I was all set to hate Sharny Kieser, I’ll admit it. I first came across her and her bikini pictures in an article declaring that moms should schedule a post-natal bikini shoot to have something to motivate them to not gain a ton of weight during pregnancy and to lose it all lickety-split afterwards. And she did say all that. Apparently she’s a personal trainer in Australia and she used the bikini pics motivation for herself and recommends it to her clients. Which… eh, didn’t we discuss this to death with the whole Fit Mom controversy? I mean, if you’re looking to provoke people Maria “What’s your excuse” Kang did it way better.

But the more I read up about Sharny, the more some of her message started to resonate with me. Not the part about pressuring moms to lose weight the second they pop the bun out of the oven (I still think that sucks and we should focus on helping new moms become confident moms, not skinny moms) but the part where she tells women to be proud of their post-baby bodies.

“After having kids you believe that your days in a bikini are gone. For me, I had a lot of stretch marks; I was too embarrassed to get in a bikini,” she said in an interview. She then goes on to encourage every woman to wear a bikini if they want to. If you go on to read the comments on the piece (and I really don’t recommend it), you’ll find pages of people harping on her for her stretch marks and loose skin, calling her hideous for something she can’t even control. Now, I’m not a bikini wearer (for religious reasons not self-esteem issues – I know, I’m as surprised as you are) but I definitely think that women should not be ashamed or feel like damaged goods because of the effects of pregnancy on their bodies.


For one thing, just like Sharny, my stretch marks go way past the realm of my tummy. I’m basically marked from knee to clavicle. True story: when my oldest son was two, he walked in on me dressing one day (ha, he walked in on me dressing every day – toddlers hate privacy like they hate having their hair washed). He exclaimed in awe, “MOM, I didn’t know you were the TIGER LADY!” And I earned every one of those stripes, son. At least he thought my claw marks were cool?


And then there’s the issue of loose skin and that infamous below-the-belly pouch. I love that Sharny doesn’t try to hide her stretch marks or (tiny bit of) sag. Which, if you believe Internet commenters, is basically the worst sin a woman can commit. How dare she be happy in her own wrinkly skin? How dare she call herself beautiful when she’s clearly not perfect? Well, I think she’s gorgeous.

The truth is, that’s just the way many of us look after having multiple babies. And the way some of us look without having babies! Puberty, weight loss, aging and a host of other factors can cause stretch marks, no kicks to the ribs required.

For comparison check out running pro Lauren Fleshman’s “keeping it real” pictures that she posted during a runway show for Oiselle:


And later that same week:



“People don’t walk around spray tanned and flexed,” Lauren said of the difference. “Everyone has thigh cheese.” (And because so many people doubted these photos could possibly be legit, she posted more on her blog, scroll down to the bottom to see the update.)

All of the beautiful sculpted abs you see on post-partum Jessica Alba, Gwen Stefani and the like? Genetics and photoshop. Airbrushed tans and surgery. They are lucky and they are enhanced. Yet with the current celebrity baby boom in full swing, I predict we’ll be seeing more glimpses of these silvery scars in the future. Seriously, I know Angelina Jolie is SuperMom but nobody has twins without stretching like a human slinky. Whether they choose to embrace them (coordinate with metallic heels?) or hide them under layers of makeup (it was rumored that Pamela Andersen had a personal make-up artist on Baywatch solely dedicated to painting in her stretch marks between takes) and fabric remains to be seen. Can we accept our celebrity mamas blemished? Can we accept ourselves scarred?

For most of us this goal of perfectly flat, smooth abs is not only unrealistic but downright crazy making. A little below-the-belly bulge is normal. Loose skin is normal. Stretch marks are normalWe are not broken. And while I’m still not a fan of making pregnancy into a competitive weight loss sport (Hello, baby anyone?), I do think we deserve much better than shaming ourselves or judging other women for their scars! We have gestated and birthed babies. We have cuddled lovers. We have cradled the very old and nursed the very young. We are beautiful the way we are.

Do you have stretch marks or other scars? Instead of feeling embarrassed, tell me what you love about your body’s scars. Tell me what your partner loves about your body. Tell me what your kids love about your body. And if you need ideas, check out The Shape of a Mother for more pictures of what pregnant and post-partum women’s bodies look like!




Do You Get “Hangry”? Science Says Hungry-Angry is Legit [Plus: 11 More Funny Food-Emotions]

April 15, 2014

Growing up, “food fight” didn’t necessarily mean gleeful spaghetti slinging or flour flinging, like in the movies. (Although there was the time my sister rolled in a plate of Jell-O. She was one. Of course we still tease her about it.) Sometimes a food fight just meant that we were arguing because we were hungry – Hiltons don’t tolerate low blood sugar well. I don’t remember who first made the connection between hunger and anger (probably my mom, she’s a very smart nurse and also, well, our mom) but I can remember more than one time where my mom charged […]

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The Things I Do Because I Love My Luna (I may have eaten cat food)

April 14, 2014

Our cat is not spoiled. I could just be in denial – after all, isn’t cat spoiling the stereotype? – but with four young kids I figure she earns her keep (and not just by keeping the mice out of the basement!). And I like to think that just like my kids, she gets some satisfaction out of having work to do… even if they/she whine about it. Here is Luna’s job description: – Groom all my boys when she feels they have not bathed enough. (Which is always.) – Prowl the house at night and attack any rogue Legos […]

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Oil Pulling Experiment Results! [My Teeth Are Not Whiter But I've Gotten Really Awesome At Charades]

April 13, 2014

A month ago I set out on a quest – a quest to find healthier teeth, a brighter smile and who my real parents are. (Kidding, mom and dad! I love you!) So I jumped on the oil pulling internet bandwagon and rode that baby into the sunset! Thirty days and hours of swishing later, I now know one things for sure: Your phone or doorbell will inevitably ring 12 minutes in, right when you’ve passed the point of oh-heck-no-I’m-not-starting over and before you’ve gotten to eh-what’s-a-few-minutes-early. Happens every time. But other than that, what did I find? Did oil […]

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Eight Weird Fitness Talents I Wish I Had [What's your secret fitness weapon?]

April 13, 2014

 Handstand toe archery! Best fitness talent ever. And hey, my gym only says no GUNS allowed on the premises. I’m sure they’d be totally cool with this. Everybody’s got a talent, right? I’m pretty sure that’s what we were all told the day they handed out our special snowflake awards, so we could put them on our shelves right next to the soccer trophies we got just for showing up. Not that I’m knocking my soccer trophy, mind you. I still have it in my box of childhood stuff because to me it screams tenacity. I never once made a single goal the entire […]

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Should I Have Just Taken the Tamiflu? [New meta-analysis says anti-virals don't work, we were duped]

April 10, 2014

Bad flu shot marketing or genius way to sell Airborne? “Well, if you want to stick around for a flu test, I can give you some Tamiflu.” “No thank you,” I shook my head. “Okay, at least let me write you a scrip for cough syrup with codeine so you can sleep.” “Again, thank you but no,” I said. The doctor looked at me, bewildered, “Then why are you here? Don’t you want to feel better?” I do. Believe me, I want to feel better. I’ve been fighting off what I thought was a head cold for over a week […]

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How To Find Yourself When You Are Lost [10 Tips For Your Next Identity Crisis]

April 9, 2014

I’ve lost myself. Oh don’t worry, it’s not serious. Not like the time I ate the special brownies and tried to join Gwar only to get eaten by a giant cockroach. (lie: I don’t eat brownies unless they’re in ice cream and the only “special” ingredient I’d eat would be black beans. I would totally join Gwar though.) But I do seem to have lost my way a bit lately, lost my sense of who I really am.  It’s not a surprise – this happens to me from time to time. It’s one of the downsides of being what psychologists call a “high […]

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Dear Kirstie Alley: Why Fat Shaming Doesn’t Work, Even on Yourself ["I'm fat but at least I'm not circus fat"]

April 8, 2014

Dear Kirstie Alley, I got your press release about how you’re going back to your first diet love, Jenny Craig. (I really appreciated the personal touch of including the pictures of all your diet products. Apparently JC will now be carrying your line of diet drinks in their stores so, um, way to play it from both sides?) I wish I could say that I’m happy for you but watching you publicly yo-yo your weight up and down for years is starting to make me deeply uncomfortable. Not because your weight is fluctuating – that’s a totally normal part of […]

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Self Mag Editor Fired Over #Tutugate: When is an Apology Not Enough?”

April 7, 2014

Tutus are kind of my thing – so much so that when I moved from Minnesota last year my gym buddies threw me a going away workout party where everyone wore tutus. (They even wrote “We’ll miss you tutu much!” on the mirrors in marker!) I have them in every color and I’ve worn them during more races and workouts than I can count. Yeah they’re not the most practical workout attire but they’re fun and they always make me laugh. But not everyone loves tutus, as evidenced by Self magazine’s #tutugate last week when they mocked two women running a marathon in […]

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Are Vegetarians Really Less Healthy Than Meat Eaters? New Study Says Yes

April 6, 2014

 Don’t get mad at me, the scientists said it. (Plus, you know how I love a good pun!) Eating animals has been one of the greatest existential problems of my life. Which either means I’ve had a pretty easy life or I’m prone to dramatics. Both? Seriously though, the decision whether or not to eat meat has caused me more agony than childbirth. Hahahaha no. Childbirth was like PTSD-level pain. But it’s definitely worse than watching all 27 (ish) seasons of Friends and being disappointed that Ross and Rachel ended up together. Or even that time I chopped jalapenos and then took […]

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