When the time came that we finally wanted to start a family, I tried to blame my infertility on anything but my high level of activity and low body fat for about a year. I didn’t want to change. For about 3-4 years prior to that, I lived in my happy little bubble of “when I need my period I’ll just get it back, and getting pregnant will be a breeze when I want to.” I was convinced my body was just like the women I saw at the top of their fitness game while popping out babies like it was no biggie. No way could my lifestyle have a negative affect on my health, I thought. I was doing all of the right things! I wanted to be in the best shape of my life when I got pregnant and be able to bounce back like nothing had happened. I worked hard on my physique and thought that would work in my favor.
Well after those years of denial, and no success, I was introduced to Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and came to terms with my diagnosis. The cure? Stop exercising and gain weight until your body turns back on your reproductive system. You want me to do WHAT?!? I was scared. No, I was terrified. That was literally my worst fear staring me right in the face and standing between myself and the kids I knew were waiting for me to be their momma.
I prefer not to half-a$$ anything, so I took the plunge and dove head first into recovery mode. I gained 25 pounds in 3 months, and was strapped on to an emotional roller coaster. But I got my period back! It worked. I was on my way to fertility! However, I still had a ways to go before I actually got pregnant. At that point I found myself feeling like a sad stranger in my own body, doubting this was actually going to work, and still trying to navigate this process with so many highs and lows along the way.
Six months later, with maintaining the weight I had gained and keeping my lower activity level, we got the best news that we were pregnant! (read full story here)
The story that doesn’t get told as much is the mental work required constantly through this entire process. How I went from looking at myself in the mirror and crying, to looking at myself and genuinely smiling at my belly, fuller thighs, and dimple butt, knowing that my body is amazing. From the first 5 pounds I gained, to waiting around for a positive test feeling larger than ever with still no pregnancy to show for it, my mindset transformation is what got me through.
Some of the frequent questions I get from girls on my blog or through instagram is “How did you take on the process of gaining weight? How were you ok with this? How did you get to the point where you accepted it?”
I get it. As women especially, it seems extremely foreign to accept weight gain in a culture that is constantly telling us we need to be smaller, leaner, and weight LOSS is always the goal. There’s a fear based mentality around gaining weight and we’ll basically do anything to avoid it. A culture that tells us if you have weight to lose, you should lose it!
But what if your body needs that weight?
I’ll be completely honest and start off by saying I still struggle with fully accepting my body. However, the feelings are different now. I no longer associate my worth with my body size. I’m accepting of the different times and seasons in our lives and allowing myself grace where I used to be so hard on myself. I know there will be plenty of years down the road where fitness can be a higher priority in my life, but right now I’m accepting the change.
I still struggle with seeing old pictures of myself at my fittest and leanest. But there’s a difference in the thoughts running through my head. In the first couple months of this process I would cry every time I looked at old pictures of myself. Now, I look at them with a smile knowing how far I’ve come mentally & emotionally, and that body is now carrying a baby! I see the old images much clearer for what they are. I was at an awesome fitness level, but I was obsessive, anxious, and not ready to be a mom. I recognize the miracle of that once infertile body is now 6 months through pregnancy with a healthy baby boy!
This has been a process. In the same way we train our physical muscles to become stronger, I’ve been training mental strength and improving my relationship with myself. It’s taken practice. Practice of changing my self talk, changing perspective, changing my body image, and surrounding myself with goodness. And I still work on it daily! Looking back now I’m actually so grateful I went through this for how its changed me and everything I’ve learned.
Now I want to answer those questions. How did I do it? How can we accept this process? How can we detach from the pressure of a weight-loss culture? Here are some of the strategies I came up with that made all the difference for me.
Stepping back and looking at the bigger picture. I had to look at my priorities and figure out what I wanted most. For me, my motivation set me up for success. That was the end goal of getting pregnant. I knew I couldn’t get pregnant if I wasn’t having a period, and I found out that in order to get my period back I had to gain body fat (read more on hypothalamic amenorrhea here). My drive to start a family took higher priority than fitting into a certain jean size. Once I made my mind up about that there was no looking back. And when I say no looking back, that doesn’t mean I never questioned the process. There were questions all along the way, but this step really helped me keep my eye on the prize.
Adjusting where your confidence comes from. Since elementary School, to Jr. high, to Highschool, and college, a big source of confidence for me came from my athletic abilities and my body shape and size. I never had the best hair or clothes, but I knew I was fit and that was something people complimented me on. Take that away from me and what did I have left? This was a tough one. I had to get re-acquainted with myself. I started giving myself compliments every day that had nothing to do with appearance. Then it grew into other people building my confidence in other areas. This was followed up by me actually accepting they were telling the truth and recognizing everything else I had to offer. I had the words: “you are so much more than your body” on a sticky note on my mirror that helped me with this mental shift.
Surround yourself with body positivity. This was so crucial! With as much negative crap there is out on social media, there is just as much good. I found so many amazing voices who help me more than they will ever know. I was constantly listening to body positive podcasts, subscribing to email lists, and searching hashtags on instagram that met my needs. I reached out to girls on the HA facebook groups going through the same process. There’s power in numbers. I became a sponge, soaking up all their goodness. (I’ll link to some of my favorites below)
Removing any part of my environment that caused me to doubt or compare myself. As much as the positive influences helped me, getting rid of the negative influences was just as important. If I saw any six pack mirror selfies in my instagram feed, they got the boot. If a podcast focused on weight-loss and diet culture I unsubscribed. I even set boundaries for myself through the first little bit for looking at old pictures of myself because thats what I was constantly comparing myself to. Basically I deleted, unfollowed, unsubscribed from anything or any account that led myself to think negatively about myself. This was an amazing practice and I highly recommend it for anyone. It felt like rising above that polluted smog of the city and getting up in the fresh air of the mountains. I could breathe.
Practicing Gratitude. Rather than going down the endless trap of self pitty, I thought of everything I was grateful for. I would think of everything my body COULD do rather than all of the things I felt it was lacking. I started to notice the little things like waking up with energy, having all of my limbs, no diseases, being able to hike in nature, the ability to digest healthy and tasty food, etc. The list was endless! And the coolest part was it made those 25 extra pounds seem less and less important until I actually started feeling ridiculous for even worrying about that in the first place!
My hope for this blog post is to help anyone going through the process of gaining weight, accepting your changing body through different stages of life, or accepting change in your lifestyle in a way that makes you uncertain or less confident in yourself. These processes force us to grow and learn and if we embrace it we can come out brighter, smoother, and refined in a way we never thought possible.
Positive sources I leaned on: