Former Us Weekly editor defends her role in post-baby body wars

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By Jacoba Urist

At some point in the last several years, we officially became a nation obsessed with celebrity moms, their babies and their back-to-perfect-in-a-jiffy bodies. Walk past all those celebrity magazines in the grocery store aisle, and you can’t help but wonder: How do Tinsel Town mamas look so good?

Book excerpt: Read Janice Min's "How to Look Hot in a Minivan"

In a curious role reversal, Janice Min, the former editor-in-chief of Us Weekly and current editorial director of the Hollywood Reporter, recently shared her embarrassment about her own post-baby body. In a New York Times story, “Can a Mom Get a Break?,” Min describes how her local manicurist asked when her baby was due—four months after her daughter had been born. Min reasons that she delivered a 6-pound, 10-ounce baby at age 42 and asks: “Can’t I get a free pass?”

Min does acknowledge her role in the post-baby body wars:

I am partly to blame for my own physical netherworld. As the editor of Us Weekly, covering the Suris and Shilohs of Hollywood for six years, I delivered what the young female audience wanted: cute moms and babies.

But she hasn't gotten a free pass, nor any sympathy, from the mom blogosphere. Instead, the swift backlash was a collective gasp on both coasts: Ah, how the tables have turned.

In a Jezebel story, writer Tracie Egan Morrissey said Min isn’t just “partly to blame” for all of this post-baby celebrity mania – she created the industry. “The birth of ‘baby bump’ as a pop-culture idiom can be traced back to the 2002 catalog of Us Weekly, the year that Min began working for the magazine. She made it her business plan,” wrote Morrissey

Huffington Post blogger Devon Corneal wrote: “Maybe it wasn’t until [Min] gained her own saggy stomach and was humiliated by her manicurist that she really understood the damage all those magazines covers caused.”

Min says she was wholly unprepared for the harsh reaction to her article, and that, ironically, she shared her experience to help expose the unrealistic fantasy of Hollywood.

Speaking exclusively with TODAY Moms, Min defended her time at Us Weekly. “In Hollywood, ‘bouncing back’ after pregnancy suddenly became something to talk about as actresses for the first time were seeing their careers stay afloat after proudly flaunting their pregnancies, motherhood, and children,” Min said. When she was at the helm of the magazine in 2007, she says social perceptions about motherhood were changing.  For the first time, you could be a sex symbol and mom, too — and in some ways that was incredibly liberating for Hollywood women.

Min also shared her upcoming book, “How to Look Hot in a Minivan: A Real Woman’s Guide to Losing Weight, Looking Great, and Dressing Chic in the Age of the Celebrity Mom”exclusively with TODAY Moms. Critics, such as Huffington Post's Corneal have speculated it's a "diet book" but Min says that's not so.  “[It’s] about taking the best, sound information that these experts who help Hollywood look good—remember they aren’t doing it alone—and finding the logical, easy things you can do to make a normal, time crunched, sleep-deprived mom’s life easier.”

In her book, Min doesn’t shy away from taboo subjects — like post-pregnancy incontinence or going under the knife to get your pre-baby body back. While she says that she had a difficult time writing the surgery chapter, because she has personal problems with elective plastic surgery (it’s usually only for the wealthy, she says, and can, in some extreme cases, lead to serious infections or death), she also dispels the myth of the C-tuck (a tummy tuck immediately following a cesarean) and warns women to hear alarm bells if any OB/GYN wants to do the combination procedure.

Dr. Anthony Youn, a Michigan-based board certified plastic surgeon and contributor, sees plenty of moms in his waiting room. “They usually come to me after their second or third pregnancy, when your body just doesn’t always go back,” he explains. “A lot of doctors will do what they call a ‘mommy makeover,” which is a combined breast enhancement with a tummy tuck.”

And despite what many people think, having money isn’t the magic secret to having a great post-baby body. Greg MitchellMeyer  is a personal trainer and kickboxing instructor who specializes in pre- and post-natal training at Soho’s private family membership club, Citibabes.

“Some people think that just because they put down $1700, the weight will come off and they will look great,” He says. “But the big thing post pregnancy is to have confidence— nothing to do with money. Even if your stomach isn’t perfect, stand up and make eye contact. The more relaxed, calm and confident you feel, the better you’ll look regardless of how much weight you’re still carrying around.”

Min says she's got three pounds to go to hit her target post-baby weight and adds it’s "exactly within the window of what doctors recommend. My daughter is now almost five months and doctors advise a 6-month window to lose the weight.”

And like most new moms, Min has learned a big lesson of parenting: Babies can make you care a lot less about muffin tops, back fat and bad hair days. 

Jacoba Urist is a lawyer and writer in New York City. She covers legal, financial and parenting news. Her writing has appeared on Forbes, The Atlantic and Newsweek/The Daily Beast. Follow her on twitter @TheHappiestPare

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