The 34-year-old actress and activist covers Health’s December issue, in which she discusses her relationship to her body since giving birth to her son Sebastian (Baz) with her husband, Ryan Piers Williams.
After being in “triathlon shape” prior to getting pregnant, once conceiving, working out got put on the back burner because “something had to give.”
“Being pregnant, I felt really powerful and healthy. You create life. I found so much power in that,” she reveals. “… There are parts of it that I love and also parts of it that are super challenging. I’m just now starting to feel like I want to feel strong in my body again.”
That strength is something that Ferrera is working hard to cultivate since welcoming Baz in May. After changing her relationship with food and having already sworn “off scales a long time ago,” she’s always aware of how she’s eating makes her feel.
“Do I feel better? Do I feel energized? Does this make me tired and not feel great?” she says of her inner monologue after eating.
“I try to go easy on myself,” she adds. “I think that’s been one of the mantras for me in all of motherhood -- to try and not be so hard on myself. Which is a challenge because, like so many women, I demand so much more of myself than I would ever demand of someone else.”
Another thing the Superstore star aims to avoid is comparisons between herself and other mothers.
"Every step of the way, everybody tells you what it’s going to be like and how you’re going to feel,” she says of motherhood and pregnancy. “I really think that is so harmful to so many of us. I decided early on that I wasn’t going to expect my experience to be what other people told me it would be like -- good or bad.”
Since welcoming their son, Ferrera believes that both she and her husband -- a 37-year-old actor, writer and director -- have “changed as individuals.”
“[Being parents] changes what we talk about and what we focus on. For so long, it’s been just the two of us, and we’ve had an amazing life together,” she says. “I don’t know that either one of us could anticipate how much we love him and how it makes everything new again.”
She continues, “We’ve traveled to many wonderful places, and we’ve seen many things—and just getting to imagine that somewhere down the line everything that we’ve already done and seen, Baz will be seeing for the first time… it’s amazing.”
Initially, Ferrera was “terrified” about changing as a result of motherhood, but has come to realize that said changes have only been positive.
That realization came shortly after Baz’s birth when the family separation crisis was beginning to come to public attention. While topless in her apartment feeding the baby, Ferrera was on the phone trying to make changes in “whatever way” she could.
“It was a relief to know that who I am at my core was not altered [after giving birth],” she admits. “Actually, that’s not true. It’s not accurate that I wasn’t altered. In a way, having him made everything more important.”
The sense of wanting to help, was strong in Ferrera even before she gave birth! Back in January, when she was still pregnant, Ferrera told ET that being an expectant mom had already made her want to make a positive change in the world.
"All the more reason to get to work and to try and make the changes that we know we need in our culture and in our society," she said of her pregnancy at the time.