As her weight increased, Mangiarelli didn’t know which pounds were pregnancy-related and which were just the result of bad habits. “I knew my body was supposed to do different things, but since it was my first pregnancy, I didn’t know what, exactly,” she says. (Visit www.fitpregnancy.com/40weeks to learn more about the physical and emotional changes that occur each trimester.)
Find a community
Freeing yourself from a negative body image—and making a good one last beyond pregnancy—is a matter of establishing connections, both with yourself and others. You can do that by surfing the web for information and forums, examining what’s really important (your baby’s health or your desire to be thin) and seeking the help of a therapist, which is especially helpful if you have a history of anorexia or bulimia (see “Pregnancy and Eating Disorders,” below). Andrea Mechanick Braverman, Ph.D., director of psychological and complementary medicine at Reproductive Medicine Associates in Morristown, N.J., strongly advises seeking out other pregnant women. “There’s nothing like finding someone else who feels dumpy at the beginning of her second trimester,” she says, adding that feelings of isolation can make matters worse. Take a birthing class or like the Fit Pregnancy Facebook page to connect with fellow moms-to-be.
Realign your priorities
If you normally take your daily workouts and clean eating seriously, you may be able to continue your regimen (with modifications), although this is not the time to diet. In fact, low prepregnancy weight and inadequate pregnancy weight gain have been associated with problems such as low-birth-weight infants, prematurity and delivery complications. In general, if you were at a healthy weight when you conceived, you should gain 25 to 35 pounds. Underweight women should gain 28 to 40 pounds, and overweight ones should aim for 15 to 25 pounds.
“If thinness was how you used to measure self-worth, try to find other ways for these nine months,” suggests Marianne Tebbens, M.S., L.P.C., a Philadelphia-based psychotherapist with 20 years of experience in treating eating disorders. Revisit a neglected hobby or volunteer to raise funds or stuff envelopes for a local charity. You might discover that you come to rely on these new yardsticks of validation after giving birth, too.