In this age of picture perfect bumps and fashion forward pregnancies, keeping it real and positive can be a struggle. Even if you know that the pregnant women on the pages of magazines are just products of the flawless-image-making machine, it’s hard not to look at your own body and lament the ways it doesn’t match the picture. Meanwhile, pregnancy weight gain has moved into the crosshairs of the scientific study. Women are strongly advised to control weight gain and stay fit during pregnancy for the benefit of their babies as well as themselves. But it’s not easy, and for some women, it’s not possible. How do you deal with the pressure if you don’t measure up—or down—to the ideal?
Authors and beauty activists Claire Mysko and Magali Amadeï don’t think women should be feeling bad about themselves about the weight they gain in pregnancy. . They don’t think they should be obsessing over every pound and they don’t think they should be comparing themselves to pregnant models. So they wrote their book, “Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat? The Essential Guide to Loving Your Body Before and After Baby” to help moms shake the negativity and learn to love themselves the way they are.
In an interview with a Nevada newspaper on Tuesday, the two answered some tough questions about pregnancy, body image and self esteem.
What can a woman do to increase the probability that she will have a healthy body and body image while pregnant?
We really advise women to get away from the weight-loss mentality before they get pregnant. What happens often when women are chronic dieters is that when they do get pregnant and are off their diet plan, they don’t actually know how to nourish themselves. This is a really unhealthy place to be during pregnancy and when you’re a new mom. We encourage women to think about what health means beyond the scale, and what attitudes they want to pass along to their children about food and exercise. Do you want to teach your children that exercise is about burning calories so that they can mold their bodies into a specific size? Or do you want them to enjoy the movement and activity? Follow your own lessons.
Many moms-to-be get anxious about increasing clothing sizes and escalating numbers on the scale — what advice do you have for them?
Try to shift the focus away from the scale and appearance, and instead appreciate your body for what it’s doing. If you know those numbers could trigger negative thoughts for you, don’t have them in your face all the time. Both Magali and I decided to take the scale out of the equation entirely. There’s really no reason that I need to track my own weight gain and loss, so I told my OB that I didn’t care to know the number unless there was a health issue we needed to discuss. You can also make clothing sizes less of an issue by packing up the smaller ones, like those skinny jeans, before you have to think about it.
What would you say to pregnant women who have concerns about their changing bodies, but think that voicing their fears makes them look “bad”?
Stop being so hard on yourself. Some women love every minute of pregnancy, some hate it from start to finish, and then there’s those in the middle who sometimes feel beautiful and sometimes don’t. Yes, the goal is having a healthy body image, but we don’t want women to think that they will screw everything up if they don’t feel wonderful about themselves every day. Nobody’s perfect. The most important thing is that you’re actively working to confront your issues. It may be comforting to talk about your concerns with other women who can offer realistic perspectives.
However, avoid getting caught up in a negative, unproductive feedback loop where you’re simply comparing how much you, say, hate your saggy stomach or your huge thighs. That surface-level anxiety is often linked to deeper insecurities like loss of control, perfectionism and issues from our own childhood, and that’s what we really need to be dealing with.
How can women with expanding bellies respond to insensitive comments from strangers, friends, partners, etc.?
You don’t have much control over what other people will do or say, but you can be somewhat prepared by setting clear boundaries and committing to not getting into conversations that will be hard for you. If someone asks how much you weigh, you can say “I’m not comfortable talking about that” or “I have no idea,” and then start talking about something else, like how excited you are about the baby.
photo: Jessica Ellis/Flickr