It doesn’t matter what you weigh or whether you’re even slightly underweight before you conceive. There comes a time during your pregnancy when you just feel heavy. I know, that sounds obvious and pretty silly considering the fact that you are creating a human life inside of you and should expect to gain weight, right? But it’s odd because it can come so unexpectedly. One week I still fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans, and the next I had to rush out and buy new pants because I had absolutely nothing to wear that fit. Carrying around that extra weight, especially when you can feel it most in your belly and your back suffers as a result, is uncomfortable and takes some getting used to.
And, needless to say, it doesn’t help at all if you’ve ever had an eating disorder.
When I was 18, I became so fixated with food and weight that I spent a year and a half eating little else but yogurt, steamed vegetables, and brown rice. I lost a lot of weight, didn’t get my period for 6 months, caught pneumonia, and drove my poor mother and father to the brink of tears any time they saw me. I am really lucky that my family intervened and got me the help I needed. It took a lot of time, I would say 6 or 7 years, before I was able to eat normally and enjoy food without thinking so much about my food intake.
Still, if you’ve ever struggled with eating issues, you know there is no real “cure.” I have to admit I was worried about how I would handle being pregnant. When my doctor told me he expected me to gain 30 pounds, some of my teenage insecurities came flooding back – and it caused me enough worry that I decided to seek the help of a professional so that I wouldn’t do anything to hurt my baby. With help, I learned to shift my focus from weight to health and it has made a world of difference in how I feel, both mentally and physically. Eating disorders are all about control, but I’ve learned that, even though I have zero say in how my body is expanding and growing, I can assume control over my nutritional choices during pregnancy.
Instead of thinking of food as an enemy, I do my research and constantly find recipes I can make that are healthy and contain enough fat and protein to nourish my baby. I sprinkle flax seeds and nuts on oatmeal and no longer care about how many grams of fat they contain. If I crave something sweet, I don’t inhale an entire hot fudge sundae, but I will have a scoop of chocolate ice cream. It isn’t going to kill me.
Exercise has always been an important part of my life and I find one of the best ways to take the focus off of appearance and weight is to spend 30 to 45 minutes each day or every other day working out with a Pilates or ballet DVD. My fitness goals while pregnant are obviously different – I’m not trying to build muscle. I’m far more interested in maintaining flexibility, working on breathing techniques that I will be able to use in the delivery room, and keeping up my energy and endurance on days when I’d rather be snoozing the afternoon away.
Some of my pregnant friends absolutely love and embrace everything about their changing bodies. I am inspired by and in awe of them. But if your feelings about your body sound more like the ones I’ve expressed, know that you aren’t alone. You can reach out for help and make a choice to focus on your health and not your weight.