Body Mind

Pregnancy and Body Image

Pregnancy and Body Image

PREGNANCY WEIGHT GAIN & SELF ESTEEMGoing into this pregnancy, I had some misconceptions, okay ALOT of misconceptions.  I thought I’d be superwoman, because I’m pretty fit, healthy, I’ve always been miss “push through it!” and pregnancy can’t be that hard, right? WRONG!

I thought that when I started gaining weight it would show up only in the form of a  cute little basketball belly, and nowhere else. Um, my hips and butt have gained more than my stomach.

None of those wonderful dreams are actually happening. Duh.

Myths, lies and misconceptions

Many women—most, I’d dare say—struggle with body image and I AM THEIR QUEEN. In an effort to manage or contain these feelings,we over-exercise, under-eat, and strive for a level of skinny that is not only unhealthy, but is kind of unattractive. Even if we come out of this dark place and make peace with their bodies, the idea of getting pregnant may still worry us. Losing control of your body (not to mention all those horrible “symptoms” kindly “prepares” you for) is, in fact, a scary proposition for many women.

So today, we’re going to talk about pregnancy and body image, and what you can do to embrace your new curves, and put to sleep the body-image demons lurking in the background of your brain. Fellow pregnant ladies, I hope it helps you to know you are not alone, and to have some coping strategies. Future pregnant ladies, read this, prepare, and go into this time of joy with a positive, healthy attitude.

And men… study, learn, and above all, be supportive of your future baby mama.

If your body image issues are distracting you from the joy of what’s to come…

Here are some things to help you maintain perspective, and get back to feeling healthy and confident during your pregnancy.

We all know the junk food-shame-spiral. We feel bad about ourselves. We say, “Screw it, I might as well comfort myself.” We fall face-first into a box of Krispy Kream donuts. We hate ourselves even more. You know how you can look in the mirror and feel really good about yourself, then eat a candy bar and all of a sudden, you’re a big fat pig?

Don’t do that while you’re pregnant.

First, you will fall into some unhealthy meals. GASP! The personal trainer just admitted to eating crap food. Yes, I DID. Second, regret and body shaming is not going to help you feel better about yourself. Try to have a rule that controls your choices. For instance mine is, “I will only way one starchy carb today (aka-unhealthy comfort food today.” That usually means pasta at dinner. :-)

And the rest of the day, I try to make the best choices I can.

The same mirror scenario from above can apply before and after an exercise or movement session, too. Feeling bad about your body? Go for a walk, do some squats in the living room, take a prenatal yoga class. You don’t have to kick your own butt to kingdom come. Simply moving your body is enough to give you that feel-good attitude, and tell your brain to shut up about your weight gain, already—you are, in fact, still making an effort to stay fit and active.

What do I do? I literally do 12 squats EVERY TIME that I use the restroom at work, so no matter what at the end of the day, I know that I got some activity in and believe me, my butt feels it!!!

You may hate the idea of buying bigger or maternity clothes. Especially, when you are spending money on things you’ll only be wearing for a few months. And you can probably keep wearing all your old clothes for a while… until the day you realize you perpetually feel like a stuffed sausage and you’re actually creating rolls by wearing clothes that are too small!!!. (Even if your jeans still fit everywhere but the waist, walking around with your pants unbuttoned will invariably make you feel like Al Bundy.)

Bite the bullet and buy some clothes that actually fit you. The Gap, Target, and Old Navy have affordable maternity lines. (So does H&M, but unless you’re 22 years old and started off as a size 0, don’t bother unless you want YOUR SELF-ESTEEM TO PLUMMET.) Borrow some clothes from a recently pregnant friend. Shop the resale stores. Either way, get yourself in some clothes that feel comfortable and make you feel good about yourself.

And don’t try to “hold out” to shop for new clothes because you’re still in your first trimester. We all develop at different times, so you may need new clothes pretty early on. And that’s okay.

And skinny Instagram girls, Fitness Pinterest Buffs, entertainment gossip magazines and everything that makes people look skinny and perfect. And maybe even pregnancy fitness magazines, too. Anything that only serves to make you feel even worse about yourself than you already do!!!

It’s not the media’s fault—they just give us what we want: perfection, idealism, the promise of love and adoration if only we looked a certain way. But that’s not what you need right now—and those super-stick thin models (yes, even the pregnant ones) may lead you down a truly unhealthy “I’m not good enough/thin enough/glowing enough” path.

Just avoid—trust me, you’re not missing anything.

It’s okay to feel selfish during pregnancy. Yeah, I know, it’s the miracle of life, and you’re supposed to be selflessly devoted the tiny creature growing inside you. But you’re still a woman, and you still want to feel attractive, and it’s okay to feel frustrated or upset about the changes your body is going through.

Find someone who will listen and respond in the way you need them to. For me, I don’t simply need people to pander to me and say, “Oh, but Melissa, you look amazing! You can barely tell you’re pregnant!” I need my mom, who says “This is what you actually look like. Also, as far as I can remember, you’re STILL PREGNANT, so stop it with the ‘I’m getting fat’ thing.”

You may just need someone to listen, or someone to help you with your diet and exercise program (husbands/boyfriends are great “fixers,” if this is what you need), or you may need some tough love to snap you out of your self-indulgent whining. My husband did that to me and it was a good reminder that my hips are not the focal point of the 9 months, growing a healthy baby is!!!

Regardless, it’s okay to vent, as long as you get it out and then move the heck on with growing your tiny human.

This is a a healthy dose of tough-love too, but honestly, at some point, you may really need this. Yes, your butt is bigger. Yes, your skin may be breaking out. Yes, you may have swollen feet and boobs the size of a double-wide and heartburn.

But let’s keep this in perspective. You are growing a tiny human. It’s, like, nine months out of your whole life. There are women all over the world who are grieve every single day for the lack of experiencing what you are experiencing.

We need to get over ourselves. 

The changes in your body are a normal part of baby-growing. They’re not all fun (actually MOST are not fun), and they’re not all desirable, but your body is performing a miracle right now.

Literally, you are a miracle. So vent if you must, but always, always return to the fact that you are grateful beyond measure to be giving life to this precious child.

And finally…

Love the skin you’re in

My hope is that by addressing my & your concerns head-on and implementing these tips above, you’ll be in a much happier, healthier pregnant place—and better able to enjoy the beauty of the coming months.

Have you struggled with body image while pregnant? Share your thoughts, strategies, and sympathies in comments.