Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes along with a gallon jug of milk are a few of the many things you would have never found in my pantry 9 months ago. But carb-loading was the only thing that made me not nauseous during my first trimester of pregnancy. It was also one of the biggest things that made me feel emotionally unstable during that first trimester. A knot would form in my throat, fighting back the shame, as I poured a bowl of sugary breakfast to ward off morning sickness. The guilt I carried alongside my growing belly left me feeling insecure, ugly and, well, fat.
“How much weight have you gained?” is probably the most frequently asked question I’ve gotten throughout my pregnancy.
I was one of the very lucky and genetically blessed girls who grew up not stressing too much over my weight. But when I moved to Los Angeles 10 years ago, I didn’t realize how much the city’s “think thin” culture would imprint on my mind on a daily basis. For someone who loves staying physically fit and eating healthy, I truly appreciate the fact that in the middle of December I can go on a hike, find a delicious green juice and have various fitness classes at my disposal. I also love that when my circle of girlfriends goes out to dinner, we talk about what we order and openly discuss how much we are working out.
Before I was pregnant, I considered myself to be conscious about my body image but not too self-conscious about my weight. I’ve never considered myself to be “fat” or hateful over the way I looked. But when my pregnancy test came back positive, I slowly but surely realized I was positively lying to myself. I noticed the voices constantly circulating in my head were hateful, shaming and downright unhealthy.
There was one night in particular that changed everything for me. When I was around the four-month mark of my pregnancy, I went out to dinner with my family and ordered chicken fried steak with gravy (I’m from the South). To add salt to my inner self-hate wounds, they all joked about my order, which was obviously more than what I’d typically eat. I know in my heart that my family didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, but I went to bed feeling embarrassed and angry. I stayed awake, Googling “how much weight should I gain while pregnant?” The average says 25 to 35 pounds. I cried myself to sleep knowing I was already on track to be well above the average.
The next morning, I woke up puffy eyed and with an extremely frustrated attitude about getting dressed. Nothing fit, nothing felt good and my body didn’t feel like my own anymore. I looked in the mirror and studied—truly studied—the forming stretch marks on my legs and cellulite on my glutes. I took a long, deep breath and something within me said “let it go.” That was when I realized I had two choices: To wallow in self-pity and feel sorry for myself, or to shrug it off and accept my changing body.
I thought pregnancy was the one time in a woman’s life when she didn’t have to worry about weight gain, healthy eating habits and working out. Boy was I wrong! The truth is that no matter what, your life has to have balance—and mine didn’t. I wasn’t truly living a healthy lifestyle pre-pregnancy: I’d binge-eat pizza on a Sunday night with wine or diet Monday through Friday to get trim for bikini season. So when I got pregnant, I didn’t know how to meet myself somewhere in the middle of making smart choices with food while also loving myself.
I’m now 39 weeks pregnant and have gained 55 pounds. I’m not going to deny us a bowl of Lucky Charms because of some stupid stat on Google. This has been the only time I’ve given myself permission to not guilt or shame myself over what I’m eating or how little I’m working out, and it feels truly liberating. And while yes, I’ve never been in worse shape physically, I’ve also never felt stronger mentally and emotionally.
One day when my daughter is older, I’ll explain one of the biggest lessons I learned throughout my pregnancy: the importance of self-acceptance, love and balance, no matter your dress size. But perhaps it’s a lesson she needed to teach me.
Jacey Duprie is the founder and creative director of the website and lifestyle brand, Damsel in Dior. Based in Los Angeles, Jacey often references her childhood growing up on a cotton farm in Texas, along with her travel adventures around the globe, for design inspiration across her many fashion and lifestyle partnerships. Jacey and her husband, Grant Leavitt, are expecting their first baby in January 2019. Follow Jacey on Instagram @jaceyduprie and @damselindior, and on pinterest at Damsel in Dior.