Over the last year, I’ve been facing up to eating problems that have dogged me my entire life. This became particularly important as we tried (and for a long time failed) to conceive. It was really hard going but I got my cycle back and my hormones balanced – by the time we conceived my levels were fine. I gained weight until my BMI settled in the mid/high normal range that seems to be where my body naturally wants to hang out. I preferred being smaller but I was (slowly) teaching myself to feel positive about the changes.
This is what recovery looks like for me. After 24 years with these thoughts and feelings, I’ve pretty much accepted that I’m never going to be completely free of them. But I’ve learned to manage them in a healthier way, enjoy exercise and let myself eat without feeling too guilty (usually).
I had nurtured this (naïve) hope that during pregnancy my muddled relationship with weight and eating would somehow vanish. Or at least become a lot easier as I nurtured my amazing baby growing body, forgiving weight gain and enjoying my new curves. HA. Load of bollocks.
I don’t really use the word ‘trigger’ much as it can be controversial and it tends to mean different things to different people. But it feels quite relevant here.
I mean that certain thoughts, feelings or experiences make me have further difficult thoughts and feelings (usually low mood, self-doubt, anger and recrimination). They’re not rational but they are deeply embedded. They’re hard both to prevent and to sit with.
Over the last 4 months, I’ve experienced many of the things I find most difficult.
- I felt sick, which I usually associate with overeating.
- I gained weight. The only way to manage nausea was to eat. Letting myself eat more when I was miserable and feeling ill rather than hungry got muddled with old binge tendencies.
- I felt bloated, something I have always equated with feeling fat.
- My body started to get bigger faster than I felt it should (read warped thoughts like ‘embryo is only the size of a grain of rice so why can I no longer fit my fingers around my wrists’).
- People commented on my body, telling me I had gained weight.
- My clothes stopped fitting sooner than I felt they should. Tight clothes have always been difficult.
- I felt out of control. I’m used to being able to take immediate action (usually exercise) when my body or mind feels uncomfortable.
I usually manage my mental health and eating problems with exercise. I had got this to a manageable balance but now I suddenly found that I couldn’t even do that much. My body felt slow and tired. It didn’t move the way I was used to and I couldn’t do anywhere near as much. Perhaps most sadly, I no longer enjoyed it. The tiredness I felt wasn’t the exhilarating exhaustion of a marathon in my best time or a half marathon in a course record. It was the bone-deep and miserable tiredness you associate with illness.
Sitting with this endless mental discomfort was exhausting.
As I move through the second trimester I’m feeling less sick. I’ve got lots more energy. My ability to manage my muddled eating is back to pre-pregnancy levels and I’ve started to enjoy exercise again. Opening up on Facebook and to friends about how difficult I have found things has helped. I’m lucky to have so many people around who understand. But I need to be careful I don’t overdo things – and aware that things will keep changing. I still haven’t got all the balances quite right and I’ll have to readjust my relationship to exercise and my body again and again as I get bigger. I’m no longer expecting it to be quite as easy as I had hoped.
Read my other blogs about the first trimester.