Interview with Body Positivity Advocate, Kristyn Dingman
Season 1 Episode 8 of Better Relationships After Baby Podcast
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About Kristyn Dingman:
My name is Kristyn Dingman and I am so much more than a stay at home mother.
I struggled with body image my entire life. 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. 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.
It wasn’t until I got pregnant with my first son that my entire world was flipped onto its head. I saw my body go through drastic changes in such a short period of time that I didn’t really have time to see and appreciate my body and all it was going through. Once my son was born, I was bombarded with diet cultures, MLM schemes and plenty of ‘bounce back’ businesses who constantly pressured me into getting my pre baby body back. I was so lost and felt so alone.
I had enough.
I decided to make some changes and decided to put my mental health first. This was a whole new concept to me. I had never been the one to care my myself. I spent years at war with my body and decided to put an end to the battle. I started blogging and sharing my story with the world and wanted to create a place where others who struggle with body image and negative diet culture could come and feel represented. I wanted to show the real and raw sides of motherhood and what positive body image could look like from someone who struggled their entire life. Here I am today with an amazing community of people who follow along and have a safe place to feel loved regardless of their body, size, color or gender.
TLDR Podcast Notes
- We are inundated with weight-related messages as women and as new moms
- In order to overcome the pressures, we must make a mindset shift in ourselves
- Being a confident partner is sexy for your partner
- Just because you’er a mom doesn’t mean you lose your sexiness
- Everyone at the pool is focused on how THEY look, not how you look
- You CAN bring sexy back into your own life
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Transcription of this episode:
Hello parents. And welcome back to a another episode of the better relationships after baby podcast. This is a another episode where I am joined by a guest handpicked and very, very much loved. This is an episode that I think is super important for both partners to listen to. So if you’re a mama who’s listening to this, give it a listen and share it over to your partner and ask them to listen into and then put a time on the calendar to come back and share your thoughts and talk about it with one another. I am joined today by Kristyn Dingman, who I somehow in the Instagram universe, discovered and found and we’ve kind of postpartum journey together for the last couple of years. And Kristen does an incredible job talking about the changes of our body, the acceptance of our body, and even just rebelling against the societal messages and pressures and narratives that are really damaging to mothers in so many ways.
And so we’re going to talk tonight about our experience with our bodies and what that does personally, but also how our experience in our bodies, our evolution of understanding our body changes and being in our bodies and finding competence in a changed body, how that also impacts our relationship with our partner, I strongly believe and I know we’re going to hear this from Kristen that the way that we see ourselves and treat ourselves and think about ourselves has a huge impact on the way that we are willing to show up with and for our partners. And so when I have a mom ask what’s the first step to connecting with a partner, I say it’s to connect with yourself, it’s to find the ways that you need to make peace and that you can invite some more competence and acceptance and love into your life. So, Kristen, I’m going to ask you to just introduce yourself briefly, who you are, what you do, why you do it, and who makes up your family.
Thank you so much for having me. By the way, I know there’s such an array of people that you can choose from that have been inspirational, but I’m very honored that you pick me. So my name is Kristen, I am a self love advocate who truly believes that, regardless of your body size, and regardless of what society says that, you know, you can love yourself no matter what, especially after baby. I think you point it out, like often there is so much stigma behind Mom’s having to bounce back, or to look a certain way. I mean, it’s it’s incredible the influence that we have from either social media or from any sort of platform like TV or that just really influences who women are supposed to be rather than just letting them be. So I am a stay at home mom of two. I have two boys. And I have an amazing husband who’s extremely supportive and has been with me through the hard times, especially realizing that I may have a lot of insecurities me know first started dating you weren’t high school. So he’s seen me grow throughout the years. And it’s such an important thing for me to have a rally of people behind me kind of cheering me on through the good and bad.
So yeah, I think my initial journey of body positive body positive. body positivity was something that I noticed happen after I had my first son. And I think that’s where my journey started. Because I realized that I had so much change in the nine months that nobody prepared me for. And I was just sick of being at war with myself all the time. I was using the same tactics over and over again, comparing myself and just being so down that I just decided to change the tactic that I was using and start loving Why was rather than hating. And since then, I’ve been able to flourish and just be mentally more clear and I am grateful for where I’m at today and it’s taken a long time for me to get there but I’m here now and now I want to share or what I can with others who may be struggling or somebody who’s just looking for a place where they want to feel represented.
Yeah. And I know that that is what I see, every time I go to your Instagram page, I see the comment from a mom who needed what you had to share, because it’s not the message that we get thrown at us the most, we’re not invited to love and accept and cherish ourselves and our changes. I mean, that is almost an act of rebellion for us as women, right to love ourselves in so many ways, and especially our bodies.
Oh, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s amazing that this seems like it may have been a smaller community years ago. But I’ve noticed that the more people are feeling good about who they are. They’re, they’re getting cheered on. And now there’s this huge community of people who are it’s literally like, you know, when we rise, we rise together. Yeah, concept. And it’s been so like, liberating to see, instead of bringing people down for loving who they are, it’s been more of an accepted kind of culture that’s coming out the last maybe five or six years. Yeah. And I’m honored to be a part of that community.
Yeah, it’s so necessary in such a big change from when we first had our first kids. And there were no examples. So do you remember? I’m sure you do. Do you remember some of those early days of your first postpartum? And what that experience was like, as a new mom in a changed body? And seeing and feeling that for the first few times?
Yeah, I think when I think it was a big shock, I had no kind of prep for the whole experience of labor and delivery. That was, I mean, they have all these books that nobody’s real about the things that are in the books, which was, it was shocking, I didn’t know a lot of the things that happened. And there wasn’t a lot of support from even the staff was, you know, I went to a hospital and had a traditional birth experience. And I just felt alone. The whole time, though, the focus was on me, I felt like there was no care for mom once the baby was here. And I think that’s when I had this realization of, I have this new baby, I have no idea what to do with it. I have this new body, I have no idea what to do with it. And somehow I have to just snap into this mom mode, I was just given this title of Mom, this is my new role. But nobody showed me how to do it. It was all baby, all that matters is Baby Baby Baby and seeing it now. It’s just as important to take care of the baby, as is to take care of mom.
And I think the lack of support was when I first realized that I’m kind of doing this alone. So I can’t ask for help. In my own postpartum body, I have to figure out those answers on my own. And it’s a very lonely journey. So I think that kind of where I wanted, I was seeking guidance and help, but nobody was giving me the resources to do so well. And I think that’s kind of where the journey of me journaling and talking about how a little flu skin and I have so many changes that nobody prepares me for. And it was just a shock. So I, I think it was just a matter of my willpower to not be down on myself for not looking like the girl doing the magazines after having a baby after a week or something. So yeah, I think I think that that’s the initial time when I realized that there’s something not right here. There’s such a gap between a mum getting and having a baby and the aftercare.
Yeah, and you talked about that, need to figure some things out for yourself and figure out how you were going to feel about and live in this body and how to navigate that and I just want to say that I recognize the will power to say I’m going to be a really good mom by finding the ways to love myself and not hate myself. I think one of them most heartbreaking things is to see moms fall into the trap of starting to hate themselves and criticize themselves and pull themselves apart. And then there’s not a full mom left to really show up for the kids, because all of this focus all of this worthiness has been fed to us in a package that doesn’t serve us.
Yeah, it’s it’s a cliche thing to say. But it’s true that if you don’t love yourself, it’s hard to love others. And that’s completely true, I can put on a brave face and fake it. But that gets old very quickly, and it slowly breaks you down, and then your mental health is just shattered. And sometimes it takes years to come back from it when people can do it quickly. But it’s so important to be able to work on yourself, and also learn how to be this new mom be this new person and still, you know, try to be there for your partner. And there’s so many things that we have to juggle as new parents. That is frustrating that there isn’t a better or at the time, that wasn’t something better for me to guide you and help me along the way it was, it was total self discovery.
Yeah. Yeah. So you mentioned what that looks like to be with a partner and to love yourself so that you can be loved by someone else. And I know that this is, you know, something we wanted to get into is this idea of how we love ourselves and what that means for being in an intimate, trusting teamwork, vulnerable relationship with someone else. And so I wonder if you could talk a little bit about that journey for you the journey of maybe times when your self confidence and your connection with yourself, maybe wasn’t where you wanted it to be in, maybe you notice that in your relationship, or times where you saw the benefits of growing your confidence, and how that impacted your relationship with your husband.
So when, when we had my first son, I think that that initial shock of while my body didn’t go back to the way it was, was something that I found really interesting. And so I did a little research and just from the brief, you know, Google search, I found that it takes about seven years for a woman’s body to kind of go back to a sense of normal after having a child. And that sat with me. And I, I let that marinate in my mind for months and months and months, and decided to give myself grace in that I’m not going to be the same person I was. And it’s like me even taking years, even if I went to the gym every day, and you know, it’s gonna be a long time. And I presented this kind of information to my, my husband and wanted an honest opinion from him. And he started talking to me about how he saw my body as this machine, this, this mind blowing machine that I was able to grow this human in nine short months, nine months, is such a short timeline. And to him the concept of how babies are born with a new thing for us.
So I had actually done a post about his response to my question of what do you think about moving out. And he talked a lot about how he loves the roadmaps that my body has created. And I, I remember, we were having this conversation, it was just, he was using these metaphors that were things I never thought about, and he loved the bumps that I had, and he loved being able to feel my son kick and he essentially was describing this new connection that he had with me. And he wasn’t talking about my look nothing about my breast size or my hair that grew nothing like that. It was the fact that your body did all of this change was so cool. And it made me feel a lot more connected and closer to you. And him telling me that gave me this burst of energy and confidence and that kind of turned into this like that. sexiness, it’s it made me feel proud that I had these differences happening with my body and very unexpected, I was not expecting that kind of response, just, you know, based on what I’m supposed to look like. So I, I, it made me very proud to be his partner in that moment. And that’s kind of what I had shared in the post was, was his explanation of why he was so proud. And why he thought I was beautiful, even after having a baby. So it’s more comments like that for, for me, the support behind him gave me a lot of that confidence.
And I’ll be honest, there were days that he could tell me that I’m beautiful and gorgeous. And I would tell them to shut up. Like, you’re just lying, you’re just praying to. So I think in the moment where he would say things like that, and either blow him off. And I can’t imagine that makes him feel good when he’s trying to be genuine. But I think naturally, when somebody gives us compliments, we want to instantly shut them out. And I was very much that way before and sometimes after baby. But it was the constant reminding that kind of made me realize that I can still be sexy even after I have a baby. Yeah.
Oh, okay. So since you you brought that up, I talked to a lot of moms who are like, I can’t even think about intimacy, I can’t think about sex, I can’t think about connecting, how could I even do that? Because my body is so different, or what are they going to think? What’s your response to that?
So I definitely struggled with that. And I still struggle with that. The best way for me to explain this is saying you’re at a hotel resort, and you’re down at the pool, and you’re very nervous to take off your clothes to get into your swimsuit. You’re tugging and pulling, and you’re just super self conscious. You have to realize that everybody who is at that school feels the same way. They’re focusing all of their attention on how they look. And they’re not looking at you because they’re so focused on themselves. And it’s kind of freeing in the sense that, well, you don’t have to care because nobody’s looking. And it’s really just about you, embracing and owning how you look.
And that’s how I’ve always felt like, nobody’s really looking and staring. He’s not he’s not picking me apart. And it’s not something that he’s doing. And I think for maybe just my husband, but for him. Sex is not a chore. It’s not something that we feel like we have to schedule because we’re kind of more spontaneous, I think, and how will we get intimate, but something I also found helpful was taking the time to actually buy clothes that fit me, not focusing on the size, not focusing on what the tabs say. But I found it really fun for me to buy lingerie. I’ve never owned a piece of lingerie my entire life, even when I was in my 20s in my like, you know, when I was 115 pounds, you know, never had it. And since I’ve had kids, I have more lingerie than I think I have like short. Which is crazy. Because that would I would never have been that person.
But there’s something I found something that gives me the confidence I need and I wear it for me. He could care less of it would prefer I didn’t have anything arms. But it’s something that I have found that triggers my confidence. It makes me feel really sexy. And if anything that’s just gonna think that’s in the bedroom. So it felt work. But I very much think of like, the Justin Timberlake song, I’m bringing sexy back. That’s something that I’m like, I’m gonna do this, regardless of how my body lifts. I’m doing this for me. I’m gonna do whatever it takes to feel confident and if if other people want to judge or if he you know, it’s not about that it’s about me and I have to come first
I heard just from this whole progression, almost like a domino effect, I think people want to either be stuck in self criticism or like full on here I am top of a game acceptance. And I heard you say, like I decided, and then I learned. And then I talked about it with my partner, and then I, you know, started to love myself more. And then I bought clothes that fit well. And then about lingerie, like there’s this, almost like confidence is building off of itself. And like a lot of things. Sometimes the hardest step is the first step of deciding that I’m going to make this choice.
I was just so deaf of being in that just same routine of criticism, or going on social media, and you’re in my squares to other people’s squares, or watching a member just being a teenager, including MTV on before school and seeing Christina Aguilera, and all these people in this, why don’t I did the same thing since I was a preteen, all were up until my late 20s. And it got me nowhere, I learned nothing new, I was doing the same thing. He was like, why am I doing this? And how can I change the game and it was literally a flip flop. Like instead of being so negative, why not try being positive. And it’s, it’s taken me farther than anything else I’ve ever done.
I love that. And the other thing is, I wonder if you notice that confidence is then sexy for your partner.
Oh, it’s been changed, it’s been a huge change in our sex life. So it used to be life’s off. You know, I have to shower before there’s like so many things. And by by the time we have time to be intimate, it felt like a chore. We had a check off the list of things that had to be done prior. Now it’s again, very spontaneous. There’s the lights are on. I mean, it’s, it’s great. And I think that being a confident woman or being a confident partner has not only made our sex life better, but it’s it’s made us have stronger connections and it doesn’t feel like a chore, it doesn’t feel you know, scheduled which I think scheduling is so great scheduling date nights, those things, reminding your partner that they’re important. Even after having babies, you know all of that it is so essential to make time not just for yourself or with your family, but your partner.
And my confidence, I think it makes him probably more confident to not just say that, you know, guys don’t have body and they do it, my husband’s a bigger guy. And there are times where he has insecurities, too and has pointed them out and seeing him being a father and me commenting saying you being a father has made you sexier. Give him confidence to and so just the two together. It’s just like you said like a domino effect. It’s like, He supports me and pushes me to keep doing what I’m doing. And I’m doing the thing for him. Yeah. And it could be it could be a kind of ugly situation. If I had a partner that wasn’t supportive, or, you know, it could turn out to be an ugly situation. But I have found somebody who that supports and encourages me and that to me is sexy, too. It’s it’s there’s lots of things that happened and it’s it’s amazing to watch it all kind of walk them.
Yeah, that’s you went right into what my next question was, which was, you know, if you’ve noticed the impact on your husband’s journey with his own confidence, whether that be body or whether that be the other ways that he is showing up for the family, like what does it mean for you guys to be a family you know, you’re raising two kids together and what does confidence mean? Almost as like a foundational skill and a way that you lead your family?
Absolutely. So like I have said there’s my my husband has struggled with insecurities I think most people do. I’ve noticed him, you know, being a little bit more present with so we are say going out to eat. He’s kind of a calorie counter in a way but me giving him confidence doesn’t make him seem so much in his head. Me and letting him know that He’s a good father turns into a lot of fun, played playdates with the kids, and he seems more eager to engage with them. So I have two boys, both are on the autism spectrum. And we struggle on lot trying to learn what autism is and how that has impacted our family, and trying to learn to be these new parents and therapists at the same time. And I think a lot of our relationship as a couple has had to morphing to something different than we initially had planned. me giving my husband that, that strength to be a good father, and a good husband has just made him an even better partner.
And I think a lot of times we struggle trying to learn how to parent one way or another. And at the end of the day, we always kind of choose to be on the same team. You know, we we love each other so much. We got married, and we wanted to make our team, bigger, wider band, we had kids. So seeing him really take the role on as a father and partner has has been one of the most amazing things I’ve been able to witness.
Oh my gosh, it’s so beautiful. And I can just see that like in you. Like I just see the team the team together as a family. And I love that. Just that reminder that bringing kids into our family is like growing our team and we get to really all support and root each other on and carry the highs and the lows with one another. That’s so beautiful. Yeah, if there was and I know that there is listening, so a mom who is maybe in the earlier postpartum seasons, and she is trying to make peace with how her body has changed. How do you advise her to start? Or what can she stop doing or start doing or make a mindset shift to feel more at home in her body?
Yeah, I, I think if I were to tell somebody, one thing it would be to give yourself grace. And understand that you have to be gentle. The change comes quickly. But it’s it’s important to take small steps, just like with a diet or anything else. It’s it’s about making sure you have the right motivation. Ensure that you are surrounded by like minded people. I think one of the big things for me was that I unfollowed and unfriended a lot of people. And that was that in itself hitting that button was was revolutionary for me. It literally was weight off of my shoulders. So ensure that you find a group or community that is empowering for you rather than kind of brings him down is essential. Throw away the scale. You know, don’t worry about the size or form the jeans and look at yourself as a mirror that stop trying to hide. You know, when you walk by.
I love getting ready every morning naked. It’s just my thing that I do. It’s been something new that I’ve tried for the last two years. And I love doing it. Is there something about it is really uncomfortable at first. Yeah, something that I have continued to do every single day. It’s the last my last step in the getting ready process in the morning is getting dressed but I go fully naked and I’m doing my hair and makeup naked. It is great. It’s been the strangest little tweaks. But I love it.
That is such a fun piece of advice. I love that so much. I discovered recently that if I would slow down in the shower and like make a moment to just like touch every part of my skin that I could it felt so nice to like recognize how many inches and centimeters make up my body but how much of that like goes uncared for and so that’s just another thing I wanted to add in is like maybe you you pause in the shower and you just Feel your body,
Giving yourself that hug and know it sounds so silly. But it’s powerful. It’s very powerful. And I love that I don’t know if I’ve ever actually taken that time to, to touch and feel my body and who I am and realizing why house bumps here I’ve got, you know, whatever. It’s a really good reminder and something that I don’t think a lot of us do.
Yeah, yeah. And so what about for navigating this with partners, I know you have a supportive partner, I have a supportive partner. And usually, in these instances, I like to say, you know, if you don’t have a supportive partner, that’s probably a different conversation than what we’re having right now. That’s a conversation of how to get the kind of support you need. And make sure that you can be in a place where you are, you’re loved, and you are well cared for.
So let’s continue this assuming that we’re talking to people who do have supportive partners that are open minded, but maybe a little naive, maybe a little washed by societal messages, just like we are, what would you say that couples can do to start the conversation together and really not use these changes in postpartum to drive you apart from each other? I think sometimes we retreat in fear or shame, or, you know, we’re just not sure how to navigate that. But like you said, this is a time where we can really enjoy a stronger connection, a stronger understanding stronger intimacy with each other, which is a vulnerable space to be in. But assuming we’re talking to people who have Safe Supportive partners, where would you say they can start the conversation?
I think that there is a moment in everybody’s relationship, where you kind of realize that you’ve changed over the years. You know, when you get married, and you say, your ideas, you have all these promises that you make, and kind of change some of those, which is why a lot of people renew their vows and things like that. But when we pick our partner, we have to realize that change is inevitable. And we have to constantly remind ourselves that we are doing this together over and over and over and over again. And I think a good place to start would be to make sure that when you have open communication, I know a lot of couples do struggles, they, you know, they have a great marriage.
But communication is hard, especially for guys to be or other partners to be vulnerable at times, and I think that can impact a couple’s ability to connect, if one person is able to connect feelings. And one isn’t. There could be a big clash there that there was almost like a wall, that one person is trying to decline than the other person can’t. As as strange as that might be having a designated time to maybe sit and talk with your partner about either concerns or things that you think would be informational could be a good place to start, you know, it’s frustrating, you know, I enjoy these type of things, either in the bedroom or on a date night or something.
And here’s things that I think that you know, we could work on might be a great way to start those kinds of conversations that might be a little bit uncomfortable. But I’ve definitely surrounding yourself with with people who are supportive is the the best advice I can give somebody who may not have that person at home, find it in other places, other Online Communities or something, just to get that support no matter what or where you’re at in your relationship.
There are so many moments, especially in early motherhood, where you kind of stop and feel like you are all alone. Like, am I? The only one is this? Is this something broken in me is this you know, something I can even talk about because it feels so vulnerable and lonely. And I think that this this kind of message comes up in every episode. The reality is that we are not ever alone in those things. And taking a step to open up and to start conversations is really sometimes so healing and freeing Am I, you were talking about unfollowing people. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I like literally remember the freedom feeling of choosing my community of choosing, my brain is limited. And I can only take in and process so many messages. And those messages have an impact. So I had to get more selective, I had to get more intentional about what I was taking in. And I think that goes with all aspects, our bodies, our business, our families, our income, like there’s just so many areas that we can stop in, you know, just feel that weight of comparison. And so it’s really important to tune in, and notice, like, oh, that didn’t actually leave me feeling good, or that left me feeling critical of myself, that’s actually a space that I probably need to intentionally step away from.
Definitely, yeah, it was, it was very free. And one of the best things that I ever did was to take my community and only I have control over that. And that’s also very freeing to know that I can fix certain aspects of my mental health on my own by hitting a button.
Yeah. Oh, my gosh, so good. Okay. So I want to make sure that people know how to find you and tap into your community, because you are a really great place to go and even get that like regular dose of encouragement and normalization and inspiration. And just to find other moms who are really fiercely committed to loving themselves and living fully because of that. So how about one, you tell me places that people can connect with you. And then after that, just one last piece of advice you would give your first time mom self, about your relationship with you or your relationship with a partner after baby?
Sure. So my main place that you can find me is on Instagram, @Kristyndingman. I also do a little bit of Facebook, but mainly my account is through Instagram. So yeah, I think that if I were to give myself or other a piece of advice before we wrap up, I think it would be to understand that just because you’re a mom, doesn’t mean you have to lose your sexiness. And I’m able to be so much more of myself. Because of that.
Yes. Oh my gosh, could go on and on about how much that impacts our energy and how much that impacts how we just show up in other areas. I think that is so beautiful and so brilliant and sexy is it’s a feeling it’s an energy we give off. It’s an experience. It’s not a cut and dry mold that we need to look like or be in order to do that. Okay, Kristen, thank you for your time and for just the ways that you show up for yourself and for your family, and then for other people. And just the domino effect that I think that has on new and growing moms as we learn the power of self love and being confident in these bodies that are so wonderful.
Thank you again for having me. I’m, again so honored that you you chose me for this topic. And if anything, I hope it helps somebody who may be struggling if and if it’s one person who might be struggling with understanding and learning their postpartum body and what their capabilities are. And you know how that may be a factor in building a strong relationship with their partner.
Yes, thank you again, so much everyone, find Kristyn send her some love. Let her know that you heard her share here and just remember it starts with loving yourself fiercely. And that has so many domino effects.