Thursday, May 19, 2016

How Pregnancy Frees Me from Body Image Obsession

Under 16 weeks pregnant, I'm well aware that I know nothing about being a mother — and this article is not about glorifying moms (although they deserve much appreciation). I'm also well aware that while my body is changing and has (only to my knowledge apparently) changed from what it once was, I still probably don't have a clue about the lasting effects that will take place five months from now. However, my hope is that what I've learned through prayer, reflection and purposely seeking peace with my body might inspire you to think differently too.

If you've been in any of my Orangetheory or ZYN22 classes, or even my boot camps or coaching sessions, you more than likely have heard me mention something to the effect that the battle to get stronger is in your mind. That's why it's essential that we as self-improvers learn to start thinking about what we think about.

Reflection: to pause and reflect on matters of the mind and decide if we need to change. 

I truly feel like God's given me a revelation on how to value body image and how to stay balanced in a world that glorifies "self." There's self-help, self-improvement, self-love, self-esteem, self-independence ... And if you're not sure you agree, the evidence can be seen in the abundance of "selfies." While I believe these are all good ideas for people to think about, and maybe even a good place to start, I'm recently aware of a new idea.

What if getting stronger and finding true joy isn't about looking within oneself?

When I first started my journey into a life of fitness and nutrition, I loved it because of the results I saw in my character, discipline, prayer life, and oh yeah, the physical results were pretty sweet too. Truly though, I devoted my career to helping others learn how to find a strength from within, which still rings true. But, isn't there a boundary between looking to God working within you for strength and looking to yourself and only yourself? Yes, there is.

Digging Deep on the Outside

Before getting pregnant, I battled body image issues (literally up to the day I found out I was pregnant). I think we all will to a certain extent, but this struggle had me completely obsessed. Although I'd made strides over the years to accept my body, independent of what others said or thought about it, I still criticized myself (and probably worse so).

The motivation for self-improvement toted by media, Instagram-queens and the rest of the world advocates one to challenge his or herself to look within, decide how bad you really want something, and go for it.

"The only one stopping you is you; the only way you won't get there is if you don't think highly enough of yourself."

When I try this, I end up obsessing over aesthetics, how my body looks in comparison to its older self, which yes, is an improvement from previously comparing my body to others', but still has me disapproving of what I may see.

Pregnancy has flipped the scales on my perspective of body image and self-improvement. The challenge of pushing myself outside my comfort zone to get stronger and leaner is no longer a front runner in my mind. In fact, the thrill of working out to "make gains" or "burn fat" has been replaced by the thrill of possibly inspiring someone else or finding an opportunity to make someone see his or herself differently.

Being pregnant, my attention is instinctively not on me, but someone else — my baby, rather. Although I'm concerned with my personal health, my motivation is not to simply improve myself, but to protect and serve the one inside me: in essence, I find myself thinking about the baby and its needs more than my own.

I feel freer. I feel like I can eat intuitively, not afraid that I'm going to gain weight, because I know I'm supposed to gain weight. In fact, I really haven't thought much about that. I've been able to think more about how I can improve the healthiness of my baby and therefore, the vessel in which it grows and on which it relies.

Humility is exactly what God calls me to have in my thought life even when I'm not pregnant. It's something I want to replicate outside my thought life, and actually, I want to put it into action more and more. The pressure I used to put on myself to be lean and often, the leanest, no longer takes priority. Hopefully, that pressure will one day be gone forever. In the meantime, I'm enjoying the journey God has me on, learning what it means to humbly put others first.

Looking Back From Where I Came

One thing I always recommend to my Team A.M.Fit clients and people in my classes is the importance of reflection. It's vital to look back at where you came from. When I read my journal entries from the last couple of years, I can see the improvement in my thought life. I used to get upset seeing someone "better" than me, which is subjective, trivial and and shallow anyway. My next stage in self-improvement involved me being happy for others but only getting upset when I failed to "better" myself from one season to another. The problem with that is that our bodies go through different seasons, not to mention the fact that the idea of self-improvement to the body still revolves around aesthetics and to put it simply, still revolves around SELF.

A rider in one of my classes mentioned to me that she loved hearing the message in my rides that drove her to not look inside oneself to get motivated, like most people encouraged, but that I advocated going outside oneself. She put this message in words I haven't used before, and it deeply impacted me. That's exactly what I feel like God's teaching me through pregnancy, teaching fitness classes and being a wife.

Before, I encouraged myself and others to look inside oneself to find motivation to push past pain, but I'm finding out how valuable it is to look outside oneself. If you truly want to experience peace, it's the only way. What's ironic about being pregnant is that you're looking outside yourself figuratively but inside yourself literally - hah.

For more tips and resources, follow me on social media: FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram. Also, check out my Services to find out how I can personally help you get fit from the inside out.


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