30 Mar 5 Tips to Deal with Body Changes During Pregnancy
Rebecca Jaspan, MPH, RD, CDN, CDCES
and Laura Cipullo, RD, CDCES, CEDRD-S, RYT
Having a positive body image is challenging for many women and can be especially difficult during pregnancy. While this is an exciting time, it is also a time when you are facing many physical changes as well as mental and emotional ones. Even those in eating disorder recovery for years face body image struggles during pregnancy.
Additionally, we live in a society full of “bounce back” images and we may feel pressure to look a certain way during pregnancy and after giving birth. The reality is that despite what we see on social media or the societal pressures we face, the most important thing you can do is focus on nourishing your body and moving in a way that works for both you the baby. .
Here are five tips to help you work through body images struggles before, during and even after pregnancy so you can focus on self-care and a creating a healthier relationship with your body and the baby.
- Remind yourself that weight gain is normal
Not only is it normal, it is absolutely necessary for having a healthy pregnancy. Even though it is what your body is supposed to do during pregnancy, watching yourself change can also be scary or bring up uncomfortable feelings. Try to reframe these thoughts with words of acceptance and normalcy. It is ok to have conflicting feelings about your changing body; each day will bring new feelings and emotions. Flow with it as best as you can.
- Focus on body acceptance and appreciation
Whether trying to conceive or pregnant, it can be very difficult to imagine getting to a place where you love your changed body. If body-love feels too out of reach, it can help to focus on body-neutrality or body appreciation. You can start with “I am okay.” Another idea is to try shifting your focus from your body’s external appearance to the internal experience of the amazing things your body is attempting to do to provide for a safe and healthy pregnancy. Consider thanking your body for supporting you and your soon to be baby through this process.
- Find comfy clothes with an expanding waistband
If putting on clothes that are too tight becomes triggering, it may be a good idea to store these clothes (especially jeans or tight-waisted outfits). Head to the store and buy a pair of pregnancy jeans with an elastic band and some stretchy leggings. Buy a few items that are loose and flow on top so that you can wear these items throughout your pregnancy and even the first few months after giving birth.
- Ditch the scale
You may already have a practice of not weighing yourself or are working towards this goal. Pregnancy is an especially great time to take the focus off of the number on the scale. Seeing the number increase can be distressing for many women even though this is normal and healthy. To make matters more challenging, there is often an emphasis on gaining the “correct” amount of weight during pregnancy. Many women are afraid to exceed this number or feel shamed by their OB if they go above the number. Instead, ask your doctor to weigh you blindly, or backwards. Let go of the number and tune in to what your body actually needs. Focus on self-care behaviors and allowing the body to change as needed. You can also practice weight exposures by seeing the number and accepting it will indeed increase each week regardless of what a book or blog says.
- Act on your values
In moments when you find yourself unhappy with your body image or speaking unkindly about it, try to bring the focus back to your core values. Identify what is really important to you in life. Maybe it is your family, your health, your career, and or your altruism. Focusing on your body and wanting to change it brings you further away from attending to your values. In the moment, accept you may not be fond of the body changes, but commit to working towards behaviors that align with your values.
If you plan on becoming pregnant, are pregnant and are concerned about weight gain, body image struggles, or appropriate nutrition, speak with your LCWNS dietitian. We are here as a source of support and can give you the skills to help you feel more confident in handling whatever pregnancy questions or discomforts may arise.