Pregnancy, weight gain, and Eating Disorder recovery

My grandmother’s new nickname for me is “fat mama”.
I have overweight colleagues come up to me and tell me I’m bigger than them now.
Doctors telling me I’m gaining too much weight, and I need to stop eating so much.

This isn’t what I pictured for my recovery, yet stories like this are all too common among pregnant women. Our bodies are stretching and growing and nurturing the formation of a whole new life, but we’re still degraded down to our weight. That’s all we’re important for right? How visually appealing we are to others?

That’s not what I want for my recovery, and certainly not for my pregnancy. My body is doing an amazing thing and I WANT to acknowledge that. I want to be able to wake up in the morning and feel grateful for my body. Some days I can, but on days like these, it’s hard.

I see my body through my ED goggles.
Fat, fat, fat, fat, fat, fat.
Too much weight here, too much weight there.

I think often about the weeks following the birth of my daughter. How I will lose all of this weight, and how long it will take me to ‘reclaim my body’. Sadly, these aren’t thoughts I’ve come up with all on my own. Every day I see advertisements for postpartum workouts and women’s success stories of weight loss. On one level it pisses me off that that’s what new mums are expected to focus on, yet on another I can’t help but to buy into it all.

I know my postpartum period is one of high risk.
That my body will naturally lose weight, and even if I don’t actively engage in ED behaviours, my ED is going to love seeing those numbers fall. To complicate things even further, I’ll be walking down the aisle seven months after the birth, and that just brings a whole other list of risk factors to the table. Honestly, I’m scared. I don’t want to fall into my illness again, and I especially don’t want to spend the first seven months of my daughters life counting calories and obsessively body checking.

I hope that the love I have for my daughter will help me through this, just as it has for my pregnancy.

I knew pregnancy was going to be hard. The weight gain, feeling uncomfortable all the time, the nausea, the pain, the swelling and the heat; but nothing could prepare me for how much I could love an unborn, unseen alien squirming inside me.
When I’ve wanted to skip a meal, I have thought of her. I would never allow her to do such a thing, so why should I?
When I’ve wanted to push my body hard and over exercise, I have thought of her. Would I hurt her? Would I lose her? Nothing is worth that.
When I’ve wanted to cut sugar out of my diet and go on a stupid weight loss spree, I have thought of her.
My pregnant body does not want me to lose weight, and I have to respect that. I have to respect that the swelling, and the bloating, and the gaining and the eating ALL have important functions, and that is to make sure my daughter is the healthiest she can be.

My psychiatrist told me that women with a history of an ED can react in one of two ways during pregnancy.
1) They spend the entire time trying to resist the weight gain and remain consumed in their illness, or
2) They let go of the thin ideal, see pregnancy as a beautiful time of their life, and find a new found respect for their bodies.
But I disagree. I think there’s a third reaction; somewhere in between.
3) They experience anxiety and fear as their bodies grow beyond their control, yet they try to embrace these changes and let their hearts and minds open to the possibility of being an imperfect mother.

That’s where I consider myself.

Even on days like these when I’m feeling down and hateful towards my body, I’m filled with hope and excitement for that first moment with my daughter.

If you’re in recovery and plan on falling pregnant one day too, I want you to know that it might not be perfect.
But life isn’t perfect.
Recovery isn’t perfect.
We are never perfect.
You will have your own unique experience, and the weight gain will likely be a huge source of anxiety, but that doesn’t mean that your ED will return. We’re allowed to be scared and occasionally think of reverting to our old habits, it’s what we know. What makes the difference is the love you will feel as a mother and if you can use that as a strength in your recovery journey.

Despite all the overwhelming anxiety I feel and the tears I will shed, I want my daughter to know that she is perfect just the way she is; a lesson I will one day learn for myself.


2 thoughts on “Pregnancy, weight gain, and Eating Disorder recovery

  1. Lulu says:

    That sadly is the way society works: “oh you’re too skinny, eat!” “oh you’ve gained weight, eat less!” The contradictory ed voices turn into real voices from real people and it’s scary. Don’t be afraid to tell them how bad they are hurting you and might even lead to you hurting yourself. It’s your body, your life, your health and your future child. xxx


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