About Me, motherhood, pregnancy, self care

Pregnancy and body image

July 19, 2017

I jokingly posted on Facebook yesterday about my enviable willpower at the grocery store involving a regular sized Snickers bar. (Spoiler alert: I ate the whole thing.)

Truth be told, pregnancy is a time of life for me that is is fraught with peril over food choices and body image, old issues creeping to the surface like so much first trimester acne, erupting in formerly smooth spots where I’d have sworn only a few months ago there were no lingering scars, that I’d successfully exorcised these particular demons.

And I don’t think I’m alone in this experience. For my thin and not-so-thin friends alike, there is something uniquely vulnerable about child bearing, about your body becoming not-your-own in a way that is so radical and externalized, inviting commentary and observation from the outside world as it does. It doesn’t seem to matter if a mom is 120 or 190 pounds when she starts growing that baby; it can be jarring whether you’re moving from a size four or a size fourteen.

I used to roll my eyes when my really skinny friends complained about topping out at their full term weight that was within spitting distance of my “healthy” (or at least, typical) before weight. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that even my objectively beautiful friends have their own issues, and that few are the women who stand before a full length mirror fully satisfied, for better or for worse. My girlfriend with the enviable self control at the appetizer tray and a 27 inch waist hates her hair and her nose. She thinks her arms are too big and she wishes her c-section scars could be erased.

When I look in the mirror and see a stomach wrecked by life-giving love and arms that my dad once jokingly dubbed as “baby cranes”(you know, for hoisting babies. All my sisters share this gem of a family trait.), I know I’m looking through eyes that some have admired for their shape and color, past a nose I’ve been told is perfect, pursing lips that are just the right fullness and look great with color on them.

Fresh faced and 27 years young at 35 weeks along with Joey. Still enormous. #shorttorsoproblems (he was born at 37 weeks, 1 ounce shy of 9 pounds)

So it doesn’t seem that all the objective beauty in the world can quite make up for the perceived subjective flaws we all see in ourselves. And for me, the unique spiritual/emotional/physical triple punch of pregnancy is prime time for all the self loathing. My belly is cute, but only with help of the right shapeware. After 5 pregnancies “firm” is not a word that can be accurately applied, at least not at 4 months along.  My skin doesn’t glow, unless the adolescent eruption of redness counts for at least a nice change of pace. And worst of all, as I see the numbers creeping upward on the scale week after week, my resolve to treat this body well melts away like the dregs of a Dairy Queen blizzard, leaving behind a sticky, high fructose corn syrup mess of regret by 8 pm most nights.

If I’m going to gain weight anyway, I reason, it’s hard to not slip into a YOLO mentality where MSG is concerned. I can’t explain why my pregnancy cravings have more to do with processed chemicals than any real food, except that it’s stuff I’d only rarely “let” myself eat during normal life, and that pregnancy feels like a kind of free for all so what the hell, I shrug, eating the stupid chips.

I struggled with an eating disorder from age 15 until about age 26, more than a decade lost to a vicious cycle of binging and purging. When I was a 2-practices-a-day competitive swimmer and track athlete it was easy enough to mask the damage being done. I think that I even attributed some of my svelte body to the behavior, not realizing that I was wrecking my metabolism in the process.

Now, half a lifetime later, some of those same feelings surface again each time that second little pink line shows up. If I can keep the first trimester gain below 10 pounds I consider it a victory, knowing that I’ll be limping across the finish line at 40 weeks having gained about 40 more pounds. I’ve had pregnancies where I exercised 6 days a week, limited carbs, even maintained a running schedule into the third trimester, and every one of my children has come bearing the gift of a 50 pound weight gain.

This most recent break between Luke and Cinco Bing was our longest lull between babies, and so I didn’t just shed the baby weight from his pregnancy, but also the excess that was still hanging on from his 3 older siblings, for a whopping total of 65 pounds lost.

What I can’t explain is why I don’t feel ecstatic about that. Even if I gain my usual 50 this time, I’ll still be 15 pounds shy of where Luke the giant Duke took me. But the thought of gaining the 50 pounds again is mentally crushing. The memory of rolling over in bed with a huge, distorted abdomen pulling on my lower back, trying in vain to find a comfortable sleeping position. The 16 months of careful dieting and exercise it took to get back to a manageable number. The fact that I’m older than I’ve ever been for this pregnancy, that I’m tired, that the mere thought of having to try to lose that weight again only to have it (very likely) come piling back on if we ever welcome number 6.

The hardest part of being open to life for me is this radical, bodily loss of self. It’s not the sleeplessness, the financial strain, the emotional toil or the creativity required to keep 4 other humans alive. So far, at least, it’s this: that my body is not my own, and that I have no realistic hope that it will be for quite some time. And by the time I get it back, it won’t be something that I’m all that thrilled to have autonomy over again.

Do I feel recklessly selfish admitting this? You betcha. Call me a selfish, self centered millennial who wants to look good in pictures, but I hate the way I’m being called to give myself away, piece by piece, until there’s nothing left but the knowledge of having loved and having been loved. I feel like the Velveteen friggin rabbit, and it should fill me with sacrificial joy and satisfaction but mostly it fills me with resentment and dread.

8 months postpartum after number 2, I remember thinking I was soooooo fat in this picture.

Because I still want to be of this world. I still want to be pretty on Instagram. I love when people raise their eyebrows and tell me I don’t “look like” I’ve had four kids. I want all the accolades that come with being thin and fit and pulled together, and I want to offer a living sacrifice made of something other than my literal, actual body. Pretty much anything but this

And that’s just not how it works.

Most people won’t look awesome after more than 2 kids. Which is perhaps why many women (not all – please don’t mistake this for obtuse ignorance of infertility, I beg you) stop there. And those women who do look like petite tennis players after birthing 6 strapping boys? Would probably have looked that way anyway, babies or no, because genetics.

I have to learn the balance here. Which is perhaps why God has given me yet another amazing little life to nurture, the lesson having been not fully grasped in a haze of Doritos and prodromal labor 4 times over. While my body is a gift that I am invited to freely give, it will be taken from me whether or not I cooperate willingly. And I sometimes think I’m self-sabotaging with the poor eating habits and indulgences spanning 10 long months because “the weight’s gonna pile on anyway,” which is accurate enough, though a pound of roasted sweet potatoes is probably not equivalent to a pound of potato chips, all things being equal.

Leaving for the hospital in early labor with Luke. I can’t even.

How then, to gracefully, willingly, joyfully give myself away this time? Entering into a spirit of real self gift, not resigned fatalism and death by chocolate.

I don’t know the answer. But I know that God has some healing here, in this place that is so deeply wounded, torn open afresh by the gift of another new life.

Yes, I will probably still gain a ton more weight than my doctor would like to see. And no, I’ll probably never have a celebrity pregnancy invisible from the back and erased by 8 weeks postpartum. But I can change my attitude. I can beg Him to change my heart. I can enter into this time of waiting and preparation with open hands, asking the Lord what He wants to show me about the broken ways I see myself and the broken relationship I have with my own body, hoping that even for a grand multipara of advanced maternal age, there is still hope for reconciliation.

I wanted to put this all out there in case I’m not alone, in case there are other women who struggle in this way, who aren’t completely thrilled with their bodies – babies on board or no – and who are still walking along that road of recovery, hoping for an eventual miracle: to not care about food, and to be at peace with their bodies.

I don’t have the answer, but I’m glad to have been given another opportunity to get in the ring and fight.

I don’t want to wake up and be 50 years old, still filled with self loathing over the reflection in the storefront window. I want to be healed. And I want to believe that things can be made new in an area of my life that feels, frankly, unredeemable.

But He makes all things new. Even, I want to believe, tired old moms with teenage insecurities still clinging tightly like spandex on hips.

38 Comments

  • Reply Karyn July 19, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    My struggle this pregnancy is that I’m 41 and am feeling it. I have had gestational diabetes in the past seven out of eight pregnancies but this is the first time low carb and exercise hasn’t been enough and I’ve had to take insulin. I’m achy and uncomfortable and haven’t gotten any of that second trimester energy. It’s kind of made me wonder if I can DO this anymore. It’s caused doubts and worries to sneak in and make me wonder if society is right….am I foolish and irresponsible for thinking I can keep having babies in my forties.

    • Reply Kim A July 22, 2017 at 11:49 am

      Karyn,
      I, too, had GD from Baby #4- #8. Number 7 was age 39. I had to take Glyburide that pregnancy and just couldn’t keep those numbers down. I know it was because I didn’t exercise enough (at all), but who has time for that when you have six other kids??? Anyhow, I realized that so much of my issue was the stress I felt from the medical community: you’re OLD, you have enough kids already, why you don’t want to take any prenatal tests???, please sign this form, please come 20,000 times extra to the office to take a non-stress test because of all the above. PLEASE PEOPLE! I’m just having a BABY!!

      Now, I know it isn’t for everyone, but for #8 at age 42, I had my first home birth. It was so so so SO stress-free. I didn’t even test positive for GD, but still treated my body as if I did. I. Felt. Great. Easiest pregnancy EVER. Great birth, too!

      You CAN do this! Don’t let those doctors and nurses take your joy and keep you stressed out. Your body was made for having babies. GD just keeps us honest about how we should be feeding our bodies anyhow!

  • Reply Micaela July 19, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    Tears. I don’t have a history of identified eating disorder but I certainly have an undisclosed history of self-loathing when I comes to my body. God has healed me in so many ways, I’m going to beg Him to heal me of this too.

  • Reply Lucy Rivers Patier July 19, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    COME HOLY SPIRIT ! COME ! COME BY MEANS OF THE POWERFUL INTERCESSION OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY , YOUR WELL BELOVED SPOUSE ! COME ! FILL MY SWEET SISTER WITH THE FULLNESS OF YOUR BLESSINGS, GRACE AND MERCY ! FILL HER TO THE BRIM WITH THE FULLNESS OF LIFE!

  • Reply Krista July 19, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time and I finally feel compelled to comment on a post. You are so beautiful! Every post of yours leaves me feeling the feels- joy, sadness, fear… you have such a gift to express yourself in such a generous, no judgmental way. Pregnancy and the weight that come with it, mothering, walking the journey of faith can all be a burden at times and I’m so grateful that you are brave enough to put it all out there for us. Thank you! God bless!

    • Reply M.T. July 25, 2017 at 7:45 am

      Yes to every word of this comment! You are beautiful Jenny! And I do so relate to all of this battle. It’s a real one and I want to be healed too so I can enjoy my life and the good body God gave me. God bless you!

  • Reply jeanette July 19, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Because there is an underlying reason for an eating disorder, it makes sense to seek some brief therapy to uncover the reason(s). You can never expect to understand how to overcome the unknown. So, at some point, think about that if you’ve never done it. But life is overwhelming enough right now, so just acknowledge to yourself that going more deeply into the problem might help in the long run.

    As for body image, with the “model” look thrown in our faces day and night, of course it is easy enough to have unrealistic expectations of how we “ought” to look like we are somehow entitled to it. But you said it already: genetics. Like it or not, you have a starter plan in your DNA. Of course you do things that affect the outcome, too, but you can’t go against the DNA. Just won’t happen, no matter how hard you try. So you have to define beauty (your self image) in a more realistic way.

    Think about all of the visual cues that you give out and how they are received. It’s not about thinness at all. Think about people who are mediocre in their weight control, but whom you find to have a beauty and attractiveness as a human being and how you want to be around them and why. Think about what you have to offer besides a particular body size. Are you clean (body and clothing)? Do you take care with your appearance, without trying to “BE” something (so many women try to be “noticed” or “sexy” or “glamorous” other such contrived things which are completely unnecessary to have a positive self-image), but just having a pleasant outward appearance, both in how you hold yourself, your posture and mannerisms and facial expressions (smiles make us look quite beautiful to everyone)? Do you make sure to get adequate rest? Are we kind and loving and thoughtful? These are all things that convey beauty. Thin does not equal beauty. We all know when we encounter a certain ugliness in a human being, even if they look like they fell off the page of a fashion magazine.

    Basically, though, you will never be pleased with yourself if you don’t have a realistic image of who you CAN be, not just who you are wishing to be. And as for the things about ourselves that we cannot really change, they key to really accepting yourself as you are is to realize that God created you, and if He saw fit to endow you with this unique set of qualities that no one else on earth shares (unless of course you also received the gift of being a twin), then who are you to argue with that? If you are good enough for HIM, why are you not good enough for yourself? Think about it.

    But back to bodyweight: the key thing to do is to eat in moderation or appropriately for the amount of activity you are engaged in or your physical condition like pregnancy. A person who is in debt and has all of their credit cards racked to the max and throws caution to the wind and says “what the heck, I’m already in debt” is not really serious about overcoming debt. And the person who feels like, “I’m going to get fat anyhow so I’ll just eat it anyways…are they serious about their weight? Is weight even the issue? It sounds more like a lack of confidence in their ability to overcome a problem, a feeling of defeat and failure. So finding the right support in your goals is really important when you can’t do things on your own. Like a spouse, a family member, or a friend, who can help share your personal victories over the problem as well as encourage you when you backtrack.

    But pregnancy is nine months long, so consider it a break from the norm. Just like when you go on a vacation and leave the household behind to seek new views of the world, seek a new view of yourself. At this time, just view yourself as mommy, shaped just the way she needs to be to cuddle up and be loved. You’ve got 4 little ones to remind you of that daily. I’ll bet your body looks and feels just great to them. Trust them on that.

    By the way, pregnant women are actually quite beautiful to behold with a certain joy and amazement the whole 9 months. Take this from a mom who very much enjoyed seeing her daughter blossom into a mother.

    • Reply Ellen July 19, 2017 at 6:23 pm

      Wow, Jeannette. I’m going to come back to your comment when I, like Jenny, struggle with all this. Thank you.

    • Reply Anamaria July 21, 2017 at 12:46 pm

      Jeanette, thank you for your wisdom. However, for some of us, it’s unfortunately not, “I’m already in debt, might as well buy this dress,” but “My credit card will be charged $19 this month if I buy nothing, or $20 if I buy this dress, so might as well buy the dress.”

      Though if this is the case after pregnancy, SOMETHING IS WRONG. Even if the doctor tells you there isn’t, that is not what happens to a healthy person.

  • Reply Amelia July 19, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    I can relate to this so much. So, so, so much. The weight gain that doesn’t just fall off is probably the thing I hate MOST about pregnancy. More than any other discomfort. Breastfeeding has never helped me lose weight and it seems supremely unfair that after giving my body up for 9 months gaining at least 40 pounds, birthing a baby and then being at said baby’s beck and call, with round the clock breastfeeding, that I also have to watch what I eat and ‘diet’ to lose the weight. And then I still don’t lose it all because my body apparently hangs onto weight while breastfeeding. So that just shy of a year past my 5th baby’s birth, I’m a good 35 pounds heavier than when I started this whole childbearing thing. It is disheartening and extremely upsetting. I too have an eating disordered past, and every pregnancy and post-partum time it all comes rushing back.

  • Reply Laura July 19, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    Ok. It’s like you just witnessed my eating Nutella straight from the jar in a royal pity party of almost-40 weeks-and-more-pounds-than-that pout fest. Yes to all of this. Sacrificial love, this is my body, given for all of them, and somehow never easier now matter how many times I’m back in the ring. Just: thank you.

  • Reply Sara Kazlauskas July 19, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    I am so thankful that you put this post out there. Your words will have many heads nodding in agreement. Body image is tough. Motherhood is tough. I had a moment of clarity the other day watching my 2 yr old and thinking how absolutely adorable she is. And aha! That is is how God the Father sees us. He sees past the tantrums and exasperating antics and only sees our good. May you find peace in your roll of life-giver!

  • Reply Kelly July 19, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    Yes a million times yes. I relate to so much of this and have no good answers. But prayers!

  • Reply Erika July 19, 2017 at 8:28 pm

    Yes!!! I am 37 weeks pregnant with #8! Thank you for writing this!

  • Reply Rebecca July 19, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    This feels like exactly what I think each time I’ve been pregnant! I always tell people I do not like pregnancy, but I love the results (baby!) because of exactly this. It’s so hard to watch your body expand, the acne start, the morning sickness, the craving for the ridiculously unhealthy food I ate growing up with but haven’t touched since except when gestating a wee one which is coincidentally when I should NOT be eating that(!), to watch the scale climb with no guarantee that it will come off or that you will resemble your idea of yourself “before”. I so hope I come to the point where I see the wrinkly tummy skin and don’t cringe. I always wince at the thoughts that go through my head regarding this. I feel like I tell God, ” I want all the babies, big family please BUT only if my body never changes afterward and we have this much income and can live here and can and can and can…” Oh how I wish I had a fiat like the Blessed Mother. Until then, I’m just gonna keep trying and thank God for the words that come to me through you!

  • Reply Ann July 19, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    You could have not hit this topic more accurately or truthful than you just did! I am 6 months pp after my fourth “strapping” boy and struggling with how my body looks and feels. I don’t remember ever having low self-esteem growing up, but it has slowly been creeping up lately. Thank you for your truth and your wisdom! The Lord will provide if we ask. He will not forsake us. I need to continue to take this to Him in prayer and I do know I can overcome this unhealthy relationship with food and my body with His help.

  • Reply Ashley Primeaux July 19, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    I sit in bed reading this as I breastfeed my fourth child born in May. Having JUST had this conversation with my sister in law today! How beautiful it is to give life but at the same time to feel so alone and discouraged about the aftermath of your body. For my first three pregnancies I gained 40 lbs. This last one… only 27. And guess what! I’m still holding on to the same amount of weight I always do at this point post partum. I, like other women who posted, do not lose weight from breastfeeding. It’s frustrating! Especially when trying to care for four children under the age of five and doing everything else that a wife and mother has vowed to do. I go to classes at the gym when I am able to sneak away and having been in shape for many years, I get so frustrated when my mind says one thing but my body just can’t keep up. Not to mention the road map laid out on my stomach… sighhhh those 9 pounders did me in. To all moms, we love our children so deeply, but for a lot of us, seeing who we are now is not always easy and affects us in many ways but that’s why we must continue to pray to our Blessed Mother for strength. My husband tells me I’m beautiful and likes to pinch my excess and instead of thanking God for him, I want to punch my husband for pointing out my jelly roll 😂
    Also, may I say that I live in South Louisiana. Our lives revolve around family and food! Try losing weight when all you do is plan your next meal while eating your first one. Please continue to post because I will continue to read. There are so many of us out there that are relating to your struggles.

  • Reply Lucy Rivers Patier July 20, 2017 at 2:00 am

    DIVINE PROVIDENCE : THIS ARTICLE JUST POPPED UP TODAY AT SPIRITUALLY !

    “Proverbs 23 gives us a sober warning about food: Biblical wisdom says that you should choose foods that help you, not hurt you.

    “When you sit to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before you; and put a knife to your throat, if you are a man given to appetite. Be not desirous of his delicacies, for they are deceptive food” (Prov. 23:1-3).

    Many people are overweight today because they do not know about the warning in this Scripture.

    Considering what we eat carefully applies to us too because we are the rulers; we control what we put in our mouths.

    Our grocery stores are filled with deceptive foods—processed foods that appear nourishing to our bodies but are not.

    Instead, these foods hijack our brain’s reward and calming systems: dopamine, serotonin and beta endorphin, primarily. We become addicted to them.

    These foods interfere with our ability to eat with self-control. Self-control is a fruit of God’s spirit.

    One additional fact complicates the issue: Some people who are suffering from emotional issues actually want food to hijack them.

    To quote an old commercial, it is their “Calgon, take me away!” substance. Food becomes their escape from emotional pain.

    As a result, part of them wants to continue eating deceptive foods, even though the overeating they cause is ruining their health and quality of life.

    I know this issue well. Deceptive foods hijacked my life for over 20 years.

    But Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”

    God showed me that my heart issue needed addressing first. If I did not allow God to heal the emotional issues in my life, I would always be tempted to run back to deceptive foods as a means of escape.

    The enemy could continue to deceive me in thinking:

    I can’t live without certain foods in my life
    I’ll die if I don’t have certain foods
    I can’t handle it if I don’t eat a particular food
    The primary method the enemy uses to control God’s people is fear. Just as with Eve, the first woman, he uses the “fear of missing out” to keep you in bondage.

    He had her focus on the one tree that would hurt her versus the hundreds, maybe thousands of trees that would help her.

    His strategy is the same; he uses whatever means necessary to take God’s people out of their purpose. He doesn’t want us fulfilling the Great Commission.

    But we have the power to stop this.

    1 Corinthians 6:12 says, “‘All things are lawful to me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be brought under the power of anything.”

    While we can eat anything, we shouldn’t eat everything. Each of us is unique.

    It is wise to focus on the foods that are truthful with us rather than deceive us: Helpful foods look good, taste good and help us to feel good so that we can go out and do good works with energy and vitality.

    We were created to do good works to glorify God!

    Here are five tips to identify deceptive foods that have hijacked your brain. By the way, I can write about this because I fell for every single one of these deceptions:

    1. After you eat it, your mind becomes obsessed with it. It tasted good, but now your thoughts keep drifting back to where that food is. You keep thinking about when you are going to eat it again.

    2. You have difficulty controlling the amount you eat of it. You aren’t satisfied with one serving; you must have several in one sitting. You may tell yourself that you are only going to have a little, but you find yourself eating a lot and are unable to stop.

    3. You fear giving it up. Feelings of deprivation are just fear in disguise. Here is an easy way to tell if a food has hijacked your brain: Imagine yourself never buying that food again. What feelings come up? If you don’t have an emotional attachment to it, then you are fine. But if you feel a sense of loss and can’t imagine life without that food, it has likely hijacked your brain.

    4. You say that you are buying the food for others, but you are the one who eats it. You may have feelings of guilt buying the food, so you tell yourself that you are buying it for the kids, for your spouse or for guests who happen to stop by. But the truth is that you are buying it for yourself, because you are the one who eats most of it.

    5. You got the food from the center aisles of the grocery store, in the freezer case, at the cash register, the convenience store or at the fast- food restaurant. While not every deceptive food lives in these areas, most of them do.

    In summary, each of us must decide how we are going to show up for life. Do we really want to live our whole lives in a brain fog and miss the abundant opportunities the Lord gives us to experience daily peace and joy?

    I hope, starting today, you decide to stop falling for the deception and eat nourishing foods that help you reach your best weight and feel good as you are doing good. ”

    Once 240 pounds and a size 22, Kimberly Taylor can testify to God’s healing power to end binge-eating. She is an author and the creator of the Christian weight-loss website takebackyourtemple.com. Visit today for inspirational health and weight-loss tips.

    This article originally appeared at takebackyourtemple.com.

    • Reply Sarah July 20, 2017 at 6:00 am

      This is a great article! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Sarah July 20, 2017 at 6:06 am

    Praying for you. Pregnancy is hard, I have always felt better with some exercise. Are you getting some exercise in? Try a quick 30 minute video at least 4 or 5 times a week. It will help boost that serotonin for you. You are blessing to all of us with your blog and sharing your heart.

  • Reply Maria July 20, 2017 at 11:40 am

    I’m 5’3 and have gained 50 lbs with each of my first two babies. Now I’m on track to gain the same with my third. I somehow gained 5 lbs last WEEK. After I stepped on the scale and saw that this morning I was quite depressed but was inspired to listen to a talk by Mother Theresa on Mary called HAndmaid of the Lord. In the first 15 min (which is all I had) she beautifully reminded me that as a pregnant mother I can more closely relate to Christ’s words, “This is my Body given up for you” than anyone else. She also mentioned that a home is not a home without the child. Those two thoughts taken to prayer uplifted me a bit and I’ll be trying to remind myself of them often. Thank you for gracing the world with another beaitiful life through your sacrifice. And thank you for sharing!

  • Reply Melissa July 20, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    This is sort of random, but my last pregnancy I don’t even know how much weight I gained because I didn’t look at the scale at my prenatal appointments!! It was freeing not to know, and just focus on how I was feeling and *trying* to eat right…all things in moderation. And I was the crazed pregnant woman my first two pregnancies who would leave my prenatal appointments and google things like “gaining X pounds at X weeks pregnant…” like a nut.

  • Reply Jessie July 20, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    Sometimes, I feel like we’re the same person. I’ve hated my body since I was 12 and 4 kids and 50 pounds have done nothing to improve that. Lately I’ve been changing my focus and Instagram has come in surprisingly handy for that. All those transformation posts say the same thing: they started the journey bc they wanted to lose weight and look better. And while exercise and healthy diet gave them a better body, more importantly it gave them a better mindset. Putting in the time and energy to try and improve yourself helps from the inside AND out. So, yeah I wanna lose weight. But what I really want is to be happy with myself; for myself. It’s made the damned exercise much less dreaded than all my previous attempts at fitness. For real.

  • Reply Jenny T July 21, 2017 at 8:25 am

    THANK YOU for your transparency! With 4 kids now, I fall into the trap of wanting to make pregnancy/above-average-size family look “easy” and “effortless,” like “everyone should be open to life because it’s no big deal.” But it’s a huge deal! Each baby does wreak havoc on your body and challenges the status quo of your family life, but it is in spite of these difficulties that we continue to welcome new life, not because the difficulties don’t exist. Thank you for being a witness to sacrificial love! Even a relictant witness 😉

    • Reply Ashley July 21, 2017 at 9:37 am

      YES to this! I was once told, shortly after having baby #4, that I didn’t even look like I’d birthed four babies and I wore that compliment like a badge of honor. I craved that…acceptance maybe?…of people seeing my large family and being impressed vs. validated in their judgmental presumptions. I’m now 7mo postpartum after #6, with my body very much looking like I’ve had 6 kids, and trying to come to terms that that’s okay. So hard.

  • Reply Julie July 21, 2017 at 8:35 am

    When I was pregnant with my 8th child, a friend (who has 12!), told me that with her last few pregnancies she just wanted to enjoy having that life within her because what if it were her last? That helped me to shift focus and really love on that little one inside me. Of course, I loved being pregnant (for the most part!), so it made it easier. Plus, our Good God gave me so much LOVE for this baby that it was overwhelming. I was 45 years old and I guess He knew that I needed extra graces.

    As for my body image, my last two kids were C-sections–talk about wreaking havoc on a body! Ugh! But my wonderful husband also put that into perspective for me when I complained about my tummy rolls. He said, “When I look at you, I see love–self-sacrifice for children and God. To me, that is beautiful.” How blessed am I?! But you know what, Jenny, THAT is exactly what God sees too!!! And, quite frankly, what He sees and says is most important. 😉

    Praying for you, my friend!

  • Reply Cami July 21, 2017 at 9:42 am

    I’m right there with you, ladies. I gain 40-50 lbs with each baby too. I only *don’t* gain if I don’t eat carbs. But there’s only so much meat and eggs a person can stand and many days all I could stomach was rice and apples. I’m 4 mo postpartum with baby #4 (also 4 kids, ages 5 and under) and have never lost it all before getting pregnant again. I’m 40 lbs heavier than my wedding day. It’s rough. Not easy to wear that weight when you’re 5’3″. We have newlywed friends that just delivered their 1st baby. They were diligent about tracking her BMI the whole pregnancy. I actually thought that was very unhealthy. But she’s a pediatrician and maybe data comforts her. I don’t know. Some women really fear losing control of their bodies. But the truth is once we are pregnant it’s not about us anymore. I need to pray more for myself in this area. Sadly, sleep deprived people are more likely to crave sugary snacks for the brief energy boost. But it’s not helping me lose anything off course. We are also returning to a plant based diet which we feel better on (not confident in animal product industry or that our bodies were designed to eat that way) but I’m worried of course that eating grains again will impede any weight loss. Why must we suffer this way after bringing forth life? I just don’t feel like myself. And I get no time for myself to focus on self care. It’s a tough sacrifice. Solidarity.

  • Reply Anamaria July 21, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Not much wisdom from here, but a few things. First of all, I have been eating fermented foods like a crazy person the last few months (in attempts to not have hyperemesis next pregnancy, which ironically also cause me to gain too much after losing at the beginning since I am so weak and nutrient deprived…. and will vomit if it’s too long between meals, even at 25 weeks, etc) and my sugar cravings are almost gone! It is amazing. Making fermented pickles, sauerkrat, giardiniera, etc is not very hard- Cultures for Health website and Nourishing Traditions have some good recipes.

    Second, YES, a pound of chips vs. a pound of sweet potatoes is actually different, at a biological/cellular level, in part due to the vegetable oil. See this podcast and the book: https://wellnessmama.com/podcast/deep-nutrition/
    Also sometimes these podcasts are a little extreme but they are SOOOO informative and good inspiration for staying on track with good eating, even when our weight is not reflective of that.
    Finally, Cami, we are made to eat meat. That is what we have been doing for all of time (see the above podcast and Dr. Cate’s book and many other resources). We are limited in our meat consumption, but some research suggestions that even modest meat consumption helps us absorb proteins and nuitrients from plant-based sources. Do you have a Food Coop or good Farmer’s Market where you live? Can you buy half a cow with another family?
    (This is not scientifically-based but it seems to me if you gain too much weight on too many grains, that is a good indication that that is not what’s best for you)

    • Reply Cami July 23, 2017 at 1:27 pm

      It’s a little annoying to me that if you have trouble losing weight people assume you’re ignorant about food. I know some people eat fast food and super processed, sugary convenience food, completely lacking fresh produce and wonder why they’re overweight. But it’s pretty hard to miss the tons of information these days on nutrition. Eat fresh, Whole Foods as often as possible. I do agree with Anamaria about fermented foods. Kombucha alone can help with sugar cravings. I don’t agree with the meat comment. Just because something has occurred for a long time doesn’t mean it was God’s plan. I won’t get into a big fuss over it but my family feels better on plant based, human teeth and digestive system length suggest we eat foods that aren’t likely to ferment in our guts and slow down elimination, and it seems logical to me that before the fall when there was perfect harmony in the garden, Adam & Eve probably were plant-based. And even if you are in disagreement with any of that, the truth is the enormous appetite for animal is ruining our planet and contributing to beliefs in over-population, resulting in more pro-abortion opinions. Deforestation is occurring to make more room to raise livestock and the excrement from the animals is contaminating neighborhoods, promoting illness. People hear about the deforestation and think we are overpopulated. (We’re not: https://www.pop.org/ and https://overpopulationisamyth.com/ ) So abortion! But how about the fact that we don’t need meat to live healthfully? And the stats on animal consumption are outrageous! Some info can be seen here. https://www.ncronline.org/news/people/are-you-willing-change-your-diet
      Anyway, I had a dear priest comment after I had my first baby (and was still fluffy) that I looked beautiful, just as a mother should to care for and comfort her children. He’s a biology teacher and gifted spiritual director and his words were welcomed in this culture of body shaming. He recognized that I gave my body for another life and the extra pounds served a purpose at the time. I’ve had to cling to those words in the presence of my in-laws who’ve all stopped at 2 kids, have very active gym memberships and childcare, and are all a size 4 or smaller. They avoid self-donation in most forms, have built themselves a life void of suffering and guess what? Abandoned Jesus in the process. So for now, at least we ladies can take our sufferings to the cross and be consoled by our Prince of Peace. Someday, there will be no more babies in our laps.

      • Reply Anamaria July 30, 2017 at 1:33 pm

        Cami,
        I did not at all mean to imply that you’re ignorant about food (or that Jenny is). I posted the link that explains how food effects our cells for encouragement– until recently I had this vague notion that it was different but not concrete info. It helps me, when I am struggling to lose weight, to know all the reasons to eat well besides weight because sometimes the weight has actually been a defeatist effort (I have recently diagnosed thyroid issues), where it is really impossible or close to impossible to lose weight.

        As for meat eating, the effects of over-consumption are real. I get it. We are pretty limited in our meat eating and certainly don’t eat it everyday. We rarely eat it as the main part of our meal. But that doesn’t mean it’s healthy to cut it out all together.
        (Also, I live in Oklahoma, cattle-grazing country, and there is a lot of land that is really just wasted. As our most of our yards. We use them to grow grass but not food, or not much- my own yard has only a small garden. Some of it is certainly how we use our land)

  • Reply Kaitlyn Jacques July 21, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    You hit the nail on the head for me with this post! I had two babies in a span of less than two years. My little loves are only 16 months apart and man has that done a number on me. I’ve had four pregnancies and yea the “mom bod” is definitely my deal these days. I was always one of those skinny girls and until recently was at high school weight before my third pregnancy. I never would have considered myself vain or concerned about my weight until this year. Due to post partum depression that required not one but two types of medications to help me function I’ve really struggled with losing weight. I keep gaining it actually, so much so to the point that my doctor is checking my thyroid function. She suspects, like I do, that the meds are contributing and I am trying to wean off one of the often common culprits. I never was worried before but being in a size I never thought I would possible be it’s hit me hard. I don’t want to feel selfish but yea it sucks to have to lose that part of yourself. Your physical self the world sees at its best and worst. It’s clear to the world I’ve had babies. I love them dearly and wouldn’t have it any other way but giving yourself up so physically is painful in a myriad of ways. It’s humiliating and humbling and a reminder of what you did for your family even if you don’t want it to be. I’m praying as well that I will be healed from my embarrassment and shame. I never thought I had an unhealthy relationship with food until recently. I didn’t always eat the best during my pregnancies because I could eat whatever I wanted when I was a “skinny girl”. I’m learning that my relationship with food reflects my relationship with so many other things in this world. I severely lack prudence and temperance in so many areas. I’m improving and that doesn’t always make it easier. Thank you for sharing your struggle. My prayers are with you that you can find peace.

  • Reply Pamela Karol July 24, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Thank you for writing this! I am crying as I read this. I have 5 children, my last one, Luke, was born 3 years ago when I was 40. I HATE my body! I struggle with everything I put into my mouth & I compare myself to everyone I see! The thing is everyone tells me I look great, but all I see is a mushy mess. I hate wearing a bathing suit and am so jealous of people who have the confidence to wear certain suits with less than perfect bodies. I look back at pics that I thought I looked “fat” in then, and want to smack myself, I looked good. I wish I could overcome these horrible, vain insecurities. Again, thank you for writing this.

    • Reply Jean C July 24, 2017 at 2:54 pm

      Ouch! Please, Pamela, don’t be so hard on yourself. I don’t know you, have no idea what you look like, but I can tell you with 100% scripture based certainty you are so loved by God who created you in His own image. Re-read Jeanette’s reply to Jenny and take it to heart. My oldest child is your age so it pains me to know any of you younger moms are suffering this way. I truly believe it’s an evil side effect of the western culture we live in, to idolize an unrealistic “ideal” body image. Your body is a gift from God, and so is your health. You deserve to live in peace with the beautiful person you are. And congratulations on your 5 children. My husband and I stopped at 2, regrettably.

  • Reply Susanna S. July 24, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    I so totally relate to this post. One huge thing that has brought me some healing has been studying paintings. We use them in our homeschool curricullum, and seeing paintings of what was considered beautiful and normal in women’s bodies in times past gives me a much more realistic view of what is beautiful about my body. My 26 month (4 full term babies) postpartum belly under a nice dress looks just as beautiful as the paintings of classical ladies. But then I am comparing again… Again, I really appreciate your thoughts as they echo mine so well.

  • Reply Audrey July 27, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    I too don’t usually comment but just needed to jump on to say thank you, thank you, thank you! The struggle is real! And we are in it together!
    I feel like I have always had a good formation in being open to life, the sacrificial nature of love and the somewhat-Eucharistic aspect of childbearing and yet in reality have had so much angst over how it actually feels to be so overweight and overwhelmed all the time; pretty much since getting married! It is just such a help to hear your honest voice. God is good!

  • Reply brooke July 31, 2017 at 6:35 am

    We live in strange times. While you are being incredibly vulnerable, you get the sage advice to down some sauerkraut in return. We all mean well, don’t we? Grace upon grace, Lord we need it. Ironically, my husband is into fermenting things, and I want to throw his jar of pickled eggs out the window every time I open the fridge, because on a cellular level, my body hates all manner of random things, healthy and not healthy -it does not discriminate- when I am growing a baby. I am marching along with baby number 3, because we jumped on this Catholic crazy train over 7 years ago and were profoundly moved and convicted about this particular teaching. With that said, though a sweetness follows, it does not change the utter shock, dismay, and often despair that comes with being open to life. This is my third HG pregnancy, and yes, I am managing it better, but I have many, many days where I think why is my body so maladaptive? I feel like I have been moved a wee inch in the sanctity department this go round, trying to turn the long, often nauseating days into empathy. Identifying with those who suffer for much longer, often unto death. Anyway, keep marching on sister and doing your thing.

    • Reply Anamaria August 1, 2017 at 7:58 pm

      Let’s see. I had my second baby 19 months ago and have only lost ten pounds. I suspected something was wrong four months postpartum when I wasn’t sure that I hadn’t actually gained weight, but I did not have the confidence to go to a doctor. Between the two babies I had signs of a thyroid issue, including but not limited to difficulty in losing weight, and had a test done only to have a nurse phone me up and say “your thyroid is fine, you don’t need to come back.” I also didn’t have confidence to go to a doctor because I didn’t eat “perfect;” I ate pretty good but it was too difficult to by-pass sweets. I read a lot of emotional eating advice as seen above, which was helpful in a rather limited way.

      Then, as I said, I would like to avoid HG next go-round if at all possible, and the only semi-legit advice I’ve heard is a. eat low-carb and b. eat low-carb in order to reconfigure your gut bacteria, also eat lots of fermented food. I have no idea is it will work, your comment makes me rather fearful in a month or two I’ll be in your spot, but I feel like I have to give it a shot. It doesn’t hurt anything- and, as a very happy by-product, has helped in other ways, like reducing sugar cravings. By a lot. I had NEVER heard this, so yes, I feel like that is something to share on a very vulnerable blog post. At the end of the day, there is a very physical component to these things that is forgotten when it’s all about emotions and will-power (which are certainly components but were more than adequately addressed above by wiser people than I). I don’t know, but personally I have felt pretty frustrated with myself and depressed about my lack of willpower in front of chocolate. Addressing the physical component of this has been hugely helpful (which also includes finally getting the thyroid issue addressed by a medically professional #thanksnfp because it only sometimes shows up in blood work but is very clear in a chart).

      Lots of prayers on your pregnancy. HG is really depressing.

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