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.