Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

How pregnancy has made me confront my own weight bias

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Two months to go! Photo credit: Randall Andrews

I have a confession to make and I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not to write about it because I’m not proud of this. However, I’m taking a deep breath and going for it because I think that it’s important to acknowledge these things.

During the first trimester as I started to gain weight but wasn’t yet obviously pregnant I found myself struggling with the thought that people might think I was *gasp* fat. As someone who has always had a small body I have lived a life rich in thin privilege. Despite my support of HAES and firm belief that people should not be judged by their weight I realized that I wasn’t comfortable extending this mindset to my own body. My body is small, my body has always been small, and therefore, my body should remain small. It’s great for other people to accept their own larger bodies but I, I am ashamed to admit, am not willing to accept that my own body could be anything other than small.

When I would go running at the local indoor track, as my clothes became a little tighter around my belly, I imagined people thinking “good for her, trying to lose weight”. I also imagined people who knew me thinking “looks like she’s not running as much these days”. or passing other judgements on my physique. I was pissed at these people for judging my body. I wanted to wear a sign to tell the world that my imperceptible weight gain was due to the fetus growing inside of me, not because I’m incapable of taming my unruly body. And then I was ashamed and disappointed in myself for not extending the courtesy of body acceptance to my own body as it changed. I was also ashamed because this was how I envisioned others thinking about strangers bodies. Do people really pass these judgements on each other? On themselves? Why did I care what people were (or weren’t) thinking about my body? How have I allowed so much of my identity to be tied to my size? And how self-absorbed of me to presume that others are spending any time judging my body – given the number of people who expressed surprise upon learning I was pregnant when I thought it was pretty obvious people are not nearly as attuned to my body as I imagined. 

As my belly grew and it became more obvious that it contained a tiny human and not just one too many cheeseburgers I became physically less comfortable but mentally more comfortable. People started to compliment me on my “adorable bump”. It feels good to have an acceptable larger body but I’m still carrying that extra guilt around too. It’s not right that women in larger bodies should be shamed while I’m praised for my belly. I truly have no more control over the shape and size of my “bump” as this fetus grows inside me than I have over my height or the size of my feet. 

I truly believe that we do people, particularly women, a disservice by not talking more about how our bodies change over time. It’s as though we all expect to reach a certain size and then remain there permanently. This is not realistic. Our sizes and shapes changes over time for myriad reasons. This is part of being a human in possession of a body. Some people may remain a similar size and shape for decades while others will evolve by the season (winterspeck anyone?). This is all natural.

As I previously wrote, women don’t need to “get their bodies back” after pregnancy. Our bodies have not gone anywhere, they have simply adapted to meet current demands. My new philosophy (during pregnancy and postpartum): my body is going to be the size it wants and needs to be right now.

Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

17 thoughts on “How pregnancy has made me confront my own weight bias

  1. This is great! I am sharing on my Expect the Best Pregnancy FB page. You look so healthy, by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. At 5’3″, 115 pounds, I gained 35 pounds with my first child. Embarrassing. With great effort, I gained 0 pounds with my second child. They both came out just fine.

    Relax and enjoy.

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  3. Thanks for being so open about it!!! I felt the EXACT SAME during my first pregnancy–bloated and heavy and obvious before we made any announcements. I thought I was the worst at hiding it in my first trimester, and thought everyone thought “oh that dietitian is getting fat.” Weirdly it got worse once it became obvious I was pregnant. Excessive amounts of comments (super public-facing job) about my body made me feel even WORSE about changes my body was going through, even when those comments weren’t anything about getting big. Lots of “you’re mostly just belly” etc, etc. It didn’t matter what kind of comment, it all made me super self-conscious and awful about myself and my body and all the changes it was going through that I had zero control over, especially because I had so much pain I couldn’t exercise to manage my stress like I was used to. Probably the worst my mental health has ever been. I finally felt “normal” about my own body thoughts again when Char was born and people started talking about her instead of me!!!! Thank god this time around I don’t have a job where I interact with 100+ people a day, so the body comments are minimal this time! :)

    All that to say I wish we could jump to the future where people don’t make body comments anymore, pregnant or not. Where people have gotten the idea that weight=/=health and we don’t worry about people thinking about our bodies because people generally don’t think about bodies except for how they might feel differently from day to day. wishful thinking! But more honesty about how people are feeling in their bodies can only be a good thing, so I hope more people start sharing their stories like you did about how bodies change and how ITS OKAY THEYRE SUPPOSED TO CHANGE! Can’t wait to hear about how you’re going to change and grow and learn your body when you’re managing life postpartum!

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    • Thank you so much for sharing Doreen! So true – why do people think it’s okay to make comments on strangers bodies (whether or not they believe they’re being complimentary). A weird phenomenon while I was home was random older men guessing how far along I was and then expressing surprise that I wasn’t imminently due.

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      • Oh god, the worst! And always from people who seem to be either male, or far from child-bearing years–either too young to be considering it or children too old to really remember it maybe. Let’s all agree that if you’re a stranger to the pregnant person the only acceptable response to “how far along are you?” is “that’s great! I hope it’s going well for you!”

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  4. I think it’s great that you were able to be open enough to share your thoughts/emotions on this topic to the public because this is personal and can make one feel vulnerable. I feel anyone who tries to attack you for sharing your story is in the wrong because you’re just trying to be honest about something that many women can relate to. Gaining weight is not easy when you’re used to being one size, so it is only natural to feel this way, but the main important thing for pregnant women to remember is the health of the fetus growing inside them. I was very skinny when I had my first child and was so upset watching my body change, which then developed into eating issues for me after I had the child because I wanted to get back to that skinny weight. Well, that never happened and it took me years to except the changes, but when I finally stopped worrying so much about the weight gain I felt relief. I put myself through h*ll trying to remain skinny and was more miserable trying to stay that way. I was already overweight when I got pregnant with my 2nd child, so I got a lot of comments about how huge I was when I was only 4 months pregnant looking like I was 8. However, It didn’t really bother me and I loved every inch of my big baby belly because of the creation growing inside it. I can truly say I never felt more beautiful than that time when I was pregnant and for once wearing tighter clothes didn’t bother me.

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    • Thank you for commenting and sharing your experience. I’m really glad that you felt comfortable to share and that I was able to start a discussion about this topic. It’s also comforting to know that this is not an uncommon experience. I’m glad to hear you reached a place of comfort with your body and had a positive second pregnancy 😊

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  5. I forgot to mention good luck to you with the last two months and I hope all goes well for you in delivery! Don’t forget to let your body rest after you give birth and try to be patient with yourself as your postpartum body heals. I didn’t do much exercising at all after I had my 2nd kid and I somehow was lucky enough to lose weight, so you will probably bounce back easily. You look adorable as well; you’re all baby belly. :)

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  6. Yes,yes, yes! This is what we need to talk about. I too have gone through this same and now 3 babies later have a different view. I am one of the lucky ones – good genes, lots of breast milk and very physically active (I love distance running) – and am right back where I was before without much effort. But it shouldn’t matter either way. If I were 30 lb heavier, I would be the same person I am now. Our bodies are amazing – they build tiny humans that are going to grow up and change the world. And part of that change **can** be changing the way we view our bodies. Just imagine if a generation of girls didn’t hear their mothers shame themselves about their bodies. If a generation of girls never heard sly comments about their butts being too big or eating too much food. If a generation of boys never saw the women and girls in their lives being treated this way. I know I am dreaming, but just imagine if this were true! This change starts with all of us and the first step is acknowledging there is a problem to start with. In just this past year I had 3 close friends confide in me that they hated their pregnant bodies. One won’t even let her husband look at or touch her. This breaks my heart. Pregnancy is a beautiful thing and it took me 3 pregnancies to finally be comfortable with my pregnant body. How sad that I (and many others) hate our bodies during one of the most beautiful phases of life.

    Thank you for posting about this. I am going to share it with my facebook group and on my blog. Feel free to reach out anytime and best of luck with your pregnancy! That baby is lucky to have a mama like you :)

    Lynn

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    • Thank you Lynn! Yes, that would be amazing if we could raise a generation of children who never hear their parents negatively comment on their bodies. I’ll do my best to be part of this movement!

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  7. Thanks for sharing – it can be hard to put yourself out there and face things about yourself that can be hard. But it is a way to grow and become a better person.
    You said you always saw yourself as thin and I don’t think there is anything wrong with identifying with your body and how you look. We do live within our own skin after all. I’ve always identified as fat/heavy, and I have a thin sister. The difference in narrative from people is significant and often reinforces our own body images. And it isn’t always the most obvious comments about your body being thin or not. My sister was always told thinks like “you look pretty today”, “I love how that shirt is so flattering on you it really shows off your assets”, and “aren’t you just a breath of fresh air today.” On the other hand I got complements like “that is a sharp outfit”, “I like how your shoes are paired with that skirt – so stylish”, and “you put some effort into trying to look nice today, well done.” The difference is subtle, but my sister got complements about how she looked, I got compliments about my clothes and trying to look nice (somewhat implying I didn’t look nice if I didn’t try or wore fashionable clothes).
    Not having been through pregnancy, I can’t comment on that. But my sister complained about feeling fat during her pregnancy even though people kept saying she looked good and dressed well. I think it was that more subtle shift in comments from people away from her looks and more about her clothes and efforts to look good.
    We as human beings get a lot of validation from the people around us, and when that narrative shifts it can be challenging to how we view ourselves. I don’t think it is possible for people to stop talking about how others look, but I do think it is possible for us to change how we feel about it and put less importance on what others say and more on how we feel about ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for sharing Karen. That narrative shift is definitely a good opportunity for us to examine our own perceptions and biases and consider how others might experience the world.

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  8. Love this! Social media is so hard on us women… but learning to love our amazing, strong bodies is so important!! Thanks for being open about your struggles with that… keep it up!

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