This Powerlifter Has the Most Refreshing Take On Navigating Her Changing Body During Pregnancy
Meg Gallagher, aka @megsquats, has had a long and lesson-filled body-image journey in the Instagram fitness space — but pregnancy is a whole new ball game.
Like everyone else, powerlifter Meg Gallagher's relationship with her body is constantly evolving. From the beginning of her fitness journey as a bodybuilding bikini competitor, to becoming a competitive powerlifter, to launching a fitness and nutrition coaching business, Gallagher (better known as @megsquats on Instagram) has kept it candid with her legions of followers about her body image since day one — and now that she's pregnant, she continues to do so.
Recently, Gallagher, who says she's "on a mission to [get] a barbell in every woman's hands," opened up about her changing body to her 500K+ Instagram followers in a series of posts.
"I've had a couple of people ask how I'm navigating my changing body, or the idea of my body never looking the same again. So let's talk about it," she captioned an Instagram post of side-by-side selfies. On the left, Gallagher strikes a pre-pregnancy pose. On the right, she dons the same outfit to show off her baby bump at about 30 weeks.
"First off: I'm not full term yet. I'm going to get bigger, so maybe my feelings around this will change. I'm hardly any heavier than I was at my heaviest adult weight in 2014 when I gained about 40lbs , just months after competing in a bodybuilding competition," she began.
"Back then, I was ashamed of ruining my 'perfect body' that I dieted and worked so hard for. I ate in secret. I withdrew from friends. I was embarrassed to go to the gym and train because I had new mass and new jiggle that felt foreign and uncomfortable. I didn't feel at home in my own skin."
But despite her initial hesitation toward working out, Gallagher says the situation actually helped shift her perspective on fitness and her training goals.
"Luckily, this scenario opened my mind to powerlifting and strongman competitions. With community support and inspiration from athletes in my life and on social media, my focus shifted from looks-obsessed to strength-obsessed," she continued. (See: The Difference Between Powerlifting, Bodybuilding, and Olympic Weightlifting)
And it worked — Gallagher's new viewpoint soon helped transform her insecurities into grit, and gave her a wholly new outlook on exercise and her body. "Focusing on strength did so much more for me than help me feel better in my own skin. It taught me that my own skin is really just skin. Learning that you have more to offer the world than how you look can really set you on a path to get shit done in your life. Gaining a little weight, or stretching out your belly, or packing on more body fat to grow another human are so trivial compared to what is now important in my life."
In a second Instagram post, Gallagher continued the same sentiment: "The question of 'how are you navigating body image?' seems so far removed from where I am mentally. I'm focused on growing my baby, building my business, and helping people find the strength within themselves. THOSE are the things that matter to me," she continued.
That said, developing a healthy body image isn't easy when you're surrounded by toxic diet culture and perfectly filtered photos. Ultimately, Gallagher ended her message of body positivity with comforting words for her audience, encouraging them to seek help for their anxieties.
"If you're reading this and feel like you're in a body image trap, please see a therapist and talk to someone. Its something that would have saved me some time back then. I know therapy isn't a viable option for so many, so if I can just leave you with this: Your value is not determined by your size, stretch marks, or attractiveness. You are so much more than how you look," she wrote. (Related: How to Find the Best Therapist for You)
Gallagher is far from the first fitness personality to open up about her pregnancy. Trainer Anna Victoria, who struggled with fertility and trying to get pregnant in 2019, was also forthcoming about how she felt about her body as it changed.
"However my body looks physically is not my focus right now. I am working out and still eating 80/20 (ok, maybe 70/30...😄) because that's what makes me FEEL my best. But if I get stretch marks, I get stretch marks! If I get cellulite, I get cellulite! But with these things will come a beautiful baby girl that I've wanted for so long and have fought for. Stretch marks, cellulite, and any extra weight I will have won't make the slightest difference in my ability to be a great mother and that's all I care about right now!," she wrote on Instagram in July 2020.
When fellow fitness sensation Kayla Itsines, personal trainer and creator of the SWEAT app, was pregnant in 2019, she was also vocal about working out for reasons totally removed from aesthetics or abilities: "I'm not pushing myself, I'm not striving to set personal bests. I'm honestly just working out so I feel good and have a clean mind. It actually makes me feel great and sleep better," she explained to Good Morning America at the time. (See: How to Change Your Workouts When You're Pregnant)
As Instagram's most popular trainers and fitness personalities enter motherhood, their long-preached message is becoming even more clear: It's not about how you look or even what you can physically do, it's about how you feel and taking care of your body — especially when you're creating a whole other human life.