Body Image Talks
I'm labeling this blog Body Image Talk(s) because I'm almost positive I'm NOT done talking about it in just one post.
Today I'm going to go through my process, from a body image perspective, of my first pregnancy and postpartum experience and then share with you a little bit of how I'm currently feeling in my second pregnancy.
Here goes the REAL TALK. Buckle up.
When I found out I was pregnant with Thor, I had been at my very leanest. I had been meticulously tracking my macros (weighing and measuring food) and training pretty hard. Did I look great - YES! Did I feel great - NO! Here's the deal, to stay that lean I was training super hard, at a super intense level, and my knee pain was excruciating. I also had pelvic pain, hip pain, neck pain, and often terrible stomach aches.
Pre-pregnancy recipe = macros + high volume training = pain, unhappy, tired
Looking back, I often think about people who are weighing and measuring their food every day. Or those who are calorie counting, trying to keep it below a certain level. Restricting because they think it will have some specific outcome. I think about MY OLD SELF! And unfortunately, how I used to coach a lot of my own athletes.
What the hell was I doing? What was my long term plan? What was I training so hard for?
I am going to throw this out there and say that no one can weigh and measure their food every day for years and years and BE HAPPY! I just don't believe its possible. I also don't believe that IT MATTERS. What might happen if you stop tracking your food? Do you think you'd lose control and blow up? Do you think your body would continue to gain and gain and gain and gain? And what if your body ended up bigger? Would people still love you? (I'm gonna go ahead and say, um YES of course they will still love you!)
I can tell you that the research (read this BOOK) shows your body will stick between a set weight (20-30lb) range unless some major thing happens in your life (ex pregnancy, sickness, hormonal imbalance, etc). 70% of your body is due to genetics (thanks mom and dad!) and the rest - 30% - is something under our own control. To me, that seems like a very small percentage to have such a HUGE impact on your life. Taking ALL of your mental energy to MAKE THAT 30% PERFECT.
Don't get me wrong, I love eating food that is nutritionally dense and tastes good. I'm not saying fill yourself with garbage. I also love intense training because of the way it makes me feel. I love training because it makes me more awesome and functional AT LIFE. However, I will beg that I was way less functional at life when I was training extremely hard and counting macros. I know that all I wanted to really do was nap on the couch and eat what I wanted, when I wanted to do so.
I was eating this way and training this way because I WAS CONCERNED ABOUT MY BODY IMAGE.
And guess what happens when you finally get that 'look' you want? You still AREN'T HAPPY. Body image issues do not resolve by getting smaller. I spent the first 29 years of my life struggling with body image issues and wondering why I couldn't solve this issue.
Then, just when I thought my body image problems would get REALLY complicated (being pregnant), they ended up becoming so much easier and to me pregnancy was actually quite therapeutic.
My prenatal strength coach at the time (Jessie Mundell) asked me why I was tracking my macros. This was the very first person in our industry to ask me WHY I was doing it. I couldn't answer that question. I didn't know why. I know I hated doing it. I hated they way I thought about food.
Ok, ok I did sort of know the answer. Because I wanted to STAY SMALL and was super, duper uncomfortable with the FEAR of the unknown of what might happen if my body changed *gasp*. If I looked differently than the other trainers in the industry.
Well guess what? Everyone's body is going to change during pregnancy. So I had to face that fact right away. My body would change. And this time around I was going to be okay with it. I was going to eat food that tasted good. Stop when I was full. Trust that I knew how to eat. How silly does that sound? A fitness professional who doesn't even trust herself to know how to eat.....
The funny thing is, when I trusted myself, my body finally started healing. I was no longer obsessed about food, when I was going to eat, how much I was going to eat, if it would be enough 'fuel' to recover from training. I just ate. Food. Whatever. All food created equal, I didn't judge any food as good or bad.
I was no longer obsessed with my body image or how others perceived me. The pain in my knees, back, and pelvis became less and less.
My big question is - WHY AREN'T MORE COACHES QUESTIONING THE CURRENT OBSESSION WITH FOOD COUNTING AND RESTRICTION? Why not release moms from this life sentence? It is just not necessary.
Pregnancy recipe = just eat + lift 3-4 times/week = less pain, very happy!
And now for postpartum. I will admit, I had a pretty rough time mentally postpartum. That being said, once I started feeling more recovered from my cesarean birth (probably 6-ish months), I felt the best physically then I'd ever felt in my life. I was eating A LOT of food - probably close to 2,700-3,200 cal per day, breastfeeding, and daily physical activity (lifting or walking or interval jogging). The weight was slowly just sort of shedding off and I really didn't care about it. I didn't care because my body had never felt SO GOOD physically. I wanted to enjoy this time as much as possible. I really didn't want to go back to food tracking or having to train super hard (and I didn't really have time) for fear that my body wouldn't feel good again.
So I didn't.
Postpartum = eat lots of food! + daily movement of some type = body feeling GREAT, lots of postpartum anxiety ;)
I sort of had a crisis when Thor turned one. I thought - oh shit - I'm probably supposed to be "back to normal" by now. I should track again. I should train harder. So, I tried. And I failed. Miserably. I got caught in a huge cycle of RESTRICT - BINGE - DEPRESSION - ANXIETY. If you are a mom, you unfortunately probably know this all too well.
Why do we do this to ourselves? I mean, hadn't I learned any lessons from my previous experiences?! That shit don't work long term!
Then, I found out I was pregnant again. So many thoughts racing through my head. I am already much larger than I was to begin my last pregnancy. What happens when I get bigger? What does it mean to be larger? What is bigness? Is bigness okay? Am I okay with bigness?
And then there's the advice from others, "Don't worry about it, girl! You know you can just get back to your normal after you have the baby!" I HATE THIS STATEMENT.
That statement implies that I need or must get back to "the way I used to be". Or that it would be the *right* thing for me to do. Or that there is currently something wrong with my body.
I just want to say that there is nothing wrong with the size of your body when you're growing a human or after you've had a baby. Your body has literally just brought life on to this earth. It did what it needed to do to survive. It is functional, it is beautiful, it is right where it is supposed to be.
Even if you're not pregnant or postpartum, also know that your body is right where it needs to be at this point in life. You don't need to change it. (Again, if we can only change 30%, why sweat it?)
But, we do need to change they way we think and talk about our bodies. Question ideas. Take a step back. Do these thoughts I'm having make sense?
Another thing that I constantly have to remind myself is that no one really cares what your body looks like. They will still love you. They will still appreciate you and everything you do as a mom. They will be grateful that you are authentic to your needs and your own desire for happiness.
No one wants to be around the mom who is cranky, crabby, overtrained, and eats out of Tupperware for fear of what might happen to her body.
Everyone wants to be around the mom who is happy, confident, carefree, and wants to give hugs.
The ladder is sort of where I aspire to be right now. But it's always a work in progress.
2nd Pregnancy = eat food + train moderately 4-5x week = pretty happy, some knee pain bc I still love squats too much ;)
Bigness acceptance. I am in this stage. I am going to fully embrace this feeling! Is it uncomfortable? Yes. Does my body changing need to be a daily worry? No. I know that it is doing everything it needs to do to create and sustain life. I'm going to TRUST and let it do its thing!
I am here for you moms - both prenatal and postnatal if you ever want to talk through body image or challenge body image ideas.
I know I'm not done writing about body image. I think that by us women having discussions about it and getting it out, we could create a lot more mental space for other things that make us happy!
What are your thoughts?
Give a listen to my mentor, Jessie Mundell, talk about her ideas on body image and pregnancy HERE. I thought it was very helpful.