Part of the work I do everyday is encouraging full, unconditional permission around food, I talk a little bit more about it here too. For my clients who struggle with allowing themselves food, seeing food as pleasurable and being able to move away from unhelpful, judgemental thoughts about food is critical to their recovery.
I often work with mothers and support them as they navigate the shifts of pregnancy, postpartum & motherhood while working towards recovery. One theme that has continued to come for many women working towards recovery from an eating disorder or disordered eating is viewing pregnancy as a time of full food permission. Many of my clients have expressed feeling like knowing they would need to gain weight and were growing a small human helped them feel less anxious around food & allowed themselves more of the foods they loved that they previously may have regarded as “bad, unsafe or unhealthy.”
It makes a lot of sense to me that most women would feel an innate sense of permission with food and experience less guilt and anxiety around food choices as compared to these feelings pre-pregnancy. The messages + images around pregnancy and food are constant- messages of “eating for two”, pregnancy cravings and also being presented with weight ranges during your pregnancy can be tricky to navigate in recovery.
So here’s what I want to say if your pregnant & working towards/in recovery:
Pregnancy doesn’t have to be the only thing giving you permission to eat
Pregnancy doesn’t have to be the only time you allow yourself the foods you love
Pregnancy doesn’t have to be the only time you feel freedom from the ED voice
Continuing to work on giving yourself full, unconditional permission to eat during your pregnancy will set you up to navigate your postpartum experience. For many of the clients who identified with feeling an increased sense of “freedom” during pregnancy, postpartum seemed to be the exact opposite. Literature on eating disorders in the postpartum period is growing, especially with the increased awareness of the perinatal and postpartum mood disorders. What is known now is that postpartum is a very high risk period for women in recovery from an eating disorder, amidst hormonal changes, breastfeeding challenges, sleep deprivation- weight and shape concerns may be a main concern for women in recovery. Around 40% of women report feeling uncomfortable in their postpartum body (1). This fragile time in postpartum also brings the risk of developing postpartum mood disorders such as PPD (postpartum depression) and PPA (postpartum anxiety). All of these warrant a need for increased support for your recovery during the pregnancy + postpartum stage.
If your a momma and your looking for support during your recovery, are noticing increased distress around food, body or struggling to give yourself permission to eat after pregnancy, please send me an email- I’d love to know more about how I can help at firstname.lastname@example.org
References & Resources
- Astrachan-Fletcher, Ellen & Veldhuis, Cindy & Lively, Nikki & Fowler, Cynthia & Marcks, Brook. (2008). The Reciprocal Effects of Eating Disorders and the Postpartum Period: A Review of the Literature and Recommendations for Clinical Care. Journal of women’s health (2002). 17. 227-39. 10.1089/jwh.2007.0550.https://postpartumhealthalliance.org
- Postpartum Health Alliance
- Mom & Mind, Maternal Mental Health Podcast