Fostering a positive body image during pregnancy

The following is a student blog post by Chelsey Bishop

Fostering a positive body image during pregnancy

Developing a healthy relationship with food starts when we’re little as we watch the relationship our own parents have with it. No other time is a healthy food intake more important than during a woman’s pregnancy. However, the emotional and mental aspect of gaining any weight is met with fear and frustration for anyone with an eating disorder.

When Leslie Mullins found out she was going to be a mother, she had only been in recovery for an eating disorder for two years. Leslie and her doctor were both concerned the pregnancy would trigger a relapse. “My eating disorder was well documented at my OB’s office because of bone density loss that it had caused so there was no avoiding it. I was terrified of essentially not being in control of my body for 9 months. In my first pregnancy,  I didn’t necessarily restrict, but I counted the calories of everything that went in my mouth, ate the same things all the time and was obsessive about hitting the exact calorie count I felt was appropriate for a pregnant person. As a lot of people in recovery do, I always had nurses weigh me with me facing away from the scale so I didn’t know how much/how little I had gained until they weighed me at the hospital when I was in labor. I also did have a few binge/purge episodes during my first pregnancy. I’m short, I looked healthy to everyone around me and gained the (exact–25 lbs) right amount of weight during my first pregnancy but my brain was constantly thinking about it and it was hard to enjoy being pregnant.”

How yoga can help you foster a positive body image during pregnancy

Yoga brings all aspects your body, mind, and breath together, which creates a path to self-acceptance and love. It gives us the skills and outlet to cope with life’s up and downs. We begin each practice concentrating on the connection of our mind with our body and our breath. In these moments, we can be faced with all of our limitations, flaws, and insecurities. But, we quiet our mind and focus on our breath. As we flow from pose to pose, we go only as far as our breath and our bodies allow. We have to let go of the image of what we think we should look like and instead we have to meet ourselves just as we are in that present moment. We can begin to change our perspective from how big we think a body part is to how strong it is. Yoga encourages us to shift from self-blame to self-love, and to accept ourselves just as we are.

When Leslie first went into recovery, she said she tried yoga, but found it difficult during the early days of her healing. She became so focused on the body parts she hated during yoga. She first needed to change her perspective about how her body looked to what her body did for her. “I would tell myself that my legs were bigger because they carried me through the day, etc,. To be honest, I had to be really selfish. I put myself first because part of my disorder was from trying to please everyone and take care of people.

bodyimage

Stats

As many as 5-10 percent of women struggle with an eating disorder, according to Progress in Neurology and Psychiatry. “The onset of these disorders is typically in adolescence or young adulthood, ie in a critical phase of a woman’s reproductive life. These disorders are not self-limiting and many have a chronic course.”

As young women when we’re most susceptible to developing an eating disorder, we might not see the ramifications that will follow us into adulthood. This affects our ability to show our babies a healthy lifestyle and relationship with food that, as mothers, we so desperately want for them.

Leslie describes how different her second pregnancy was from her first. “During my oldest daughter’s first year, I realized very quickly that she would pick up on everything I did. An eating disorder is something I never want my children to experience. I found clarity and a lot of peace in the resolve I now have. I’m raising my girls to love every bit of themselves and to respect their bodies. I’ve said many times that my oldest daughter saved my life. I was much more relaxed in my second pregnancy and pretty much ate whatever I wanted. Ironically, I gained the exact same amount of weight. It’s amazing what happens when we treat our bodies with respect and let them do what they were built to do.”

How you can help others

There many different types of eating disorders. We can’t know just by looking at someone if they have an unhealthy relationship with food. So, next time you see a pregnant woman, whether she’s in your family or your social circle or your community, pause before you comment on her weight. Ask yourself if what you’re about to say is necessary, even if you consider it a compliment. See if you can reframe your comment into something that doesn’t have anything to do with her size. Try to refrain from anything along the lines of: “OMG you look like you’re having twins!” or “Dang girl, you’re all belly!” Instead, mention what a great mother she’s going to be. Tell her she has a beautiful glow. Compliment her on her hairstyle or clothes. Her stamina. Her patience. Her work ethic. Her soul. Her other children. Anything other than the size of any body part even if you think it’s a compliment. Because you can’t look at someone and know their deepest struggles. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes.

If you know someone with an eating disorder and would like to reach out to them to tell them you care, here are some tips on how to gently reach out:

“You deserve to be happy.”

“I’m here for you no matter what.”

“Is there anything I can do to help you?”

Something along those lines. Tell them you are supportive of them and compassionate toward their struggle. You might not understand it, and that’s ok. But, let the overall message be that you support them as a person and you’re there for them in any way you can help. We all fall short. Everyone needs support and compassion from those around them, even when we don’t understand each other’s struggles.

Leslie is still in recovery and has a pretty good relationship with food. “There is always a small part of me that is extra aware of what I put in my body (you can’t forget all the calorie counts you have memorized) and occasionally have days when I slip up. My 2 year old weaned and then I had a miscarriage so my body was changing a lot this fall and that brought up a lot of old feelings but I managed to keep myself from being symptomatic. Watching my girls grow keeps my head in the right place. I never want them to see that side of me and I always want them to be confident and love their bodies.”

There are good things inside of you. A healthy life comes from more than just what you’re eating and drinking. It also comes from your thoughts and your words.

Feed your mind positivity.

Feed your body beautifully.

Give the gift of recovery to your children by showing them how to do difficult things as an act of self-love.

For more information about birth and yoga, contact Chelsey Bishop, owner of MoonLight Zen, BAI birth doula, and RYT-200 yoga instructor.

www.MoonLightZen.com

423.383.2563

chelseyfaithbishop@gmail.com

All student article posts are the expressions of the student who wrote them. We do not take responsibility for the content, these are done as part of the educational experience and we try to encourage students to use their voice and learn to connect with clients through blogging and social media.
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