When you make the decision to try for a baby, you’re likely to receive a lot of advice from (mostly very well-meaning) friends and family. But with so many opinions, new recommended lifestyle changes, and an endless stream of health data points to track, it can get overwhelming. So, first of all, we’re here to say that getting pregnant isn’t a matter of doing all the “right things.” It’s complicated and messy and, to a certain extent, out of your control.
Additionally, sometimes fat-phobic bias can linger behind recommended “lifestyle changes.” This can have a detrimental effect on how we see ourselves and can bring on feelings of guilt or shame during the TTC journey. If this sounds familiar, then read on.
Today, we brought in Elaine Bishop, Ovia Health Coach and Health at Every Size advocate to help you give yourself grace, recognize diet culture, and shift the way you talk to yourself about your body.
Why do you think so many people, especially women, struggle to accept their bodies?
Society tells us so much about how our bodies should look and feel but nothing about self-advocacy and boundary setting. It can feel like there’s only one acceptable way to be, physically and emotionally. Women, in particular, are supposed to be small and agreeable, but (gratefully!) we’re not one-size-fits-all. When you don’t fit this mold, it can bring on feelings of shame and make it hard to self-advocate.
How can we identify the ways bias shows up in our day-to-day lives?
The sense that there is one way for a person to be is all around us. It’s in advertising, television and movies, at the doctor’s office and even in our own homes. Once you start noticing it, you’ll see that it’s everywhere!
And how can we address this feeling when it shows up?
It takes a lot of courage to show up as you are unapologetically in this society. But it can be done. Get help and support as you go through this process. Look up HAES aligned healthcare providers including therapists, body image coaches, doctors, nurses, and dietitians.
Change the social accounts you follow. Include larger bodies and smaller bodies and bodies in between, those of all abilities and persuasions. Normalizing diversity helps you find the space where you fit, without changing who you are.
If you are in a minority group especially, it helps to have consistent reminders that there are other people going through what you’re going through, even if they’re not in your physical space.
What’s the difference between love and body acceptance?
Body acceptance is about acknowledging our differences, thanking our bodies for what they can do. It’s using our bodies in ways that bring us peace and joy while detaching our self worth from our body shape/ability/size/color. Body love is unattainable for some. And that’s okay. You don’t have to love what you see in the mirror, but working towards accepting your body and recognizing you are worthy is so important, especially for those who are TTC.
Why can body acceptance be particularly challenging when TTC?
When TTC, there is an expectation that your body will work the way it’s “supposed” to. This is also a time when people tend to track what their bodies are up to very closely. It can easily become consuming to watch for signs of your fertile window approaching and then pay close attention to signs of possible conception and pregnancy. For some, this process seems to point out to us every single detail about our bodies and that can bring up some difficult feelings.
Anytime the body changes drastically (and even sometimes minimally) in a short period of time, there is a mental adjustment that has to come along with it. While tracking fertility health indicators can be very helpful for some, for others tracking every detail and trying to time it all perfectly starts to get untenable and the monthly cycle is a constant reminder.
Right, and keeping track of every detail can exacerbate feelings that your body isn’t “working” the way it’s supposed to…
Yes, plus there can be such a focus on the minutiae. If you’re finding yourself too focused on your fertility tracking (particularly the minutiae of your diet), it might be worth taking a step back from all the tracking/timing/body checking. Or maybe you keep tracking some indicators but stop regularly tracking others.
When TTC doesn’t go as planned, the first thing most people go to is, “What did I do wrong? Why is my body not working “right.”’ You might feel like you are a failure, like your body isn’t working, or guilty that it’s somehow your fault. First of all, this is not your fault. You’re feeling the way you’re feeling because you should be holding a baby right now. You shouldn’t still be trying. There are no words for this pain.
The pain of TTC for longer than you expected can lead to poor body image and can bring on other issues, like body dysmorphia, a strained relationship with food and exercise, or an eating disorder.
Any advice for feeling more confident and grateful to our bodies for all that they do?
Be intentional. Be patient. Be gentle. You’ve been told your entire life that there is one ideal body type. That is a lie. Your worth is not related at all to the number on the scale, the size of your jeans, or the way you look in the mirror.
You’re going to need to be reminded of this regularly. Put up sticky notes on your closet door, bathroom mirror, door frame just before you leave your house – places when you might do some body checking. Offer yourself a daily reminder of your worth.
Reach out. Talk with people you love and trust about this journey, including professionals. You might find common ground and camaraderie in eschewing diet culture and the idealized body shape.
What can people do when this feels too hard?
You’re going to have bad days. We all do. Notice what you feel. Ask yourself: What are your triggers? How can you avoid those moving forward? Remember, everyone has difficult days, they are temporary and they pass.
There are so many amazing online resources. Look up:
- Plus size pregnancy, size friendly providers lists
- Therapists who have experience counseling people going through the TTC journey, infertility, etc.
- Health at every size dietitians
- Fat and Fertile by Nicola Salmon