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May 14, 2020

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by Alecia Zauha
April 23, 2020

Dealing with Body Image Issues During Pregnancy

Written by  Dezi McEvoy


© Photo by Unknown

Poo Bear is an accurate depiction of me! But the journey of pregnancy hasn’t always been me
staring at my belly in the mirror in awe every day. Some days have been a struggle, between
packing on the pounds, stretchmarks, a widening butt, enlarging tatas and hormonal changes
maintaining a positive body image has been a challenge. As a licensed mental health
practitioner, whose practice focuses on holistic health, self-esteem and self-love I have had to
practice what I preach and take a dose of my own medicine these past five and half months.

Here are a few of the tricks I practice:

1. Focus on what my body is doing, not what it looks like. My body is changing to help
grow and develop a baby! My body is making changes as it creates a home for my little
one. I have grown to love what I look like and this bump of mine.

2. Appearance is not my identity.

3. Kill the ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts). All humans have the tendency to think
more negative than positive. Our brain is built to remember and focus more on bad
experiences than positive ones. It started way back in the caveman days and is actually
an evolutionary advantage that helped our ancestors survive by avoiding danger. Over
time, through the process of neuroplasticity, habitual negative thinking patterns have
become physical neural traits in our brain. With every negative thought or if you get
stressed out often, our brain is going to strengthen those neural connections. Thus,
weakening those connections by challenging the ANTS is very important.

4. Hide the scale. If you weigh yourself and then feel like crap get rid of the dang scale
woman! You can even ask your doctors to blind weigh you during your prenatal
appointments, so you don’t have to see your weight during your check-ins and can focus
on your overall health instead of the number on the scale.

5. Don’t compare. Whether you’re comparing your pregnant body against someone else’s
in real life or on social media, try not to fall in this trap. If you are scrolling through social
media and find yourself comparing and feeling unhappy, simply unfollow, and seek out
other examples of women’s bodies during pregnancy. There is so much pressure on
gaining the “correct” amount of weight during pregnancy. Try to remember that
everyone is different and carries their baby differently.

6. Exercise if you can! Exercise has always been my go-to stress reliever, but it has been a
godsend during pregnancy. It is so great for your body and mind. There are so many
resources available regarding safe exercise during/after pregnancy. I am currently doing
BirthFit and have found it very beneficial (Note: I am not a BirthFit coach, but happy to
share knowledge that I have learned, thus far).

7. Support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and express your feelings. Talk with your
partner, family or friends. Surround yourself with positive people who lift you up. Don’t
be afraid to ask for support when you need it, get whatever you need off your chest,
keeping your emotions bottled up inside doesn’t generally help. My husband has been
so great and supportive, whenever I am feeling down or referring to myself as a water
buffalo, his go to phrase is “You’re not fat, you’re pregnant,” and that little reminder
helps me every time (significant others take note: it is the little things that go a long
way). He is also the type of human who goes to the gym for a week and has a six pack, I
am sure I will surpass him in weight by the end of this journey. (******see what I did
there!!!!! In the midst of writing this and without really knowing I did it, I had an
automatic negative thought. Originally, going to delete that sentence, I thought I would
keep it, just to show how easy ANTS come and how I challenge them). This inner-self
critic can be a killer to your self-esteem. I like to ask myself “Is this thought helping me
or hurting me?” Usually, the answer is “It’s hurting”. When it is, I then consciously
choose a thought that is more supportive, understanding, or positive. It’s just as easy to
come up with thoughts that encourage and help you. You have to become aware of your
thoughts, pause, and make the effort to shift your thinking.

8. Acknowledge. Accept. Gratitude. I noticed I was continuously beating myself up and
feeling so much guilt for even having body image issue, I would think to myself “Dezi
really?! You’re feeling bad because you have gained 20 pounds and can’t fit into any of
your pants, well at least you’re pregnant, so many people are struggling to do so, shame
on you, suck it up!” This thinking really didn’t help either. Therefore, I started practicing
what I preach to my own clients and taking a different perspective and a better
approach: acknowledge, acceptance and gratitude. Example: I feel so out of control
(acknowledging that my feelings are valid) and it is ok to have these emotions
(acceptance that it is ok to feel this way). When my belly grew out, I thought “baby must
be growing, my body is making an entirely new organ, a respiratory system, feet and
hands and that is so amazingly crazy!” AND, remembering that pregnancy is a miracle I
have been gifted with and there are women with hearts aching to experience this. AND
appreciating my body for allowing it to grow a little human (practice gratitude!).
Practicing gratitude reduces a multitude of negative emotions, multiple studies have
shown that there is a link between gratitude and well-being AND there is so much to be
grateful for!

My passion in this field has always been holistic health, self-esteem, self-worth, women’s
wellness and how it relates to mental health disorders, so I am so excited to be specializing in
Maternal Mental Health and Postpartum Depression Support by 2021!
-Dezi McEvoy MA, CMSW, LIMHP