children, Kristyn felt lucky to have been able to experience pregnancy herself, viewing her body as a gift, not something that is just to be superficially looked at.
After seeing photoshopped pictures of new mums on Instagram, Kristyn decided to post incredible pictures showing her post-baby stretch marks and curves to show other mums that it’s ok to not conform with societal pressures. Before her pregnancy, Kristyn wore a UK size eight jean and weighed 10st 7lb and now she wears a size 12 and weighs 12st.
Despite working hard to empower women, Kristyn has been subjected to comments from people who tell her she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle and that she will never find love, despite being married. The positive messages she receives outweigh the negatives and only spurs Kristyn on to celebrate that she doesn’t look like everyone else.
“Out of my group of friends, I was the biggest. As a teen, I worked in retail stores that were popular for young boys and girls and I always felt as if I couldn’t wear most of the items I was selling. I constantly compared myself to the people on TV or the women on magazine covers and wondered why I didn’t look like them or why I wasn’t as pretty as they were,” said Kristyn.
“I was insecure and always felt like I was being judged by my looks. As long as I can remember, I was always stepping on a scale to see what the numbers read or compared my waist size to my friends. Living in Arizona, it is hot here and being in shorts and a tank top is regular.
“Even when it was 115 degrees outside, I was still wearing jeans to cover my body. I always had curves and thought they were something to be ashamed of.
“I could physically see my body changing so much and convinced myself that postpartum depression was going to be my new reality. I had a completely opposite reaction to my postpartum body.
“I have learned to love myself and the body that gave my son a home for nine months. I was more fascinated with my body’s capabilities than worrying about how I looked. I saw my stretch marks as a symbol of strength and power. I saw all these changes as positive rather than negative.
“Being called a mother is one of the most rewarding and honourable titles to obtain. Becoming a mother has changed my perception of my body by allowing me to focus on what’s most important. I see my new body as a reflection of my journey into motherhood. It might sound cliché, but motherhood is hard work.
“Nothing can prepare you for the role and I am able to see just how hard my body had to work to make one of the greatest gifts I could ever receive. On one end, there are women who hate their new mum bodies and on the other hand there are women who would do anything to have the experience. I am so grateful for the opportunity to experience pregnancy and for that I see my body as a gift.
“I was so sick of seeing these women post about their motherhood journey being so perfect. I was tired of seeing these women post photos of their postpartum bodies being photo shopped. I wanted to see real and raw mothers who were going through the same things I was going through.
“I wanted to find others I could relate to because motherhood can be very lonely at times. So I decided to be my own support and in turn I could be another persons’ support. I was so sick of being down about how I looked. I had been doing this for years and it never got me anywhere.
“I started to think that maybe there is an opportunity here for me to switch my mindset. I am unique because I don’t look like everyone else. I don’t look like those girls on tv or magazine covers and that’s something to celebrate. These ‘flaws’ that others may see are really unique characteristics about me and my beauty. I celebrate the fact that I don’t look like everyone else.”
Kristyn spoke about the reaction she receives on social media and how she deals with this.
“Ninety-eight per cent of the reactions I receive are encouraging and supportive. I have people from all over the world telling me their stories or sharing the gratitude for what I am showing on social media,” she said.
“There are those few that feel that I am encouraging an ‘unhealthy lifestyle’. I have had people tell me that I will never truly be happy because of my body or tell me that I will not find love, even though my high school sweet heart loves every curve of my body.
“It’s hard to hear these things at times because I am a human being with feelings and I can’t always ignore the messages. But the love I get outweighs the negative and I am so grateful for the out pour of support I have on social media. They are the real reason I keep going and move forward.
“I want to give anyone the positive reinforcement that their changing bodies are a beautiful thing. We should not feel shamed by society’s standard of beauty. We get to make our own definition of beauty. We get so much pressure to bounce back after childbirth to our pre-pregnancy bodies and I can’t stand it.
“To this day, I get messages from strangers about how I can lose the baby weight and get fit again. I have no desire to ‘lose the baby weight’. I like the baby weight and the stretch marks my body has after pregnancy. They are a reflection of my experiences that I never want to go away.”
Finally, Kristyn shared her words of advice to other mums and discussed how she navigates her down days.
“I couldn’t be more confident in my own body. I never thought I would be at this point in my life, but I am here. Again, it takes a lot of practice and continuous work to keep me in a good place,” she said.
“I absolutely have bad days. The best way for me to bounce back from the bad days is to surround myself with productivity. This could be done by chatting with a few of my other fellow body positive girls, spending time with my amazing husband and son or I run to the store and grab a donut.
“The hardest part about my body positive journey would be the constant fight of comparing myself to others. It’s one of the hardest things to overcome. I find that I always am looking for inspiration in others but I tend to compare what I am doing to what others are doing. I question myself a lot and know this is something I need to work on as I continue my journey.
“Stop standing in the mirror and asking yourself which part of your body you would alter first. The only things that needs to alter is societies standards of beauty.
“All of our bodies are good bodies and you are worthy of so much in this crazy world. Be proud of the body you have because you are enough and deserve to be loved for who you are and not what your jean size says.”