In late September, Jessica Simpson posted a divisive photo to Instagram. The 39-year-old, who gave birth to her third child in March, was looking slim in a form-fitting, belted black dress.
“6 months. 100 pounds down (Yes, I tipped the scales at 240),” the caption read. “So proud to feel like myself again. Even when it felt impossible, I chose to work harder.”
The post has garnered more than 618,200 likes and effusive praise from fans and fellow stars, including Katie Couric and January Jones. But it’s gaining critics, too — particularly, health experts who worry that Simpson’s transformation sets an unrealistic, potentially unhealthy model for new mothers.
“She is the perfect example of someone who has a lot of resources — baby sitters, trainers, nutritionists — to help her lose weight,” says Rekha Kumar, an endocrinologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian. “But the reality is that most women who are cleared to exercise at six weeks haven’t even figured how to get out of their homes with a newborn.”
While new moms have long faced pressure to squeeze back into their skinny jeans, “it’s gotten worse” with social media, says Kumar. She’s had patients request weight-loss medications within a month of giving birth, citing Instagram posts from women who swiftly returned to their pre-baby weight.
Such images led Manhattanite Jocelyn Steiber, 33, to take a social-media hiatus after her daughter, Ashton, was born in March 2018. Steiber estimates that she gained about 30 to 35 pounds while pregnant (the CDC says a normal-weight woman should gain 25 to 35 pounds in pregnancy), and wanted to avoid seeing images of other mothers rapidly slimming down.
“I saw new moms around me bounce back into their old routines and had no idea how they could do it,” Steiber, who goes by @ChicAndSweaty on Instagram, tells The Post. “I was physically and mentally drained. My body still felt like it went to war — and I had a regular birth with no stitches. It took all my energy to get out of bed, to keep up with the constant breastfeeding, to just be with my little one.”
The fitness fanatic and influencer expected to run back to the gym after her doctor cleared her for exercise six weeks postpartum, but instead found she’d lost interest by that point. Six months after giving birth, she had a freakout in a dressing room trying on lingerie.
“My thighs were filled with cellulite, my breastfeeding boobs looked lopsided, my face looked drained and my hair thin,” she says. “I felt completely unsexy in that moment and hated my new body.”
It took 10 months and a slow reintroduction to her fitness routine, but Steiber eventually lost the weight she gained while pregnant. Still, she says feeling comfortable in her new body is an ongoing challenge.
“I have had to learn to love the new me,” she says. “I’m still self-conscious about what breastfeeding has done to my chest.” When negative voices in her head start in, she tries to focus on the fact that “my daughter and I are both healthy and that my husband still finds me attractive — or so he says.”
On her own Instagram, she tries to be honest with her 34,000 followers about her struggles and gravitates toward others who do the same.
“I now choose to follow women who chronicle realistic postpartum and motherhood experiences, such as Sarah @thebirdspapaya,” she says, “instead of the superfit showoff type of women.”
Jada Shapiro, a Brooklyn-based doula and founder of Boober, an on-demand postpartum support service, wishes more woman would share Steiber’s attitude.
“I’d love to see us shift into understanding that we have a new version of our body,” she says.
Sarah Kostyukovsky, the owner of Mom in Balance New York, an outdoor workout club, agrees.
“We should be telling women that they look great as a new mom as opposed to making it about fitting back into their pre-pregnancy jeans,” she says.
At least some celebs are bringing a dose of high-profile honesty. Amy Schumer, who had a baby in May, cheekily commented on Simpson’s Instagram post with her own postpartum experience.
“Well i’ve lost 10 pounds and 100 dollars to my sister playing poker,” the comedian said. “#Norush.”