Pregnancy & Fitness: Social Media Viewed Through the Eyes of a Recovered Anorexic

First off I want to apologize for how LONG it's been since my last blog post!  With morning sickness and trying to catch up with everything blogging took a back seat.  Eeeekkk!!  But I'm back and excited to share somethings I've been thinking about for the past month. 

I'm going to touch upon reoccurring themes I see in fitness + pregnancy posts across social media.  This is not meant to slam or shame anyone by any means but hopefully give a shift in mindset to embrace what's going on with YOU and YOUR growing baby!  But first, let me give you some background on my weight and pregnancy journey so far so you know WHY these things have given me pause.

For 11 years of my life I battled Anorexia.  From age 11 through my mid 20's all of my decisions were dictated by this disease.  Yesterday I was noticing all the changes my body is going through now that I'm pregnant and it shot me back to the time I would measure the gap between my thighs 10-20 times a day.  I haven't thought of that in a decade and for some reason that memory was clear as day.  Curves were terrifying to me back then and now I'm nothing but curve!  That reality and life of mine that I lived in for so long is a distant memory but I did pause and think of all who struggle with body image and if you are pregnant how that could be heightened.

Admittedly, as we started this whole process of pregnancy I was nervous as to how I was going to react to this enormous physical change and if I was emotionally ready for this change.  But I went into this pregnancy with such an open heart because of two things: 1) the amount of personal growth I've done since recovery, especially over the last 2 years and 2) how my first pregnancy began and ended.  

My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage earlier this year.  Looking back it makes sense that I wasn't experiencing any physical symptoms or changes because my body was rejecting the baby. I was so excited and dreaming of all the amazing things we'd do as a family only to have that all disappear before it even had a chance to begin.  The physical pain from that experience was immense...but the emotional pain is what lasted much longer.  For about a month after I lived off what I called the "wine and ice cream diet."  My recycling bin was unrecognizable, I cried and slept a lot, I was depressed.  I felt like less of a woman, like I had done something wrong and that I had been cheated.  During that time I re-realized how an emotional wound can dramatically change us physically and mentally.  The moment a girl called me fat in front of all of my friends at age 11 changed the entire course of my life.  I wasn't going to go down that same path and fall into those same habits this time around.

Cut to this pregnancy which has also had some road bumps.  Around the same time as our first pregnancy I experienced the same warning signs of a possible miscarriage.  However, the trip to the doctor was a little different this time.  We discovered that I was pregnant with twins and one wasn't going to make it.  Now having lost two babies in 5 months I look at pregnancy with a whole new level of respect and awe.  I'm amazed at how delicate it all is.  Realizing this has opened me up to being so much more kind to myself and vigilant with self care, positive talk and embracing the changes. 

So why do I share all of that with you?  As soon as I knew this pregnancy was in the clear and "safe" I wanted to share and embrace every stage of it with total honesty and kindness.  I wasn't going to put excess pressure on myself like I used to.  I wanted to enjoy pregnancy for all that it is - yes even the stretch marks.  For 11 years I put an ungodly amount of stress and strain on my body and I was NOT going to let an ounce of that old mindset bleed into this precious baby that wants to stick around for the long haul.  I had no intention of obsessing about calories, weight gain or the potential double chin.  I have enjoyed desserts and plenty of carbs and I do it with pure happiness.  The dissatisfaction of not measuring up to the "perfect fit pregnancy" that I see on social media was of no interest to me.  I wanted to love myself and my little guy throughout every second of this miracle of motherhood. That is the lens in which I view fitness and my pregnancy. 

There are a TON of pregnancy fitness accounts out there providing immense amount of support, information and motivation to stay healthy during your pregnancy.  I am inspired by so many of them and am thrilled this kind of community exists!  I agree that keeping a fitness routine during pregnancy is not only incredibly beneficial for you but it's huge for the baby as well!  However, this is not a PSA to keep working out during pregnancy, rather to keep perspective.  When I was Anorexic my favorite game to play was the comparison game.  I did the body version of "who wore it best" on a daily basis.  Let's just say I never won that game...the other girl always beat me and I always felt worse about myself.  

I have seen 100's of photos of women who as far along as I am and have the most amazing abs still.  I have seen photos of crazy in shape women who have my dream "AFTER" photo at 6 months pregnant!  I am amazed and sometimes confused at how thats even physically possible [I digress] but then I read the comments and I hear the comparison game begin.  I hear women beating themselves up for not looking like the woman in the picture.  I hear the frustration in their comments about how they don't look like that and probably never will. I know that feeling so intimately I just want to shout from the rafters STOP!  You don't have to look like that person! You have to look like YOU!  You don't have to look like the fitness model who has probably spent the better part of a decade fine tuning and sculpting her body and who has maintained that level of intensity throughout her pregnancy!  You don't have to, because this is YOUR race.  This is YOUR pregnancy!

What I learned as an Anorexic person is that when you play the comparison game you are the only loser.  That when you put undue stress on your body it hurts physically and emotionally. That the toxic thoughts spill over into our daily actions.  What I've learned as a mother who has lost two babies is this is a true miracle.  The effort our bodies have to go through to make this happen is inconceivable to me.  So during this time, PLEASE recognize the incredible thing that is happening and embrace how beautiful you are at every stage!   Pregnancy will change our bodies but think of WHY your body is changing!  The shape of your body will change to make room for your baby.  That's OK!  Run your own race and be proud of yourself for every step you're taking.

No one is going to do this perfectly.  Even the fittest mom who makes it look easy isn't doing it perfectly.  We can only do what's best for us and for our baby.  All you can do is treat yourself as kindly as possible.  Compliment that growing belly, tell yourself how beautiful you are, embrace the random aches and pains because you are truly in the throws of magic my friend.  

No matter how your body shifts and changes know you are beautiful.  The next time you see a fitness pregnancy post, use it as inspiration or celebrate the woman who's running her race. You don't need to feel less than.  Because you are growing a foot, a heart a brain and a little baby that will love you no matter what your shape!  Maybe it's time you love yourself without condition as well.  


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