Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pregnancy and Body Image

Pregnancy is such an interesting time for me, especially in terms of body image and dealing with weight gain. There are so many factors that go into one's mental state when it concerns weight, and if you consider all of the factors a pregnant woman endures, it's easy to see where a problem such as body image can really be difficult during this time.

Photo by Liv Collins Photography

1)  Everybody feels they have the right to tell you how big/small you are. 

When I was pregnant with Ellie, I started off weighing about 170 lbs. I actually was very healthy, but on the larger side of my BMI. In addition to that, I gained 45 lbs with her and my belly was huge. In my third trimester, I got so many comments about how HUGE I was, that I was having twins, I looked like I was going to pop, etc. In spite of it being very painful for me, it might have actually been a good thing because I finally just had to accept that I get big when pregnant and people are going to tell me that. I had to separate the fact that my value as a human isn't connected with my weight and in reality, I was actually kind of big. This time, I've already gotten a TON of comments about how big my belly is and how they can't believe I have this long to go, yada yada yada. WTF people? With Ellie, a lady was so rude about it, I cried for about an hour after our encounter. This time, I seem to not care as much. I carry my babies big. I just do. I'm 40 lbs lighter with this baby and still have a huge belly.

2) Hormones

This pregnancy has been much more emotional, but even with Ellie, I had a lot of ups and downs emotionally, most of it being triggered by weight. When I could possibly have taken comments above in stride, add in pregnancy hormones, and it really upset me. I'm sure my husband and my sponsor heard me talk about my hurt feelings over and over and over again. Poor them.

3) Hunger

Listen, I'm a hungry person anyways. I like to eat. I can eat a lot. When I'm pregnant, I am hungry ALL OF THE TIME. And when I don't eat, I actually get sick, so I eat.

The way that I seem to overcome the obsession with body image is just trusting myself and trusting my body knows what it is doing. I made a promise a long time ago that I was going to listen to what my body needs. I may second guess myself every once in a while, but overall, I trust that whatever craving I am having means it's what I need. I am actually eating a lot better this pregnancy than the last, but I still seem to have an affinity for those damn frosted lemonades.

I'd really love, one day, to no longer struggle with the thought that I need to lose weight or that I'm somehow doing something wrong when it comes to food/exercise. I know that this is my kryptonite and something with which I'll always struggle, but wouldn't it be neat if I could just let go of the idea that I'm supposed to be eating this or doing that? What I'm really grateful for is the fact that I am very healthy, I have super easy pregnancies, my babies are very healthy, and I'm aware of the fact that I'm here to nurture and support them not only emotionally and spiritually, but also physically. I have to provide my bodies with the nutrients needed to carry them to term, give them what they need to grow, and then nurse them until they're able to feed themselves. That's what my body is for. It's really not to wear a bikini in August at Isle of Palms. And actually, because I am embarrassed by my tramp stamp, I probably wouldn't do that anyway :).

Overall, I feel that I am in a better space with my body image now as I am able to separate the physical from all of the other stuff. It'll be interesting to see what happens after I have the baby but for now, I feel pretty good.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Book Review: The Untethered Soul

 Through the recommendation of a friend here in Greenville, Liz Delaney of Greenville Yoga, I read this book, The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. I've obviously been in the dark because upon further research, I noticed that Oprah recommended this book years ago. I started reading it in the beginning of the year, but because I have a toddler, and I go through heavy reading phases, I just finished it. 

 In summary, the book is a philosophy on how we can separate our emotions from everything that is happening around us. Maybe I shouldn't even say that. It's about learning how to recognize our own soul which is beyond our emotions, our actions, the masks we create, and how through letting all of that go, we can become enlightened beyond the happenings of the world. Not sure if I'm really doing it justice, but what I will tell you is that it's a very complicated book with ideas that can seem somewhat radical if one has never been introduced to them before. 

 In terms of how it reads, it's a little difficult to understand. The language he is using is basic, but the concepts are difficult for someone like me to internalize. I found myself, at certain points in the book, understanding the need to let go of our attachment to self but not really understanding how. At other times, I was completely clear and felt like it was something I could do. I don't think that's his writing as much as it is my inability to think in the abstract and always wanting concrete examples. He does use examples and that helps tremendously. I underlined a lot in this book, and felt like much of the message resonated with me, especially in this time in my life. Some of my favorite quotes were:

"You're ready to grow when you finally realize that the 'I' who is always talking inside will never be content" p. 15

"This technique of freeing yourself is done with the understanding that thoughts and emotions are just objects of consciousness." p. 64

"Life is surrounding you with people and situations that stimulate growth. You don't have to decide who's right or wrong. You don't have to worry about other people's issues. You only have to be willing to open your heart in the face of anything and everything, and permit the purification process to take place." p. 74

"No matter what happens below you, just turn your eyes upward and relax your heart." p. 78

"In truth, pain is the price of freedom. And the moment that you are willing to pay that price, you will no longer be afraid... you'll be able to face all of life's situations without fear." p. 106

"Your relationship with God is the same as your relationship with the sun. If you hid from the sun for years and then chose to come out of your darkness, the sun would still be shining as if you had never left. You don't need to apologize. You just pick your head up and look at the sun." p. 180

 I realize that there is a voice in my head who is constantly talking, and really, it's quite annoying. What a relief it was for me to realize that this voice isn't actually me, and that I don't have to listen. The other epiphany I had was when he said that I can objectively view that voice, my emotions, and I don't have to participate in them. Yes, I recognize them, I give them validity because they are a signal to me that I need healing in that area, but I don't have to follow the path towards saving them because I can let them go. I've found myself doing that many times and just breathing into the physical feeling of that emotion. By doing that, I can feel the release that he describes. It's actually a hard concept to process because it is so easy to believe my thoughts and emotions and to follow them down the rabbit hole. I know that my perception of life is based on my past experiences, but having him remind me that just because I think it doesn't make it true is freeing. 

I absolutely recommend this book for anyone and everyone. I think it's life changing, although it doesn't read that way. For me, it wasn't something that I could read in a weekend or on a beach trip. I had to really process a lot of what he was saying and I felt some resistance in doing so. I don't know if that's because I didn't want to hear it or if it had to do with his writing or maybe it was a bit of both. Either way, I put this on my list of must read spiritual books. Thanks Liz for recommending it.