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My doctor called me fat.
Okay…maybe he didn’t quite say it like that. But it sure felt like it at the time.
Growing up, I was always an athlete. Somehow even managing to play 4 varsity sports when there were only 3 varsity seasons. I ran track in college. I have always been in pretty good shape, but that doesn’t mean I’ve never struggled with body image. When I was younger, I was so skinny and tall for my age my parents called me ‘Beans’.
As in beanstalk.
Coming from them it was endearing, but it didn’t always feel like that when criticism about my weight came from others.
In middle school, I constantly heard chatter behind my back about how I must have been anorexic or bulimic since I was so skinny. I wore baggy clothes and tried to hide my body thinking it could shield me from ridicule. I also ate more than most teenage boys to try to put weight on, devouring whole Domino’s pizzas with bread sticks and even going so far as to drink Ensure shakes (like cute little old people drink!) for extra calories. But I just couldn’t keep up with the amount of energy I was expending working out with my teams.
I never ever thought I would feel bad about my body for being ‘big’.
But I walked in to my OB appointment 5 months pregnant and my doctor sat down, crossed his legs, looked at my chart, and without looking up nonchalantly said, ‘Boy, you gained a lot of weight this month!’
8 pounds to be exact.
It might not sound like a ton to gain in one month, but for my doctor to say it the way that he did made me feel AWFUL! It reminded me that as a physician, what I say to my patients, and HOW I say it, can make a huge impact.
8 pounds was double what I should have gained and if I kept up that amount of weight gain throughout the rest of my pregnancy I would be putting myself, and our baby, at risk for pregnancy complications. (Pregnancy induced hypertension, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and macrosomia to name a few.) It meant a difference between a 35 and 70 pound pregnancy weight gain.
I went home and cried for the rest of the morning and over the next few days I burst into tears when anyone asked me how my doctor’s appointment went. My self-esteem was shot.
I never thought dealing with the physical changes of pregnancy would be a challenge for me. This is supposed to be a beautiful time in my life – I am growing a tiny human! I should be rubbing my expanding belly with awe and appreciation – not wondering if it is growing too fast every minute of every day.
I always figured that when I was pregnant, I would eat well, gain the recommended amount of weight, exercise, have a little basketball shaped belly, and bounce right back afterwards as if nothing ever happened.
That plan went out the door around week 7. Even though I didn’t have morning sickness, nothing appealed to me other than carbs for the first trimester. And as my doctor kindly put it, ‘Your body just doesn’t process carbs the same way when you are pregnant.’
Now that I am in my second trimester, veggies and meat are back in the rotation, but I definitely have had a hard time saying no to brownies and ice cream.
I also haven’t had as much time to work out as I hoped – which I think has had the biggest impact on me. I have continued to work 70-80 hours a week trying to save up cash for my maternity leave (even though I said myself I shouldn’t do this!) – I just keep thinking about how amazing it will be when I get to be at home with our little boy!
Even though I know the total amount of weight I have gained so far is appropriate seeing that sudden jump on the scale made me feel like a failure. Was I already a bad mom? Was I going to be condemned to wearing ‘mom jeans’ for the rest of my life? Would my hubby still think I was super hot?
I knew I had to make a few changes to feel better about myself and my transforming body. Things have been A LOT better over the past few weeks. I definitely couldn’t have turned things around without my supportive co-workers and my incredible husband who tell me I am beautiful non-stop – thank you, thank you, thank you!
My advice to you mamas to be out there…
Get Your Body Moving
Somehow my body image morphs almost instantaneously after I finish a workout.
Before my workout, I usually feel like a sloth that can barely roll over on the couch to grab the remote and switch the channel to HGTV. I wonder if my belly has doubled in size over the course of one episode of ’Fixer Upper’.
After my workout, I just KNOW I am going to qualify for the Boston Marathon this year. And I probably strut around in my workout gear for a liiiiittle while longer than necessary.
Exercise releases the ‘happy hormones’ dopamine and serotonin and on top of that it makes me feel like I have accomplished something positive for my body, my baby, and myself. My mood and body image on days I work out are exponentially better.
Some days, it is REALLY hard to get moving…but once I do, I never ever regret it. Making sure I get to my 2:30 CrossFit class (love you guys!) or just do a quick workout with Ty in our garage gym has made a huge impact on my mindset.
In the famous words of Nike, ‘Just Do It!’
Now More Than Ever, Food is Fuel
Your body isn’t a dumpster. Pregnancy isn’t a time to just ‘eat whatever’. Keep in mind that what you are eating is fueling your baby too!
I am pretty sure the month I went in for the infamous 5 month OB visit I ate out the majority of the time. And by eating out I don’t mean salads or fancy filet mignon dinners – I’m talking Taco Bell, Wendy’s, and pizza. And then Ben and Jerry’s or brownies for dessert.
I have figured out the hard way that my body doesn’t process carbs the same way it used to, and salt has an almost immediate impact on my body. Helloooooooo bloat! I discovered that my beloved Smothered Burrito from Taco Bell has a whopping 2210mg of salt in it! This is literally an entire day’s worth of salt!
Ty and I have been A LOT better since that doctor’s appointment, even making a month’s worth of Whole 30 approved crock pot meals that we could stick in the freezer and cook on days I work 12 hour shifts. We have been eating at home most days and I bring the leftovers to work for lunch – trying to just have one take out meal a week. I feel much better, and way less ‘puffy’, now that I control what is in my food.
This has certainly been a learning process for me, medical school doesn’t do a fantastic job of teaching nutrition, but I am trying to make better decisions every day.
Splurge on Some Clothes That Fit
Honestly, nothing is worse than trying to squeeze into a too-small pair of shorts and having your preggo belly smush out over the top and living in fear that you are going to tear a hole right through the rear of your shorts the second you sit down.
I scoffed at the thought of spending precious money on maternity clothes that I would wear for a few short months, but doing the old ‘hair tie’ trick just isn’t cutting it. Luckily, I’ll be my biggest during the summer and can wear lighter clothing. I finally invested in a pair of maternity jeans, shorts, a few tops and a bunch of dresses that I can even wear after our little nugget is born. It makes me feel more human and less like a stuffed sausage!
My next purchase will be some workout clothes but I can’t decide on getting maternity stuff vs. just sizing up…any suggestions??
I hope anyone struggling with the physical changes that come along with pregnancy can find the beauty in it all. And please know that if there are days when you don’t feel that pregnancy ‘glow’ you aren’t alone!
It truly is miraculous what our bodies are capable of – I can’t wait to be a mama!