A large number of pregnant women will be concerned about gaining (and not losing) the weight common in pregnancy. The media floods us with images and criticisms of famous women pregnant and “fat/larger than life/ballooning” and shames those that don’t return immediately to their original size 0 model sizes. This means there are often articles about how you can keep the weight off, or work it off, as soon as your bundle of joy is out into the world.
So you might be wondering, how did I gain zero lb during my pregnancy?
Short answer: NO FLIPPING CLUE!
Sorry for the suggestive title but I wanted women who are worried about this stuff to actually find something truthful and healthy when they maybe search about weight during pregnancy in a stress-filled media-pressured state. The truth is that every pregnancy is different, but the main aim is to keep mother and child healthy mentally and physically.
Here’s my story:
I was classified as obese through my BMI when I became pregnant. I had been attempting to lose weight and succeeded in losing around 3 stone within the year beforehand. I worried a lot about adverse effects of pregnancy, particularly what would happen to my weight and whether I’d ever be able to get to a healthy state after giving birth. I also worried that my weight would badly affect the future health of my child. I knew women could often find it difficult to lose “baby weight” afterwards and I have always struggled with my weight – was I always going to be on the heavy side of the scale?
I didn’t expect my body to react the way it did but here is some truth about pregnancy, food and weight which I had to learn along the way.
Nausea doesn’t make you want to eat. I was extremely lucky that I only felt nauseated and didn’t have to run to the bathroom multiple times a day, however, it generally meant that foods that I loved previously, and even foods that I knew were good for me and my growing bump, would make me feel ill. I lived on extremely starchy, plain foods for the first three months, plus a few strange cravings.
Hence, my lack of weight gain can also not be put down to vomiting because I didn’t throw up (excluding one unfortunate day of heat stroke). Although my appetite was pretty low because of the nausea, what I did eat stayed down and was used. One of the worst things a mother-to-be can do is eat bad foods hoping they are going to throw them up anyway, or starve themselves hoping to avoid weight-gain. Neither is a good idea. Do not do this, however tempting the “eating for two” mantra seems – it’s a lie. You do not need to eat twice as many calories, and pregnancy does not give you a free pass to fast food daily. It wasn’t good for you beforehand, and it won’t be during; you run the risk of diabetes, childhood obesity in your child, and babies being born significantly larger than the norm (which if you think about it can only be more painful for you).
Your body knows what to do. At first I was terrified that I was eating rubbish. As I realised that I wasn’t gaining weight as I expected to this changed to an oddly worried feeling. Most women would be happy to not be blowing up like a balloon/jellybaby, but I was concerned it meant I was doing something wrong: not eating properly and affecting my child adversely. Ultimately I had to let go: my baby was fine, my blood pressure was perfect, and I felt well enough (physically and mentally) to get along fine. The doctors had no reason to be concerned, and I just kept an eye on stuff, and continued to go to my appointments to make sure I was still on track.
It is very important to eat something healthy!!! I found this particularly difficult because the foods I had previously been eating in order to lose weight and keep healthy (peppers, tomatoes, salads, vegetable tagine) would all make me gag. I honestly had some concerned talks with my doctor about whether I was sabotaging my own pregnancy (my concerns, not hers) and if I could cause any damage. In the end, despite not being able to eat the fresh veg I felt I needed, I could at the very least avoid stupidly fatty anti-nutritional foods. Dried fruit like mango was great, nuts were wonderful, and simple jacket potatoes with tuna got me through my carb cravings. One thing I did realise early on is that no matter how much water I drank, if I didn’t have a little extra salt I would feel no better for it. Trust your body and see if you can spot patterns of what makes you feel better and allows you to eat good food.
Important things to try to get into your diet are calcium, iron, and vitamins. Avoid the fat – it’ll make you feel bloated anyway, and concentrate on simple small meals that allow you to process foods bit by bit. This way you should hopefully avoid any extra complications which make pregnancy, and the recovery, harder to deal with.
Dieting is not a good idea but healthy eating is… which ideally should be the same thing. This is a trap many women fall into. They don’t want to gain a lot of weight, and feel nauseated anyway, so decide that dieting will help them. It doesn’t. The truth is that when you’re pregnant, your child is taking all their nutrition from you, no matter how little you have in storage. If you starve yourself on some ridiculous diet then the only one that suffers is you. In the same way, pregnancy is not the time to let every sensible voice go and eat anything you like. You need to be eating as balanced and healthy as you can, which ideally is what a diet should be (but often aren’t), which gives you the nutrition you need in order to do the job your body is attempting. If you do this the likelihood is you won’t gain stupid amounts of extra weight, because you will be taking in what you need.
In a weird way all of this meant that the baby was kind of eating me. All that fat and energy reserves that my body had stored away (in the most unflattering places!) was now becoming useful and my body was processing it to do the job required. As it grew, I was losing the extra stuff that I had never really needed before (often because I eaten foods that were more about tastiness than nutrition).
Exercise is important but do not strain yourself. I felt very strongly that I needed to get off the sofa and out of bed despite feeling rubbish 24/7. In my case having a brand new puppy was a lifesaver because she forced me to take short regular walks in the fresh air. However, when Bear and I moved part way through my pregnancy I also quickly learnt my limitations. If you push your body too hard it will snap; pregnancy is already working you hard, stretching your muscles, loosening your joints, and unfortunately I gained a lot of pain after attempting to lift boxes. It is not just about your back, or tripping (although those are still very big concerns) but also your abdominal muscles. I had to force myself to step back, and take more care in how I used my body and being stubborn this was very hard.
What does all this mean: the aim is to keep you healthy and give birth to a healthy child/ren. I paid attention to what I was eating, exercised gently, and kept in contact with health professionals, and my body did what it needed to.
The truth is that if you are living a healthy life anyway, with moderation and good sense, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get through pregnancy just fine. If you put on some weight, it is likely that your body is hoping to store some in advance for pretty darn good reasons. If you lose weight, maybe baby is just taking a bit more of what it needs. As long as you are healthy, not becoming ill, or struggling, and are keeping up with your doctor and/or midwife and they have no concerns, you should just trust your body to do what it needs to.
The media can be awful at making women feel bad about their size, shape, weight, speed of recovery, and so much more. They have no right to say anything about a pregnant woman because honestly, body shape for fashions-sake should be the last of your priorities. If anyone does comment, either ignore it or send them to me for a slap – they deserve it.
Be healthy. Trust your body. You’ll be fine.
[This was written whilst still pregnant (slightly overdue) and still the same weight I was at my first doctor appointment. I shall update as and when I think it might be useful. If anything I’ve had to accept that my body could do all sorts of strange things after giving birth, attempting to breastfeed, and getting into a sleep-deprived routine.]