Handling Body Image During Pregnancy
I’m loving the body image movement that’s been amidst for the past several years. More women than ever before are learning to accept themselves for who they are by genuinely loving their bodies at any shape or size. It’s a beautiful thing to witness!
I’ve dealt with my own struggles around body image, which I know most women have at some point in life. It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside—I know models who are more insecure than you could ever imagine. Negative body image isn’t an issue solely relevant to those who may be overweight; it affects every woman of every size in every country around the world.
Personally, my issues stemmed from a lack in proper food education combined with a misguided desire to be thin—thanks to a period in time when celebrities took over the media with their own eating disorder struggles—think of Nicole Richie and Lindsay Lohan circa 2005.
Although I worked through my issues on my own by going back to nutrition school and learning about food and how to care for myself, I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I’m not hard on myself every now and then.
It happens, and I will never expect it not to. What’s changed is how I react when I notice I’m judging my body and decisions around food. I acknowledge the moment, and remind myself that I’m always doing my best in order to take care of myself. If that means eating Ben & Jerry’s one night and having a green smoothie the next morning, I’m totally cool with it.
I’ve never weighed more than 130 pounds until recently. You could judge me for sharing that number, or love me for my openness (I hope it’s the latter!). College was the only time where I hit around 130. The rest of my life between high school and before pregnancy, I hovered around 118-123. I feel good in this space, and I know it’s where my body wants to be.
No matter what I’m doing in my life—whether it’s Winter or Summer, whether I’m training for a half marathon or not working out all that much, whether I’m eating more vegetarian or more animal-based foods—my body happily sits between those numbers. This practice of finding your own “happy medium” is the crux of my work with private clients.
I also never weigh myself. The only reason I’m aware of the 118-123 gap is from the times Ryan and I have stepped on an InBody machine, which Ryan uses to manage his narcolepsy. This really helps me get a visual of how much body fat versus lean muscle mass I have—so even in that 120 pound range, I could have a higher body fat percentage because I’m not exercising like I normally do. Body fat percentage and lean muscle mass are the numbers that truly matter, not the overall number you see on the scale.
With pregnancy, everything has changed. The numbers keep climbing as baby grows, and it’s been such a wonderful experience for me to watch. I’ve had the opportunity to witness just how much I’ve grown as a woman over the past decade. Seeing the scale read nearly 140 pounds thus far doesn’t have me all out of sorts, which I never would have anticipated.
In fact, I’m in awe by how quickly my body packed on those pounds (I’m 26 weeks and already gained almost 20 pounds!) in spite of my efforts to exercise and eat well. My body is doing what it needs in order to manage this pregnancy, and that means packing on the LB's for the little babe!
In the beginning, though, there were definitely a few “holy sh*t” moments. My first stretch marks appeared very early on my hips, around week 13. (What you see in the photo above is an honest depiction of a scene that happened quite frequently in the beginning.) And because of how exhausted and emotional I was during the first trimester, I did have a mini meltdown, which faded quickly after I realized there was no need to be upset.
My body is one that’s always been prone to cellulite, and knowing that my Mom developed stretch marks during her pregnancy, I was anticipating them as well. I believe in genetics 100 percent when it comes to both cellulite and stretch marks, and I’ve learned to love every dimple and line.
It takes time, patience, self-awareness, and love to be in a positive space with your own body.
If you’ve struggled with body image before and are looking for a new spin on how to look at your body during pregnancy, here’s my best piece of advice…
Just go with it. (Yup, like the title of that Adam Sandler movie.)
It sounds simple, and it is. Here’s the question you need to ask yourself: “Am I doing my absolute best to keep mama and baby healthy and happy?
And if you’re answer is a resounding “YES,” then your work is done.
If in that honest moment you’re second-guessing yourself, perhaps you need to reassess your efforts.
I’m not talking about occasional indulgences or letting your workout slip by the wayside a few times.
But part of the reason so many women struggle with body image is because of the guilt we experience over “not doing things right.”
There is no “right” that is universal. There’s a “right” that works for you and your body.
Your job is to figure out your own proper balance based on how you feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
For example, here’s a few of my honest assessments…
- I feel energetic most days, until around 4pm.
- I feel connected to my baby, since I try to talk to her a few times per day.
- I feel loved by my husband, even though certain aspects (eh-hem) of our relationship have changed.
- I feel happy in my body as I watch things take shape (literally!).
- I feel proud that I’m still able to exercise five or more days per week, even though my regimen has drastically changed.
- I feel satisfied after indulging in what’s been my favorite pregnancy treat, cereal! (For real, I can’t get enough—especially of these chocolate peanut butter balls.)
- I openly feel all of the emotions that may come along with pregnancy, and do my best not to fear them (including fear itself, anxiety, sadness, and loneliness).
A great way to write down your own assessments is through journaling. Check out my routine and fave journal here!
When it comes to solely weight gain, every body is different, and every body is going to react differently to pregnancy. I have a close girlfriend who is genetically blessed (and also happens to be a model) and most of her weight gain went straight to belly and baby. I have another friend who ate and worked out just as I did and gained over 50 pounds throughout her pregnancy. You never can anticipate what’s going to happen, so “just go with it” and “be honest with yourself” and are truly the best pieces of advice I can give!
Truthfully, I’d rather over-gain than under-gain during pregnancy, especially after reading Expecting Better by Emily Oster. Emily busts all sorts of pregnancy myths in her book on topics including weight gain, genetic testing, drinking coffee, kitty litter toxicity, gardening, exercise, and more.
Regarding weight gain, Emily looked at the recommendations on numbers and how maternal weight gain truly affects both mother and baby during and after pregnancy. What she found is that weight gain for the mother—whether it’s within the limits, or 10+ pounds over/under the recommendation—affects the baby more than mommy dearest.
Most women aspire to lose the weight they put on during pregnancy after birth. Whatever one gains in excess of the recommendation will naturally make this increasingly difficult. But Emily says to chill out and not put too much pressure on yourself. I couldn’t agree more!
What does matter is the correlation between weight gain and birth weight. There are greater risks associated with babies of low birth weight than high birth weight, including difficulty breathing and regulating blood sugar, as well as abnormal neurological signs. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re planning on having a vaginal birth, larger babies make vaginal births difficult or impossible in certain circumstances. I’ve had a few friends who were forced into C-sections once the doctors learned of their 10+ pound babies. As you can see, there are considerations on both sides, but personally I would rather gain more than less to protect my little girl from any long-term issues.
Again, it all comes down to finding your body’s balance, and leaving it up to nature to take care of the rest!
All in all? Live your life during pregnancy, and remember that the most important thing is caring for the little person inside of you. Focus on how you FEEL in your body, rather than the number on the scale (this applies outside of pregnancy as well!). This is not a time to get down on yourself about body image, even though you will experience weight gain and the mental shifts that come along with it. Go with the flow and lean on your friends and family for support!
In case you’re wondering how I’m eating during pregnancy, check out this post.
What are your thoughts on body image during pregnancy? I know so many of you are pregnant, so I’d love to hear more!