Birth & Body Image
It may sound really cliché but being pregnant and going through labor and now nursing has helped me to love my body more than I ever have. Not only for the obvious reason that I grew a human but I learned to trust in what my body can do. I look back at my pre-pregnancy years and see how hard I was on myself and now realize that I was probably hurting my body more than helping.
I spent years exercising really hard and depriving myself. At the time I thought that what I was doing was being very healthy and fit. In reality, it was probably excessive on the exercising side and lacking on the nutrition side. And even though I was working so hard at being in shape and healthy I still had major body image issues. I had a muscular, athletic build and would look at photos of tiny, skinny girls in bikinis and wish I looked like them. No matter how hard I worked to get that look it was never enough for me. Funny thing is when I look back at photos I think, “Wow, I looked great!” Why could I not see and feel that it in the present moment?
During my pregnancy I was hungry all the time, really hungry. At first it was such a strange concept to eat as much as I needed to while growing our little bean. I had a huge craving for carbs and sugar which are two things I typically do not eat a lot of. I really had no choice at times but to give into the cravings. I still would eat nutritious, healthy meals but would not beat myself up if I gave into a craving now and then. I allowed my rigid views on healthy eating to soften a little and although I did not go overboard on junk food I was able to enjoy eating more. Now that I’m nursing I’m even hungrier than I was during pregnancy and I can’t seem to stuff enough food in my face. It’s a balance between getting enough greens, protein and nutrients in my diet and eating enough calories a day necessary to keep me sustained and my milk supply flowing. Bottom line is that I completely understand and promote the importance of healthy, clean eating and at the same time I want to enjoy food and approach my diet with a gentler mindset. Balance.
As a result of this kind, loving approach towards my body I feel more feminine than I ever have. This softer, maternal side has changed how I approach exercise and my mindset around it. I used to be very competitive and feel quite masculine while engaging in cross-fit, running, mountain biking, snowboarding and lifting. I would tell my husband all the time, “I just want to do what the boys are doing.” I worked so hard to get good at those sports so I could hang with the boys and now after taking some time away from these activities and birthing the sweetest baby girl I have lost my competitive edge. And I am actually ok with it. Lately, I’ve really been enjoying paddle boarding, walking and yoga.
I still have a love affair with mountain biking, I just haven’t built my stamina back up yet. And some things are still shifting and getting back into place down below. The first few months after giving birth I worked with a Pilates instructor to strengthen my pelvic floor. I learned that I have been holding my body wrong for decades and it has resulted in back pain and other problems. When I started strengthening my core properly all of my pain went away. I thought for sure that being pregnant and gaining 28 lbs. would give me lots of lifelong pain and issues and yet it has brought about the most healing and transformation in my body.
I’m now happy with a leaner frame and some sexy, feminine curves. I plan to maintain this body with large portions of nutritious, delicious food and exercise through activities that allow me to connect to my body while letting my mind go. I’m not insinuating that every woman needs to have a baby to learn to love their body. For me, that was the catalyst that finally broke the vicious cycle of negative body image and intense discipline around food. I do suggest that you find a way to love your body and stop beating it up to accomplish unhealthy goals. Trust in your body and know that it’s perfect just the way it is and that it will enable you to be strong, sexy and feminine if you treat it right.
Written by Carly Moore