I was 8-months pregnant, holding a pair of size 0 jeans and doing math: If I could lose one-and-a-half pounds a week for 20 weeks after I give birth, I could be back to my pre-pregnancy weight (although not even that was my “goal” weight overall) by spring, and maybe by summer I could be back in those jeans. Except, by then, I would have a baby and my life would no longer be going exactly as I planned., but that's not what I was thinking at the moment I was looking at those tiny jeans. In that moment, my pregnancy wasn't about my baby, or my family, or my relationship, or any other part of my life — it was about me and my body, and needing to quickly develop a plan that made the changes overtaking my body feel less terrifying.
For women who have lived with body image issues, pregnancy can be an incredibly hard time. For me, someone who went on her first diet at age eight (though it only lasted about two hours, the desire to lose weight and the dissatisfaction with my body was so real), pregnancy clashed with every feeling I had about my body up to that point. I was a chubby kid who got chubbier in college, lost weight via mostly unhealthy behavior, battled binge eating, was a compulsive exerciser and couldn’t just enjoy food without doing calculations in my head to determine how long it would take to kickbox it off.
Weight gain during pregnancy is natural and necessary. But when you’ve worked your adult life to lose weight or at least avoid gaining it, a “healthy” pregnancy can put put you in a panic. I hated the weigh-ins at my check-up. I was “gaining well” but all I could think was that it was that many more pounds I’d have to lose after my baby was born. That’s how screwed up a body image issue can make you. Witnessing the expansion of my body through pregnancy was not comfortable, especially during the first four months when I seemed to be gaining weight but not my belly wasn't "showing" yet. Finally, by the time I was in my sixth month and looked undeniably pregnant, I started to turn a corner: This was how I looked because I was going to be someone’s mother. Gaining this weight was the best thing I could do for my baby right now. And wasn’t that more important than tracking the girth of my thighs?
I’m grateful that pregnancy lasts nine months; It took me that long to even begin to find peace and purpose in my body. And in a way, going through the physical changes of pregnancy quieted the body image police in my head. But before I was able to see the light of being heavy, I discovered many reasons why pregnancy is the hardest time for body image.