I hated my pregnant body until I had a baby bump.
As someone who has struggled with body dysmorphia their whole life, I wasn’t surprised that pregnancy brought up a lot of unresolved issues around my body image, but that didn’t make it any more comfortable.
Before I got pregnant, I was in pretty good shape. I was going on big hikes multiple times a week and hitting the gym at least three times a week. While fitness was relatively new to me, I loved how exercise made me feel inside. My body was nowhere near where I wanted it to be, but I had come a long way from where I was a few years ago and I was proud of myself.
When I first found out I was pregnant, one of the first concerns I had was my body weight. I went straight to Google and started looking up the ‘average weight gain during pregnancy.’ After reading a few blogs suggesting that most women gain 2-4 pounds in their first trimester and roughly 25-30 pounds overall, I decided that I would only gain 30 pounds maximum throughout my pregnancy – “Yes, 30 pounds sounds about right. I can’t see myself going over 160.”
I’m giggling as I write this at my desk with a box of cheese sticks at almost 200 pounds.
I would always see moms on social media who were incredibly fit with hardly any fat on their bodies and the cutest baby bumps. I immediately convinced myself that’s how pregnancy would be for me. I remember thinking to myself, “I’m going to be just like them. I will keep lifting weights and hiking throughout pregnancy, and I bet I’ll be in even better shape by the time I give birth.”
Surprise! That’s not how it turned out. Not even close.
By the end of my first trimester, I had gained 30 pounds, and I wasn’t even showing yet.
I felt horrible about myself. I started thinking about how much bigger I was going to get, and I would spend hours in front of the mirror body checking myself and pulling on my fat. I felt disgusting.
I started punishing myself by adding in extra workouts and cutting out foods that I enjoyed. I refused to eat fast food or have desserts and was hyperfocused on only eating the healthiest meals. I convinced myself that I was eating that way for the baby, but in retrospect, I’m well aware that I was punishing myself for gaining so much weight.
In the normal world, you usually lose weight when you eat clean and exercise. But in the pregnancy world? Not so much. It didn’t matter how clean I ate or how much I worked out, I kept getting bigger and bigger. I mean, I was growing a f*cking human after all!!
I knew I needed to fix something and fix it fast because I was starting to feel depressed. I had a lot of other stuff going on in my personal life that made pregnancy more difficult for me than the average person, and this was just one more thing to add to the list.
One morning, I woke up and didn’t recognize who I was in the mirror. I started sobbing and telling myself how ugly and disgusting I was in the mirror. My prenatal depression and body dysmorphia had taken the front seat of my life, and I knew I needed to figure something out fast.
It wasn’t just about me anymore. It was about my daughter. I knew I needed to get a grip on my body issues, so I didn’t pass them on to her. I want her to grow up feeling strong and beautiful in her body. I want her to look in the mirror and see herself as the most beautiful woman in the world. I want her to feel empowered by her body.
And I wanted to feel those things, too.
I reached out to a close friend of mine, Briana Arteaga, who I knew had struggled with binge eating disorder and had since dedicated her life to helping other women step into their authentic selves. We started doing 1:1 coaching sessions every week for a month, and then I joined her six-week Fast Track to Better Body Image workshop.
After I started working with Briana, I quickly realized that this was more a body confidence issue than a pregnant one. I have had a lot of problems with my body image for most of my life, and pregnancy just happened to be the event that brought them to the forefront.
Before pregnancy, I didn’t realize how deep-rooted my body issues were. Briana helped me realize that a lot of the problems that I was struggling with as a 33-year-old adult were the result of things that happened to me when I was in elementary school.
I remember someone commenting on my legs being hairy when I was in the fourth grade, which was the first time I felt self-conscious about my body. I started shaving my legs and stopped wearing shorts, and to this day, I still feel self-conscious about how my legs look in shorts.
And as I got older, I would always compare my appearance to other girls. I was quite the tom-boy when I was little, so I didn’t wear makeup or girly clothes or bras for quite some time. I remember girls in high school asking me, “Why don’t you wear makeup?” and “Why don’t you wear bras?” Which led to me wearing bras that were WAY too padded and packing on makeup even though I didn’t need it.
Each of these moments led to where I was in my pregnancy–Insecure about how I looked and shaming myself.
Briana helped me realize that my body confidence issues were so deep I don’t think I had ever really loved myself. Even when I was at my smallest, I remember feeling big. It’s not until I look back on photos and see myself where I think, “Wow, I looked so good. I wish I looked like that now.”
It wasn’t until I was able to identify the cause of my body image issues that I was able to start working through them and making long-lasting changes. And while not every day is easy, I have more good body days than bad, and I’ve learned how to embrace myself in ways I never thought were possible.
Today, I walk around with my belly out and a smile on my face. I stand in front of the mirror and see my hip dips and the rolls on my side as love and support for my beautiful baby girl. I am confident in who I am, and I’m in love with my pregnant body.
Today, I can look at myself in the mirror and tell myself that I am beautiful. I can remind myself that I am cultivating life. I can eat without guilt, trusting that my body knows what’s best for me and my daughter.
Most importantly, I can walk through life knowing that I have the tools to help my daughter practice self-love toward her body. I have the tools to break generational traumas.
If you want to learn more about the work I did with Briana and the steps I took to embrace my pregnant body, you can read about it here.