Parents

This photographer's secret to help new moms love their bodies again

A Florida photographer is on a mission to help moms learn to love their bodies again, no matter their shape or size — and just in time for summer.

In beautiful portraits, Natalie McCain explores real women’s bodies, stripped down to show stretch marks, scars and curves. She tells their stories through the lens of her camera in the popular black-and-white photo series, The Honest Body Project.

“I actually do the sessions in my garage,” McCain, a mother of two in Rockledge, Florida, told TODAY.com.

She says she hopes the project, which she started about two months ago, will help inspire self-confidence.

“I hope by helping mothers learn to love their bodies, in turn it will rub off on their daughters and they’ll know their bodies are normal,” McCain, 28, said. “And that what we see in the media isn’t what we all look like.”

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Of course, that’s easier said than done, and McCain, who has an 8-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son, has had her own share of self-confidence issues.

“After my daughter was born, I struggled a lot with my new body,” she said. “After you have a baby, your body just completely changes and it’s hard to even recognize it. It took me a good couple of years to come to terms with it, and realize that this is the body I need.”

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And she says she has a simple trick for moms who need some support this summer.

“I had to switch my inner voice from negative thoughts to positive thoughts,” McCain said. “I became a much happier person.”

“You have to stop the negative self-talk,” she added. “When you look at yourself in the mirror, really think about what you say to yourself. If you say, ‘Oh, my stomach looks disgusting,’ that’s how you’re going to feel. Replace the words. Say, ‘I grew my children there and I look amazing.’ Eventually you’ll start to feel that way.”

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McCain hopes her photo project lets women know they aren’t alone in their insecurities.

“On social media, all we portray are the highlights of our lives,” she said. “But women are having these real problems, and real insecurities, and I hope women can related to that and see they’re not alone.”

She started photographing friends she knew through a local mothers’ group, but now McCain says she’s getting requests from women all over the world who want to be a part of the project. Before she takes their portraits, she asks them questions to find out their story — be it a woman struggling with her father’s death, a breast cancer survivor or a mom who aches to be skinny — and posts their quotes alongside the photos on her website and Facebook page.

McCain said she was inspired by the popular photoblog Humans of New York, which showcases everyday New Yorkers and tells their stories.

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“It is so relatable, so honest, so raw, and it’s like you are getting to know millions of strangers just by reading small snippets of their lives,” she said. “The portraits I take are only half of what makes this project powerful because the backbone of the project are these amazing stories the women share with me.”

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