Exercise, Emotional Eaters and Pregnancy.

You’ve a history of disordered eating, or low self-esteem. And now you find yourself pregnant. There’s a running commentary from friends, family, colleagues, those you meet in the supermarket about your appearance, your growing size, the bump, the glow, or lack of glow…and so you start to recoil into yourself and stick to your comforter of choice. Food.

When you’re already struggling with body image, and engaging in disordered eating prior to pregnancy, getting through pregnancy and then the navigating through being the ‘new mum’ is another layer of pressure. It’s scary.

One of the one hand you ‘know better’ and have read all the books and know you shouldn’t be damaging yourself in this way, you know you want to find food freedom; but you’re still at odds with yourself, still rely on old favourite tactics and habits and now the prospect of your body changing drastically and quickly, as well as the hanging out with other mums and the constant comparison is terrifying you. Yet you’re supposed to be telling everyone how excited you are, whilst walking around cupping your bump? But you don’t recognise yourself. You’ve tried being invisible and now as the bump grows, that’s impossible.

Recovering from disordered eating and journeying into new motherhood is possible, but like everything in health, it takes time, self-compassion & kindness, and a support network.

The pressure:

When it comes to pre & post-natal ladies the pressure is on.

  • Pressure from within, a history of difficulties with self image resurrects itself
  • Pressure from doctors and midwives checking weight.
  • Pressure from peers comparing size when they were pregnant
  • Pressure from social media, seeing other pregnant ladies at same week as you & the list continues.

As mentioned at the beginning, there’s a running commentary on the size and development and even though it’s coming from a place of love and kindness, if you’re struggling with your self esteem and body image, you won’t be able to see that it comes from kindness. On top of that, there’s a constant comparison to other mums, with the language around how mums are doing focused on size, figures, and food. Fear of getting bigger, not being able to stay in control, fear of everything changing is scary, and is more likely to further than negative relationship with food.

NOTE: the severity of behaviours around food can be a vast spectrum, and it’s crucial you speak with your health practitioner if you’re noticing an eating disorder developing or reoccurring.

Excessive Exercise

A common trait alongside the disordered eating is a disordered relationship with exercise. (Although one can exist without the other)

At a time when your body is changing and everything feels so much out of your control, the two areas you can control are eating and exercise.  Prior to pregnancy you knew how to manage your weight with exercise, hiding food, being secret. Being pregnant now makes you feel very exposed and vulnerable.

Working with a professional over time you can work through the healing process. In time finding pleasure in movement and food again. Learning how they can support you. Learning strategies to combat this difficult period.

Why do you exercise?

The women that I work with whether pregnant or not, very often exercise because they think they SHOULD.

  • They’ve lost sight of exercising for enjoyment.
  • They don’t understand what would be good or feel good for them. Everything is a chore
  • Or they exercise to burn calories, undo the ‘damage’ of what they’ve eaten.

But I thought exercise was good for me?

Whether you chose to exercise or not, we all know it’s good for us. If you love it you’ll know it feels good, makes you feel alive, happy, strong?  If you don’t exercise, you probably know deep down you should, but something is holding you back.

What makes exercise a concern in this context, is our ‘attitude’ around it.

Even without a history of eating disorders or disordered eating, women tend to fall into a few categories….

  • Those who were exercising before getting pregnant and like to think of themselves as healthy and fit and so will seek to continue.
  • Those are using the pregnancy as an ‘excuse’ / opportunity to get fit
  • Those who are using the pregnancy to excuse their lifestyle choices and continue to not eat and live healthily

During pregnancy and after, all 3 will require understanding how to adapt exercise to suit their needs, level to be safe and healthy.

But when we’re talking about the excessive exercise & emotional eaters, then negative approaches like these are often present:

  • Obsessively completing same exercise regime almost like a ritual.
  • Exercising becomes the sole priority over all other activities whether it’s friends, families etc
  • Exercising out of guilt or punishment over the food choices made that day.
  • Exercise and identity being the key component

We all need to exercise but when exercise gets in the way of normal life engagement, we can see that a problem has been identified.

And unlike with binge eating that is often done in secrecy; obsessive exercise, if spotted, is still so often praised. Others look on with admiration of your abundance in energy, admire that you always seem to have time to exercise. But comments like these can still trigger shame for the individual as they know why’re they’re truly exercising, whether it’s to run away from something, ‘burn it off’, or fill a void. Whilst this cycle continues, you’ll never truly be able to explore more about who you are, and the recovery process will of course be slower.

Exercise during pregnancy as well as after is essential, just as it is when not pregnant, but adopting the right positive mindset and approach, that exercise is for long term health, for you and the baby is paramount.

Of course, this is hard to foster and not something that happens overnight. But it can be done. It’s crucial to work with a professional and learn to move safely for you.

So what can you do?

If you find yourself in this situation then well done for acknowledging it in the first place. The process takes time. There is no overnight ‘cure’, or 5 step solution, but there’s plenty that can be done.

  1. Please speak to your midwife and GP first.
  2. Ensure you have spoken to your partner or close friend/family member, find a way to share how you feel as early as you can in the process.
  3. Putting a support network together as soon as you can is vital. Don’t suffer alone.

The healing process will start by accepting that you’re ready to put your health first.  With help you’ll take a period of time to observe and acknowledge what is going on. You’ll learn to document your thoughts and feelings & observations You’ll work through one behaviour at a time, so it’s not overwhelming, moving you from a place of hurt to a place of living for health.  You’ll learn how to find and understand acceptance. You’ll learn in time to find JOY. 

Read on to find out more about joy and acceptance. But contact me for advice and coaching. 

What do you mean FIND JOY?!!

I work over a period of time with clients to help them FIND JOY!!!!  Joy In movement, joy in food, joy in knowing you’re looking after your health. Find JOY in YOU.

When you find joy in moving your body. It ends there. The cycle doesn’t finish with a period of guilt, and it wasn’t movement created through trying to punish yourself. You’re finally working with your body and not against it.

I work with clients to help them differentiate the difference of moving your body for happiness and moving to change their bodies. Exercise is great. Great for anxiety and stress. Perfect in the right forms, during pregnancy and during your post-natal recovery. But maybe your exercise needs to just be tweaked?

Ask yourself this:

  • What movement do you enjoy?
  • What movement fits into my current schedule? And what will be sustainable?
  • Am I willing to fuel my body to be able to exercise?

It’s important to understand your current relationship with food and exercise & your history in these areas in order to be able to sustain recovery.

The sooner we can address this relationship before pregnancy the better. But of course, we can start the process at any point.

ACCEPT ACCEPTANCE

During pregnancy there’s going to be a lot of acceptance to be learnt.

Acceptance about the lack of control over the body changing shape. Accepting there will be different emotions throwing you off kilter. Accepting that others around you may say something, do something, that normally would trigger you.

When it comes to exercise there’s an acceptance that our exercise regime will change. There’s so much we can do still! So for active people do not panic! Being active is an amazing gift and we can still move our bodies daily. But again, comes down to that approach and mindset.

  • For those with a history of excessive exercise, a period of not exercising potentially be beneficial
  • Or simply reinventing the exercise from that constant running to a long walk through nature.
  • Others might switch or include more breath controlled relaxing states like yoga and meditation.
  • And living by the sea I’ve recommended sea swimming to all of my clients.

Breaking FREE!

Breaking free from a cycle of over exercising and disordered eating is possible, but help must be sought. *Although I talk about joy and acceptance, the process can be a long one and the individual strategies are not listed. It would potentially over-simplify the process, a process that is personal to the individual, and it’s key that professional help is always sought. Everything starts though with understanding what the problem is though. Taking a period of time to observe and reflect, write it down, without judgement. Getting to grips with the current problem in hand. To get from self-sabotage, to eating and moving for health, is not going to be an over-night success. This article is by no means a replacement for you speaking with your midwife, GP and support network. Everyone is different and at different stages and it’s important to work with a professional to give you the help you need, that’s right for you.*

Pregnancy – A spiritual journey or a pain in the butt?

Apparently being pregnant, is the most exciting time, the most beautiful time, the happiest of times. Apparently being pregnant, means you’re supposed to walk around just simply glowing, and world can keep telling you on repeat how amazing you are for bringing another child into the world, and people will just keep smiling at you…

You find out your pregnant, and when you get around to telling people you’re greeted with an ever increasing crescendo of shrieks. You’re surrounded by faces with beaming smiles who are expecting you to be beaming back, everyone is touching you and crowding you, yet inside you haven’t quite worked out how to feel or respond, so say nothing, and now the group thinks you’re a weirdo because you don’t seem to be sharing in the same level of celebration as the surrounding group.  

But what if you’re not having a spiritual journey whilst being pregnant? What if you’re just, you know, neutral?

We all will respond differently to finding out we’re pregnant. There’s those who are jubilant and those who cry, those who are anxious, those who are hopeful and there’s plenty of crossing over and overlap along the spectrum from despair to sheer overwhelming joy. Due to our fluctuating hormones I’m sure many feel like they’re sliding up and down the scale at different stages of the pregnancy!

Whilst I’m not walking around cupping my belly saying this is the most amazing precious time of my life, nor I’m walking around with aches pains, crippling desperation, and a feeling of hopelessness. I’m actually in the middle. Don’t get me wrong, this week I’ve been a little emotional. But overall, I’m neutral. I haven’t reached the excitement stage, too busy building a business, but nor am I waking up dreading it as I’m fit and healthy and haven’t had any problems (so far). I haven’t bought any baby bits and I live in a rented flat so I’m not planning on painting or creating a nursery (we don’t even have space for a cot).

It’s a peculiar response I know. Maybe we’re more use to the extremes of the spectrum. We’ve all known people who are ridiculously happy and excited and we all know people who are having a tough time. Perhaps it’s harder to understand someone just sat in the middle.

I would call myself pragmatic.

I’m responding in a practical way. I’m focusing on organising my business, whilst I’m physically still able to.

I’m also cautious because I know anything could happen and so until the baby arrives I do fear getting overly excited.

I know I’m healthy and fit so I’m not stressing about that and as a trainer I know what to do that’s right for me, and although I train other pregnant and post natal women, I’m now putting my own skills to practise as I train myself.

Being pregnant is one aspect of life. A huge one of course! And of course I want a happy pregnancy because ultimately I want a happy life.

But when you read articles on ‘being happy in pregnancy’ and hearing ‘it’s the most joyeous’ time, maybe I’m too British, makes me cringe. I so it really depends on your definition of happy and your association with the word as language is so important as it is throughout our lives.

I am happy in my life and I want my friends and clients to be so too. This for me doesn’t mean you have to always be at 100% total euphoria. There is a spectrum with everything, and my happiness during this pregnancy comes from being me, understanding acceptance, staying healthy, continuing to work and grow a business, adapting to this new relationship with husband when we become 3, and learning about the stages and how that makes me a better trainer for others.

But that’s just me. For others it’s about buying every baby toy and painting the spare room.

So how to be happy in pregnancy?

Like with everything in life, when you focus on the things you can control, like fueling your mind and body in the right way; you’re on the right track. Chuck in a great support network and you’ll in prime position.

Mindset. Wherever your starting point is when you found out you were pregnant and we’re all different, you will need to work hard to channel your mindset to ensure you do have a happy pregnancy, in the same way, you will want a happy and fulfilling life when not pregnant. They’re one and the same. But being pregnant can throw up plenty of uncertainties and insecurities that you may have been masking before when your weren’t not pregnant.

Each trimester will present its own set of obstacles to overcome and by laying good strong foundations you’ll be in the best possible place to tackle them. So whether it’s morning sickness that is crippling you, or more seriously the fact you weren’t sure if you even wanted children; or maybe it’s the anxiety around the finances or home, or simply the arguing over the choice of names, knowing that your happiness, and your strength to get through this time, and in all troubling times in life lies within, is in itself, empowering. When you think hormones have the better of you, remember you’re in control.  Nurturing a positive mindset isn’t this ‘woowoo’ concept. It also deserves it’s own huge blog post. But without working on this first, how in life can anything else follow. Simply being aware of how you feel right now is a good starting point. and then chosing to pick the path of strength (even if it’s a difficult path), will allow you to have the best possible pregnancy and life.

HEALTH

Use this time as an opportunity to put yourself in the best possible health. So whether you were already healthy, eating right and exercising or you’re using pregnancy as an excuse to get fit, then embrace this moment. When we fuel our bodies and mind with the right food and movement, we’re in a much better position from within, to tackle the difficult times. The more you eat and live in a healthy manner, the healthier and happier you’ll be. Someone said to me the other day ‘but i’m scared to reinvent myself’. No one is saying reinvent yourself over night or next month? It’s taking small actionable steps. One at a time. So if getting to grips with your health is scary, speak to a professional about small steps. This isn’t about going hell for leather on a fitness regime that is not what I mean. But putting the ground work in now one step and a time. No one likes feeling tired, irritable and constantly fatigued so we have to help ourselves starting with the right nutrition and movement plan for us as individuals. When the baby is born it’s going to be challenging and the more we can understand how health, what we eat, how we move, and how we think directly influences our actions, feelings and state, the more we’ll make it a priority. More specifically on this to come in the Facebook Pregnancy group. Always seek advice from a professional before embarking on anything new, but if health wasn’t your priority before, this is a great time to start thinking about how you eat, move, and how you look after yourself. Treat it as a great chance to learn, educate yourself and not just a crash course in dieting.  

Just BE

Many have told me to embrace pregnancy, and whilst I’m up for going to all the pre-natal classes, I wouldn’t say I’m embracing it.  Acceptance? That’s probably a better word. Don’t get me wrong there is plenty of gratitude around the pregnancy & my health, but I suppose it’s more of an acceptance of the situation. If you allow yourself to just be, accept the accept the changes and work with them not against them, then you’ll be happier. Even accepting that your exercise regime will change will ensure you stay positive. I’m accepting that I’m in this current situation, and whilst that presents financial worries it’s not helpful to layer up every problem as one.  I accepted that in my 1st trimester I wanted to eat more carbs and chocolate milkshake than my normal diet would encourage; I’m accepting that my relationship with my husband will develop and adapt, as we grow from 2 to 3; that my selfish nature of doing what I want and when I want, will adjust. I’m learning to accept that when people in classes I teach say ‘oh my god you’re getting so much bigger’ or when my father in law goes to touch my belly, it’s all said and done out of a place of love, kindness, excitement, curiosity even, but not malice. I don’t know how I’ll feel after the birth so let’s not worry about that now; I’m accepting that as of today I’m 24 weeks and 2 days that I have a long way to go, that I don’t know anything about babies and that’s ok; that right now It’s not a priority to read every book, I’ll save that for September.

Breathe & Relax

Too busy to relax? Too busy to breathe? Most people say they’re too busy for most things, but if you don’t put yourself first now and get into these good habits, potentially setting yourself up for problems later. This is a chance to focus on you! Enjoy it!

With relation to breathing, a pelvic floor expert told me she could tell I did a lot of fitness as I wasn’t allowing myself to move my belly and was in a permanent state of bracing. Dancing, being a Pilates teacher and vanity means I was always bracing. She has encouraged me to really breathe deeply. Being pregnant is not a time to be holding your belly in and some decent belly breaths will do you wonders!

We breathe in and out all day long but actually learning to breathe and relax is so important. In life, when times are tough simply stopping and properly breathing can have an incredible positive impact on your mind & body, changing your state and bringing you back to the present moment. You’re able to tackle those obstacles with a renewed energy and life becomes just a little bit simpler. How you find your method to breathe and relax is up to you. Whether It’s yoga or meditation, attending a class, or practising alone, find something that works for you. I’ve enjoyed the relaxing floating in water in my aqua natal classes and concentrating on the breath in calm pregnancy Pilates and yoga classes. I find that being in a class format allows me to focus on breathing, as I like being the student in a class. But there’s plenty of tools out there to breathe and relax at home.  I also love taking myself off for long walks listening to a podcast but find what works for you and make it a priority. Sometimes just going to bed isn’t enough (although do get plenty of sleep too!!) Sleep is so important, but so is what I call ‘active relaxing’.

Enjoy the process

For some, as soon as they found out they were pregnant they were buying baby things and organising baby showers and making plans. If that works for you then great! That’s not me. But that’s not to say I’m not enjoying the process, we just all respond differently. I’m enjoying my pre-natal classes; I’m enjoying hearing my friend’s babies stories; I’m going to enjoy our weekend away just before the baby is born. So whilst I’ll not be saying ‘I love being pregnant’ I’m taking each step as it comes which is my pragmatic way of ‘enjoying the process’. So again wherever you are on the spectrum of positivity and embracing the process, just take it one step at time.  

Talk to someone!

If you’re in a stable relationship, then great! If you’re on your own, make sure you have a good friend to talk to or even a therapist. Being able to talk to someone about your fears, anxieties as well as hopes and dreams during this time is essential. I’m lucky I have a loving husband who understand the emotional complexities for us women, and he’s also a paramedic who has delivered babies before so I’m covered on the emergency front haha but it’s having someone to talk to, so you can explain simply ‘I feel a bit emotional today and I don’t know why’ (*cough, that was me last night) . Whether it’s the finances or the changing of the body that concern you, having someone to talk to, will be a great asset!

Delegate work/ make a plan

I am self-employed and my husband has about 6 jobs, so we need to plan, delegate and understand each other’s expectations for what is going to happen for the rest of the pregnancy and after. You might both be in high powered corporate jobs, or you might be the bread winner, so leading on from talking to partner, is talking about work, finances and the plan. What do you expect to happen, want to happen, & is it ‘aligned’ with each other’s thoughts? There’s no right or wrong way to do this in 2019, but the more difficult scenario will be where two people’s expectations are at odds! So use this time to have open discussions. Us women usually have lots of other women we can talk to, or have listened to their stories before yet men haven’t had this so much, or chose not to, so it’s important to me that I speak to my husband and let him in on what I am thinking, and feeling. It’s also for him so he doesn’t just have the burden of ‘I must provide’. As two self-employed people without maternity or paternity pay we have to work in our own unique way to make this work.  Just word of warning — don’t embark on this chat on the same night you have opened the conversation with ‘I’m feeling emotional’. Save it for a more rational evening!

So what in a nut shell to do?

Chill out.


Don’t over complicate everything. Don’t over complicate your exercise, your food. Don’t stress out about every minute detail. If listening to friends is stressful don’t do it, if you find you’re learning loads from them, great! Don’t see everything as one big giant bundle of stress, break down everything, what is today’s obstacle to solve?

Educate yourself so you can eat and live a healthy life most of the time, and you’ll be on the right path to living a healthy, happy life, whether you’re pregnant or not.

To sweat or not to sweat

woman stands on mountain over field under cloudy sky at sunrise

Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

Monday January 7th, a week into January. Most people who started ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ would have ‘failed’ them already. Why is that? Lack of will power? Why do some people seem to be motivated and others don’t? Can you learn the tools?

YES you can learn the tools, and NO it’s not Will Power.

Where are we going wrong with the mixed messages in the media, the pressure to be doing something that you don’t enjoy, the ‘ALL OR NOTHING’ approach that January exudes.

When I am working with Wellbeing Coaching clients, we explore their fitness history, beliefs, we learn the tools to break the vicious cycle of ‘perceived failure’. We learn to understand our why, our motivation & build some resilience. We learn to prioritise our self-care, integrating one behaviour at a time, turning ‘it’s a chore to it’s a gift’, rewiring our minds, so we can build consistency. Ultimately, we learn to start enjoying life.

BELIEFS

It all starts with how the majority think, and what they believe. So many people think of food and physical movement NOT as life essentials, that can give pleasure, but as ‘DIET’ and ‘EXERCISE’. These are felt as ‘SHOULD DO’ things, that eat into normal leisure time, they’re ‘CHORES’ and there is PAIN associated with it. We’ve separated our daily world away from movement. As a society in the modern world we’ve separated movement from our daily life so much so, that it’s a struggle to not see it as a chore. Modern living means people aren’t walking to work or the shops, they’re not walking back with bags of food it’s being delivered, they’re not even walking to school. Maybe they are going to the gym twice a week, but the rest of the week is sat down, weekends with box sets, weekdays of sitting.  Which sadly means those 2 times a week must work really hard, to get you the results you’re after. But our bodies were meant to move. If we’re lucky enough to have limbs, then let’s learn to use them.

START LIVING LIFE.

When a client comes to me that is tired and exhausted of trying everything, thinking nothing works, going to the gym, trying all the plans and has had enough, I say stop. Stop TRYING. START LIVING LIFE. We live on this amazing planet, and so the first thing to do is to enjoy it. You’ll probably screaming thinking WTF! Stop going to the gym? My answer? Is it working? Are you enjoying it? No? You’re frazzled, you’re drained; we need to stop, re-calibrate, and reset.

What does EXERCISE mean to you?

Something I ask my clients right at the beginning is this very question, what are your beliefs on exercise? ‘For it to count, how many minutes do you have to exercise for?’ and ‘Do you have to sweat to make it count?’. When you explore these questions, you start to build up and understand the journey with exercise to this point, the emotions behind it, the pain, the story they’ve/ we’ve told ourselves, again about ‘what it should be’.

ENJOY

Doing what you enjoy is key to success. When it comes to exercise and movement, slogging it out in the gym or even attending a class you don’t like won’t cut it. Ask yourself, Am I exercising/moving in a way that I like? Is it relevant to my life?

To reap the extensive list of benefits from physical exercise, it’s not about the amount of sweat. Radical statement I know, but I work with clients where we are working to find joy. They may come to me with an initial goal of ‘weight loss’ or ‘fat loss’ but ultimately we are trying to find joy, joy in the daily activities, joy in getting out of bed and walking to the shops, joy in what we eat, joy in preparing food, joy in how we interact with people, how we use our body from moment we wake up until we go to bed. Once we’ve found joy, the commitment will come.

WHY?

But where to start? The best question to ask is why? Why am I starting to move? To lose weight? To be slim? To prevent disease. All our answers, but are they enough? Is that enough to sustain lifetime commitment. Is that enough to stop seeing movement as an ‘add on’ in your life, and to see it instead as integral, an integrate part of your day, week, month, life? We’re all different and are all motivated by different things with different lives. The key is to find YOUR RIGHT WHY.

Once you’ve found your way, it’s key to then ensure your goals match with the level of commitment you can currently give? Without an action plan, the new year resolution, (or the pre-holiday promise, or whenever you make this sweeping statemen about health and fitness) is not different to the promise the previous year and will get stuck once again.

It’s a gift

Learning to turn the feeling that movement is a ‘CHORE’ into a ‘GIFT’ is key to your success. Learning to reset the mind and to understand and feel the benefits, the gift of more energy, less stress, productivity, mood, self-worth will allow you to sustain this commitment for life. Once you’ve replaced the chore with a gift, once you’ve replaced the wrong way with the right way, you’ll want to start immediately with another dose of ‘self care’. Once you’ve transformed physical exercise from that chore to a gift, your relationship with movement is changed forever.

Self-care

I don’t have time? I have a family? I work!

Yes that is true. So do others. We all have 24 hours in the day.

Sound harsh?

It’s not supposed to be. When you make movement a gift, when you understand your why, when you’re moving that is relevant to you, fits in your daily life, and you have joy, you’ll be prioritising it too.

Ask yourself…Am I prioritising my own self care? Has caring for others taken over from caring for ourselves. Are we putting everyone else first? Are we using everyone else as an excuse to not look after ourselves? How do some people seem to have more time?

Learning Mindset

Remember when you were a child, and there’s that sense of curiosity, wonder, and learning.

Could you now as an adult approach life with a sense of that wonder, curiosity, and learning. With learning a mindset, you’ll have the strength and the tools to persevere, be resilient when faced with adversity and challenges. If you focus on learning how to sustain the behaviours that create our desired outcomes, long term success will be achieved.

Don’t think of change as a quick fix, it’s an ongoing pursuit, it’s a lifetime of movement and self- care. It’s a lifetime of living and a lifetime of joy.

Change your beliefs, Change your behaviours, Change your life.