Tuesday, March 3, 2015

My pregnant body image

At the beginning of my pregnancy I remember feeling a bit scared of how I would handle my changing body and not being able to physically push myself the way I had been doing. Running/exercising has really saved me from depression and helped me love my body in a deeper way. Was I emotionally ready to gain weight? Was I going to be able to find ways other than running "x" amount of miles to deal with life's stresses? I was stepping into new territory. My first two pregnancies I didn't exercise (I did walk some) and gained about 40 lbs with each pregnancy. I went into this pregnancy with the hope and expectation that I would gain less than 40 lbs since I would be exercising. I had planned to only gain 1-2 lbs in the first trimester.

Well, that was in the beginning.

Here I am at 20+ weeks. My hope to keep running has been fulfilled. I ran 400 miles in the first 20 weeks (averaging 20 miles a week). These miles were slow and sometimes miserable, but I got them done. However, instead of gaining 1-2 lbs, I gained about 12 lbs in the first trimester. I'm up a total of 15 pounds now. I'm on track to gain about 45 pounds (5 lbs more than in my first two pregnancies). That's right, I'm gaining more weight exercising 5-6 days a week than when I did nothing. I have lots of opinions on why, but I'll save those for another post. Now I want to talk about how I'm doing with my body image.

I started to compare myself to the #fitpregnancy and #pregnantrunner mamas I was following on Instagram. It seemed their bodies were only changing in their uteruses. I started to feel self-conscience at the gym and wanted to post "I'm pregnant" on my forehead to somehow explain my weight gain. My lowest moment was when I looked at a side by side picture of me at 8 weeks and then 18 weeks. Instead of seeing me as a healthy fit women who was growing a miracle inside of her, I saw how much weight I'd gained in my arms, face, love handles, etc. I couldn't bring myself to post the picture because I was so ashamed of my "failure" to have a "fit pregnancy". This isn't easy for me to share. I'm the preacher of self-compassion, the hater of the lies society tells us that our worth is tied to our body fat percentage. How could I be feeling these feelings that I had put behind me long ago!? Through a lot of positive self talk, a few powerful conversations with God, friends and my cousin Emily, I think I'm seeing things more clearly. The negative chatter in my head is ceasing. I'm feeling more joy. I'm feeling more love for myself and my amazing body, and my thoughts are being freed from the lies! 

So today I post my 18 week picture with pride. I'm so grateful for this beautifully imperfect body God has given me. It truly is the greatest gift we have each been given. I'm so grateful for this precious baby boy growing inside me. I'm proud of how hard I try and am humbled by how much I have to learn. 

If anyone is struggling with negative body image, here is my advice. Try to find the lies. They enter slowly, through our own negative talk, through things we see/read and the comments others make. 
Think of people you admire, respect and love who don't make perfecting their physical bodies a top priority. Really let it sink in that we can have great worth, be successful, be admired, loved and respected for intrinsic values not because of how much effort, control or energy we put into our physical appearances. I pray and ask God to help guide me each day, so that I may put my focus where he would have it be. Quit noticing others' outward appearances and start looking deeper at the people around you. Notice their goodness, their kindness, their hard work and efforts. As you focus on these qualities in others, you allow yourself to judge yourself based on this same way of thinking. I can feel happy and successful when I work hard to be like my Savior Jesus Christ. I can feel great worth when I forget myself and go to work helping those around me. 
I hope sharing my feelings will help others to recognize how much worth they have right now... regardless of their reflection in the mirror. I hope we can all see ourselves as God sees us. 

What do you do to fight the negative body image thoughts that creep in?
I've actually been pinching my hand and telling myself out loud to, "stop it!" People may think I'm crazy, but it really works. 
When do you feel most beautiful?
I think I feel the most beautiful when I'm having tender moments with my children.
And because it is snowing outside....what about summertime are you most excited for!?
I'm ready for long days spent at the park, our annual beach trip and of course the arrival of baby #3!

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