Saturday, May 27, 2017

Pregnancy, Weight Gain, and Body Image

It's been a little while so thought I'd start with a little update, before I launch into today's topic. I'm almost 19 weeks along, so in other words, almost halfway through this pregnancy! Now it's starting to feel like time is flying and perhaps it's time to start getting organized at home, etc. But I know there's still lots of time yet. I still have time to nest and get my home ready for baby.

I certainly look pregnant now - no denying it! And I finally really feel it too because of my bump and because I feel movement from my tiny dancer too (who's not so tiny anymore at the size of a bell pepper!). I'm finally at the stage where I can enjoy being pregnant. I'm no longer exhausted all the time. I'm tired yes, but I now know my limits and have learned how to say "no" when I find myself overdoing it. And because my bump is kind of cute, I'm getting some positive attention too which doesn't hurt. I am sure that things will get challenging later on as it gets hotter outside and I get larger and more uncomfortable.

So far my discomfort comes mostly at night when I'm trying to sleep. My hips ache from lying on my side (the only position that's comfortable at this stage). I seem to be combating this now with some exercises my chiropractor gave me and from an RMT friend who recently gave me a pre-natal massage. I do the exercises before bed in hopes I go to sleep in alignment with everything limbered up. It's not perfect but it's helping. I have feared that my hips would give me issues while running as I'd had hip issues pre-pregnancy, but so far so good (touch wood). All that relaxin hormone in my body that's preparing my body for childbirth can also cause some discomforts during pregnancy! Things are moving around or looser than usual and it isn't always a good thing.

But I did mention previously about some dull achiness I'd feel in the abdomen, or round ligament pain that would sometimes last for hours after running if I either went too fast or too long. I did a bit of reading into it and learned that wearing a pregnancy support belt might help; the one most recommended for pregnant runners was the Gabrialla belt so I ordered it on Amazon. It's sort of like wearing a bra for your belly, so it helps minimize bounce while you're active. While I'm certainly not far along enough to need to wear the belt regularly, I've worn it on my last two runs and have noticed it's made running that much more comfortable and I have had no discomfort at all after running. Hopefully this means I made the right choice and this belt will continue to help me as the pregnancy progresses. I'll certainly let you know.

Alright, so onto today's topic - weight gain during pregnancy. Oh, and body image.

First of all, weight gain during pregnancy is absolutely expected, normal, and healthy. There are specific guidelines out there for how much weight a woman should gain depending on her pre-pregnancy weight and how many babies she is carrying. It takes into account that if you were overweight beforehand, you don't need to gain as much. Underweight women should gain more. And healthy-weight women should gain somewhere in the middle. The guidelines further break things down into how much weight should be gained in each trimester in order to ensure you stay on track and gain the right amount over the course of the 40 weeks. There's guidelines on how many extra calories to consume each trimester as you "eat for two"; this amount varies in each trimester too. So much math to think about. And while I have tried not to stress, it sometimes gets to me.

The thing is that I have had this story of remarkable weight loss that changed my life. After losing 130lbs, I became a runner and have maintained a healthy, active, athletic lifestyle. The journey because almost 10 years ago and the weight loss has been sustained long term.

So it's weird to somehow be OK with seeing the numbers go up on the scale. I have stayed off the scale for the most part over the years, but I started monitoring again once I realized I was pregnant. The numbers started going up almost right away and itt got to me because in the first trimester, many women don't put on any weight. Some even lose weight because of morning sickness. I on the other hand, put on about 8lbs rather quickly as I had such crazy hunger and snacking was the best way to keep my nausea away. Maybe I overdid it? But I also know that I started retaining water real fast too so it wasn't all a "food baby".  And up top where I'm usually not very endowed, things got large and heavy fast in preparation for nursing. Because I didn't look pregnant and nobody really knew I was pregnant, it got to me. I was slow and tired and adding extra weight to that equation meant extra sluggishness to go with it. I looked like I had "let myself go". Truth is, I probably only felt that way, but I assumed it was visible. I made the mistake of going on some pregnancy forums (which I've now unsubscribed from!) and as women do, there was a lot of comparing going on. Perhaps there was a bit of body image induced comparing, or perhaps people just wanted to see if their experience was normal compared to others. "How much weight have you lost in the first trimester?" would be a common question. I'd roll my eyes and grumble.

It's not that I don't expect weight gain in pregnancy, I just want the gain to be healthy and have it so I can bounce back to my pre-pregnancy self shortly after I give birth. I don't want to gain too much and have a hard time losing it later.

But really, why give in to the comparison game? Do I know anything about these women who are asking the questions? And seriously, my experience doesn't have to match theirs. I am not them. When I went to my first doctor's appointment, she assured me that I was doing just fine and had no concerns. My weight gain was healthy and normal. Her opinion is what should matter.

But I didn't listen, and I kept looking at the scale and seeing the numbers creep up every week. Duh, they're supposed to go up! But it drove me crazy to see it. By my next prenatal checkup, my weight gain was exactly where it needed to be and I felt OK about things. I finally stopped getting on my scale at home. And doing so was positively reinforced at my next doctor's appointment too; my weight gain was still on track. If I am making healthy eating choices, not overdoing it at any one meal, eating based on hunger cues, giving in to cravings within moderation, and keeping active, I have nothing to worry about whatsoever. My body will do what it's designed to do.

Yet I still catch myself looking myself up and down in the mirror. Is my different looking body just because of the baby? If the baby wasn't there, would I look like me? How quickly will I bounce back post-partum. Why am I asking these questions? The thing is, that's what women do often. We're constantly told that even if we are slim or athletic, we need to be thinner. And because I've been the opposite, it's my biggest fear in life that I will revert to my old overweight / obese ways. I need to remind myself that I'm in no risk of this happening any time soon.

1 comment:

  1. 18 weeks ago when I started my journey towards the Ottawa Marathon... it seemed like 18 weeks would last forever, and some weeks did feel very long. So it made me smile when you say that 19 weeks have flown by. Im sure another 19 will pass slowly at times and also be here before you know it. Hip ache and discomfort sleeping sounds crappy!! I agree with you that the battle with body image and the scale is something most women struggle with - some moments and some months or days more than others but it comes and goes. The scale is a cheap piece of plastic - It cant measure any of the important stuff - The scale doesn’t measure sexy, confident, strong, healthy, proud, committed, or happy. And why would you give anyone or anything the power to take all of that away from you? I know you know this already, but I am going to quote Brene Brown (and probably others) again because she is so right so often "comparison is the thief of joy" -- this includes comparison of you to yourself before you were pregnant etc -- we often edit those nostalgic comparisons to our former selves and body changes are hard but you are not who you were 5 or 10 years ago. You are you today - you take care of yourself each and every day, you love yourself and nourish your soul and body as much as you can. You're doing great and sending you extra love on those days you are having a harder time loving your body or those worries creep in or that scale is for some reason under your feet. That scale does not measure self worth or health. <3