Category Archives: body image

You’re pregnant?!?! Seriously?!?!

I have contemplated writing this blog post for months. At nearly 7 months pregnant, people continue to be in disbelief that I’m pregnant. In person, on Facebook and wherever else people have told me how great it is that I’m carrying so small, I’ve been gracious and said “thank you” while internally, these questions began making me feel badly about the size and shape of my belly. I began to wonder if there was something wrong with my pregnancy or the baby (everything is fine) and wondered why the tone in saying I am so small was one that seemed complimentary.

I’ve had many private conversations about my frustrations with people’s reactions and the comments that are made. However, I have to admit that I’ve done a poor job at expressing this more publicly because I didn’t want to make anyone feel badly for trying to be so sweet. I’ve also tried to be playful about it, thus not in any way addressing the issue at hand. Somehow my very strong stance in being person-focused instead of body-focused was derailed. I honestly didn’t know how to handle all of this commentary and so I didn’t. Very interesting, in hindsight, for someone who specializes in body image and eating disorders!

Undoubtedly, there is an enormous amount of pressure on women and body image (men, too) and this pressure does not abate during pregnancy. Are women supposed to carry small? Large? Elsewhere on their bodies besides their bellies? The truth is that everyone carries differently, just like everyone’s natural bodies are their own individual shapes and sizes. It’s not better to show sooner rather than later or vice versa. I’ve heard countless women express concern about how their pregnant bodies will look instead of enjoying the true beauty and amazement that is pregnancy.

The door to comment on women’s bodies seems to get blown wide open during pregnancy. Not only have I had comments about my belly, I’ve had many comment on my legs, my butt, my breasts, my face, etc. and have had many reach out and touch my belly without asking. Nothing is off limits. It seems that because the body is changing, it becomes free rein.

Consider this, saying “Wow! You’re so huge!” is no different from saying “Wow! You’re so tiny!” I can completely understand how more likely than not the intention of both is a good one. But both are a judgment and send unhealthy messages about body image. The best compliments I’ve received thus far have had nothing to do with my body. I’ve been told about my pregnancy glow, how happy I seem, etc.

I’ve spent months wishing I were bigger and looking forward to the day when someone offers me their seat on a crowded subway – wishing I were bigger instead of just allowing myself to be the shape that I am. But the truth is that I feel great, so far things have been smooth and I couldn’t ask for more than that. I love my belly (at whatever size it needs to be) and I don’t take for granted that my body can create this miracle.

This blog post is a step forward in addressing this issue more publicly. I hope that we can all make an effort to be as sensitive and respectful of pregnant bodies as we try to be (I hope) of bodies in general.


challenging negative self-perception… in your boudoir!

Photo courtesy of Lori Berkowitz

by guest blogger Lori Berkowitz, of Lori Berkowitz Photography!

At 43 I am more comfortable in my body today than I have ever been. It’s been a 25 year process to get to this place but here I am. Today I can easily quiet the voices that insist something about my body needs to change for me to be truly happy, and those awful comparisons to other women don’t happen quite as often.

In addition to decades of therapy, my work with women as a boudoir photographer has been a tremendous part of healing my relationship with my body. As clients have come in over the years I began to see how distorted our image of ourselves often is. Here is one example of story I hear almost daily.

When Dawn, a vivacious mother and business owner, arrived for a boudoir shoot a few weeks ago it was easy to think at first glance that she was thin, toned and had no body issues. As we started working together and I wanted to take some pictures of her back, she explained that she always hated her back and believed it to be fat. Somehow she had gotten this in her head and now it became her truth, regardless of reality. She couldn’t even remember when it started.

When I took these images and showed them to her in the back of my camera she cried. Dawn could see that her back was beautiful and the healing of her constant negative self talk began.

Photo courtesy of Lori Berkowitz

Clients having an “aha” moment about their bodies when they see their images is part of my passion and joy as an artist. It’s also a daily practice of self love, I heal my own body image issues as I help other women do the same. It’s my small contribution to showing women how beautiful we all are. Everyone has their body issues no matter their size and I want every woman to feel confident in her own skin. Without comparison. I’m thrilled to have found my calling in helping women feel incredible about themselves.


the secret to the perfect bikini body

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The weather is getting warmer! Talk and anxieties of the perfect “bikini body” are in the air!
Do this exercise, spot train this area, don’t exercise this area, don’t eat this food, definitely eat this food, only eat these foods, blah, blah, blah.

I have a secret – I know how to get the perfect bikini body! Are you ready?

Okay, here we go… grab your favorite bikini – or any swimsuit for that matter.
Put it on and stand in front of the mirror.
Stand up tall and proud with your shoulders back and your chest open.
Throw your hands in the air and gleefully shout “WOO HOO!” with a smile on your face. That’s it!
Yep, you already have the perfect bikini body!
Now it’s up to you to honor and love love love it!!!

Go on with your life and stop worrying so much! You’re already fabulous and you’ll be even more fabulous once you realize how awesome you are!

OH! That reminds me of one more thing. The other thing that makes for an amazing bikini body is confidence! Own it, flaunt it and shake what your mama gave ya!

Now get out there and enjoy yourself!


the biggest loser, is anyone really winning?

I can’t begin this post without first stating that in no way is this about Rachel Frederickson. I don’t know her, I never met her and I’ve never had any contact with her. I am also not a part of The Biggest Loser and don’t really know what goes on the behind-the-scenes.

While writing this, it feels uncomfortably clear that Rachel will likely be reading much of what is written about her and her body. She will read the criticisms, concerns and maybe even how impressed and inspired people are. I want to express that the intention of this post is to draw attention to the larger issues at hand and not to criticize Rachel in any way.

However, Rachel is at the center of this long overdue firestorm around The Biggest Loser and is an example of what I’ve been ranting about for years.

260lbs to 105lbs (a 59.62% loss of total body weight) in 7.5 months time. At 5’4″, that equates to a BMI of 18 – clinically underweight.

I have enormous respect for the men and women who choose to wage their internal battles and to do so publicly, is another level of courage. We all need motivation and if going on a reality television show is that for someone, then who am I (or any of us) to judge.

Some are entertained and maybe even motivated by these heartfelt stories. The network and staff make money from these same stories. It’s a fair trade. Participants get services for the fee of doing it publicly. As long as everyone is consenting and willful, so be it.

I do, however, have an enormous problem with the treatment of those who are willing to be vulnerable (body and soul) in front of an audience of millions and share the innermost struggles that have haunted them for years, most times decades. Their willingness to do this does not give license for inadequate and improper treatment.

To my knowledge, most (if not all) of these participants at some point in their journey have an emotional epiphany that their relationship with food is actually related to their relationship with themselves and that this is the root of the problem. This is an eating disorder defined! So if we acknowledge this, now we have a show about men and women who are struggling with eating disorders and we are watching them deal with the food and exercise part of their treatment. Except… where is the treatment? Where is the intense psychotherapy that is necessary to deal with the underpinnings of eating disorders? We know that a positive prognosis for eating disorder recovery has to do with three things: specialized treatment, adequate amounts of treatment and long-term follow-up. The Biggest Loser offers none of these things. So in essence, The Biggest Loser is treating the symptom of the eating disorder (the food piece) without addressing the things that will actually affect real, long-term and meaningful healing and change.

My other concerns are about the fitness professionals on the show offering some sort of intermittent therapy throughout these weight loss journeys. Offering any type of therapy falls outside of their scope of practice and is in direct conflict with their Code of Ethics.

We also know that losing a large amount of weight in a short period of time is dangerous. Additionally, having formerly sedentary individuals take on rigorous and intense exercise regimes is also dangerous. I realize that there is a full medical staff who monitors them but the fact that this is necessary is my case in point.

I can go on and on about how these types of shows are exploitative but the fact remains that these are the types of shows that bring in ratings and money to those involved so there is an investment in keeping them alive and running. I will table that for another time.

But I will say… if we are going to have shows like these, despite my stated opinion, then they need to be done responsibly. The issues need to be dealt with appropriately and the participants need to be taken care of.

The Biggest Loser finale seemed uncomfortable for everyone. Rachel Frederickson’s transformation was undeniably extreme and the looks on the trainer’s (and everyone’s) faces reflected that. I can understand the way the show unfolded because it would have been even more awkward and even unfair to Rachel for the show to have been halted and an intervention be made right there, on the spot, in front of millions. The show progressed as it needed to.

Since then…

Jillian Michaels’ Twitter response was this:
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The Biggest Loser’s Twitter response was this:
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Rachel’s The Biggest Loser trainer’s, Dolvett Quince’s, Facebook response was this:

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Rachel Frederickson had a media conference call yesterday morning (you can see the transcript at realityworldtv.com) and when asked about her food and exercise routine, Rachel explained that she was given a 1600 calorie budget by her “support system” at The Biggest Loser and would take “maybe three or four classes a day and just really have fun with all the people in the room. It was pretty cool! I’d be in Zumba and then I’d be going to spin class, and actually, I never used to like running. And so now, I really like running.

The interviewer’s response: “That is a lot of exercise in one day though! Impressive.

“Impressive?!?!” – REALLY?!?!?!

What is critical is what happens now. I don’t point a finger at any one person in particular but collectively, there is a huge problem here. Do we accept this transformation as “impressive” or do we dig a little deeper and stay with the uncomfortable truth that there is more here than what meets the eye? And will “we” as a society turn the other cheek and thus, sign off on the irresponsibility that is happening here with The Biggest Loser and shows of the like?


What do you love about your body?

Men and women spend an enormous amount of time using negative self-talk to minimize, judge and criticize themselves. Most people aren’t even aware of how incessantly this internal tyrannical tape plays. Think about it in your own life – how much negative self-talk to you engage in? If you engage in any, it’s already too much!

I decided to reach out to a bunch of women and ask them what they love about their bodies and why. While this question was easy for some, it posed a challenge for others.

Here are their unedited responses. After you read them, I encourage you to take a moment to pause, reflect, answer the same question and give yourself some love! Feel free to share your love in the “comments” section below!

What do you love about your body and why?

Wow. My gut response was so overwhelmingly negative – I love NOTHING! – that now I have to do this and come up with a list, not just for you, but for me. 

I have always wanted to be able to fold over and touch my toes… I have discovered ballet barre and now I can!!!

Today I love my legs because they are strong and powerful and look super cute in my patterned tights right now!

I love that my body carried my children and gave them life. When I see my stretch marks and scars I try to remind myself of that rather than pick my body apart.

I love my body because it is made of the same stuff as the stars we wish on. It allows me to dance and move out into the world with you. My female body is so beautifully complex it reminds me that it has allowed for all human life to exist. Now how could I hate on that?

This is a really hard task and cause for a great deal of reflection. I think it has different meanings for each age and stage and for me causes me to look around and internalize all that is happening around me. I love my body because (so far) it is keeping me healthy and whole. It is allowing me to maintain my family and home, and giving me the opportunity to actively engage with those I love. My body is giving me the gifts of running in the park with my grandchildren and taking an 11 mile walk with my daughter, when we thought we were going for a stroll. How lucky I am. Thanks for affording me this wonderful time for reflection. Yes we take so much time in our lives using “fat talk” and hating our bodies….but rarely do we hug ourselves to say thank you.

I love that my body is so strong and resilient. It really doesn’t fail me and I feel blessed. I love that it’s petite but still womanly, not skinny. On a more superficial level I love my flat stomach.

My instinctual answer would be my smile and laugh because that is what most people recognize about me which I find is a really nice thing, actually cause it exudes more than an exterior appearance.

I love that my body is strong and healthy!

I love that my body can dance because I am never happier than when I am dancing.

I can touch and feel and love up my babies.

What I love about my body is that it has/had the miraculous ability to grow a child! Despite the changes from my pre-baby body, every time I see the differences in my body now, as a mother, I look at those changes with gratitude. I think about my body as having the ability to grow an adorable and wonderful little boy! What a wonderful thing!

I love my legs because they are strong, take me to places, let me dance, and keep me grounded.

As a mother of two daughters that mean the world to me, I am blessed to have a body (regardless of what it looks like) that has allowed me to produce and care for my two precious girls.

My cleavage.

I love my lats! I used to be upset that they make it tough for me to find dresses that zip up all the way. But, then I realized that without them I couldn’t do pull ups. I don’t know a lot of women who can do pull ups so I will keep my lats and stick to skirts, woo!

I love my body because it’s strong and unique, and it hasn’t failed me yet.

One thing that I really love about my body is that it is strong.  I like to feel the muscle tone in my legs and ass.  It feels good to think about our assets for a change.

I love that my body could still support me in a headstand when I was 8½ months pregnant! I feel so healthy and strong knowing I can support myself and my little guy now whether he’s inside or outside of me because of all my years of yoga and Pilates training.

I love that my body is able to move and engage in activities that I love to do.

I actually do love how it can grow in strength and stamina, even sometimes when I am not initially convinced that it can.

The one thing I love about my body are my legs, because they are long and somewhat fit. 

This feels weird but here goes: I like my feet. I was always too klutzy to wear heels, but as a result nothing is misshapen or bent or bony growth where it shouldn’t be. I actually like my rear. A little dimply now but still shapely. Collarbone — nicely defined. Veiny hands and arms like my dad’s, so I’m partial to them.

Right now, I LOVE my belly!!  It’s huge but I’m growing another little person inside. And yes, with the big belly comes some extra cushioning, which can be, at times, harder to accept, but I know that all of it is for a higher purpose – to create a healthy, happy and strong baby!

I’m learning to love that my body is mine and unique to me.. comparisons need not apply!!!

I have loved my body most when it was doing something–skiing, surfing, yoga, Zumba…..having a BABY.  That is when I am grateful not critical.

I love my collar bones. They make me feel sexy.

When I stop and think about it, what I truly love about this body that has carried me through this life so far for better or worse for the last 40 years is that it is absolutely uniquely mine with all of its quirks, beauty and perfect imperfections. It’s been the vehicle through which my persona, spirit and soul has had the good fortune to experience everything from the extraordinarily mundane to the awe and the profound and I am utterly grateful for its functionality and intuition and guidance as well as all of its strength, exhaustion, muscle and flab, power and flexibility, aches, pains, tension and the relaxing, the calming, the sheen and the freckles and wrinkles, and yes even the wrinkles… ok well im still practicing with those 😉 

At the age of 36 I now love more than anything else that my body has the capability of growing life. When I was younger loved the freedom of movement, and ability to fully control my actions. While I still love those things, giving up control to let someone else grow is my amazement.

A few years ago I probably said I love my arms, abs, legs, butt, strength. Since not being as active and able to workout like I used to, not eat the same as I used to and with the medication I am on….my body has changed. I am feeling better mentally than I was last year as I am learning to love me and my body again… but it has been a struggle. I was so mad at ‘my body’ for failing me. I was so angry and felt like my healthy lifestyle was a total waste. I am thankful now, and think differently. If I didn’t have the healthy lifestyle I would have been more ill and unable to deal with this darn Lupus. I loved the body I created from working out and eating well. To be honest, I feel like I have lost my identity as a trainer. My body was proof of my lifestyle. Sounds crazy but this is how I feel. In the last few months I have made some mental breakthroughs and am learning that I am just as strong (even stronger) than I ever was. I work out daily and do what I can. I always eat healthy and that is all I can do.
What do I love about my body? My smile and positive outlook.

I love my body because it carried and delivered my children with such health and perfection, and it now allows me to hug them and chase them and carry them and love them. I am so grateful to my body for allowing me to do this that I feel like I owe my body lots of love and, in return for all it has done for me, I always really try to take very good care of it.

I love that my body has survived two major surgeries, adapted to the complications, and ultimately healed itself. I am truly amazed at its response to trauma and feel blessed that my body didn’t fail me and gave me second chances.


no pain, no gain?

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The idea of “fitspo” (short for fitspiration / fitness inspiration) has been on my radar for a while and I’m glad that it has received increased attention over the past few months! A huge part of my attempt to address this issue, and the issue of destructive behavior in the fitness world has been the creation of Destructively Fit®. Check out the recent press and more articles about Fitspo!

For me, it’s difficult to discuss “Fitspo” without first saying something about “Thinspo” (short for thinspiration / thin inspiration). Thinspo was first found on pro-ana and pro-mia (pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia) websites that shared eating disorder tips and tricks, blogs, journals and photos of emaciated women and men reinforcing destructive ideals and behaviors, particularly eating disorders. Oftentimes, the men and women who were engaged in these websites were those with an incredibly strong link between their identity and their eating disorder and demonstrated a significant denial of self.
(note: due to the efforts of media watchdogs, most of these websites have been removed from the internet)

While some Fitspo is truly healthy and inspiring, plenty of it is unhealthy and hauntingly similar to Thinspo, offering unrealistic and damaging expectations and fitness ideals. Many of the photos are of uber-cut scantily clad men and women.

Just to give you an idea, I’ve seen many messages like these:
“do it for the thigh gap”
“eat wise, drop a size”
“do it so you don’t have to untag yourself in pictures because you look fat”

I’ve seen an abundance of these types of Fitspo tweets:
“you can’t be small if you eat it all”
lists of foods that make you less hungry
how to have a “flatter stomach”
“diet mistakes”
lots of tips + tricks that have nothing to do with fitness – at least in my opinion!

No pain, no gain? Healthy exercise is not about getting hurt. It’s about paying attention to your body. While it has always been important to maintain a balance and groundedness in your own self and your own personal health and fitness goals, it seems more important than ever to keep these things in mind and also, to manage your expectations!

Learn to recognize healthy and unhealthy messages and ALWAYS #HonorYourBody!


raising kids after having an eating disorder

Raising Kids After Having an Eating Disorder
How to help children develop a healthy relationship to food
by Jodi Rubin, ACSW, LCSW, CEDS

(reprinted with permission from Seleni Institute, a nonprofit organization based in New York City that provides care, information and research support central to women’s reproductive and maternal mental health and well-being.)

Many women (and men) who have struggled with an eating disorder worry their children may be more prone to developing the condition. Research shows that heredity does play a role in anorexia nervosa and that genetic factors may influence the likelihood of developing other eating disorders. But there is no single cause, and elements from psychology to family environment and society at large are all factors.

The good news is that because you have personally gone through this struggle, you are more likely to notice the early signs and symptoms that others might overlook. In fact, if you’re recovered, you’re also more likely to have a healthy relationship with your body and a more balanced relationship with food. This will help buffer your child from external messages and cultivate healthy self-esteem.

We know that kids – especially girls – face great pressure from an early age to watch what they eat, no matter what their family history with eating disorders.

  • More than 40 percent of girls in first through third grade want to be thinner.
  • More than half of 9- to 10-year-old girls feel better about themselves when they are dieting.
  • An estimated 11 percent of high school students have been diagnosed with an eating disorder.
  • Almost one-third of teenage boys engage in unhealthy and dangerous behaviors to control their weight and the size of their body. This includes skipping meals, refusing to eat, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.

What parents can do

Be a role model.
Send your children healthy messages about food and bodies. Children pay attention to everything you do. If you are critical of yourself and your body, they will believe that is appropriate. But if you are loving and accepting of yourself and your body, they will learn that this is appropriate. Avoid judging or talking negatively about your body (or anyone else’s). Mention the things you like about yourself and your body. Work toward creating an atmosphere of acceptance.

Ditch food rules.
Avoid diets and try not to categorize foods as “good” or “bad.” Don’t teach children to compensate for having dessert by saying you will just have a salad so you can order dessert, for example. Instead, focus on balance and moderation when eating all kinds of foods – including treats.

Raise critical thinkers.
The average American is exposed to more than 3,000 advertising messages every day. Talk to your child about what she sees. Look at advertisements together and ask her what she thinks the advertisers’ message is. Ask your child how these messages make her feel and if she agrees with them. Explain that most photographs are airbrushed, and it’s ok to enjoy these photos as long as she realizes they aren’t accurate representations of real people.

Be a buffer.
Provide alternatives to the negative messages that your child will inevitably receive out in the world. Help her focus on other ways to feel good about herself, such as taking pride in being a caring person and a good friend. Praising your child for who she is as a person reinforces these values and helps to build a strong internal sense of self – one that won’t be measured by the size and shape of her body.

Common signs and symptoms of eating disorders include:

  • Extreme shifts in weight
  • Using bathroom frequently after meals (to purge)
  • No longer menstruating
  • Distorted body image
  • Significant body dissatisfaction
  • Obsession with food, weight, and body image
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Preoccupation with food and exercise
  • Loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyable
  • Increased isolation
  • Mood swings
  • Depression, anger, or anxiety
  • Low tolerance for frustration
  • All-or-nothing thinking (believing nothing is good enough unless it’s perfect)

If you are concerned about your child’s relationship to food or her body:

Trust your instincts. You know your child. If you think something feels “off,” you’re probably right. She may not have crossed the line into disordered eating, but you are more acutely aware of the early signs because you’ve been there.

Talk to your child. Open the conversation by sharing what you notice and what concerns you. Approaching this issue sensitively, compassionately, and without judgment shows your child that you can be there for her in a safe way.

Get support. Reach out to a professional for support and guidance. The National Eating Disorder Association and the Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center are two trusted resources that can help you find support in your area.

Finally, if you feel you need to address some of these issues for yourself, or if you find yourself becoming overly concerned with what your child eats or how her body looks, it might be useful for you to consult with a professional as well.


what do you think about these mannequins?

Swedish department store “Åhlens” made a splash when they brought out curvy, natural looking mannequins! (see here for photo). “Awesome,” “It’s about time,” and “Finally!” were only a few of the positive reactions that have been buzzing around the internet. Thank you for keeping it real!

What do YOU think?


Destructively Fit: exciting news!

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The response to Destructively Fit has been incredible. I am beyond grateful for the support I have received and extraordinarily excited to continue bringing my Destructively Fit training to fitness facilities and individual trainers across the nation!

Here’s a recent piece published by Well + Good NYC. For more goodies, check out Destructively Fit In The News!

In other exciting news, Destructively Fit® will be offered at the March 2014 ECA World Fitness Conference, so mark your calendars!

Keep up to date on trainings and informed about fitness and eating disorders (or just show a little love + support!) by connecting with Destructively Fit® on Twitter and Facebook! Hope to see you there!


can pregnancy trigger an old eating disorder?

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Ask the expert: I recovered from an eating disorder but worry pregnancy could trigger it. How can I prevent that?
by Jodi Rubin, ACSW, LCSW, CEDS

(reprinted with permission from Seleni Institute, a nonprofit organization based in New York City that provides care, information and research support central to women’s reproductive and maternal mental health and well-being.)

Pregnancy can be a time of excitement and joy, but it can also be a time of uncertainty and anxiety about your changing body – especially if you’ve battled eating disorders in the past. Recovering from an eating disorder is a long, hard process, and it’s normal for women who have been through it to worry about having renewed struggles with food or body image.

Even if you are at a happy and healthy place in your life, the changes of pregnancy – weight gain, morning sickness, diet and exercise adjustments, not to mention the responsibility of caring for another human being – are bound to be at least a little stressful.

You may also face pressure from friends, family, physicians, and yourself to look and feel a certain way, to gain enough (but not too much) weight, to have the perfect pregnancy, and to get your pre-pregnancy body back as soon as possible after giving birth. You can’t ignore or eliminate this pressure, so the best thing you can do is to be ready for it.

Shore up your support system and surround yourself with healthy, positive resources. This could include finding an ob-gyn who has experience with eating disorders and will take a more sensitive approach when discussing things like your weight and body image. It may mean avoiding magazines or television shows that promote unrealistic expectations about pregnancy and weight loss. And it’s important to educate yourself about what’s healthy and “normal” during pregnancy, so you don’t get too caught up in all the unsolicited advice or criticism you’re sure to receive.

It might also be helpful to see a therapist at least once (and possibly on a regular basis) to check in about how you’re feeling. Even if your anxiety is totally normal, it can still help to talk with someone about what you’re going through. Include your partner or spouse in conversations about how you’re feeling, even if you’ve never discussed your eating disorder before. It’s important for you to articulate your concerns – whether you have specific requests (“Can you not make jokes about how huge big my belly is getting?”) or you just want reassurance and an open line of communication.

As you know, an eating disorder is a symptom of underlying issues. If you’ve already dealt with the underlying issues, food won’t have the same control over you that it used to. But you may notice that in times of high stress (and pregnancy is a big one) your focus on food starts to heighten, and you may begin thinking about it more than usual. Maybe you start skipping breakfast, restricting certain foods, or weighing yourself three times a week instead of once.

Be aware of those red flags, so you can understand what’s happening, get help, and make a conscious decision not to go down that road again.

How you deal with pregnancy has a lot to deal with how much work you’ve already done on accepting your body. When you’re at a healthy weight and pregnancy is something you’ve thought about long and hard, you should be able to enjoy this very beautiful time, knowing that your body is going to take care of itself – and your baby.