How Pregnancy Frees Me from Body Image Obsession

Still a couple months shy of delivering my first child, I’m well aware that I know nothing about being a mother. However, what I’ve learned over the last seven months of being a pregnant fitness and nutrition coach has cast a new light on my purpose. It’s all about exalting God. 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.

Amber-Preg-Bicep
The author working out at seven months along.

The fitness industry is no doubt one to glorify the body. All it takes is one visit to Instagram to get that notion. That being said, I’m prone to hyper-focusing on every flaw, weakness and area of improvement. That could be a fitness thing, or maybe that’s just a human thing. What’s crazy is that while I’m inevitably gaining weight, I’m at more peace with my body than ever before, thanks be to God!

“Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the entire renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].” — Romans 12:2

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”: self-help, self-improvement, self-love, self-esteem, self-independence … a pattern demonstrated by 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?

God asks us to go beyond ourselves.

Before getting pregnant, I battled body image issues. 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.

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 and go for your goals.

The only one stopping you is you,” they say. “The only way to get there is to 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. And that perspective is only developed in the spiritual discipline of spending time with God. Now when I approach my fitness and nutrition goals, I see it as a way of putting my needs behind my baby’s, thus glorifying the Lord.

Being pregnant, my attention is instinctively not on me, but someone else — my baby. 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. It’s been a humbling process, to say the least.

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 move beyond my thought life, and put 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.

Before pregnancy, I encouraged myself and others to look inside oneself to find motivation to push past pain. Now I’m discovering the value of looking outside oneself for a source of strength. If you truly want to experience peace, it’s the only way. And I believe that’s God desire for us all: to live a life full of joy and peace. For me, it took having a baby — a literal look inside my body— to teach me how to go beyond myself.