Shay Mitchell is opening up about the less-than-kind comments she's received after giving birth to her daughter, Atlas, in 2019. The 34-year-old actress covers Women's Health's June 2021 issue, and talks about the unexpected criticism she gets when it comes to talking about her post-baby body.
Mitchell says she wasn't active and was unmotivated to exercise after giving birth to her now 1-year-old daughter, but that her partnership with the app Openfit in January "changed everything." She notes that after committing to working out five days a week for four weeks, she now has more energy and that it "totally altered" her year. However, when she shared this with her Instagram followers by posting side-by-side pictures of her before and after the program, the feedback was not all positive. Some said she was criticizing people for being overweight or ungrateful for her post-baby body.
"Right after I had Atlas, if I ever made a comment about how I didn't feel like myself, people were like, 'Well, you just had a baby.' Yeah, I know I just had a baby," she says. "I'm very grateful for my body, and that it gave life, but I'm still allowed to express that I don't feel like myself."
"I was strong before I had Atlas, and I wanted to feel that way after," she continues. "We celebrate our bodies before we're pregnant; we celebrate our bodies with bumps. We should also celebrate our bodies at whatever point we feel our best again."
The former Pretty Little Liars star says she is promoting health, not vanity, and is proud that she can do a 50-pound deadlift. And when it comes to healthy eating, she gives herself a break. A typical day for her includes eating a spinach and cheese quesadilla for breakfast, soup for lunch, a glass of wine in the afternoon with a snack, and a dinner that's a balance of starch and vegetables -- like noodles and vegetables, with a salad -- and dessert.
"I wish I could say it was all quinoa, salmon, and asparagus, but it's not," she says.
These days, Mitchell is focused on two companies she co-founded and is also voicing the protagonist in Netflix's adaptation of the Filipino graphic novel, Trese. But her number one role, of course, is being a mom. Mitchell says she is especially sensitive to raising a mixed-race child with her boyfriend, Matte Babel. The actress -- who was born to a Filipino mother and a white father -- shares that she and her mother have dealt with their own experiences of racism through the years.
"Matte is half white -- his dad is from Trinidad. And Atlas is a mix of all of us," Mitchell says. "But she's very fair-skinned and has light eyes and hair, so she doesn't look like either of us. We're learning how to have those appropriate conversations. It starts with her dolls, with the toys she plays with, and the books we read to her, that have all different colors and ethnicities."
Mitchell sees more kids in her future.
"Moments after she was born, I said to Matte, 'Okay, I'm ready to do this again!'" she shares.
"We're reading books, one of her nighttime books is A Is for Activist. We're starting her right now because I think it's so important to educate them at a young age so they know that truly no matter what you look like, you deserve to love and be loved without judgment, be all and end all and that's it," Mitchell said. "Especially coming from a mixed family herself. I hope it's in our generation and I really pray that it's in hers as well that there will be a huge change and I slowly see it right now."