Tag Archives: pregnancy

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.

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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.


mommyrexia

In September 2004, New York Magazine published a piece on the “perfect pregnancy.” They cited a Johns Hopkins study revealing that 21% of the women in the study engaged in “weight-restrictive behavior” during their pregnancy and fasted before doctors visits in order to weigh less at the time of their exam.

Just a note about those women suffering from eating disorders: conversely, these women tend to control their eating disordered symptoms during pregnancy, as their focus becomes more on the baby and away from themselves. In fact, oftentimes, women who suffer from eating disorders are more able to resist their eating disordered behaviors for the sake of the baby.

Recently there seems to be more and more discussion about “mommyrexia” being a new trend in pregnancy. I’ve heard about it from lots of people, on the internet, in magazines and on the news. It seems what Johns Hopkins revealed in their study has dramatically increased. While I have not heard statistics to back it up, what I have seen are magazine covers and articles splashed with photos of very thin celebrities who maintain most of their shape throughout their pregnancy (other than the baby bump) and then, seemingly overnight, make dramatic changes washing away any evidence that they even went through a pregnancy. I’ve heard about pregnancy exercise boot camps, and I’ve heard great fear from many women about gaining pregnancy weight and a lot of pre-planning on how to lose it quickly after giving birth.

There’s something very wrong when we begin to view the beauty and magnificence of pregnancy as something to be controlled and manipulated. In addition to the physical detriment this imposes on both the mother and the baby, this type of societal expectation and personal pressure cuts self-esteem at the knees. It riddles an otherwise beautiful experience with anxieties and fears about not doing pregnancy “right.” Why are we celebrating women who barely look pregnant? What do you think about all of this?