If you’re not already familiar with Danae Mercer Ricci, she’s essentially the biggest ray of sunshine on social media: the self-love influencer’s account spreads positivity to her 2.3 million followers, tackling unrealistic body standards, exposing how damaging filters are, and more recently, she’s been sharing pregnancy and postpartum updates.
Since giving birth to her daughter, Aurora, in January earlier this year, Danae has been documenting every step of her beautiful journey, and whilst the response has mostly been nothing but love, unfortunately she’s also received a small number of upsetting (and entirely uncalled for) opinions when it comes to her post-birth fitness routine. Namely, from people who feel it’s okay to ‘mum shame’ her for wanting to exercise after having recently given birth.
Never one to shy away from a potentially thorny conversation, Danae took to Instagram to address one particular comment that landed in her DMs, by uploading a gorgeous reel of her cradling little Aurora, including short video clips showing her taking part in various exercises. It was captioned: I got a DM the other day: ‘Why are you training postpartum? Are you that desperate to lose weight? You’re supposed to be about body positivity. Such a fake 🤢’.
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“It made me so sad that we’ve somehow reduced exercise into an unpleasant chore done simply to shrink or ‘fix’ our bodies,” the new mother pointed out.
Danae hasn’t been the only woman to receive comments like this either, fellow influencer Molly-Mae Hague has also been victim to online judgement after she posted a video of her exercising three weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Bambi. But why do people seem to think it’s acceptable to judge a new parent for their decision to exercise, in any capacity?
Speaking to Cosmopolitan UK about this, Danae highlighted that there’s a huge amount of pressure on women to ‘bounce back’ post-birth. And, with diet culture corrupting our idea of movement, well, exercise sadly gets roped into that equation too. “It becomes really easy to see any woman exercising postpartum, and think she must be doing it because she wants to ‘bounce back’,” Danae said. “And then the anger gets all confused. Instead of being angry at diet culture, we find ourselves angry at moms who are exercising for whatever reason of their own.”
The new mum also tells us that her drive for fitness goes beyond vanity and has been a crucial tool for her mental health, something it appears trolls have glossed over. “For me, exercise is hugely mental,” she confirms. “ I was so lucky with an easy pregnancy and an easy birth. But I’ve had some health issues since the baby arrived, and they’ve really rocked me mentally. Exercise has been my way to lean back into myself – to help me feel strong, relaxed, or even simply switch off for 20 minutes here and there.”
Danae adds that she phased back into fitness around two weeks after giving birth through the Bloom Method’s ‘fourth trimester rehab’ programme – a guided fitness routine specified to postnatal mums – which she says involves a lot of deep core breathing, gentle core squeezing.
“The whole time, I listened to my body,” Danae said. “As I started feeling stronger, I started adding more moves. Just trying to honour my body each step of the way. Giving birth is a huge physical marathon and everything is different after. It’s important to listen to that.”
But despite the confusion and ‘concerned’ comments, she still believes there’s “a lot of genuine love” and real “concern” from mums who are simply wanting to protect others. So, maybe it’s not always about nasty online trolling?
“Perhaps some of the tension around postpartum exercise goes back to what we are battling ourselves, all mixed in with the heavy ridiculous pressure that society puts on new moms to look a certain way,” Danae tells us. “We’re all struggling through it in our own ways, and dealing with our own battles that are almost too complex to talk about. For me, breastfeeding became really difficult. Right now, I really can’t read posts about breastfeeding without being a bit sad. It’s not because of those moms, it’s because I wanted that thing so much, and I couldn’t do it.”
But how do we change this idea in general that exercise is only done for superficial reasons, whether you’re postpartum or not? Danae thinks it begins with how we talk about exercise, explaining it’s totally fine to have fitness goals that are mental, physical or aesthetic based – it’s all personal preference, and nobody has the right to judge another for that.
“I think it’s really empowering when we start to think of exercise in terms of what we can gain, instead of what we can lose,” she shares. “When we look at it as adding, as a joy, as a celebration, instead of as a punishment, as suffering, as shrinking… I don’t work out to make up for what I ate. I work out to celebrate how strong and powerful my body is, and I eat to fuel better workouts. It’s a simple language shift, but it changes exercise from a ‘bad’ into a ‘good’.”
Her advice is to simply listen to your body. “If you hate running? Don’t run. Try zumba or swimming or mastering that pushup. If you hate yoga? Ok, don’t do yoga. Try a spin class or a walk outside. And if you’re tired? Don’t force your body when it’s asking for rest, for recovery, for nourishment. Slow down and meditate. Take a nap. Really honour what you need, and let it all be a joy.”
The NHS website states that regular exercise can help your body with recovery after childbirth but that each birth is different – so it’s always best to consult your own medical team with any questions or concerns.