Pregnant or not, feeling good about your body can be a serious struggle. It is a process, that for me, ebbs and flows as often as the days change. Some days it is easier for me to move through the world feeling good in my body. Some days I feel strong, I feel free, I feel connected to myself and really happy with the way I look. Other days, I feel icky. I feel disconnected. I feel gross in my clothes and I don’t like what I see in the mirror. What I’ve come to embrace is that all of this is ok. All of this is normal.
Pregnancy is often a time when women struggle more with body image. During pregnancy the body goes through so many changes; hormonal, physical, physiological, etc, all of which are totally out of our control. We start to outgrow our clothes, our hips and thighs widen, our butt flattens, our bodies store more fat, our skin may show more moles and weird skin tags, stretch marks appear…and the list goes on and on. It is not uncommon for these changes to make our bodies feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable to live in. The pregnant body is going through a major transformation and that means that our relationship to our body is also changing during this time.
Despite uncomfortable physical changes, pregnancy can also be a time of immense appreciation for the body. Many women have told me that being pregnant was the first time they felt acceptance and even admiration for their bodies. Women that have struggled to feel at home in their own bodies may suddenly feel connected and at ease knowing their bodies are now home to another being and the source of nourishment and love. It is an incredible experience!
However your experience of pregnancy influences your relationship to your body, one thing I know is this; your body is amazing and beautiful and it deserves to be cared for, even if the struggle is real.
So here I’m offering some ideas to help you act kindly toward your body, to honor, respect and nourish your body during this time of transformation, growth, discomfort and awe.
Focus on what your body is doing– Pregnancy is truly miraculous. Your body is hard at work building another human being, creating a life. And it all just started with two single cells. I still can’t really comprehend how amazing that is! If you’re feeling uncomfortable in your pregnant body, remind yourself of the miraculous biochemical changes happening within. I found it helpful to read about what stages of development my baby was going through as the weeks passed.
Move your body!- Physical activity is not only fantastic for our physical health during pregnancy, but it can improve the way you feel about your body as well. Go for a walk, do yoga, swim, bike…do whatever feels good to your body. When we move our bodies and get exercise, we stimulate the release of endorphins which increase positive feelings. Exercise also stimulates the production of neurotransmitters that decrease stress, anxiety and depression. Physical activity is also another way to appreciate what your body can do for you, rather than how it looks.
Nutrition/Nourishment- What you choose to nourish your body with will influence the way you feel about your body. Now let me be super clear: I’m not talking about dieting and certainly not talking about restricting food to influence your body’s outward appearance. What I’m talking about is feeding yourself in a way that is loving, respectful and nourishing, both nutritionally and emotionally. Choosing to eat foods that improve your energy and vitality, eating a variety of foods and ensuring you get the nutrients you need to support your pregnancy, can positively influence how you feel toward your body. By choosing to nourish yourself well you are communicating to yourself that your body is important and worth taking good care of.
Body image is a struggle, and I’ve found that focusing on the small ways you can respect and care for your body from day-to-day can make a significant difference.
Image from The Honest Body Project
Photographer: Natalie McCain