Navigating Body Image Throughout Pregnancy
By Sheridan Glaske, MS, Dietetic Intern
Pregnancy is a vulnerable time for many women. With an extreme hormonal shift, weight gain, and the thought of bringing life into the world, it can be overwhelming! Know that you are not alone.
You are not the only woman who has wondered, "am I gaining too much weight or eating too much?" You are not the only woman who has questioned, "am I eating the right things to give my baby what they need?"
You may be like many women who relapse from an eating disorder, wish that they looked differently during pregnancy, or even question if they are prepared for this journey.
Whether you have recovered from a past eating disorder or struggle with negative body image thoughts currently, these are great habits and practices to establish now.
Eat consistent meals and snacks. Although you will be increasing your caloric intake each trimester and possibly experiencing unpleasant changes such as morning sickness and heartburn, it is important to practice intuitive eating. If you're not sure how to eat intuitively, consider meeting with a dietitian and/or purchasing the book, "Intuitive Eating" by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.
Find a supportive practitioner. Find an OBGYN or midwife whose views are in alignment with yours. Look for someone who will not tell you how much weight you need to gain or lose unless it's necessary for the health of the baby. Ask your practitioner if they are eating disorder informed and even Health at Every Size (HAES) aware.
Don't look at the scale. Once you have acknowledged and accepted the fact that you will gain weight during your pregnancy, try not to think about the number on the scale. You will be weighed at every prenatal visit and you always have the option to take a blind weight. You can also talk with your practitioner about other options including fewer weigh-ins.
Continue or consider therapy. If you have started partaking in habits such as food restriction, binging, purging, or obsessively thinking and planning things around food, it would be best to seek additional support from a therapist or registered dietitian. You should also inform your practitioner of any of these habits and keep them updated throughout your pregnancy.
If you are already getting this support, continue to do so for as long as you need. It may also be helpful to find a support group or other women that you feel comfortable talking to throughout your pregnancy and into the postpartum season.
Purchase New Clothes. A harsh reality to face for many pregnant women is the fact that you can no longer fit into most of your clothes. Pants, shirts, bras, shoes, underwear, I mean everything! Once you take the plunge and begin to purchase maternity clothes, you can not only feel more comfortable but also feel more confident! This is also true for the postpartum period. And remember this, there is no specific time you should be wearing maternity clothes. You can start the first day you begin to feel bloated. This is your pregnancy.
Accept your new body. You don't have to love it. You may not even like it! But you will find more peace in your life as you begin to accept your new body. The same is true after pregnancy. You have been given a body that is able to bring life into the world. With that, comes many changes. Changes that are worth accepting and making peace with.
Practice reflection. Spend time journaling your thoughts about weight, body size, and body changes. Release those thoughts onto paper and practice reframing the thoughts. For example, replace the thought, “I don’t like the weight i’ve gained during pregnancy” with “the excess weight i’ve gained during pregnancy is normal, necessary, and important.” This is a good practice to continue throughout pregnancy and postpartum. Writing thoughts on a piece of paper can help you process your emotions.
It’s likely that your body will continue to change throughout the rest of your life. Keep these practices in mind and continue to remind yourself of ways you can make peace with your body.
For more on this topic including weight gain during pregnancy, pregnancy cravings, and other nutrition tips during pregnancy, check out our workbook (or workshop), Navigating Nutrition and Body Image During Pregnancy and Beyond.
Call or text (512) 655-3878 or use the contact page to connect with us.
At Austin Counseling and Nutrition we have eating disorder therapists and dietitians who can help you heal from your eating disorder. If you or someone you love needs eating disorder treatment in Austin, TX or throughout the state of Texas, please contact us today.