Being Okay With Not Being Okay With My Third Trimester Body

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By: Danielle Sherman-Lazar

Okay, so I hate to admit it, but lately I have been a total hypocrite of everything I stand for in my post-recovery life.

I hit third trimester and I am having an extremely hard time accepting my body. And no, not in an “I am starving my baby” kind of way, because no matter what I would never get to that point, but a “wow I am uncomfortable, and may kind of resemble a baby pot belly pig and am hating my body more than usual” way.

I am about to be more honest than I have ever been, so brace-yourself.

This week has been hard and there have definitely been some factors that made it that way. First let me get the humor items out of the way:

It’s Hot AF:

The New York heat defined in one word: brutal. It makes you feel like you are on the verge of losing your mind. Heat hitting you SMACK, hard in the face. Salty sweat, falling down your nose and into your mouth. Mmm-hm. Lovely.

I am walking my daughter to classes and the hot humid air (if you could call that air…) makes my shirt press tightly against my pregnant belly. I am not only hating myself with each stare down at the “buddha” (my belly), but feel wet, maybe even swamp-monster-like from the amount of perspiration exiting my body.

I picture the belly bouncing in slow motion, because the heat takes me to a desert-cacti-zone where the speed would be sloth-like.

Constipation: 

The baby is officially the size of a pineapple. Therefore everything feels smothered. I swear I can feel my organs shriveled up in a corner.

Taking a dump has become even more of a controversial topic now that it is not only something I have to worry about for my daughter, but also for myself. Because of said “smooshed organs” and with the baby taking up the anterior of my stomach, it has been harder to make everything move along, causing major discomfort in my belly zone.

I lie in bed at night picturing the days’ items I’ve eaten, stuck and arranged in different organs since they are all blended together at this point–at least that’s how I picture them.

Transformation: 

In all seriousness, I forgot how hard it is being pregnant in terms of having your body change so drastically, especially while being in recovery from ED. First and second trimesters were easy, but third trimester is where the changes are getting more rapid and noticeable.

It’s strange to think, within the past five years of recovery (official rock-bottom date December 5th 2012), I have gone through weight restoration, followed by two pregnancies. That’s a lot of body evolutions in a short period of time.

As much as I hate to admit it, it hasn’t been easy for me. I can preach all day about self-love and the new respect I have for my body since creating my amazing girls (one coming in October), which I do, but I don’t feel body confidence at every second. In fact, I think it’s important to say that I do struggle a lot so others know it’s okay to not feel perfect about your baby bump all the time. I don’t even believe in perfection as a realistic expectation. First thing you learn in recovery from anorexia is about this awesome gray-area, where flaws are accepted and embraced and nothing is black or white (What? Yes, really ED—no one is perfect). In fact, the other day, I was moody and snappier than a snapping turtle on steroids (that’s one angry AF turtle) because I felt so shitty about my body, plus everything hurt! And you know what? That’s okay.

When I complain about my size, I am met with “but you are pregnant and so lucky so don’t complain.” I know I am, but just because I am pregnant and lucky doesn’t mean I can’t express my normal rational body fears.

I would like to make a clear differentiation too. I struggle with how I look, but I do practice total self-love in the way I nourish and care for my body. I am not self-destructing because I am thinking of the beautiful child I am fortunate enough to bear (and the one that is outside my belly looking at me as a role model); and in addition to the above, I would never go there again. I am way too happy in my ED free life to ever look back. I just don’t think I look hot, or even kind of good, but I know I am much more than my body, plus my ED was more about coping and control than actual size and weight loss, as most peoples are.

Bottom line, I am healthy and how I feel about my body is never going to stop me from growing my family—or being the best version of me for them. Also, it is not about acceptance, because I accept every part of me wholeheartedly right now, because it is giving me the best gift in the world—another daughter. But third trimester mamas-to-be I want to make something crystal clear–we are allowed to bitch!

Let’s Talk About Society 

It is ironic that our need to be skinny is dictated by the media and society, but then if we have a fear of getting “fat” when we are pregnant, it is considered blasphemous and we are thought of as superficial. Addressing any downsides of being pregnant is frowned upon and seen as taboo, but it shouldn’t be. I bet you most mothers-to-be have insecure days and these so-called “irrational fears.” We have to start supporting, rather than judging, one another so we can talk about these normal fears and make one another feel better, instead of holding the feelings in (https://themighty.com/2017/05/advice-for-a-new-mother-in-eating-disorder-recovery/). In fact, these fears are okay and should be expressed. Holding feelings in is how we find ourselves thinking we are the only ones having these thoughts and we must be messed up– when really a lot of people are feeling similar.

So let’s support each other as women and mothers, and the amazing human beings we are. Let’s promote each other and pick each other up when we are feeling down. You know what? Sometimes it’s okay to bitch even if they are lucky problems. So please bitch away. I will be happy to hear it.

Frequently Asked Questions Friday-Pregnancy and Eating Disorders

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Frequently Asked Questions Friday

FAQ

Pregnant-Woman

This week’s question is:

How do I maintain recovery from my eating disorder during pregnancy?

So this is an interesting question, because I think that the answer very much depends on the individual. I have had friends in recovery who have said that being pregnant saved them, that those nine months were the most carefree nine months ever, because the pressure to maintain an idealized body was gone. Others that I have worked with have told me that pregnancy was the time that their eating disorder was the loudest. Others still have confided that pregnancy sparked a relapse.

What is important to note is, if you have a history of an eating disorder, it’s likely tricky to predict how you will react to all of the physical, psychological, and emotional changes that pregnancy brings. This is why I think this question is good for EVERYONE to consider-not just for those who are currently in recovery and pregnant, but for anyone who ever might become pregnant one day.

Because pregnancy is so personal and individualized, I felt that this question deserved a more well-rounded answer than my sole clinical opinion-so I called in the troops! Two brave, smart, warriors who have experienced pregnancy during recovery agreed to share their feelings, tips, and tricks about this very topic with you all!

 

Veronica:  When we found out we were having a baby we were so excited, but in the back of my mind I was afraid of how I would do with gaining all of the weight that comes along with the blessing. I was afraid that it would trigger old habits and behaviors with the new changes that were about to begin. Throughout the 9 months as my belly grew, I just kept reminding myself of the little miracle that was growing inside of me and how he was depending on me to take care of myself in order to thrive. I was actually a little surprised with how much I loved being pregnant. I loved that I was eating not only for me, but for my baby. For once in my life I didn’t worry about the weight I was gaining, but instead embraced it. Embraced the life that my body was able to nourish. How amazing is that…my body was able to nourish and grow another human being! So wonderful!

I think the hardest part for me was after my son Lane was born. My body had changed, but now I had a tiny human to take care of other than myself. I was nursing so I was starving all the time (even in the middle of the night). So although my body had changed, and I weighed more than I did pre-pregnancy, I knew I needed to eat in order to produce enough milk to feed him. Things were different. It was far more important for me to eat to fuel my body and his than for me to fit back in my clothes. I also knew that once he was older he was going to watch me. I knew that from this day forward I was not just taking care of me; I was taking care of him and setting a good example. That meant having a good relationship with food and exercise.

I am now 24 weeks pregnant with our second son (!) I continue to remind myself not to worry about the changes in my body. It continues to be a daily challenge, but I am using the same coping tools and support systems as I did during my first pregnancy to work through it. I went to the doctor today for my standard check-up and was dreading getting on the scale. I wasn’t going to look-but then I reminded myself that I am more than a number. My weight and body shape does not make or break the woman I have become. Our bodies are amazing, God designed them to grow another human being, and that is a true gift.

Jen: It was surprising to me how quickly my eating disorder voice came back as soon as I found out I was pregnant; I had been in recovery for a solid eight years by the time we got the news. Some of the voice’s content was the same, especially surrounding numbers and perfection. I was quickly obsessed with being a “perfect pregnant woman.” I wanted to gain the perfect amount of weight, no more no less. I wanted to eat only the most “perfect” foods. I was gripped by the thoughts of being a perfect mother and took on so much of the responsibility. Often my thoughts went something like this, “If I do X, then Y would happen to my baby, and I am a terrible mother.”

My first piece of advice and truly the most important is to rally your troops. Tell your support system about the thoughts you are having or that you are concerned you will start having the thoughts. Make a plan before you are “in it.” Second, become informed and educated about your pregnancy. Doctors are good sources, google is not. It is easy to get swept up into new mother forums because it can give us instant gratification (instant gratification is totally not something people with eating disorders like or anything…sigh), but it can almost always give us something else to worry about. Lastly, actively practice awareness, mindfulness, and gratitude. My favorite moments in pregnancy took place in my bathtub. I would be fully immersed in my connection with my daughter. I would be gratefully thinking about the incredible things my body was doing in its efforts to grow a baby. I would accept my anxious thoughts if that came to me but kindly bring my mind back to my baby. Towards the end, this would usually result in sweet reminder from my girl giving me a kick or a roll, as if to say, “I love you.” I was unbelievably grateful that I could be so terrible to my body for so much of my life and it was still willing to give me my most precious gift. You are a goddess, Mama, let your body do what it was made to do.

 

As you can see, Jen and Veronica struggled and triumphed in unique and separate ways with their recovery journeys during pregnancy. Veronica talked about the body negativity that plagued her throughout both of her pregnancies- specifically when it came to gaining the necessary weight. This aspect of pregnancy can actually be upsetting to both recovered and non-eating disordered individuals alike; especially if low body image and self-esteem were a struggle prior to pregnancy (which research tells us is the case for the majority of women).

As Veronica mentioned, it is important to use continuous self-talk when these thoughts pop up. Remind yourself of the miracle that your body is making (despite, as Jen stated, how much you may have put your body through in the past!) Remind yourself of how much this miracle needs the energy from the food that you are providing him/her. Perhaps you may even take on a mantra at this time-something simple like, “Nourish to (help my baby) flourish!”

And of course, if weight gain feels overwhelming to you during your pregnancy, ensure that you have professional support, as well as moral support systems in place to lean into and discuss these concerns.

Contrastingly, Jen struggled with the idea of being the “perfect mom,” and having the “perfect pregnancy.” She referenced how this was most definitely her ED voice, albeit cleverly disguised as thoughts of wanting to be the best for her child. That is the thing about eating disorders. They are wily. And they might not present themselves in a completely overt manner. This is why it is so important, specifically during pregnancy, but also during every other phase of life, to be very mindful and aware of how ED speaks to you. When do these thoughts get loud? How have they tricked you in the past? The more aware you are, the more pitfalls you can pinpoint and avoid-like a true warrior. For example, if you, like Jen, are drawn to instant gratification, but also suffer from anxiety, be sure to avoid things like the mom forums that she mentioned. If you tend to be a perfectionist, and you know that this has triggered your ED in the past, identify one or two point people that you can talk to about this during your pregnancy. People that know this tendency in you, and that you can trust to be honest and empathic. (“Listen I’m feeling a lot of pressure to use only cloth diapers and make all my food for my baby by hand when she is born…Is that doable or is my perfectionism getting on top of me again?”).

Summarily- I don’t know that I can put it better than Jen- “Rally your troops.” Make sure you have a solid professional and personal support system in place for this journey. And, as Veronica mentioned, use your coping tools! Whether that means mantras, daily reminders, journaling, self-talk, mindfulness, gratitude-doesn’t matter which one it is, as long as it clicks in and works for YOU. Because along the way during those nine months, there are a plethora of other triggering situations not addressed here that can arise-feeling sick, feeling very full, comments from others- “You have GOT to be having twins!” “You are getting so big!”-But as long as your have your professional support systems, personal support systems, and coping toolbox, you will likely be able to handle these as they come. Sure, they may not be the most enjoyable situations to endure (seriously, why do we feel it is our right to tell pregnant women how big we perceive their bellies to be-or TOUCH them at that?!) but with the awareness and tools, you will be able to b r e a t h e and utilize healthy coping mechanisms instead of resorting to eating disordered behaviors during these times. Shine on recovery mamas.

 

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Jen Misunas Buckwash is a happy, healthy new mom to a 5 and a half month super girl. She is a practicing professional counselor in PA and will complete her doctoral degree in Psychology in May. She has been in recovery since 2008.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Veronica Carr Yerger is stay at home Mom and online fitness entrepreneur from Dillsburg, Pennsylvania where she lives with her husband Mark, little boy Lane and another boy on the way in March 2017. She shares her 20+ years of experience in coaching, mentoring, and fitness with her clients on a daily basis emphasizing a strong balance of positive body image, family, life, and faith. veronicayerger@gmail.com, FB@verionicahealth, IG @veronicahealth

 

 

 

 

 

 

me

Colleen Reichmann is a licensed clinical psychologist, specializing in the treatment of individuals with eating disorders, body image issues, self-esteem issues, and women’s issues. She lives in Virginia Beach with her husband, goldendoodle and (brand new!) sheepadoodle.

Let’s connect!

Email questions to: blog@theprojectheal.org

Instragam @drcolleenreichmann

Facebook Page: Dr. Colleen Reichmann

 

 

 

*The views expressed in this posting are based on this writer’s professional knowledge, training, and experience in accord with current and relevant psychological literature and practice. These views do not indicate that a professional relationship has been established with any recipients. Readers should consult with their primary medical professionals for specific feedback about any and all questions.

On Weight Gain and Love as My Guide

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By Shannon Kopp

I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday morning. I was told that I’d gained too much weight in my pregnancy and not to gain another pound in the next month. If I don’t change my eating, said the doctor, then I’d be stuck with diabetes and I’d “never get the pregnancy weight off.” She said “never get the weight off” as if this was the worst thing that could possibly happen to a woman.

I laughed and politely said “thank you,” because right then, shock and fear were in charge. If Love was guiding me, I might have used the moment to educate her. To remind her that I have an eight-year history with an eating disorder, and thirty million others in our country suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder in their lifetime. I might have shared with her that eating disorders are much more than a matter of food and weight—they are serious, biologically-influenced mental disorders—often triggered by trauma.

I might have also let her know that I live in the real world. I’m not some celebrity who is going to be taking pictures of myself in a bikini four months post-delivery and selling them to a magazine for a ton of money. I’m not aiming to be featured in a “Post-Baby Weight Secrets Revealed!” US Weekly article. Or to fit into skinny jeans a few months after pregnancy, like Sarah Michelle or Ellen Pompeo. Or to strut down the runway just two weeks after giving birth, like Natalia Vodianova.

No. I’m an expecting mother who works at an eating disorder treatment center, and too many times, girls and women have shared how a visit with an uneducated doctor has sent them on a downward spiral. Body Mass Index is not the end-all-be-all Judge of one’s overall health—it’s an old, misleading calculation that often inaccurately deems people overweight or obese.  Too many doctors encourage women who are not overweight to go on a diet. Too many doctors use a harsh and judgmental tone. They encourage rigidity and the false belief that there are “good” and “bad” foods. They say something like, “No more dessert,” rather than “Would it be possible to bring more awareness into your nutritional habits?”

I was told yesterday, with a pointed finger, “No more ice cream or soda. And definitely no juice. Juice is really bad for you.”

Now, I’ll admit, I’ve been having a good deal of ice cream and soda…I’ve even started having the root beer floats that I enjoyed so much as a kid. It would probably be a good idea to decrease the amount of sugar I’m consuming…but to cut it out completely? To deprive myself of foods I enjoy? To have no more ice cream or soda?

NO.

I deprived myself for eight years. Ice cream was particularly hard for me to enjoy.

My recovery from bulimia is the greatest gift of my life. It’s a second chance I do not intend on wasting.

So I’d like to say that yesterday, I was empowered and confident in what I know to be true to my heart. I’d like to say that I kept a sane perspective and what I made out of the conversation with my doctor was that I could afford to have a few less root beer floats.

But instead, I walked out of that office freaked out and ashamed. I knew that I wouldn’t cut out ice cream and soda like she told me to, that rigidity wasn’t the answer…but I berated myself for the weight gain.

Shannon Kopp (left)
Shannon Kopp (left)

Thankfully, these thoughts did not last long. I came home to four dogs and a loving husband who has been with me for ten years, from the days I was in eating disorder treatment until now. I opened up my favorite spiritual books. I meditated and prayed for guidance. And eventually, I was able to see that there was nothing to freak out about. Since I have a history with restriction, I’d been hyper-vigilient about feeding my growing baby, making sure that I never skipped a snack or a meal. Already, I love him so much. And I wanted to feed and nourish him like a king.

Not much is going to change. I’ve just been given the okay to exercise for the first time in my pregnancy, so I can go for small walks and try a bit of prenatal yoga. I can live a balanced and abundant life, and focus on what matters—connecting with my child.

With Love (not fear and shame) as my guide, that’s what this mama fully intends to-do.

About the author:

Shannon Kopp is an eating disorder survivor, animal welfare advocate, and the best-selling author of Pound for Pound: A Story of One Woman’s Recovery and the Shelter Dogs Who Loved Her Back to Life (HarperCollins Publishers). She is also the founder of SoulPaws Recovery Project, offering free animal therapy and healing resources to those suffering from eating disorders. Shannon’s writing has been featured on CNN, Fox News, Huffington Post, Salon, NPR, Good Housekeeping, Dogster, Maria Shriver, and more. She also regularly posts recovery-related poetry on Instagram! www.shannonkopp.com


A Letter to My Daughter on My Recovery Anniversary

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Pregnant-Woman

 

Dear Emma,

I hope you can feel inside your perfect little home inside my belly how much you are loved. Your grandparents, aunts, and uncles are anxiously waiting your arrival, one of them usually in tears. But mostly it is your dad and me. We are so very much in love with you and think about holding you all day, every day. Even at approximately 18 inches and 4 pounds, you already fill our lives so close to the brim we might burst! You are completing a part of us we didn’t even know was missing and you will do this your whole life. We are so very lucky to be your parents.

And then there is just me. I have wanted you since the first day I ever held a baby doll. Being a mother has always been my ultimate dream. I’ve held you in my heart for a lot longer than I will hold you in my belly. But there was a time when something so insidious grabbed my life that I couldn’t think of how badly I wanted you anymore. I was lost and confused; no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get to you. Eight years ago I was sitting in a therapist’s office who offered me a question, “Would you rather be a mom or be skinny?” Painfully, I admit choosing being skinny. This was the lowest of my life, when my eating disorder ruled me like a marionette. Know that if I ever face that question again, I would choose you over and over and over again.

There will be so much I will provide you with during your life. I promise to love you through every high and low. I promise that you will not date until you are 30. I promised that we will laugh until our stomachs hurt more times than we can count. But out of all of the things I will give you, my sweet girl, my eating disorder mindset will not be one of them. I will be praising your body and you will hear me praising mine. Frequently. We will live our lives grateful for the parts of our body that society tells us to hate. We will never speak negatively about others’ bodies or knock them down based on any quality; instead, we will learn how to build them up and help them be the best people they can be.

One day, I will talk to you about my eating disorder. I will tell you the terrible things I did to my body to be “perfect.” I will tell you how brutal and exhausting my thoughts were every day. But until then, you will hear about how amazing your mother’s body is. How despite the odds, this body made you, sustained you until you were born, and will spend forever hugging you, kissing you, and cuddling you.

Each year during May, I think about all that I have done to be actively recovered and I like to thank all of the people that helped me to the place I am today. This year recovered is especially important to me because pregnancy was a time when some of those thoughts about my body came back. This year, I dedicate my recovery to you. I dedicate every wonderful pound, every beautiful stretchmark, every change my body went through to make you. Thank you for reminding me with every roll, kick, or punch that my body is an incredible, sacred, perfectly imperfect body. And I will spend the rest of my recovered years helping you believe the same about yours.

 

With all of my love,

Mom

 

Author: Jen Buckwash