One of my first blog posts when I began blogging about my disordered eating journey two years ago was about my fear of pregnancy specifically, the necessary weight gain.
Though I always knew it would be for a good cause and hoped to embrace it when the time came, I’ll be honest … back then, I was in a very dark place. I lacked confidence in my ability to put aside my own body image issues for something so much bigger; it just seemed too overwhelming at the time. And, vain as it might sound, the weight gain scared the hell out of me.
I’d always said to myself that I wanted to be in a better place – a recovered place before entering the complicated and exciting world of motherhood. I wanted to be able to provide a stable, healthy environment in which my children would grow up one that wasn’t restrictive or body-obsessed; one that included balance and moderation– particularly with respect to healthy eating and exercise. In other words, NOT how I’d been living.
And so naturally, two years ago, I absolutely wasn’t there. But my, how things can change in just two years.
In the past year, I’ve made significant strides on my recovery journey and would even call myself “recovered” now. Though I still sometimes struggle with emotional eating from time to time, my obsessive-compulsive over-exercising habits are a thing of the past (replaced with a healthy, moderate outlook of fitness) and I haven’t chewed and spit since March 2009. I’ve loosened up my own “food rules,” enjoy life more, and have even gained a little weight. And you know what? I wouldn’t trade those added pounds for the world!
Finally, I felt ready mentally, physically and emotionally for the next step in my life. I was ready to give up the controlling ways I had lived by for so long.
And so when I found out the amazing news that my husband and I were expecting our first baby (late December 2010!), I made the commitment to fully embrace my pregnancyand take the best care possible of my little baby.
So as a recovered disordered eater, I thought I’d take to the time to share how I’ve handled pregnancy so far and how I see things playing out over the next six months. I think it’s safe to say I’ll probably always be a work in progress … but I feel pretty good about where things are now and where I’m headed.
First, I feel cool, calm, and collected about food and exercise. My top priority is my baby’s health … and while the notion of deliberately gaining weight (for any reason, for anyone) is daunting … in this case, it’s the ultimate gift/sacrifice … and I’ll do what I need to do with love.
Second, though the changes in my body have been minor so far and a little scary at times (I’m 15 1/2 weeks) , I’m loving seeing things change. I feel more womanly already! From what I’ve heard and experienced thus far, pregnancy is basically the ultimate surrendering of control for something so much bigger than yourself. And I have a heightened sense of awareness about this that I hope will help me through whatever we may encounter going forward.
Third, I feel like this whole experience is going to be a good challenge for me with the most beautiful reward at the end: life. This forces me to relinquish my control-freak ways for the greater good, and I feel very up to the challenge.
-At my first prenatal visit, I explained to my OB that after years of being on Weight Watchers I wouldn’t have a clue how much to eat to gain the appropriate amount for my baby’s optimal growth and development. (I see all kinds of ranges online and some are just ridiculous). He lauded the program and, interestingly, the calorie range wasn’t far off from what I had been eating, with a little more flexibility.
-Since I’m not in diet-mode, I’m journaling at MyDailyPlate and it it’s more for the nutrition information than a calorie count. I need to make sure I’m getting enough calcium; not too much sodium. I also discovered I need to watch my sugar and carbs intake because I’m wayyyyyyyyyyyy over the recs for those each day and I don’t want to end up with gestational diabetes, which appears to be pretty common these days.
-From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I banned Diet Coke . I’m not saying I won’t have ANY throughout these next however many months, but I have so far abstained. I’m drinking water, SOBE Life Water (the 0-cal kind), Vitamin Water Zero, and the occasional skim chai latte. I know I could have a decaf latte, but it’s not the same …
-If I want something, I eat it. Life’s too short to be restrictive. I’m still eating healthy for the most part, but am enjoying life a little more. And it feels great.
EXERCISE -I am trying to still get in some form of exercise each day, but have cut my workouts back since I’m obviously just trying to stay fit vs. lose weight. And, frankly, the desire to spend X time at the gym or burn X calories just seems ridiculous and it’s been nice being more flexible about my regimen (though I admit I was frustrated with myself in the beginning and worried I was a weakling when in fact I was pregnant and tired for a super-legit reason!)
-I try to walk with my puppy and bike when I can, but if I’m tired I don’t push myself like I did pre-pregnancy.
-I can’t really do ab work being pregnant but am trying to lift some hand weights when I’m watching TV since I’ve let my strength training slide the past two years. Just nothing on my back now that I’m in the second trimester.
-Pregnancy makes you tired, period. While I haven’t experienced the sheer exhaustion many women struggle with in the first trimester, I was ridiculously tired for me. I’ve been less tired now in the second trimester, but still trying to get plenty of rest. If I need a nap (and I could NEVER nap before!) … I nap.
-I was someone who would skate by on 6 hours of sleep every night, but now I need sleep. Like, NEED it. I probably am getting 7 or 8 hours a night now, but it’s always disrupted. I typically wake to pee 2-3 times a night (but I’m not going for food when I wake like my old midnight eating incidents of the past).
-Basically, I’ve been listening to my body and just going with it.
WEIGHT & BODY IMAGE
-I started my pregnancy above my comfortable weight, and at the end of my first trimester, I had gained 1-3 lbs depending on the day which was spot-on for what my OB had said I should expect to gain.
-With respect to weight gain, I’m doing well and handling the scale going up as best as can be expected. (Talk to me at the end of the third trimester … hope I’m still mentally in this good a place then!) Anyway, it was important for me to recognize that this is different than gaining weight because I was mindlessly munching or over-eating; this comes with the territory and so I’m doing my best to embrace it.
-I have boobs! Can we stop the presses?! For the first time in my adult life, I have a chest and some cleavage. (OK, barely, but it’s there!) I almost don’t know what to do with myself. I am up a cup size and this is the one thing of pregnancy I wish would last (though I hear, sadly, it does not …)
-I have no waist; it was the first thing I noticed. Bye-bye waist. I admit it, that was hard to see. Even at my absolute heaviest, I had a nice, defined waist. So this is brand-new territory for me. It also means my clothes aren’t fitting right, and prepared for it as I was, that has been a bit difficult for me to grasp. So for an otherwise curvy chick, I look pretty straight … and thick in the middle.
-I have a little tummy pooking out! Not a lot but a little bump. Right now I think I look like I ate a little too much pasta or something, but my husband swears he sees a baby bump –I’ll take his word for it And while I’d love to be one of those women who just has big baby bump, I’m not sure how my genetics will play out. I’m hoping remaining active throughout my pregnancy will help me gain the necessary amount for my baby’s optimal health, without over-doing it (again, I know those numbers but am not sharing them here).
-I’m very glad I had to buy a few pairs of pants a size up this past fall/winter because though they’d been loose, now they are snug! Hell, all my clothes are snug. The Bella Band (well, Target’s version of it BE Band) is coming in handy I was able to test it out the other day with my favorite pair of jeans and it worked amazingly well. And I finally got (and began to wear) some maternity stuff for comfort’s sake.
All in all, I feel good, mentally, physically and emotionally. I’m trying to listen to my body, to what it’s telling me it needs/wants instead of being so concerned about what it looks like. After my baby’s born, I’ll be dealing with the same things all new moms worry about nurturing life, caring for an infant, lack of sleep, wondering if I’m doing a good job, fearing going back to work, etc….
And I’m not going to lie losing the baby weight will probably be a concern of mine, as it is for so many women. But I don’t have the unrealistic expectation of leaving the hospital in my pre-pregnancy jeans a la today’s celebs. I believe having a healthy pregnancy where I’m not over-eating and am exercising regularly will help me lose the weight and allow that aspect of new mommyhood go a little easier.
But really, only time will tell. And for now, my concerns are much bigger than my body. They’re about the body within me … the little baby we saw again on an ultrasound today curled in fetal position and opening her mouth and moving her little arms and legs for us. THAT’s what counts. That’s the miracle … not if I can fit into pre-pregnancy jeans after my baby is born.
As a first-time mom, I admit I don’t know much … but I do know that this experience is going to change me for the better, and I’m eager for each step of the way.
How about you? Do body image issues concern you about pregnancy? How did you handle them, or did it help you recover?