Hello dear Happy Eaters!
I don’t know whether some of you remember me, but I was active on this forum a few years ago.
It helped me find balance and I was in a really good place with food (no restrictions/ no obsession/ no binges) and exercise (barely any exercise) for years!
Everything was going well, I got marrie in September 2021 and a few weeks later I got pregnant. We were super happy! But then, the pregnancy started messing with my head. I started gaining weight despite eating to my hunger cues as usual and it freaked me out! It was like I could not trust my body anymore. Clothes started feeling tight and my body image went downhill as my belly started growing.
I am currently 7 months in (due at the end of May) and it’s getting harder and harder to accept myself with this huge belly. I also went back to weighing myself every couple of days and the number on the scale keeps going up, up, up (obviously).
I want to be 100% transparent: I have not gained that much weight objectively (5-6kg in 7 months, which I think is like 11-13 lbs). My gynecologist keeps telling me that I could be gaining more and it would still be really healthy. I was also thin (not underweight but slim) to begin with so maybe I’m supposed to gain more. I am not restricting per se, in that I always eat something if I‘m hungry because I don’t want the baby to suffer from my craziness, but I am definitely focusing a lot more on what I eat and also not really allowing myself as many “fun foods“ as I was before.
So I guess I was not as much of a “happy eater” as I thought! Or rather, I was a happy eater because I was still maintaining a figure that I liked.
So this brings me here: is there anyone who experienced something similar during pregnancy? I know I should not be focusing on my body but I can’t help it. I am afraid to look at myself in the mirror and I can seem to find a way to accept this new body
Wow, that must have been scary! Health really is everything, and it’s the big picture of physical, emotional, and spiritual health, not just numbers or appearance. I’m so glad your baby is healthy and you’re feeling better.
Just a little update! I am no longer pregnant. I had an emergency c-section on May 10 because of pre-eclampsia. Our son is perfectly healthy thank goodness! Then I had a second surgery on May 11 because of internal bleeding, and a third operation on May 12 it was still bleeding (because of the anti-coagulants I take since a carotid problem I had in 2020). The 3 surgeries in 36 hours (2 of which under general anesthesia) have really taken a toll on my body. I was in so much pain, couldn’t walk/ sit up/ stand… My whole body was falling apart: low hemoglobin, anemia, not holding on to fluids, horrible stomach pain and gas, pressure sore at my coccyx from laying on my back… Nothing worked anymore basically. Also, my breast milk didn’t come (or at least not in sufficient quantities to feed my baby). It’s now been a week since my third surgery and I am finally feeling a bit better. This whole experience has reminded me of how important health is above looks. I love to look slim, but it’s really nothing if I am unhealthy. I lost all of my pregnancy weight and even more (went from 56kg to 47kg in 9 days!). I look and feel like a ghost. So for the past few days I have been eating everything they give me at the clinic, including carbs and dessert. I eat everything that is on my tray, period. I really think I can use the extra food right now so I don’t even let myself question it with thoughts of “am I still hungry?” or “do I really want this?” Before I got pregnant I thought I had found food freedom and that I didn’t have any fear foods anymore. This is true, but I now realize that I still have one big fear : eating “too much”. I would allow myself to have whatever I wanted but always smallish quantities. Also, I was *never* allowing myself to eat if I wasn’t hungry, just because something sounded good. So now I really want to focus on 1) healing my body 2) letting myself eat more and 3) allowing myself to eat because of the experience sometimes. Like on my birthday (May 14 - I was still at the clinic) my mom brought me cake. I didn’t eat it in front of her - even though I knew she would have loved to see me eat it - because I wasn’t hungry. I kept it for after dinner because I was hungry then. I want to be able to eat birthday cake when I’m not hungry. I think it’s something that most people do so why can’t I? I think I might start a new journal on here so that I can continue on this journey and hold myself accountable not to go back to my old ways.
Thank you @Joyce ! we are super excited to welcome our little boy in just a few weeks! @Sheena thank you for sharing your experience! I hope I will also manage to leverage my intuitive eating background so that I will be able to lose the pregnancy weight in a healthy way without falling back into old disordered eating patterns. @skwigg seeing Rihanna owning her new body does make me feel a bit better! It’s funny because on some days (like today) I feel amazing and I think I look like a fertility goddess lol! But on other days/ weeks, I feel like complete crap. I guess it’s the hormones and also I am very sensitive to my digestive health: when my digestion is good and I feel normal hunger cues I feel a lot better. On the other hand, on the days that I am constipated/ have heartburn/ have zero appetite I generally feel a lot worse about my body and I struggle with disordered eating thoughts a lot more. I noticed that it also depends on how tired I am. I was working full-time until last Friday and I now realize I was exhausted. This week has been so great because I am now on maternity leave and I can actually rest and do what feels good. I have been walking a lot more, which helps with swollen ankles. Today I met up with a (pregnant) friend for cappuccino and chocolate croissant, then I had an amazing lunch in the sun, and in the afternoon I finally had a massage for my lower back which had been killing me for the past few weeks. Tonight I had a delicious dinner with my husband and we polished off quite a bit of our Easter chocolate. I ate a lot of yummy non-diet things and yet I had zero disordered thoughts. Prioritizing self care in general is really helpful.
I’m not a mom, so I can’t offer any sympathetic advice. But I want to offer my congratulations on such wonderful news!
I keep seeing news stories on Rihanna’s maternity style. She was absolutely unwilling to be ashamed of her pregnant body or to hide it behind demure maternity clothes. It’s been a very belly-forward style of clingy bodysuits, low rise pants, and crop tops. She was on the cover of Vogue recently in all her pregnant glory. Maybe reading some of those pro pregnant-body interviews and articles would help you to feel less self-conscious and more empowered and stylish. You are amazing! Keep doing things that make you feel happy and confident. Your inner critic can loop the old disordered nonsense and you can notice that happening without giving it a lot of energy and attention.
Hi [@Letizia]! Nice to see you back. @skwigg thanks for tagging me. Congratulations on your pregnancy! I think it’s super normal to struggle with body image while your body is changing. While some people might be able to lean into the whole thing, others struggle. I personally struggled. Having babies put me back into dieting mode to lose the weight after baby, but I have enough background of intuitive eating that I “diet” in a way that doesn’t mess me up. I did purposely keep on weight for breastfeeding my second son, but didn’t like how my body looked, and started dieting as soon as I weaned him at one year. I don’t really have advice but I can commiserate. This too shall pass and is very normal. Keeping in mind that it’s all temporary and your body is meant to go through these changes, could help.
Thank you for your messages @juliebookasia and @skwigg ! @juliebookasia that’s exactly how I feel: I am super grateful (and excited!!) to be creating this tiny human, but at the same time I am struggling with my body image and old ED thoughts creeping back in. I trust that the weight will probably come off easily (although I am still dreading the first weeks postpartum with the squishy belly) and I have to keep reminding myself that it’s all temporary. And @skwigg , you are 100% correct in that my logical brain understands that it's normal to gain weight during pregnancy but my ED brain has woken up due to the changes in my body. How did I shut it down before? If I remember correctly, I just couldn’t take it anymore - I was hungry all the time and I knew I wasn’t living my life the way I wanted. So I started saying yes to social occasions, breaking my food rules one by one and challenging my negative body image thoughts. It took a long time and yet I now realize that it was probably still easier than now because overall I (kind of) liked my body back then. I had abs and - even though I was not at my skinniest - I was still slim. I try to apply the same strategies now, but the difference is that I don’t love my body now. My belly is huge and everything is jiggly. Even my boobs are huge (and I have never had big boobs before)! I kind of wish we could lay eggs :) Oh and the hormones - they are crazy yes! First trimester I was really irritable and now I cry my eyes out for no reason!! Thank you for reminding me that they also probably play a role on the days I feel like crap. In that respect, I find that pregnancy is like PMS on steroids. For the past couple weeks, I have been really trying to let go a bit and start eating “less clean” again. We have a lot of Easter candy in the house at the moment, which I am enjoying a lot. I also stopped doing kettlebells and I am now doing prenatal yoga. I bought myself a pair of maternity jeans that actually fit me nicely and that’s also been helpful for my confidence. This weekend we are going out to eat 3 times and I will try my best to order what actually sounds good (within the safety guidelines for pregnancy of course so no raw meat etc.) instead of the lightest thing I can find on the menu.
If I'm following correctly, logical Letizia fully understands that it's normal and healthy to gain weight and have a bigger belly during pregnancy. The problem is "eating disorder voice," who has been asleep for a few years, decided to wake up and get involved. So, it's not a debate about how much weight to gain (something outside your control right now), but about how to deal with the disordered self-talk that has reemerged zombie-like at the worst possible time.
How did you shut it down before? Because you did let yourself eat things it told you not to eat, rest when it told you to exercise, and treat yourself with kindness when it was being hateful. You wanted a better life, one without that disordered inner-critic causing havoc and wrecking your health. The more you challenged it and nothing bad happened, the less it had to say, probably. Then you got used to not hearing it, then when it sprang back up it felt scary and overwhelming, especially with a baby involved. Am I on the right track?
The strategies that helped you before can still help you. It may have been things like calmly doing the opposite of what the eating disorder would have you do. Questioning the words it's putting in your brain. Treating yourself the way you would a cherished loved one. Creating distance between thoughts and actions. Managing stress in healthier ways. Think back on what really made a difference for you when you set yourself free the first time.
Also, as someone who just went through menopause, female hormones are no joke. They can upend your whole life when they're surging or crashing. Pregnancy has to be a rollercoaster of changing hormones, which also means changing moods, energy, and sleep. There is some relief in just knowing that's what's happening. You're not going crazy. If a situation feels scary or infuriating or hopeless, giving it a day or a nap can shift the whole experience.
I hope something in that helps a bit!
I completely get where you re coming with this. Your feelings about body image are valid and in no way take away the fact that I am sure you are thrilled for this babies arrival. I went through this 3 times. And as grateful I was to be creating a new human, when you have struggled with any type of ED it hits your mental state exactly where you are vulnerable and no amount of logic and “normal” weight gain charts for pregnancy are going penetrate. From my experience as I struggled pre pregnancy and then a decade later, it’s just a day by day trying to do the inner work. I will tell you I gained around 50 pounds the first time and it literally just came off so easily with no naughty behaviors. We are built very similar and your Mom sounds similar so I’m sure you are going to lose this pregnancy weight relatively quickly…… and if you don’t you will with time so try not to consume yourself with it. Gosh I know it’s so hard! You hang in there, you are getting close to the end and then your body will go back to a normal you recognize. I know it feels like everything is so out of your control right now. You got this Letizia❤️
I have to say, this post is very difficult to read. You are pregnant and growing a child. Your weight should be the least of your concerns right now. There are many infographics online that show the break down of the weight gained during pregnancy. At the bare minimum, like bare minimum, like least amount, you should gain 30lbs at the end of your pregnancy. And that's assuming you were a "normal" weight to start. If you were underweight, you should be gaining even more. I always get irritated when pregnant women are scared to gain weight. You are growing a person. You NEED to gain weight. My favourite part of pregnancy was being able to gain weight without anyone commenting on it negatively. I gained 50lbs with my first, 40lbs with my second and 40lbs with my 3rd and I don't regret a single pound.
Congratulations! It has been a long time since I was pregnant (my baby is 23!). But I wanted to add that if you were a slim person before you were pregnant, you will very likely be a slim person after you have your baby. Skwigg and Hayley have great advice. I especially agree that the babyhood goes by so fast. Enjoy your baby's newness and the time when you can just relish in the fact that you created a person. I remember feeling like nothing else really mattered than this little person. There will be plenty of time for more hard core fitness.
[@Letizia] That actually does make sense. I was just reading a sample of the book “You, Happier.” The psychiatrist who wrote it recommends naming and personalizing your obtrusive thoughts (aka, brain) to get some distance and clarity. He named his after a childhood pet raccoon who used to get him in all kinds of trouble. He would picture the raccoon holding a sign with whatever dumb statement on it. “I’m not good enough” or whatever. That turned unhelpful thoughts into something separate and goofy, not anything being entertained as fact. I liked that. I can see how personalizing your pregnant body as someone else that you love and want to take care of would take the panic and judgment out of it. You want them to be healthy and feel safe and happy, so how do you do that? How do you talk to them? What do you feed them? What would you say to reassure them? Thinking of it that way might help keep the eating disorder raccoon from getting so involved in the thought process.
Thank you for the congratulations and great advice/ insights!! @skwigg , what you wrote about telling another pregnant woman that she shouldn’t gain weight/ have such a big stomach really struck a chord! What an awful thing to say and also I know that pregnant women are objectively supposed to gain weight/ grow a belly, so my thoughts are ridiculous! However, I do find it hard to love my body if it’s not thin and I don’t have a flat stomach. @Hayley , thank you for sharing your experience! I can relate to wanting to gain as little weight as possible during pregnancy and being eager to return to exercising and “bouncing back”. It’s too early for me to say that I “missed out” but I definitely haven’t been enjoy being pregnant and I know it’s purely due to my difficulties in accepting the changes in my body. But you are right that this is all temporary; I have to keep reminding myself of that. Of course this also opens the door to other thoughts like “what is my body going to look like after the baby is born? will I have loose skin? stretch marks? cellulite?” But I will try to take it one step at a time. The crazy thing is that I was so sure that I was “100% recovered” from my eating issues, but I guess it’s actually a lifelong battle. It's easy not to obsess about food when you effortlessly maintain a body thin enough for your taste. I had not yet been in a position where I wanted to lose weight or didn’t like my body since finding my “happy eating place” so now comes the real challenge. @Tonya you are exactly right regarding the “out of body” experiences! My body feels foreign and actually when someone asks me what it’s like to be pregnant my answer is: “everything feels weird” (your belly changes, you grow hair in weird places, your boobs change, your emotions are all over the place, your libido is different, your taste is different, you smell different…) But maybe this could actually help me take a step back and talk to myself as I would talk to another person! It sounds kind of weird but maybe I can use the fact that “pregnant me” doesn’t feel like “me” to talk to it as if it were another person. I am not sure it makes sense but I will try it!
[@Letizia], I am not a mother, so I can’t really offer insights there. However, I definitely want to offer up my congratulations to you on your wedding and now your new little one to come. I’m so happy for you! I can only imagine how strange some of your body changes could feel during all of this. Each person is different, but I can imagine myself having lots of “out of body” experiences…maybe not even feeling like it’s my body at all at times! What @skwigg said about stepping back as well as talking to yourself the way you would want others to be spoken to can really make a big difference. You are growing a person! It’s amazing; you’re amazing. I can see you are already getting some great insights from other moms. I’m sending big hugs!!
Thank you for tagging me, @skwigg! I'm not sure how much help I will be but I'll do my best.
Firstly, congratulations Letizia on both the marriage and the pregnancy! Both are very exciting. I think I still follow you on IG so I've seen many of your lovely photos.
Skwigg's comment about noticing new, intrusive, and obsessive thoughts and stepping back from them are definitely key. I don't know that I can offer up any specific action steps to take but I will throw in my 2 cents from personal experience in hopes that whatever resonates will help.
My first pregnancy with my daughter was a slippery slope into bulimia. Thank goodness she was born (and still is healthy) but I gained very little weight and wasn't told this was an issue by any doctor until the end of the pregnancy (despite me asking if it was acceptable throughout). This doesn't necessarily pertain to pregnancy, perhaps, but I will say that after I had both of my kids I was desperate to return to exercising. I didn't have weight to lose with either of them (I may have perceived that differently back then) but I still yearned to run, teach, etc. I was so focused on the exercise component that I can honestly (and very sadly) say that I missed out on a lot. Because I jumped back into high intensity stuff too quickly I think it messed with my milk production. I had serious issues breast feeding Chloe because she was born 3 weeks early and a little small so it was hard. I worked diligently with a lactation consultant but gave up because I was absolutely exhausted. My son, however, was an eating machine. I had no issues nursing him, but again, it was time consuming and my thoughts were often elsewhere. Going places, doing things, seeing people, exercising, etc. All in all I nursed him for about 3 months before I switched to bottle and formula feeding there, too (I did pump for a while but again, exhausting and time consuming). There is absolutely nothing wrong with formula feeding and my youngest, now 8 years old, is healthy as a horse. What I am sad about is that bonding experience you get from nursing your child, those precious moments when it's just the two of you (unless you're nursing in public, which is totally doable just a little more complicated 😁) that I will never get back. Don't get me wrong - I still spent a lot of time with both of my kids. We went to parks, on walks (and jogs), met up with friends, etc, but I know I spent a lot of time thinking about my body and gaining back both my pre-pregnancy figure, stamina, and endurance. If I could go back in time I would do many things differently. I would lie in bed nursing my baby more. I would take gentle walks and put fitness on the back burner. I would still make an effort to go to parks and be with people because having babies can sometimes feel very lonely and isolating, but I definitely would've spent more time being kind with myself and realizing that the most important thing was lapping up every moment of their newness. I did do that quite a bit, to a certain extent (and many days were exhausting and very hard) but I try to think about the learning opportunities I take from those days and apply them to the here and now.
I apologize for that lengthy comment and if it's completely unhelpful. I can only offer up hindsights that, to do this day, are applicable. Having knee surgery and being incapacitated (for the most part) for 4-6 weeks has completely flipped my perspective on all of this. Nourish your body (and your baby). Eat a variety of foods for various nutrients. Understand that all of this with your body - the strangeness in how you walk, move, feel, sleep, etc - it's all temporary. I always said I hated being pregnant because it felt so cumbersome. But honestly it was just different and I think I was less open to changing my perspective.
I'll be interested in reading what Sheena and sunshine can offer and hope that what I wrote was ok. It's hard to tap out these words without getting pretty emotional because again, I can't get those days back, but I love my two more than anything else in this world and hope that the rest of your pregnancy goes smoothly!
It’s nice to see you! Congratulations on the marriage and pregnancy. Since I don’t have any personal experience with pregnancy, I’m going to tag some moms. @Hayley @sunshine @Sheena My best advice on body image in general is if new, intrusive or obsessive thoughts are arising, take a step back from them. They’ll start to fall apart with a little distance and some questioning. They’re a separate phenomenon that you’re observing, not something true to be blindly acted upon. Imagine saying them to another pregnant woman. “You shouldn’t gain weight. Your stomach shouldn’t be so big. Don’t eat that.” She would punch you, right? It’s gasp-worthy, so don’t let your own mind rattle off snarky insults unchallenged. Actively counter them with kindness and reason. “I’m growing a baby. I need to meet both of our nutrition needs. I’m worthy of happiness and love.” I’m sure other moms can offer more reassurance and personal experiences.