How To Cope With Incidence Weight Gain And Body Imaging Problems

  • Cultural messaging and a loss of control can encourage body image during pregnancy.
  • Support, education and management of expectations are key. Practice intuitive eating and movement.
  • Pregnant with questions? Send your request to Anna anonymously here for unjudgmental answers.
  • Visit the Insider homepage for more stories.

Dear Anna,

I am pregnant and weight gain scares me. I’ve only put in a few pounds so far, in the wake of recommendations, but I know my belly will only get rounder and the number on the scale will only increase.

I know it’s a low concern, but I’ve worked hard over the years to get (and stay) fit, and letting go is not easy. I find myself tempted to exercise more and eat less – and then I feel disappointed when I watch my body soften.

Logically, I know that weight gain is important and healthy. But while I feel that I must hear appreciative of what my body creates, I just feel kind and resentful, and then guilty for feeling that way. Please help.

– Damage, Boulder

Dear Danni,

You’re not shallow, you’re someone who lives in a culture that demonizes weight gain and round belly and celebrates weight loss and flat stomach – it does not matter the current state of health of a person. Decades of that messaging don’t necessarily disappear the moment you discover your pregnancy.

Also, pregnancy can feel like your body is no longer yours, which can be a disturbing experience, especially if you are accustomed to controlling what you look and feel with diet and exercise.

That’s all to say: your feelings, even if not often expressed, are completely understandable and quite common, Jessica Byrd, a therapist in Arizona with advanced training in sexual and reproductive health, she told me.

There isn’t much research on how prevalent it is, though a study showed that about one-third of women experienced dissatisfaction with body image during the third and “fourth” trimesters. Another found that 41% of mothers felt more negative about their bodies after birth, while only 12% felt more positive.

It’s disturbing. Body dissatisfaction is linked to depression during pregnancy, which in turn can puts you at risk for postpartum depression. Plus, you don’t want to just feel so shitty for the next few months.

Don’t look for body love, try body confidence or compassion

First, stop “must-ing”.

Yes, it would be nice to feel nothing but admiration for what your body is doing rather than resentment, but the truth is that you can both feel it – and it’s nothing to feel guilty about. “Having a difficult time with a change that your body goes through doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate what it creates,” Byrd said.

So, going from the gross feeling to the feeling of joy might be unrealistic, you can leave room for more positive emotions by reforming.

Instead of asking, “How can I love my body?” Byrd recommends asking yourself, “How can I learn to trust my body during this process? How can I take care of my body even if I don’t feel comfortable? How can I be compassionate instead of critical about the changes that the body go through? ”

“Pregnancy can be a really frustrating process for you,” she said, “but that doesn’t mean you’re making a mistake.” Cut off any influence, like Instagrammers basking in a pregnancy bath, that make you think otherwise.

Be honest with your support system, including your provider

Feel your feelings only amplify it. Sharing them with a close partner or family and friends can alleviate your emotional charge, and allow you to start a discussion about how you can best support them. Can they eliminate discussions related to appearance from conversations? What makes you want to pay attention to the times you can restrict yourself? Maybe a friend you made to do HIIT workouts with you will join you for less key walks instead.

“Make sure you have people around you who don’t reinforce some of those pressures,” Byrd said. “He’s someone who can help take care of your body even when you’re not comfortable with it.”

Also contact your supplier. They can make practical changes to how they care for you, such as the weight on the back if the scale number is activated.

Other women’s health specialists can be helpful here as well – get the support of a doula, childbirth educator, therapist, dietitian, or all of the above. While a little comfort is to be expected, don’t let it cloud everything else in your life or sabotage the health of you and your child.

“Recognize when you feel quite uncomfortable with the pregnancy process that it creates fear or overwhelming emotions that get in the way of your ability to be present,” Byrd said. At this point, get professional help.

Be curious

While a lot of how your body grows and changes is out of your control, it’s not all unexpected. Women have been doing this for a long time! Digging in, rather than avoiding, the topic of pregnancy by taking classes and reading books can help you understand why your body is changing its way and prepare you for what to expect to move forward.

As two therapists have written for the website of the National Association of Eating Disorders, “Understanding what weight gain is during pregnancy and why it happens can help you be more curious – and less judgmental – about the changes.”

Other resources can specifically help solve body image problems, which will not disappear (and may amplify) when provided. Check out “Does this pregnancy make me look fat?” by former NEDA director Claire Mysko, join positive pregnancy support groups in the body, or listen to podcasts from body image experts like Summer Innanen.

And finally, take this good opportunity to change how you think about food and exercise: If you ate and exercised for reasons related to your earlier appearance, you are now free to eat in a way that nourishes and satisfies you and explores types of exercise which feel good. Become more intuitive about diet and exercise it’s not easy, but yours future if – and child – will thank you to have started this journey now.

Senior health reporter Anna Medaris Miller is here to answer all your questions about pregnancy– especially those that you don’t want to bring to your doctor or even friends. As a journalist covering women’s health for more than a decade, she has undermined research, consult a number of experts, and I will give you the keys to get it. Send your request anonymously to Anna here.

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