Making Peace with Your Body During Pregnancy
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with Laura Thomas that focused on how intuitive eating has helped me find peace with food and my body during pregnancy. If you haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, you can head over to her website or search for 'Don't Salt My Game’ on your favourite podcast app and find Episode 104.
Anyway, I thought that it would be a good idea to share this blogpost with some of the things that I have found to be very useful as my body has changed and grown throughout the past 8 1/2 months of pregnancy, and hope that it will be encouraging and useful to mamas-to-be, those currently navigating the postpartum period, and pretty much all women who are struggling with body image.
As with any period of change, pregnancy and the postpartum period can hit us in ways we might not have expected, particularly as it relates to how we view and live in our bodies. During pregnancy we experience LOTS of physical and hormonal changes in a short space of time, and once baby arrives and we enter the postpartum period there are even crazier hormonal shifts and physical changes that can potentially leave us feeling uncomfortable in our skin and dissatisfied with how our bodies look. Pregnancy is filled with so many unknowns and can add to the emotions and stress you might be feeling, so navigating body image during this time is no easy feat.
10 Top Tips for cultivating a positive
body image during pregnancy
Here are a few things that have helped me navigate this crazy time and make peace with the changes my body has gone through and continues to experience as I reach the end of my pregnancy.
1. Step away from the scale
Unless there is a REALLY good reason for you needing to monitor your weight (which there probably isn’t), you don’t need to be stepping on the scale to keep track of how your body weight is changing throughout your pregnancy. During pregnancy, your body will be gaining weight in the form:
A whole new baby
Extra blood circulating throughout your body
Extra tissue fluid
Extra uterine tissue
Fat stores to help nourish your baby when you start breastfeeding
For most of us, monitoring the number on a scale on a regular basis (particularly when so many changes are happening) can leave us feeling dissatisfied, sad, angry, or even inclined towards restricting food intake and engaging in unhealthy food and movement-related behaviours. Also, there are far more important things that can be monitored throughout pregnancy to keep track of the health of both you and baby, including blood pressure, urine analysis for things like protein and glucose, and measuring fundal height.
2. Buy maternity clothes that make you feel great before you need them
These don’t need to be fancy or expensive items of clothing, but it makes such a difference having pants that fit comfortably as your belly grows, tops that cover your bump, and items that just make you feel BEAUTIFUL. To be honest, most of my maternity wardrobe has been sourced from ASOS, which I have found to be perfect because (at least here in the UK) you can order a whole bunch of things and send back what doesn't feel good on you with no extra charge (it's also a bonus to not have to leave the house and spend time in busy shops on days when you're feeling tired or sick).
I love what Kylie wrote in a blogpost on pregnancy and body image a couple of years ago, and think that it sums this point up really we;;:
3. Do a social media audit
You are allowed to unfollow accounts that make you feel inadequate or insecure about your body, your bump, and your ability or readiness to become a GREAT mom 🙅🏻♀️ Seriously, unfollow them. Rather choose to follow accounts that leave you feeling encouraged, ones without lots of body or bump pics, and ones that choose to showcase a diverse range of pregnant and postpartum bodies of all shapes, colours, and sizes.
4. Set boundaries
Where possible, choose to spend time with friends and family who are not immersed in diet culture and body-related talk. Choose to spend time with those who don’t comment on your changing body at every chance they get. This can be really difficult, but set boundaries and limit food and body talk where you can. It can be really helpful to discuss this with your partner who can be your advocate in situations involving family or friends who overstep these boundaries and make you feel uncomfortable.
5. Prioritise self-care
This doesn't have to mean a day at the spa or anything special. It can mean taking a long, slow walk to clear your head, taking a bath, or even just just having a nap when your body is feeling tired and weak 😴 More often than not, when we are feeling tired and stressed, we can end up feeling bad about our bodies instead of noticing the fact that we actually just need some down time to rest and relax.
6. Recognise that diet culture SUCKS
Diet culture underpins the feelings of dissatisfaction that you may feel about your body during pregnancy. Diet culture puts us under pressure to 'not gain too much weight’ and 'bounce back’ quickly once baby is born. But remember that diet culture SUCKS. Seriously, it is a thief. It can so easily take away the joy and amazement that you should experience as you grow a new human. It can distract you from preparing your heart and mind for welcoming your baby into the world. It is important that you realise that you do not need to focus on getting your ‘pre-baby body back’ once baby arrives. Your body knows how to gain weight in pregnancy, and your body body will know how to find the size that is right for it after birth.
7. Remember that your body is doing an AMAZING thing
On my ‘off’ days, it has been really helpful to step back and remember that pregnancy in and of itself is a miracle. It involves 9-10 months of growing and carrying a little human, and that is incredible ❤️
8. Realise that it’s ok to have bad days
It is ok to not LOVE what your body looks like. It is ok to feel a bit uncomfortable or dissatisfied. On the days when you feel like this, instead of feeling awful on your own why not speak to someone who you trust? Show yourself some love and self-compassion, and treat your body with kindness.
9. Speak kind words over your body
Instead of wrestling with your inner critic and agreeing with the mean thoughts about your body, choose to speak words of kindness over your body. It may seem silly, but just standing in front of a mirror and speaking kind words over yourself can encourage you when you need it most. Here are some great mantras to print out and have on hand when you find yourself criticising your body shape, size, and changes during pregnancy. Here are some great ones (modified from ones included in this Motherly article) that you can download:
10. Move for fun
We know that movement can make us feel great thanks to the endorphins that it releases, the way it allows us to disconnect from all of our 'to do's', and helps us feel better in our bodies. During pregnancy, the movement that we find enjoyable or even possible is likely to change quite a bit. Instead of feeling despondent when your normal exercise no longer feels enjoyable, why not explore other forms of movement? I quickly transitioned from running and HIIT workouts to spinning and pilates in the first half of my pregnancy, and long walks during the last few months.