How to Get the “Pregnancy Glow”

You’ve probably heard people talk about a “pregnancy glow.” But if you’re like me, maybe you don’t always feel terribly glowy or attractive or anything but BIG during pregnancy. Both physically and emotionally, pregnancy can be tough that way. So today’s post is on how to look good pregnant and get that “pregnancy glow.” Because really, who doesn’t want THAT secret? ūüėČ

But I’m going to be real. It can be hard to look in the mirror and jump for joy when you’re pregnant. (Actually, it can be hard to jump for any reason without peeing your pants when you’re pregnant. But you know what I mean.)

It’s discouraging to suddenly see your waistline disappear completely. It’s tough to see your fingers and feet swell up to sausagey proportions that make all thoughts of rings or shoes that aren’t flip flops sound like a joke. It can be frustrating to see pictures of pregnant celebrities¬†who look like supermodels with a basketball tucked under their shirt and then feel like rather than having a cute bump, you have instead BECOME a bump. Some days, I feel like this guy:

pregnancy glow funny meme

Yet at the same time, if you’re like me, you’re ashamed of these feelings. You know what a blessing and miracle it is to be pregnant. There are women out there who would give their right arm for your sausagey fingers. You’re thrilled about having a baby, but less thrilled about this new version of you that is larger than you’ve ever seen yourself before. And so you end up feeling not only ugly and fat but guilty too‚ÄĒa pretty miserable trifecta of emotions.

I wish I could tell you how to banish swelling, stretch marks, and anything else that has you down. The bad news: I can’t. But the good news? You don’t need anything like that.

The real secret to looking good while pregnant is¬†BELIEVING you look amazing and then carrying yourself accordingly. If that sounds too good ¬†or simple to be true, I dare you: try it out and see what happens. ūüôā I’m pretty sure that glow = confidence. So if you can figure out how to stay confident about yourself and your body while pregnant, you’ve got it made.

Today I’m going to share five¬†things that help me keep¬†my head in the right place. These five things help me carry myself with confidence, stay body positive, and see myself as pretty even on my most sausage-fingery, non-glowy days.


1. Ignore dumb comments from others.

During my first pregnancy, I had to go back to my old high school to drop something off for my job. As I waddled down the hallway, from behind me I heard a teenage girl giggle and then whisper to her friends, “Oh my gosh! I hope I’m not that huge whenever I’m pregnant!”¬†I totally cried once I got back to my car. I let it ruin my day and replayed the scene over and over in my head the rest of that pregnancy. I let it get to me, and if you look at pics from that first pregnancy, it shows.

In my second and current pregnancy, I’ve done better this way. Thankfully too, I haven’t heard anyone be as outright mean in their comments.¬†But you always, always have the insensitive, oblivious weirdos at the store who make comments like, “Are you sure you aren’t due today?” “Got twins in there?” “You look ready to pop!”

funny pregnancy ecard
You know what you should do when that happens? Flat-out ignore it. Totally disregard anyone who feels the need to comment on your size. Forget about whatever crap they said on the spot. That person is either not thinking, or more likely, is¬†insecure about his or her¬†own weight or appearance. Most snarky, unkind comments come from people who don’t feel good about themselves. Haters gonna hate. So whenever you are at the receiving end of unwanted commentary on your appearance, take it as 100% a reflection on the giver of the comment, not on you.

But What About Compliments?

But what about positive comments? You shouldn’t hinge your self-esteem on what others think, obviously. But I don’t think there’s a thing wrong with graciously accepting compliments and letting yourself feel happy when they come.¬†This pregnancy, actually, people have been insanely nice to me this way.¬†Last week I posted a pic of myself on day 1 of my third trimester and was overwhelmed by how kind people’s comments were.

That’s both nice of people and kind of funny. Why? Well, my doctor has given me the heads-up at my past few appointments that my uterus is measuring about a month ahead of average (not a health concern in his view, but still). My weight gain and my baby’s measurements are on track, but apparently I just have a super huge uterus. So the truth is that I am in fact abnormally BIG for my 28 weeks! But when someone says something nice to me, I don’t feel the need to explain to them that I’m actually not cute or tiny or pretty or whatever because my doctor said so. I just smile and say thanks.


2. Keep track of your baby’s development week by week.

For me, it’s helpful to constantly remember WHY I am getting bigger. I’m having a BABY! And the more specific I get, the better. Find a week-by-week pregnancy tracking app or hit a site like BabyCenter or What to Expect that tells you how your baby is growing each week. It’s nice for me to be able to think, “Wow! My baby gained 4 ounces this week, is as big as an ear of corn, and now has enough hearing to distinguish MY voice from other sounds!” instead of solely thinking about the number on the scale.

These specific details about how miraculously my little one is growing helps keep my head in the right place. Plus, how crazy-amazing is it to think that your body is currently growing another human being?! That is both something to be amazed by and proud of. Getting bigger is totally worth it for a sweet little baby, and reading specific weekly updates about my baby’s development helps me to remember this AND appreciate all that my body is capable of.

pregnancy glow at 24 weeks along
Me during the week that Scarlett was the size of an eggplant.

3. Buy cute maternity clothes.

This sounds shallow, but my experience is that on days when I’m dressed in something I like and have spent as much time on my hair and makeup as I did pre-pregnancy, I’m a lot more able to stay body positive. I spent most of my first two pregnancies schlepping around makeupless and unshowered in my husband’s old clothes. I’m huge anyway, I remember thinking. Why bother?¬†As a result, I felt pretty frumpy and awful most of the time. Anyone who lived in their husband’s ¬†baggy old things would feel that way after long enough!

But dressing up a bit sends a powerful message, both to yourself and others. When I take the time on myself to put together a cute¬†outfit, I’m essentially telling myself, “Yeah, I’m worth the effort.” And that self-affirmation radiates out and lets everyone else know that you still think you’re gorgeous.


look good pregnant black lace top

4. Work out.

Exercise is powerful. Remember what Elle Woods has to say about exercise in Legally Blonde? Well, in addition to helping you not kill your husband, endorphins can help your confidence too. Simply working up a sweat, in whatever way is safe and fun for you during pregnancy, feels good. Personally, I know workouts keep my outlook on not just my body but life in general more sunny.

As an added bonus, working out regularly can keep your pregnancy weight gain in check. Now, let me be clear: you can and should feel confident at any weight. But it’s just the truth that the farther you get from your pre-pregnancy weight, the tougher it may be mentally to stay body positive.

Every healthy pregnant woman needs to gain some weight ¬†and will therefore get bigger. But working out regularly can help stave off excessive pregnancy gain along with the benefit of simply helping you feel good. If you’re curious about how to get in safe but effective pregnancy workouts, check out my list of the 6 Best Pregnancy Workout DVDs¬†as well as my post on Pregnancy Cardio.¬†


how to look good pregnant workout gear

5. Last of all, remember that you are your own worst critic.

You may look in the mirror and be horrified at what you see, but guess what? Your opinions aren’t fact. Especially if body image is something you’ve struggled with in the past, keep an open mind and consider that your view of yourself may be pretty¬†distorted.

You may be less sure, but trust me. Others probably look at you and see a gorgeous, glowing, lovely mama-to-be‚ÄĒnot whatever you’ve decided in your head that you more closely resemble. They’re looking at you and wondering how YOU¬†figured the whole pregnancy glow thing out so flawlessly.

So be kind to yourself. You’re doing better than you think you are! Keep your chin up and your confidence high. Remember that your attitude is what will make you the ultimate gorgeous and “glowy” pregnant person.

How do you stay body positive when you’re pregnant? Comment away!

How I Beat Binge Eating: Part 2

This is How I Beat Binge Eating: Part 2. In case you missed them, here are links to my Intro and Part 1 posts of this series.

“Disordered Thinking”

Now, let me be clear: I was NOT fat. At 5’5″ at 145ish, I wasn’t huge by any stretch of the imagination. Yet my critical view of myself distorted everything I saw in the mirror, and I seriously believed that I had a weight problem. In retrospect I can see how messed up my thinking was. I now think I look pretty fit, cute, and awesome in the pictures in this post. I wish I could go back in time and both whack myself upside the head for being such an idiot and then immediately give myself a big, big hug to help with all the hurt and fear I was dealing with back then.

disordered thinking
Eat hardly anything, eat everything, repeat. Through all this madness my weight and body hardly changed at all.

But anyway. I made a firm promise to myself that purging was no longer an option for me. It was something I never wanted to revisit. But instead, I decided I’d get “healthy.” I was convinced that I was fat and needed to lose weight, and that somehow all of my problems were rooted back to the inadequate, unacceptable way that I looked. I felt like I was addicted to food, particularly sugary food. But if I could work hard and have willpower, I though, I could change everything about myself and my life.

I still catch myself defaulting to this crazy logic in times of high stress. I think it’s easier to decide weight loss is the answer to your problems in life than it is to actually face your real problems. I see now how irrational, how stupid¬†this line of thinking is. But in any event, I moved forward both determined to never purge again and to lose about 20 pounds.


The Beginning of Intentional Dieting

So I joined a gym. I hit the fitness and diet magazines, cutting out and saving 1200-calorie diet plans and sub-300-calorie dinner recipes. I began doing sets of exercises from the magazines that promised to thin my thighs and flatten my abs. I decided I was going to become a newer, better, infinitely hotter and happier version of Sarah.

I sincerely thought that by losing some weight and getting my eating back under control, I’d solve all my problems at once because I’d then be not just healthier but prettier too, which would mean more dating and more friends. Ta-da! I remembered how kind everyone had been when I’d lost weight back in junior high, and whereas one day it seemed like no one noticed me or liked me much, the next day I was bombarded¬†with attention and praise simply because I’d dropped a jeans size or two. I wanted that again! I believed I was going to have EVERYTHING once I lost 20 pounds. And sticking to my ¬†new regimen of “healthy” meal plans and tough workouts was my ticket there.

By this point, all my overtly dangerous and disordered behaviors were gone. No more purges, no more sub-500-calorie days. But my thinking was so jacked up that I was still doing watered-down versions of full-blown disorder behaviors. I ate, but not enough. I didn’t make myself throw up, but I still used exercise as a less-intense form of compensated when I felt I’d eaten too much. And my thoughts were nothing but FOOD. FOOD. FOOD. FOOD. LOSE WEIGHT. GET SKINNY. FOOD.

I think a lot of people currently or in the past fall into this category. We don’t have full-on disorders that need swift and serious medical attention, but we’re not living in a healthy and happy way. Food and exercise and weight loss become obsessions. It’s not so much a state of disordered eating but a state of disordered thinking. It’s being almost anorexic. Borderline bulimic. Often orthorexic. It’s not glaringly dangerous or unsafe, but it is miserable. And it’s a zone I lived in for far too long.


Yet the bingeing raged on.

Before this, I was bingeing not out of hunger but solely due to emotions. I ate fairly healthy and normal meals and snacks throughout the day before I’d ingest an excessive several thousand calories of sugar in the evenings. But starting in the second half of my freshman year, once my first real efforts to diet began, my eating took on a whole new pattern. For the first time ever, my caloric intake became chronically low. And I honestly believed that I was being HEALTHY at this point: after all, the magazines were telling me to do all the things I’d started, and surely they weren’t advocating disordered behavior, right?

The best way I can sum up the shift here is that my binges began solely as a comfort mechanism when I was met with stress I couldn’t handle. But then they morphed into a biological, inevitable rebound effect as I was perpetually hungry. Consistently undereating¬†is what kept the flame of my bingeing alive and well.¬†Label it as restricting, dieting, or whatever you want, but it’s the #1 reason I could never stop binges from happening.

disordered thinking
Here I am at a friend’s wedding. Disordered thinking still kept me in its grip: at this point in time, I still believed I was horrendously fat.

Addicted to Food?

My binges never again reached the sheer¬†amounts of food¬†they did during that brief, awful time during my first semester as a college freshman. But the frequency of my binges? I found myself overeating if not all-out bingeing once or twice a week. I could “stick to a healthy eating plan” for about 5 days before giving up, it seemed. I’d do just fine with my bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, sandwich piled mostly with spinach for lunch, then chicken and veggies for dinner¬†for a few days. But every time, like clockwork, ¬†I’d snap around day 5 or 6. I’d walk past the campus bakery and feel my brain screaming at me that I needed brownies‚ÄĒand buy not one but a dozen. I’d go to a party and wolf down a huge plate of chips and dip¬†plus a half dozen desserts. My hunger would get the better of me every single time after a few days of “good” eating, and despite my best intentions, I’d binge. Every. Single. Time.

I chalked it up to my pathetic lack of willpower. I’d swear to “start over” the next day. Often, I’d revise my diet or eating plan to be even stricter than it had been before, and the vicious cycle would continue.

In retrospect, I now see that anyone living on 1200 calories a day and burning another 300+ in daily workouts would react exactly as I did.¬†My binges were a result of the physiological need to stay nourished! My brain was telling me I needed brownies because there was in fact a serious lack of carbs, fat, and general calories in my system! I didn’t see what I was doing as “starving myself,” because in my mind I was eating 3 “healthy” meals a day.

But I literally was starving most days, netting about 900 calories where a girl at my age, weight, and height could have and should have eaten somewhere near 1000 more calories than that daily. Yet because of my frequent bouts of overeating, I was probably averaging roughly the correct amount of calories: it just came about by under eating for several days and then stuffing my face.

Keeping Up Appearances

No one would have imagined all this was going on by simply looking at me. With what I felt was herculean effort, I dropped only a few pounds (at my lowest, I was 142) due to all the bingeing. And at my all-time high when my binges were at their peak as a freshman, I was in the low 150s. The few people I confided my overeating problem to acted confused: I hadn’t lost or gained a lot of weight at any point, and I wasn’t purging anymore, so what was the problem?

addicted to food
Another picture from the days where,¬†in my distorted mind, I believed I was still problematically fat. Isn’t that sad?

I’ll tell you what the problem was. The problem was that I felt like garbage. The problem was that at any given moment I was either ravenously hungry or overstuffed and sick. The problem was that I inwardly screamed at myself and called myself horrible names any time I put one toe out of line from whatever stupid diet or cleanse or meal plan I was currently on. The problem was that I looked in the mirror and saw only UGLY. The problem was that I was unhappy and confused and had no idea what “healthy” even was anymore.

The Emotional Damage of Disordered Eating

I kept most of these feelings locked up inside. And it’s not like everything in my life was horrible. Not by any means! I found myself loving the major I’d chosen, finally making more friends and dating more, and honestly feeling fairly happy a lot of the time. So much of my life was great. I landed several writing and editing internships in a row that were fun and fulfilling. I got married to a wonderful, wonderful guy. I graduated from school. I had my first baby, my darling daughter Sophia.

But this undercurrent of constant dieting, constant fighting for a goal weight, and constant self-loathing was always in the background. The time¬†after I had Sophia especially was brutal as I starved/binged myself down from my delivery day 200ish to my pre-baby 140s in just 4 months. The overtly dangerous purging was long gone, but the way I was living sure didn’t make me¬†happy.

Sarah McConkie wedding day
Me on my wedding day with Mark. ūüôā I’m so lucky he’s mine. He’s known about my eating struggles since the early days of our marriage, and he’s never been anything but supportive and loving and amazing through all of this.

And ironically, a new emotion crept in. I read in lots of places that bingeing was a result of trying to cope with stress and problems, and that made me feel so, so guilty. What stress did I have, after all? What problems did I have? My husband loved me, and I loved him. My new baby girl was healthy and gorgeous and perfect. I’d found work to do from home that kept my passion for writing and editing alive (and also helped our meager college-student budget all work out). I had made wonderful friends in the town we’d moved to after I finished my degree.


By pretty much any standard, my life was amazing. What kind of crazy, whiny, ungrateful, broken loser was I to feel the need to binge with so much GOOD in my life? By this point, I’d decided and firmly believed that I was fat, but I now also believed I was fundamentally a bad, pathetic human being.

binge eating
My beautiful oldest daughter, Sophia, at just 3 days old.

This is what my life was like for the next 4 years.

Life had settled into a groove of good with hidden bad. I was constantly dieting and restricting, and as a result, constantly overeating. Disordered thinking dominated my thoughts about eating, exercise, and my body. But it was livable. And so I lived that way, pretty much from the second part of freshman year on until I became pregnant with my second child in 2013.

sure I was addicted to food as a new mom
Here we are on a hike with baby Sophia in the fall of 2011.

Pregnancy #2

At the beginning of that pregnancy, both my husband and I were hit with a terrible, terrible stomach flu. Think stomach convulsions as painful as childbirth. Dry-heaving in 10-minute intervals for two hours straight. An ER visit because I seriously thought I was either experiencing ectopic pregnancy or dying. It was horrendous.

Yet the end result of all that misery was a bit of weight loss‚ÄĒand people noticed. I was hit by waves and waves of “You look amazing! What are you doing?” and I loved it. It was like when I lost that weight in junior high all over again! I liked the slightly thinner version of myself too. So? I found myself dreading the inevitable gain that was going to come with this pregnancy. I next found myself lying about having morning sickness (which I really didn’t) so I could skip meals here and there. But within a week or two, I realized this was NOT okay.

I felt horrible. What kind of monster would start all this disordered stuff up again while PREGNANT? How could I be DREADING weight gain when the reason for it was that I was bringing a beautiful baby into the world? What selfish, shallow, superficial, small-minded brat could justify intentionally undereating that would put my unborn baby at risk? I was so ashamed.

The phrasing I used when I talked to myself was overly harsh, but my core feeling was right. If this kind of thinking and behavior was resurfacing while another little life was dependent on mine, I needed help. ASAP.

Coming next: How I Beat Binge Eating: Part 3