How I Overcame Body Image Issues During Pregnancy

Sakara Life co-founder Danielle Duboise tells us how she came to her Mother Self.

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The love I have for my body has been a winding road and was ultimately the catalyst for founding Sakara Life with my best friend Whitney back in 2013. As far back as 9 years old, I strove for a body that I thought I needed but didn’t have. What I really needed was to completely change the dialogue I had with food — to celebrate nourishment, pleasure, and food as medicine instead of striving to achieve “my perfect body.” This transformational way of eating ended up transforming my entire way of being and allowed me to truly understand and love my body. But the day that I became pregnant, there was another shift: my body was no longer my body, but a vessel for life. And all of a sudden, my body looked and felt so unfamiliar.

If you’ve ever experienced body image issues, you’ll understand that even in the midst of such a beautiful experience, a changing, expanding pregnant body can be difficult to deal with. Decades of yo-yo dieting and body shaming do not disappear overnight. That doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for the growth (physical and emotional), and it doesn’t mean I don’t treasure the experience of being pregnant. It simply means that as I release my maiden self and come into my mother self, I must let go of what I thought my body was supposed to be and look like.

Whether my body looks similar post-pregnancy or not, it will never really be the same. It’s created life. It’s grown and shifted and expanded in ways I can never forget, nor would I want to. I’ve learned that navigating and getting to know this ever-changing form of mine is one crucial step in growing into the mother I want to become. So knowing that, I wanted to not just cope with body insecurities, but to overcome them.

Here are 5 tips to feel good about your body during pregnancy and to transition into motherhood (and your mom bod’) with confidence.

1. Foundation of clean eating. After a lifetime of dieting, the one thing that helped me find a new relationship to food was the Sakara Life nutrition protocol. It’s what finally allowed me to look at food as medicine and nourishment instead of calories or carbs. And this lesson has come back to me during this pregnancy — a time when nourishment is not a choice but a must. My food choices are no longer just about me. My body is no longer just about my own desires. My food choices directly impact my ability to grow and nurture life. Having a foundation of clean eating every day has given me peace because I know that nutrient density, my health, and my microbiome are all a priority.

2. It’s okay to celebrate your maiden self. Looking at pre-pregnancy photos of myself allowed me to see and appreciate my body in a whole new way! My body is so different today than it was two years ago.

3. Find your mama mantra. Sakara is a Sanskrit word that means “with form”. It means that our ideas, desires, and thoughts take shape and manifest into the world, becoming our reality. The way we speak to ourselves carries great power, and as I’ve been growing and expanding I’ve been focusing on repeating mantras that ground me. For example, “with each breath, I allow love and grace to flow through me and doubts and judgments to leave me. With every breath, I become more in tune with my body’s strength and my baby’s health.” I’ve also been leaning into the word “surrender.” I’m trying to trust the feminine superpower, lead with grace, and be gentle with myself. Learn to say “thank you” for these gifts and shift judgment.

4. Feel proud of your body. I loved watching Ina May Gaskin’s documentary called Birth Story. Witnessing the birth process made me feel so proud of my body. Be aware they are very graphic! But so, so beautiful.

5. Honesty, transparency, self-love. I promised myself that I’d be an open book when it came to my emotional, spiritual and physical experiences throughout pregnancy. I think honest, open talk is SO important and is the most loving and supportive thing I can do for other mamas or mamas-to-be. I used to think that women either loved or despised pregnancy — that it was a polarizing experience that put you in one camp or the other. But it’s not. It’s the culmination of every emotion you can think of. I have days in which I’m so exhausted, swollen and emotional and others where I feel like I’m on cloud 9.

6. Find a community. No mother is supposed to do this alone. Don’t wait until baby is born — start building your village during pregnancy. You can connect with other moms through social media groups, neighborhood meet-ups, and groups like Carriage Birth House Hey Mama and Well Rounded. Pregnancy can be isolating because it’s so physical and internal, but millions of women have done it before you, and thousands are doing it with you right now. Use that wisdom and knowledge. Lean on other women. It will help tremendously!

Danielle  is  a  New  York  City-based  entrepreneur  and  co-founder  of  Sakara  Life,  an  organic,  plant-based  meal  delivery  program  that  sources  fresh,  nutrient-dense  ingredients  to  help  clients  achieve  transformative,  healing  and  lasting  results. Hailing  from  the  spiritual  mecca  that  is  Sedona,  Arizona,  Danielle  came  to  New  York  City  as  a  chemistry  collegiate.  Supporting  herself  through  school  as  an  actress  and  model,  she  found  herself  caught  in  the  throes  of  a  dysfunctional  relationship  with  food  and  dissatisfied  with  her  own  body. A  desperate  search  for  a  life  change,  a  more  soulful  connection  with  food  and  her  body,  and  a  desire  for  continued  education  in  the  health  sciences  led  her  to  study  at  the  renowned  Institute  of  Integrative  Nutrition  (IIN).  After  graduating  from  the  program  and  successfully  transforming  her  own  relationship  to  her  body  and  food,  Danielle  combined  her  personal  experience  with  her  nutrition  expertise  to  create  a  meal  program  that  has  helped  thousands  of  individuals  change  their  lives  through  the  healing  powers  of  food.

Charlene Petitjean-Barkulis

Charlene Petitjean-Barkulis

CHARLENE PETITJEAN-BARKULIS is the managing editor of Well Rounded. She's a French expat, Brooklyn-based writer and mama to Arthur and Leon. Before settling in New York City with her family, Charlene lived in LA, Berkeley, and Baltimore and earned a degree in journalism from Columbia University. When she isn’t busy chasing after her big kiddo, nursing her little kiddo or writing about all things pregnancy and motherhood, she’s likely to soak in a bubble bath, eat an entire wheel of brie cheese or drink a crisp glass of Sancerre (sometimes, all three at the same time). Follow her on Instagram here.

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