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My Pregnant Body is None of Your Business

Of all the things I worried about going into this pregnancy, body image wasn’t one of them.

At least, not initially.

For the most part, I’ve had a pretty positive relationship with my body, probably thanks in large part to being raised in a household where no one was on a “diet,” complaining about “how fat” they were, or worrying excessively about appearance.

For that I am truly grateful.

However, being pregnant has brought up some things I didn’t expect.

I mean, I know the realities of how pregnancy changes your body – both from the medical side as a prenatal dietitian and diabetes educator and also from the physical side as a Pilates instructor.

I’ve worked face-to-face with hundreds of pregnant women of all shapes and sizes and at all stages of pregnancy (and now “virtually” with even more, both in individual consulting and through my online program, Real Food for Gestational Diabetes Course).

To be honest, I rarely pay much attention to the outward appearance of my clients. Whether she weighs 100lbs or 300lbs, I do not treat her any differently. I’m more concerned with what’s going on inside her body and what choices she’s making in her daily life to be proactive about her health.

Believe it or not, I’ve always made a conscious effort not to bring up weight or physical appearance.

Why?

Because pregnancy is a very vulnerable time.

But it’s become glaringly (and annoyingly) obvious that not everyone shares this same sensitivity towards pregnant women.

People seem to have a need to comment on my appearance, especially as I get further along.

If I can equate it to anything, being pregnant is like going through puberty.

You’re anticipating all these changes that are going to happen to your body – some will be welcomed, others… well… not so much. You’re kind of self-conscious. Everyone else seems to know that, yet they want to voyeuristically keep tabs on you.

… and then comment on it.

But let me say this: If I wanted your opinion, I’d ask you.

Your assessment of my body is not helpful.

And most importantly…

My pregnant body is none of your business.

I assure you, as the person living in this body and adjusting to what feels like an ever-evolving science experiment, I am well aware of all the changes. And I’m probably self-conscious about some of them.

Before people started commenting about my appearance, I actually felt quite beautiful. Probably even more beautiful being pregnant. I felt good about my curves and embraced my belly. I enjoyed getting dressed in the morning.

But after a few too many of these…

“You’ve grown since the last time I saw you.”
or
“You definitely look pregnant.”
or
“Your belly is so big now!”
or
“Wow, you’ve really filled out.”
or
“You must be getting close.”

I’m not feelin’ so hot.

Thanks for that.

If you’ve never been pregnant or it’s been a few decades, those might sound benign. But to me (or any other pregnant woman), they all loosely translate as follows:

“You are enormous.”

And, as one of my fellow pregnant biz friends shared,

“’You’re so big’ stopped being a compliment after age 6.”

Word.

Oddly enough, just as soon as I’ve fielded a “you’re huge” comment, I’ll get a

“you barely even look pregnant”

or “you haven’t changed since the last time I saw you”

And those don’t make me feel good either.

Maternity clothes are probably the least flattering, most poorly designed clothes on the market. And whether I’m sitting down, standing up, facing you, turned to the side, have just eaten a meal, engaging my abdominal muscles, or about 50,000 other factors, I may look “big” or “small” to you.

And why the hell does that even matter?

I’m growing a human being!!! Can we just all relish in that miracle and stop focusing on how I look?!

I think this series of pictures puts it all into perspective.

My Pregnant Body is None of Your Business - Pregnancy Body Image
1 – Are you even pregnant?
2 – Holy cow, you’re super pregnant!
3 – You’re so tiny! (that’s just me putting my Pilates skills to practice and engaging my abdominal muscles…)

I’ll say it again: My pregnant body is none of your business.

I did not ask for your opinion and your opinion – no matter what it is – will likely not make me feel any better about myself.

So next time you’re talking to a pregnant woman, simply don’t say anything about her appearance.

And if you insist, say something like this:

“You are glowing.”
“Wow, you look fantastic.”
“Pregnancy looks good on you.”

[And ONLY do so if you know for a fact that she’s pregnant!!!]

***DO NOT comment on her size (whether you think she looks small or large), guess her due date (or how far along she is), or even tell her she “looks pregnant.”

Newsflash: she knows she’s pregnant, she knows her belly has grown, and she knows her due date.

So just carry on and leave her be.

Capiche?

I know I’m not the only mama-to-be that feels this way. If you’re sick and tired of people commenting on your pregnant body, let me hear it in the comments below.

  • What was the most offensive comment you received?
  • And on the flipside, what’s the kindest compliment you got while pregnant?

I might need to get a line of well-fitted maternity shirts made with the words: ‘My Pregnant Body is None of Your Business’ front and center. What do you think?!

Until next week,
Lily

PS – Is this tree straight out of Fern Gully or what?!

My Pregnant Body is None of Your Business - Forest Maternity Photos

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Lily Nichols is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, researcher, and author with a passion for evidence-based prenatal nutrition and exercise. Her work is known for being research-focused, thorough, and unapologetically critical of outdated dietary guidelines. She is the author of two bestselling books, Real Food for Pregnancy and Real Food for Gestational Diabetes.

44 Comments

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  1. Hey Lily, its your uncle johnny’s wife-so proud of you and your work and you look stunning!! Sending love from both of us!!

    • Thank you Aunt Lily!

  2. You look beautiful!!

    I, too, hated both sides of the comments– the you are huge & the you don’t look pregnant. I did appreciate when people said I was glowing.

    A similar issue: post partum (about 9 months) I’ve had two people ask me if I knew what I was expecting… I told them I had a baby girl…9 months ago. & then vowed not to wear the same tunic top again. Clearly it was causing confusion.Haha! I prefer to go with the rule of don’t ask about pregnancies unless the woman brings it up/you personally know them. You never know– they could have just delivered, they could just carry their weight as if they are pregnant, or they could have just lost a baby. In any circumstance there’s understandable sensitivity.

    I appreciate your vulnerability!

    • I agree, Hope. You can never go wrong with the “glowing” comment (of course, if you know for sure that the woman is pregnant!).

      Yeah, the postpartum bit is probably just as frustrating. Something to look forward to? :/ Haha. In all seriousness, there’s this pervasive obsession with how soon a mom can “bounce back” or lose the baby weight – probably driven by the media more than anything. I wish we could shift that on a big scale towards wellness and supporting mom & baby instead.

  3. I am petite so when I am pregnant I show very early and it is all out front. This is my 3rd pregnancy and from about 15 weeks I was getting “You must be due any day”. I politely respond that no I was only so-so weeks and usually got the response of “Oh! you’re having twins”. Sorry, I’m pretty sure there is only one.

    The most offensive comment I had this pregnancy was from a cookie sales rep at Whole Foods who after getting my response of “no I am not due yet, I am 16 weeks” she responds “have you been monitoring what you eat?” This one stung as I had only gained like 3 lbs at this point and due to Lily’s real food pregnancy protocols I was in great health and feeling good. Didnt need any dietary advice so I walked away. 🙁

    Really the only pregnancy comment I actually like is a heartfelt “Congratulations”.

    • The cookie rep comment would have really irked me. Yikes! So glad you’re staying healthy w/ my real food approach. We mamas have to grow thick skins – or maybe some good comebacks.

  4. Okay. A t-shirt like that would be amazing. Yes please!

    I haven’t heard anything other than the “typical.” “You’re so tiny!” and “you can really afford to eat more/whatever you want.” Then the “ohhhhh! Look at that belly!” It’s well-intended and, shoot, I’ve made the mistake of using this same language (generally before I a) got pregnant and b) entered the world of birth professionals (as a doula)), but you’re right, it’s old. People don’t (usually) comment on my body any other time in my life, what makes pregnancy okay to take stock of what someone looks like? It’s like the belly touching. I just can’t with that….

    And you look great. Healthy and happy. 🙂 Congratulations on your Little, I hope things are going well for you! (And thank you for this post, it’s really important. 🙂 )

    • That’s exactly it, Kim. It’s so bizarre how people find a need to comment on appearance when you’re pregnant, but otherwise people don’t say a thing. I guess it’s just such a mystery to people that they feel they *have* to say something?

      Another vote for T-shirts. I’ve got a tally going!

  5. I love this post Lily. It’s very illuminating and I don’t think people have any idea how comments feel on the other end, and you just made it super clear! And you are definitely glowing!

    • Thanks Kara! By the way, I love the work you do with your “Love Your Body” Challenges.

  6. Love this post. I’m in front of clients all day and by far the hardest thing for me has been fielding the comments in a professional setting. I’ve gotten plenty about my body which are uncomfortable enough but I also really can’t stand when people ask me how I feel and no matter what I say it is followed by “oh just wait until…!” I have made a vow that I will never say anything to a pregnant woman other than you look great and never start a statement with that just wait until.

    • Ayla, Yeah the “how are you feeling?” question is so often followed by warnings about how terrible it’s gonna get – or asked in a tone that implies you should be feeling awful by now. It’s like people want you to suffer or something.

      But if working in prenatal care all these years has taught me anything it’s that no pregnancy is alike, so we may as well expect the best and if something unexpected arises, deal with it then.

  7. Lily, you look amazing!!! I think your body is in fantastic shape. So beautiful. The mighty pregnant women is truly the most amazing miracle!! You go girl!!

    • Thank you, Jill! I’m relying heavily on my Pilates background to stay pain-free and aligned. 🙂

  8. I haven’t even announced my pregnancy yet and a woman I work with (and don’t have a great relationship with) grabbed me and said “are you pregnant??” I said “no. Why do you ask?”? She said “you’re just getting big!” I said “thanks.”
    The nerve!!

    • If only people would listen to grandma: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” :/

  9. Hi Lily!

    You do look beautiful!! And good for you for having the continuing knowledge and education in health and fitness to ensure you and your baby will be as healthy as can be!
    Your post really resonated with me- thank you. I am not pregnant. However, in a year’s time, I worked on loosing my Oregon cold-weather weight and went from 142 to 127 pounds through portion control (not dieting) and exercise. At 5’8″, the weight loss was noticeable, but I guess the muscle tone (and fabulous blood results) weren’t. To this day, still between 127-130 with perfect wellness blood work levels, I get comments like, “Girl, you should eat a milkshake!” Or “What are you, like 20 pounds?” Or the most shocking after a dinner party, “I didn’t know you ate so much!” It’s something I have wrongfully internalized and struggle with daily.
    So again, thank you for opening up and sharing your feelings! I know I’m healthy and my body is none of anyone’s business. ?
    Now keep on loving you and your baby!!
    -Jill

    • Hi Jill! I agree – pregnant or not – your body is no one’s business but your own. “Thin-shaming” (though I don’t really like the term) seems to feel more socially acceptable to people for some reason, but it’s just as hurtful.

      One that irks me is sitting down to a meal with strangers and people asking what my profession is. Immediately the comments pour in – judgement about my size, what’s on my plate, if I’m judging what’s on their plate (I’m not) – you name it…

  10. Very well written! I have never been pregnant, but I had weight issues/body image issues for years, which I feel like just in the last year I’ve started to heal from. I read this post as “my body is none of your business”. It’s amazing to me that people have such a fascination with commenting on other people’s bodies. Period. What’s the point? Small talk? Making conversation? Trying to give a very unimaginative compliment? If I lose 10lbs because I’ve taken up dancing and my body is stronger and healthier, no, I do not want you to comment on how much ‘better’ or ‘thinner’ I look. Why? Because what if I (gasp) gain 10lbs? Should I then be expecting someone’s comments to the opposite of how much worse I look? How much “thicker” I look. It’s none of their business.

    I’m from a family, unlike yours, where there was as lot of commentary about bodies. Well meaning commentary, but I always knew how I looked to others, because they always told me. They told me when I was getting ‘too skinny’- I was never too skinny, in fact, I was overweight until I was 20. My grandma once told me, after a particularly active summer at age 12 of riding horses and playing on a farm- ‘oh good, you’ve lost your rump’… thanks Nana. That makes me feel really great about myself. Point being, I grew up with a very very unhealthy focus on how my body looked. And a self-worth that was directly tied to how my body looked at any given time.

    A year ago, a very wise friend told me that in fact, not all families have such a focus on weight/body size. Not every family has a running commentary about who looks good in what, who’s lost weight, and who just started a new diet. Some people just don’t care, and focus only on how they feel and how genuinely healthy they are. This kind of blew my 29 year old mind. So I set up some boundaries with my family. I asked them to no longer comment on my body, good or bad. It was a struggle to adjust, and they often still comment on other people’s bodies, but not so much when I’m present.

    It has been incredibly liberating. Since no one is commenting on my body, it has allowed me to decide what I think and feel about it. And you know what? I freaking LOVE my body. I get to decide what looks good on me. I get to decide how I feel about myself. I no longer have anyone’s well meaning comments about how my thighs are thinning out, clogging up my self-worth. Because in the end, all that matters is how I feel about myself. And the more I’ve embraced my body, the better I feel, the happier I am, and the more I want to shower myself with delicious healthy foods, activities that let me express myself (salsa dancing, hiking) and the more free I feel to be around people without anticipating what they might be thinking about my body.

    This is incredibly long, but I’m so grateful you wrote this! I can only imagine what it must be like to be pregnant and have your body changing so quickly and to have people feeling like they have free reign to comment about how they think you look. You’re right, it’s none of their business. Congratulations and thanks for writing this very important message!

    • Daphne, Way to go with setting boundaries around what types of comments are – and are not – acceptable. It’s amazing how loving your body FIRST gets all those motivating keep-yourself-healthy juices flowing. I hope your story inspires others to take the same type of deliberate action! 🙂

      • ps just rereading my comment. I meant that my comment was incredibly long, not that your post was incredibly long haha. Just to clarify!!

  11. I just really appreciate this post and all the comments. I have been struggling with body image in my first pregnancy mainly because of everyone’s comments. I have only gained about 5-10 lbs. and I’m halfway through, but I was not prepared for the onslaught of comments from people about my appearance. And the strangers saying things is one thing, but my family and close friends even make me uncomfortable. Things like pointedly looking or touching my stomach unannounced and saying, “oh, you’ve put on WEIGHT since I saw you last!” As if it’s the contest most witty thing anyone has ever thought of. Or comparisons to other people’s pregnancies, their own, etc. “When I was pregnant I gained so much weight and I was so depressed and miserable”… Oh, so that obviously means I have to be experiencing the same thing too. I happen to be enjoying my changing body (most days ;P) and loving this process and proof of the life growing inside me. Please don’t accost me with unwanted attacks at my appearance, however well-intentioned, or project your own thoughts on pregnant body image onto me. My favourite remarks that I like receiving all centre on how healthy I look or that I look happy and glowing, etc.

    • Well said, Danielle! Enjoy the rest of your pregnancy and all the amazing changes your body is going through to bring your precious baby into the world. 🙂

  12. Best comment: you are going to make an incredible mother.

    Worst comment: (as I’m getting into the elevator) ya know, if you take the stairs, you’ll move things (labor) along faster. (I was at work and still have 2 months to go)

    • Oh boy. I’m sorry for that second comment. ;(

  13. It was a week before my bitty man was born just under the 40w, and the ‘you’re too tiny to be that far along’ comments were still flying every grocery trip [Pre-pregnancy, I’d stress lost 20lb… from a norm of 120ish, I looked skin and bones]. And then post baby, everyone is cooing at my son–then looks up in shock and confusion… “Wait, YOU’RE his mom? You’re so small!” I just want to smack them upside the head, “Thank you very much, I’m aware.”

    From the elderly woman: You are so beautiful with your baby bump.

    And the worst: You’re so young, should have waited a while. [Happily married and pregnant at 19].

  14. Wonderful article…best one I have read this week (and I read a lot of them). Thank you for sharing such great information.

  15. I have an uncle who said I had a fine big belly rather smartly on my first pregnancy, I immediately said, “thanks for that, I have a good reason for my swollen abdomen, what’s your’s?”. That was his last comment on my pregnant body.
    Also to add a big thank you Lily for your wonderful book. My baby girl is a month old, healthy, alert and breastfeeding well. It was my third pregnancy, I gained half the weight that I did on my last two pregnancies and feel great.
    I live in Ireland and found your book through the wonderful power of the Internet. I will be recommending your book to all my friends.

    • Great comeback, Caroline!

      Congratulations on your healthy pregnancy and new baby girl! Glad to hear Real Food for Pregnancy was helpful to you.

  16. Thanks for this. I’m 26 weeks with #1 and likely only. You are so spot on. “You dont even look pregnant” can cause inner worry (at least for me). “You look pretty big” can cause one to be self-conscious. This experience drives home how tough and thick skinned women truly are; or rather, learn to be! And YES. We are growing a human. That is incredible and to be embraced, to be celebrated; no matter the size, image or outside chatter. ☺

  17. It’s not just size too. When I was pregnant with my son (and definitely not following a very good diet for reasons related to working 16+ hour days and raiding the cookie jar/chocolate stash late at night), my skin was a sh*t show. I knew it, and having to wear a corporate uniform (a maternity polo is one of the worst inventions ever) did not help the overall feelings of exhaustion and discomfort in my own skin. Then one day a co-worker asked if I was having a boy, and I lit up with excitement! Yes! I am! Then she replied, “Yes, boys make women so ugly.” It was devastating, like being a 7th grader all over again. My eyes got wide and somehow stayed dry, but it stuck with me for a while. Now that I’m 6 months post with my second child, I try so hard to be kind to myself about how I perceive my new and definitely different body, and all my friends who are showing in different ways and to not express awe for those whose bodies deal with pregnancy differently than mine. It’s so tough not to notice, but it’s worth it to remember that our mental filters carry all of our body image baggage. Thank you for this post. It will help me be more mindful and kind.

  18. Uhm can you actually make those shirts ??? Totally buying one.
    Worst comment: “how much weight have you gained??”
    Also ANY touching of the belly. Yuck hands off.
    Best comments were simple “you look amazing! You look great!”
    Simple and sweet.

  19. Recently I got someone pointing to a picture of me in my pre-pregnant body and say to me, “who is that skinny girl?” That was fun. I’ve also received, “How far along are you,” with an astonishing face when I replied 6 months, as another friend chimed in, “you should have seen XXX’s reaction when he saw her!” Taking it in strides.

  20. I love this article. I was pregnant earlier this year and shared it with a few people, including my hairdresser. At 11 weeks I had a miscarriage. The next time I went in to see my hairdresser the first thing she said before I had a chance to say anything was “You’re showing!” Ouch – so thanks for telling me I look fat since I’m not pregnant anymore and hadn’t really even gained any weight.

    I always had a rule that I would never ask a woman if she was pregnant or make comments about it unless she told me she was. My new rule is that I have to be told recently, because it’s possible she had a miscarriage. My husband and I are still trying and are hopeful it will happen again soon for us, but now I’m a little paranoid that the people who knew are secretly looking at me to see if they can tell if I’m pregnant again.

    I think the best thing to ask/say is “How are you feeling?”. This puts the focus on what’s going on inside and emotionally, not how she looks.

  21. This post is spot on! Just had my 3rd baby and like the first 2 received many comments about my body that I looked huge and asked over and over if I was having triplets and at 11 weeks postpartum got asked when the baby was due at my local dog food store it’s just never ending. My favorite thing to say to pregnant women I know is “You look great your glowing!” We need to support each other lift one another up not down as motherhood is by far the hardest thing a women can go through mentally and physically.

  22. Let’s see…with my first pregnancy, my MIL asked me if I “had anything going on under that shirt/vest/coat” so much that I became extremely self conscious about my body. A shame because I feel beautiful when I’m pregnant! She also had the audacity to comment on how big my belly was after I had my baby. Now that I’m pregnant with our second (5 months) she’s already “joked” about how “buoyant” I’ll be in the pool. I don’t even like being around her when I’m pregnant now, and certainly am not looking forward to spending the summer by the pool!

  23. “Omg you’re so small, you don’t even look pregnant.” “I’m fatter than you and I’m not even pregnant.” The first one stung even after I had my little guy (he’s just about 3 months old) because we spent a week in the NICU and I had convinced myself it was my fault because I didn’t gain enough weight. I had a very healthy pregnancy, his health issues were/are just something that happened. But because of those comments, I really tore myself up.

  24. The one I hated was “What are you craving right now?” I always translated that one as “What silly stereotypical movie things are you doing?” As if pregnancy (or pregnant women) was something ridiculous for spectators to laugh at. I always responded with “Uh, liver?” Liver usually shuts people up!

    I love your work, Lily!

  25. I had one boss at my corporate office that used to insist I was having twins and needed to get a second opinion. I am short waisted (wear petite tops) but really tall (wear long inseam pants) so I show really early bc the babies have nowhere to go in there but my height confuses people. It was especially uncomfortable bc I didn’t feel comfortable making a witty reply bc she was my boss.

    As for touching, I don’t like random people touching me. Why does it happen so much when pregnant?!? I have never had the urge to touch someone else’s stomach!! I heard it is illegal to touch a pregnant woman in the state of PA. I used to dream of going there to live in a hotel while pregnant. No one touching me while I eat roomservice and someone cleans my room? Sign. Me. Up!

    Best of luck in your pregnancy!

  26. I know the point of this article was not to say anything about it… but you really do look great Lily! I myself am currently 5 months along with my first baby and I’ve been getting all sorts of comments. I think my favorite is when my little 8 year old nephew tells me that I keep getting skinnier every time he sees me (although I know he’s just being a smarty pants). The worst though for me is not about my body image, but about my choices of the birthing process. My mother had me and both my brothers by cesarean (for medical reasons- she physically could not pass a child through her pelvic opening), and I am built exactly like her so I always assumed I will be the same way and have discussed with my doctors that it is my preference to be prepared for that. Plus I faint very easily and don’t want to be halfway through the process, pass out, and have to have an emergency one anyways (not to mention that between my 5’10 and Daddy’s 6’2- this baby is gunna be big). But everyone and their mother feels the need to tell me how natural childbirth is the only way to go and how wrong I am for wanting otherwise. I’ve had to stop talking about it altogether because of the feedback I get from those who “know better.” Well it’s My body, My baby, and I think I know better than anyone else what is right for us! I don’t judge others for their choices, so it’s really sad to me some of the things people have said about my decisions. I am well aware of the bacterial transfer process during vaginal birth and how cesarean babies are more prone to allergies and such- but me and my brothers are all healthier than horses, plus I am in school to be a holistic nutrition practitioner and I own an organic farm for Christ’s sake… I think my baby will be just fine, and I wish people would just mind their own business and keep their comments to themselves (aside from “you look beautiful”, of course)!
    Thank you for letting me rant about this… I’ve been holding it in for months now!

  27. I had some of the “whoa girl you’re getting big!” But way more of the “you’re so tiny” & “you definitely don’t look ‘insert weeks’ along”. I had a really smooth pregnancy, continued to work out & eat healthy & I have a long torso so the latter were justified (Ibwas well Into my 2nd trimester before we started telling). Then at 32 weeks when I was still measuring too small, I had to start having growth scans & be hooked up to the fetal heart monitor because my OB was worried there was something wrong causing my baby not to grow. Then all the well-meaning “you don’t even look pregnant” came to my ears as “you’ve really messed up & not eaten enough high calorie foods & burned too many calories in the gym & hurt your baby”. Not true – she was a beautiful 7# 1 oz born at 40 weeks 6 days but in my overly sensitive pregnant state, having miscarried only a few months before getting pregnant with my daughter, I was on high alert to everything & those comments only caused me further stress.

  28. May I please order a shirt?!
    I’ve always struggled with body image, pregnacy and all the things people say didn’t help. Then there’s postpartum…and I have never been one to work out, then I was pregnant again. I’m now pregnant with our 3rd and feel awful about my body. I wish there was something I could do but pregnancy isn’t the time. I really just need a higher perspective, like focusing on the miracle of it all. Some people say kind things like, “you look great” or “you’re glowing” hopefully that will become the norm.

  29. How about designing a whole maternity line?? I am having the hardest time finding normal maternity clothes that are well made!

    My 1st pregnancy I got the comment “time to call the tent maker” in regards to maternity clothes for me
    2nd pregnancy, someone ran up to me saying “you’re tremendous!” thinking that was a compliment (not sure how) and not knowing that I’ve been so self conscious about what to wear and I take forever to get dressed because of that.

    You look beautiful, BTW!

    • Seriously, maternity clothes leave much to be desired. For what it’s worth, I’ve had the best luck at Gap.

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