Maintaining Positive Body Image (while Pregnant)

One of the questions, I was most requested to answer was how was I staying mentally comfortable in my skin with a body shape that was changing daily. To be honest, this is something I slept on and mulled over a few days before responding. For the most part of my life I’ve had a healthy, confident body image, with a few highlighted times of overconfidence ( my first few bodybuilding shows or anytime I’ve had more than 2 alcoholic drinks), and a few low times ( related to negative commentary on my body from my ex-husband)…. However, overall I’ve been confident in myself, if my body doesn’t look my “ideal” I have always focused on what my body could do and accomplish athletically…. It probably also helps, I have the knowledge to change the aesthetics of my physique at any time, it was just a debate on if I wanted to put in the work and make the sacrifices of those changes. “Several studies have indicated that pregnant women have a more positive body-image than non-pregnant women”, which is something for readers to look forward to during pregnancy – “although their ‘ideal’ body shape remains in line with the ultra-thin cultural ideal, their concerns about failing to match this ideal are reduced during pregnancy.” So without further rambling, I’ll post the things I think that have helped me stay happy and confident in my changing body.

Having a supportive partner: Billy is and always has been the kindest most complimentary partner. He has never negatively and would never comment anything but positive things about my body, and his supportive corrections of any of the small verbal things I’ve said negatively about my body have been so helpful. Ie. Me – “OMG my stomach is huge right now”… Him- “You’re pregnant and its beautiful” … Play this on repeat 20 times in a week, and I stop making verbal or even mental commentary about the changes that could be perceived as negative, and start being more excited to see the changes.

Having physical and visual reminders of support: Billy and I have a notepad on our refrigerator, normally covered in notes like, “have a nice day…. can you walk the dog?… I love you we need to buy tofu…. ” but for the last several months, I haven’t written anything on the notepad… because I’ve enjoyed his positive messages too much to ever erase them.

And a physical reminder, I’ve enjoyed so much that started almost as a fluke (me being needy and whiney one day) …. but has become a nightly ritual… One evening I asked him to put lotion on my body (something I’ve been trying to do every evening to avoid extra stretch marks), and since then he’s spent the last ten minutes before we go to bed every night, doing something so simple that obviously I could do it myself, but it feels like an intimate appreciation of my body and is a daily reminder that he’s happy with my changing shape.

Being Kind in the Mirror: A little positive self talk goes a long way. I’ve been taking just a moment each day, when I brush my teeth or whatever to appreciate my abdominal region. It changes hourly, at 18 weeks I still wakeup in the morning with an almost flat stomach, but by the time I’ve done anything, had a half a cup of coffee, the muscles are fatigued and a bump begins to show. By 9pm it’s a huge bump, and really I’ve learned to see it all as an amazing miracle. My current mental situation has me more excited about this bump, than I ever have been by a 6 pack of abs. To create that look only requires, time, discipline, and knowledge. To create this work, is a beautiful development of a life, over which I clearly had zero control over when it would be able to grow. So to me, this is the most amazing thing my body has ever accomplished and letting go of the control over what it’s “supposed” to look like has been very freeing.

Seeing myself daily: I’ve probably worn a sports bra or crop top only more often in the last few months, than I ever have in my life. This is for a few reasons. The practical one is several of my shirts fit annoyingly snug, or tend to ride up to odd locations right now. The other is, familiarity breeds appreciation ( if you’re interested in this phenomena google the Mere-exposure effect) . When I take the action of not covering up my “chub” or my “pooch”, as it appeared during the first trimester, before I began to actually “look pregnant”, I was physically giving myself approval by giving myself acceptance to take up more space, and refusing to apologize for it with baggy new clothing. This action of acceptance, and the Mere-exposure effect, has me feeling my larger new body shape.

Unapologetic at the gym in my curvier shape in a sports bra, “18 weeks pregnant”

Remembering life comes in seasons: I’ve learned patience over the years being a coach. I know that a rapid transformation of body composition is NEVER the healthy ideal, so I have minimal expectations of my body right now. I just have high hopes that Sage Athena will continue to grow healthy. If I can continue to run 40 – 50 miles a week, thats phenomenal, if it has to become cycling, walking, or even bedrest; as long as Sage is healthy, I’m elated. And even if she were not healthy, I can feel confident that in this season I did my best possible attempts at pregnancy. Post pregnancy, will be similar, that season will revolve around Sage, and whatever my body does, I will choose gratitude, versus judgement.

Hopefully, my sharing my experience is something of value to each of you. I hope you all LOVE LOVE LOVE your bodies, because they are all amazing miracles. Look at what your body does for you each and every day. That in itself is a beautiful work, be proud of what your body can do, then put in the work to change the aesthetic if you so desire.

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