As I write this post, I’m 6 months pregnant and enjoying a giant bottle of water and brownie. My idea of balance these days :)
I knew pregnancy would be an interesting experience and I was eager (and maybe a little nervous) to find out how my body would handle it. Every body is different, every woman is different, and from what I hear, every pregnancy is different.
As a full-time Pilates professional (and a woman) I had my concerns. I wondered how I’d feel gaining weight each week and not being able to be as active as I am used to being.
6 months in, I am able to say that pregnancy has certainly changed my relationship with food, exercise and my body…for the better.
5 ways pregnancy has changed my relationship with food, exercise and my body…
1. I actually listen to my appetite and what my body is craving.
I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. Crazy. Yes, I know this how we’re supposed to eat, nutritionists tell us that all the time, but you know as well as me it’s HARD! I’ve always struggled with actually listening to my hunger signals because for so many years what and how I ate wasn’t dictated by my body but rather my mind. And usually dictated by how I felt about the shape or percieved size of my body that day. These days I’m not as worried about how I look in clothes so I am able to listen to my body without the external factors waging war in my mind.
I also pay attention to my cravings because that’s what pregnant ladies are supposed to do right? If I want a brownie, I’m having a brownie! And equally so, if my body feels sluggish and tired I know it’s time to fuel up on veggies, fruit and other life-giving foods.
2. I exercise because of the way it makes me feel and what it does for my body, not for the end result.
I want to stay fit throughout this pregnancy so that I feel good. Simple as that. I want to continue teaching and moving without pain. I want to feel strong when I go into labor and I hope for a relatively quick recovery. There are so many symptoms of pregnancy that are beyond my control, but exercising makes me feel strong, confident and proactive in the process.
I am not exercising to lose weight. I am not even exercising to keep my body “looking” a certain way. I don’t work out until I’m dripping sweat, I work out gently and listen to my body. Right now it consists of regular Pilates (sometimes 10 minutes, sometimes 60), yoga and walking.
I am not exercising to lose weight or change my body. I am exercising knowing that the scale will continue to rise and my clothes will continue to get tighter & tighter. So exercise has come to mean something all together different to me. This is the way I’ve always wanted my relationship with exercise to be. Pilates started the process in me (changing my motivation) and pregnancy is furthering it. I’m thankful for that.
3. I focus more on what I should eat rather than what I shouldn’t.
Simple as that. I’m growing a baby and I really want to nourish that baby. As previously mentioned, I also want to continue feeling as good as I do right now for as long as I can through this pregnancy. And food matters. Food directly affects the way I feel. At times in my life, I’ve focused primarily on what I shouldn’t eat because of the calories, the sugar, the carbs, you name it.
As you know I’ve worked hard to change this mentality and that’s a big part of The Balanced Life’s message, but pregnancy has helped me to embrace that even more. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of junk since I’ve been pregnant. I’ve had more fries than usual, more sweets, more chips, you name it. But on a given day I’m also focused on making sure that I get plenty of greens, at least two servings of fruit, greek yogurt, lean protein, etc. And when I focus on that I’m much less concerned about the basket of fries I enjoyed the night before. During this time, I’m much more concerned with what what I should eat and much less strict with what I shouldn’t. At the end of the day, I feel more balanced and more satisfied.
4. I wear tight clothes with confidence.
I love showing off the bump! And this surprises me. I’m bigger than I’ve been in a long time. In fact, I’m bigger than I’ve ever been. The scale has never seen such heights and I still have a long way to go. But I have more confidence in tight clothes than ever before. It’s crazy. I was the girl in 6th grade who always had a shirt tied around her waist to hide her God-given ghetto booty. And I’ve never been one to feel super confident in tight, slim fitting pants. And it’s ironic that at my biggest, I’m finally okay with it.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have days where I feel like a whale and get scared about the way body will handle all of this, but I accept that as a normal pregnancy concern and treat it as nothing more than that.
It’s clear to me why this shift has taken place: the expectation to look a “certain way” has lifted.
As women we have expectations of how we SHOULD look if we’re going to wear leggings without a long, loose fitting shirt to cover the lady lumps & bumps. We have an expectation in our minds (thanks to the media) of how one should look in form fitting clothes. And I realize now that I had an expectation of myself that I never quite measured up to in my mind. Now that I’m pregnant, I am not expected to be skinny. I’m expected to have a little extra weight on my body and that has allowed me to embrace my body, lady lumps and all. It’s been an eye-opening realization to experience the freedom that comes with losing these perceived expectations.
5. I give myself grace and allow myself to rest.
As women, we often find it hard to give ourselves grace. We’re so hard on ourselves, constantly feeling like we should do more, and more and more. Whether it be exercise, errands, chores or social commitments, we often have trouble saying “no, I need to rest and that’s okay.”
Pregnancy has given me permission to give myself the gift of grace and allow myself to rest without feeling guilty. I am growing a life, and in order to do so well, I need rest. So somedays, the workout is skipped, the phone isn’t answered and the sheets don’t get washed. And I don’t feel bad.
I haven’t felt like a million bucks every day and I know full well that it may get harder in the weeks to come, but I have been intentional in embracing this process and embracing my changing body because I know that without that intentionality it would be easy for things to go the other way.
Now the real challenge will be maintaining these practices and beliefs when I no longer have the pregnancy to use as a reason why. My hope is that I will embody and embrace these changes as a way of life, even when I no longer have “an excuse.”
For those of you who have experienced pregnancy, in what ways did it change your relationship with your body?