As mothers, our bodies undergo so many changes during preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum.  We believe that it is possible to be healthy, thriving, and loving to yourself in every season. Karina is a Whole Mamas member. Today she’s sharing her lifelong struggle with body image and how pregnancy and postpartum shifted her relationship with her body. Karina shares her story in her own words.

 A lifelong challenge

Body image and acceptance has been a challenge most of my life.

I started my first diet in elementary school, when I towered over the other girls (and boys) in class and felt uncomfortably different and “bigger than.” I can sum up the next two decades as a somewhat never-ending cycle of binge-guilt-restrict-repeat. My sugar cravings were strong, but so was my desire to look like Alicia Silverstone. I often felt at war with my body, attempting to manipulate, overpower, or silence it. It almost felt like a separate entity, a foe that needed to be mastered.

My unexpected pregnancy

In a rare season of body acceptance, fueled by a healthy Paleo-inspired diet, I got pregnant unexpectedly at 24 years old. I have a hormonal/endocrine disorder called PCOS, and I’d been told it was unlikely I’d ever get pregnant without help—yet another reason I’d felt betrayed by my own body. Although I was overjoyed at the thought of being a mother, the timing and situation terrified me. My boyfriend and I had only been dating for about six months at the time, and the prospect of embarking on a forever future with him intimidated me.

The process of pregnancy weighed on me both physically and emotionally. As I got heavier, rounder, and puffier, I felt larger yet more invisible. I was scared of the body changes, uncertain about my future with my partner, and if I’m being brutally honest, I was terrified my body would never again be “desirable” after birth. The last two months of pregnancy were especially difficult.

“The dark weight lifted”

Once my baby was born, the dark weight lifted–like pulling aside a blackout curtain. Birthing my daughter into the world, breastfeeding her, and reflecting on how my body created her and kept her alive helped me appreciate my body as both a miracle and a miracle-maker. Holding her little body as I nursed her, our naked bodies skin-to-skin, I fell in love with my body for the first time. I felt a rush of reverence, amazement, and gratitude.

That’s not to say that I didn’t struggle with my postpartum body. I longed to return to my slimmer and more muscular self. This prompted me to embark on my first Whole30 in January 2015, two months after my daughter was born.

My Whole30 experience

That month changed everything for me. For the first time in my life, I had reduced anxiety over food, my cravings were manageable, I saw incredible changes in my body composition, and I noticed numerous NSV’s. Most importantly, I learned to have compassion for myself, my body, and my food choices.

Today, I am still navigating my food freedom. While 90%+ of my meals are Whole30-inspired, I still binge on sweets occasionally, and my weight still fluctuates. Most of my pre-pregnancy clothes fit me, but they will never fit quite the same. (And … let’s be honest, my style as a mom has changed anyways.)

My continued health journey

I’ve been on a continued health journey after struggling to conceive for the past 18 months. In addition to PCOS, my body is learning to cope with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, SIBO, adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism. There are still times where I feel resentful toward my body, stemming from a place of deep longing, but over time I have learned to reframe and approach myself from a place of love.

I am so incredibly grateful for my body and everything it allows me to do–for my lungs and my legs and my heart, for the strength to run and hold a headstand and pursue my passions. I am grateful for my spunky, feisty, lovely daughter, who brings so much joy to my life and whom my body carried perfectly, without complication. My now husband has been an unyielding pillar of support from the moment we saw those two pink lines five years ago, and for that I am extremely grateful as well.

Finally, I am so grateful to Melissa Hartwig Urban, Chelsea, Steph and the Whole30 community, who have truly changed my life. I am grateful I have the tools and support to fuel and heal myself using food and love as medicine.