“Your tummy is getting so BIG!” my 6 year old daughter says to me twenty-thousand times a day.
She is six and innocent and has no idea how much the word “BIG” affects me in regards to my body, and is only exuberantly joyful at the physical proof that her baby brother or sister is actually real.
It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with body image off and on my entire life, as I’m sure the majority of women do. Over the past few years I have attempted to delicately balance my desire to be healthy and strong with an undercurrent of placing my identity on how those choices made me look. After 10 years of being overweight and unhealthy, I’m not going to lie. It was awesome to look in the mirror and see the effects of my hard work.
I worked tirelessly on my self-esteem and self-confidence the year before we began trying for a baby. I knew that too much of my self-esteem was wrapped up in the way my body looked and I knew
this would be a disaster once that went away, as it inevitably would in my lifetime. And even before the positive pregnancy test, I had the chance to really face those fears when I injured my ankle and had to not just stop exercising, but not even walk. The hard body that I had worked tirelessly for quickly became “soft”, and I had to face it, fast.
I’ve written so much about and coached so many women on NOT freaking out over their physical appearance, but I’ve always known this was easier said than done. Pregnancy has now been a big mirror to my face, showing me how far I myself still had to come before I was practicing what I preached.
Pregnancy is a time of body scrutiny, like no other time in life. Everyone you know comments on your appearance, and although well-meaning the majority of the time, for someone who is self-conscious about their body image, this can be absolutely unnerving. Here are the ways I have tried to keep a positive body image while my body grows with pregnancy.
Focus on the Baby
This may seem obvious to someone who has never had body image issues, but this helps me tremendously. As my body becomes curvier with extra fat storage, I remind myself that my body is doing exactly what it needs to do for the baby. I’m obviously not just packing on the pounds from junk food, so as I’ve learned to trust my body in other ways, I’ll trust it here too. This is not my time to have ripped muscles and a six pack, this time is about feeling healthy, strong, and knowing that I’m providing my child with nutrients and oxygen.
Live In The Now
This moment in time is all that I have. The future and the past do not exist except for in my head. And right now, this is the situation I am living and therefore, it would be crazy for me not to make the very best of it and just accept it. My belly is growing, my thighs are thickening, all in preparation for this new life. I highly suggest the book “The Power of Now” for more on this subject matter.
Focus on Gratitude
I could sit here all day long and find every negative thing about this new emerging body in the mirror. This is where I have learned that I have a choice, every day, to “hear” the negatives and create an anxious situation for myself, purely out of my own thoughts, or I can choose to focus on what is good. I am so lucky to be able to be pregnant and to have easy, uncomplicated pregnancies. I am so lucky to have begun this pregnancy and be able to continue it in the best health and shape of my entire life. I am also so thankful to know so much about nutrition and exercise at this point in my life where it is so beneficial.
When I have trouble with the negative and judgmental thoughts in my head, I close my eyes and imagine them dissolving into space. I replace them with my gratitude, and in turn, create an entirely different outlook on my life and my body.
This may sound so cheesy, but if you tell yourself you are beautiful and perfect just the way you are enough times, you will not only begin to believe it, but you won’t need to hear it from external sources anymore. Instead of waiting to hear it from my husband or family, I look at my rounding belly in the mirror and say “You are looking more and more like a pregnant goddess everyday, and that is so gorgeous.” Do I always believe it? Nah. But does it help? Absolutely.
Specifically for those who have struggled with any kind of eating disorders or weight obsessions in the past, it can be helpful to avoid triggers. At doctor’s appointments, let them know that you do not want to hear your weight. Step onto the scale backwards and let them worry about your weight gain, they can let you know if something needs to change. A way I dealt with my clothes getting too tight was to buy stretchy non-maternity dresses early on that will last me well into my pregnancy. I quit wearing my jeans the first day they felt tighter.
Exercise and Eat Nutritious Foods
The more I am able to exercise and eat the healthy foods I want, the less worried I am about a few extra bulges and curves. Feeling good physically and emotionally generally overrides any insecurities I am feeling about my body. And just like when I am not pregnant, if I have a less-than-perfect meal every now and then, I let it go.
When I first researched being able to do high intensity workouts during pregnancy, I found blogs of ladies who posted videos of themselves doing burpees and kettlebell swings up until delivery. It was awesome. I unknowingly took a mental picture of their perfect round bellies protruding from perfectly fit bodies, and found myself comparing my body now to those mental pictures. Everyone is different! Pregnancy affects everyone in totally different ways, just like doing the same workout and diet as someone else will almost never produce the exact same results for you as for them. I am my best me, pregnant or not.