Publishing post baby weight loss plans one day after birth is not OK, but who is to blame?

Concentrating on any woman's weight loss within a few days of birth is crass and piles on unnecessary pressure at a vital time for bonding with a newborn

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The Independent Online

As the nation, in joyous jubilation, celebrated the safe arrival of the royal baby, OK magazine was causing a stir all of its own.

"Kate's post baby weight loss regime" it declared proudly. And if that wasn't enough, the magazine had helpfully included a "Post baby Duchess diet and shape-up plan". Understandably, it set Twitter alight; the Duchess of Cambridge had given birth only one day before.

Television presenter and mother of two, Katy Hill, was one of the people leading the charge to boycott OK in protest. But who is really to blame for these headlines? You could argue that OK is giving its readers what they want - so should we be criticising the magazine or taking a closer look at ourselves first?

Let me say now that I do not think it is OK to raise the issue of weight loss so soon after birth. Official guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends GPs, nurses and health visitors discuss weight loss for the first time at the six-eight week postnatal check. That seems sensible, not least because it will give any new mother time to focus solely on her newborn and to bond. Concentrating on any woman's weight loss within a few days of birth is crass, piles on the (unnecessary) pressure and encourages an unrealistic view of woman's bodies - that they simply 'snap right back into shape' when it can actually take months and sometimes even years to achieve.

But is it our own fault, as an increasingly voyeuristic society, that such pressures exist? When we're not sharing the minutiae of our lives through social media or on blogs (and yes, I include myself here, having been writing my own parenting blog for nearly two years now), we devour news about celebrities and others in the public eye with an almost ravenous ferocity. We like it when they look fabulous and ‘glossy’ but love it when they don’t; we pore over the magazine articles about the latest celebrity to put on a few pounds, get an outlandish hairstyle or commit a fashion faux pas. We voice our opinions and judge them based on what we see.

It’s a world where ‘body beautiful’ still has a significant presence and unfortunately, it’s not going unnoticed. The number of people being diagnosed with an eating disorder has risen by 15 per cent since 2000, according to research by King’s College London and the UCL Institute of Child Health. And in 2009, a study led by the University of Sussex concluded that the use of ultra-thin and airbrushed models in advertising is causing a number of problems in young women, including eating disorders, depression, extreme exercising and encouraging cosmetic surgery.

Whatever the reason for OK’s lapse in judgment over publishing post baby weight loss regimes so soon after the royal birth, one thing remains obvious. Attitudes over body image need to change. The pressure to have a ‘perfect body’ is very real and felt by more than just those living life in front of a lens. As a society we need to fully embrace ‘real’ bodies and celebrate imperfections but that requires more than a change of magazine cover. We need an overhaul of our societal attitudes too.