Those of you who are working through recovery from the eating disorder might be wondering how being pregnant has affected my body image. Now that I am approaching my third trimester and my body is significantly changing, I wanted to take a moment to address this topic.
I have longed to be a mother ever since I was a child myself. But when most girls felt excited about the idea of looking pregnant one day, I felt terrified. Even as young as kindergarten, I can remember stressing over how I would keep my body in shape after pregnancy. I knew I wanted to be a mom when I grew up. But I was terrified about what I thought that would mean for my body and for the unrealistic expectations of thinness I thought I had to achieve and maintain. That fear of gaining weight only intensified as I grew older.
In later elementary and middle school, I can remember thinking about the extreme measures I would have to resort to if I ever had trouble losing weight after pregnancy (only, those measures didn’t seem that extreme to me at the time). In order to protect the recovery of my readers, I will not share those details as they could be potentially triggering to some of you.
I carried those fears with me through the years and began to distrust my body more and more. Intuitive eating and acceptance of my body became a foreign concept to me. Rigid rules and unrealistic goals dictated what I hate, when I ate, and how much I ate, as well as my actions, thoughts and feelings after I ate. Anything that had the potential to cause me to gain weight created anxiety.
As a result, the idea of trusting my hunger cues was really frightening for me. I had grown so accustomed to ignoring my hunger cues that I couldn’t wrap my mind around what listening to my body would even look like.
Listening to when my body was hungry and trusting that I could give it the food that it was telling me it needed was hard enough in my everyday life. But when I would think about one day being pregnant, the idea of being able to intuitively eat for two just seemed like too much for my disordered thinking to handle.
Through the process of recovery, I had to relearn how to tell when I was hungry and I had to learn to trust that my body would maintain a healthy range if I allowed it to have the balanced nutrition it needed and wanted. It wouldn’t balloon out of control. It would just settle in at the healthy place that my unique body needed to be at in order to thrive and live life to its fullest. As many of you have learned from your own experiences, that is a really challenging process. But over time & with the help of an outstanding treatment team, I began to build up that trust slowly but surely.
Fast-forward to Life after the Eating Disorder & My Actual Pregnancy
I am almost 26 weeks pregnant and my body is constantly changing. I have a healthy baby boy growing inside me and he has been making his presence obvious since very early on in the pregnancy. By five weeks into the pregnancy, I had already outgrown my pants and was venturing into a new world of maternity clothes. Now just bending down to put on my shoes or pick something up can feel challenging (and I still have 14 weeks to go). Hardly anything I own fits. I’ve been sick for the majority of my pregnancy, so I rarely have the “pregnancy glow.” Most days, I’m exhausted with bags under my eyes, my hair in a pony tail, and whatever clothes feel the least constricting (today this means I’m wearing my husband’s softest t-shirt and my sweat pants rolled down as far as possible). Every week I look more pregnant than the one before. For the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy, the only foods that my all-day “morning sickness” seemed to let me keep down were French fries, pizza, burgers, potato chips and Mexican food. I’ve reached the point where I’m hungry all the time. My body is growing and my hunger cues are making themselves known at all hours of the day and night.
If I was still living in the eating disorder, this all would have completely freaked me out and I would be obsessing over how I was going to lose the weight once my baby boy was born.
Thankfully though, the eating disorder is no longer part of my life. And you know what that means for my pregnancy? I.am.loving.every.minute!
Sure the morning sickness hasn’t been real great and it would be nice to have the “pregnancy glow” without the help of makeup, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.
I love that my body is growing. It means my amazing son is growing healthy and strong. I love that every week I look more pregnant. It means I’m one week closer to getting to hold my incredible little boy in my arms. I love eating for two. It means his intricately formed body is getting the nutrients he needs in order to thrive.
I am not anxious about what my body will look like or what will happen with my body after the pregnancy. I am not stressed about adjusting to eating for one after having been used to eating for two. I trust my body. My hunger will adjust as needed, it’s not something I’ll have to calculate out and plan for ahead of time. It will happen naturally and I don’t need to obsess over controlling that process.
I’ll maintain an active lifestyle, but I won’t stress over burning calories or meeting a specified workout regime. I’ll look forward to taking my son for walks and staying active with my little guy as he grows, but I won’t allow losing weight to become the focus. Instead, my focus will be keeping up with my son, making memories, and enjoying a healthy balanced life with my amazing kid and incredible husband.
Will there be times when I’ll be tempted to obsess over my weight or my appearance? Of course. I’m not immune to those thoughts. But I will proactively choose to re-frame my thoughts, to practice self-care, and to continue living my 100% recovered life.
I am not willing to sacrifice a wonderful life with my husband and son in order to obsess over my weight. I am not willing to sacrifice time with them to worry about my appearance. I am not willing to sacrifice family meal time with them in order to control my food. I have come too far to let that fear take control of my life again. Freedom is far too wonderful for me to contemplate turning back.
So I will look at my ever-growing round belly and feel grateful. I will take note of my changing figure in the mirror and feel at peace. And I will make the daily decision to choose life instead of bondage. (To read other thoughts of mine regarding body image, you can visit my old post Inner Beauty)
For those of you who want a more recent picture than 20 weeks, here are a couple. They aren’t professionally taken so they’re a little on the blurry side and harder to see, but oh well.