When you first find out you’re pregnant, a number of thoughts run through your head.
‘Will it be a boy or a girl?’
‘What will their name be?’
‘Am I ready for this?’
But the chances are, if you have experienced an eating disorder and/or body dysmorphia, there will be others that join them.
‘How will I deal with my increased hunger?’
‘How will I cope with my body changing during pregnancy?’
‘Will it trigger me?’
At one point, I was so sensitive to the way that my body looked, if I gained just a few pounds, I’d feel it. My clothes would feel uncomfortable, my skin would feel tight and itchy. I just wanted to grab at fat and pull it all off. I’d sign up for weight loss diets, follow training programmes until I was exhausted and forever lamented about the fact that I just “didn’t have enough willpower”.
Being dissatisfied with my own body was one of the things that kept feeding my eating disorder for so many years. When I got pregnant, it had been 7/8 years since I had been in treatment. I had been in a really good place with my body image and my relationship with food and exercise for many years.
But knowing that my body was going to change (and change very dramatically) felt a bit daunting, as I had no clue what to expect and knew that it had the potential to be a challenge.
Unfortunately, many in the fitness industry are keen to jump onto mothers ready to sell them their programmes to ‘lose the baby weight’ or help them to ‘bounce back’. This further supports the damaging assumptions and lies that society piles onto pre and postnatal women. Thinner = happier.
Changing your body, pushing high expectations or comparing it to another (pregnant or not) will not automatically heal your relationship and grant you magic ‘confidence’ when you get results.
It’s time we embrace the incredible women we are right now and then address the problems that lie beneath in a gentle, compassionate way so that we can help to nourish healthy, positive changes mentally and physically which we can then pass onto our children.
Eating disorders and pregnancy aren’t widely spoken about. Whether it is because there is an assumption that if you are able to get pregnant, you must be healthy enough to conceive or because there is still a sense of shame around having an eating disorder.
But many women experience some form of disordered eating, poor body image, preoccupation with weight or shape, or an eating disorder at some point during their life. Pregnancy does not automatically mean that those concerns disappear, so it’s important to break down the barriers and for women to know that there is no shame in needing support or advice.
I’ve spoken in detail about how experiencing morning sickness triggered some uncomfortable thoughts and feelings and what steps I took in order to manage them (which you can see in this article), but it’s also important to address the issue that body image plays a huge role in every pregnancy.
Whether you are finding your relationship with your body difficult during your pregnancy or not, we can all give our bodies a little more love.
Below are some of the things that helped me to navigate pregnancy after an eating disorder:
- Approach your body changes with curiosity not judgment.
- Focus on your gratitude practice.
- Remember that weight gain is normal and necessary – stop weighing yourself if it’s making you feel bad or causing your thoughts to run.
- Embrace this phase in your life. It won’t be forever so try to find ways to enjoy it.
- Celebrate your body – buy new clothes that make you feel GOOD.
- Exercise – find movement that feels good and listen to your body when it needs to rest.
- Up the self care – get your hair done, fake tan, nails, eyebrows. Do it all if a bit of pampering makes you feel like a goddess.
- Don’t compare your pregnancy or pregnant body to anyone else’s.
- Curate your feeds. I found myself being targeted with SO MANY ads and “fitness trainers” that were encouraging unhealthy exercise/dieting whilst pregnant. Block, block and block again.
- Don’t be afraid to set boundaries that make you feel safe. It’s your body, your baby.
- Surround yourself with supportive people. Anyone that comments on how big/small you are can get in the bin!
If you are finding that you are struggling with your body image, relationship with food or exercise and would like to get some support, feel free to book a call with me over on my profile.
I create a safe, judgement free space where we work through any negative thought patterns, beliefs or experiences and then look to enable you to build a personal tool box of therapeutic techniques which you can call on whenever you need.