Friday, January 22, 2021

I’m Pregnant, I’m Fat – and I’m Okay

March 4, 2010 by  
Filed under Pregnancy

This week I got smacked around by an article.  And I’m talking back.

In Kim Brooks’ article “I’m pregnant, I’m fat and I hate it” on, Ms. Brooks takes aim at fat over and over again.  I can usually let one ignorant comment or statement slide (although I probably shouldn’t) but this article enraged me.  Rarely have I read something that caused such emotions to boil up.  I became more infuriated with each paragraph, until the end when the anger and irritation faded and melded with pity.

Ms. Brooks became pregnant with her second child while still carrying an “excess 15 pounds” from her first pregnancy.  She discusses the all-too-common occurrence of women gaining weight during pregnancy – which, you know, you generally have to do.  I was told by my GYN/OB that he has had patients of my size not gain any weight while pregnant, but in no way did he recommend I restrict eating or make any changes to my diet.  In fact, his exact words were, “Eat as you have been eating – just be smart and careful about it.”

Sounds pretty smart to me.  Basically, his advice is to follow intuitive eating.  Advice as simple as that would counteract much of what Ms. Brooks addresses.  She writes:

“It’s because of women like me, or women in far worse health predicaments — women entering pregnancies with a lot more than 15 excess pounds — that many healthcare providers are beginning to focus more on nutritional counseling programs as an integral part of prenatal care.”

“A lot more than 15 excess pounds” is a “far worse health predicament”??  How many American women aren’t carrying fifteen or more excess pounds (excess, of course, being used as an imperfect term)?  The issue is weight, weight, weight.  What about health – both physical and mental?  What about nutrition?  Why isn’t nutritional counseling a standard part of prenatal care already?  Ms. Brooks speaks to Alan Peaceman, the director of a prenatal nutritional counseling program, who laughs when she inquires about women possibly taking the healthy eating message too far and “falling prey to the body-hating, ‘pregorexic’ mentality.”  He laughs and says:

“That’s just not the major issue that affects the population in this country. The much bigger problem is the women who gain too much and then can’t lose it. A lot of women who’ve fought weight issues their whole life look to pregnancy as a time when the rules are off, when they don’t have to engage in the struggle. We need to get the word out that this is not the case.”

I found this statement to be remarkably offensive.  Because I’ve struggled with weight my whole life, I’m going to see pregnancy as a sneaky way to finally eat whatever I want?  Perhaps I, oh I don’t know, read too much but I’ve never been under the impression that pregnancy was a time for a food free-for-all.  Yes, I recognize that I’m coming at this from a privileged, middle class, well-funded public school education point of view.  I learned the basics about pregnancy nutrition in sex ed from wonderful teachers who were frank about the issues with over- or under-eating during pregnancy.  I recognize that not all women have access to that kind of education, but then don’t we next count on our physicians?  If Dr. Peaceman recognizes that there are “a lot” of women who have struggled with weight (and food) issues throughout their lives, then shouldn’t other doctors realize the same?  Shouldn’t this be a conversation we’re having?

Instead, we’re having the same conversation we’ve had a million times over.  Another woman left feeling depressed and miserable about herself because her body is not conforming to what she thinks it should.  Ms. Brooks states near the end of her article, “I wouldn’t say I’ve been on a diet during this pregnancy, but I haven’t been throwing caution to the wind, either.”   I don’t intend to be mean, but I read that and thought, “Well, duh.  Why would you have thrown caution to the wind in the first place?”

But we all know why.  We’re told our bodies are temples and, as such, they are to be made into images worth worship.  We’re to watch and calculate every morsel of food that enters our mouths and ensure we get so many hours of exercise a week.  So when we enter a phase in life where we’re actually supposed to gain weight, it feels like a free pass.  I get that – and that’s why, at the end of this fat-bashing, hateful article, I felt sorry for Ms. Brooks.  She’d been duped.  She closes her article by writing:

“I could say that I’m doing it for my health, and this would be partially true. But frankly, I’m doing it because however short my pre-pregnancy body might have fallen from the celebrity ideal, it was mine, and even with two babies in tow, I want it back.” (emphasis mine)

But most women can’t get that body back.  It’s birthed a child and been forever changed – something that should be accepted as the truth that it is.  In reality, you had a pre-baby body and now you have a post-baby body.  By definition alone, they cannot be the same.  When, pre-baby, did your uterus grow to 1,000x its size and your breasts engorge with the goal to nourish another being?  One can’t expect to appear as though nothing has happened.

It made me wonder if those of us who have struggled with fat our whole lives don’t have some kind of advantage sometimes.  I’m not about to freak out if I’ve gained five pounds this month because it won’t be the first time I’ve seen the scale go up five pounds.  I’m not about to consider this period of time a food free-for-all because I’ve been there, done that (when not pregnant) and most certainly do not want to deal with the fallout again.

It also made me wonder why there isn’t more sympathy for non-pregnant women who struggle with eating and food issues if so many women experience something similar in pregnancy.  But it seems like the inability to manage eating in a healthful way during pregnancy or to quickly lose weight post-pregnancy is so shamed that there isn’t any room allowed for sympathy, understanding, or personal growth.  And that is the true shame.


9 Responses to “I’m Pregnant, I’m Fat – and I’m Okay”
  1. Lori says:

    I’m glad so many people are responding to this article, because it was just so sad and so full of self-hatred (and, unfortunately, what looked like a desire to impose her self-hatred on everybody else).

    One thing I’ve been thinking about around this, is whether or not the rise in medical interventions at birth has made women more critical of their “post-baby bodies” than they would be otherwise. I’m thrilled that we have good obstetrical care. For women who have a need for interventions, it is a fantastic thing they are there. But, I do wonder if the birth process makes some women feel more alienated from their bodies, and puts them in the kind of mindset we see the author in.

    My birth experience with my son was amazing. Other than an IV drip when I was done delivering for rehydration, I had no interventions, just a lot of support from the medical staff present. It was the hardest, most intense, most painful, most euphoric, most empowering thing I’d ever done. I gained a new respect for my body and women’s bodies in general, and walked around for two years or so feeling like there was nothing I couldn’t do: after all, my body had grown, delivered, and nourished another human being. The idea of even worrying about stretch marks or saggy breasts or the fact that my abs will never again be as smooth and flat as they once were didn’t even occur to me.

    Or, maybe to put it another way, giving birth made me think of my body in terms of its functionality–all the things it can do–rather than just in terms of it being an object and thus focusing on what it looked like. And I do wonder if how objectified many women are made to feel in pregnancy and birth by medical professionals–as if their bodies cannot be trusted and as if they aren’t in charge of their own pregnancy and birth process–causes so many women to focus more on their body’s appearance after birth than they would otherwise.

    Anyway, that’s just my rambling theory. Congrats on your pregnancy, and I hope you have a birth experience that was as amazing and empowering as mine, because, even though I’d felt pretty good about my body beforehand, my entire relationship with my body was transformed, in a very positive way, after giving birth.

    • Lori says:

      Oh, and just to add, I’m due to give birth to my second in about a week and a half (although I’m really, really hoping she decides to make her debut sooner rather than later!), and I’ve been really fortunate to have had amazing prenatal care both this time and last time.

      With my first pregnancy, I gained about 35 pounds. I felt like a failure every time I got weighed, but fortunately my nurses and doctor never made me feel that way. They just reminded me I was growing a baby, and that was it. No shame, no guilt, no lectures.

      This time, I started out with about five months of severe nausea, then had no appetite, then developed awful acid reflux, and then the nausea came back on top of the reflux. I’ve had a hard time eating and putting on any weight, and am only up about 10 pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight at almost 39 weeks. The funny thing is, I STILL expect a lecture at every visit: maybe I gained “too much” and they’ll tell me to stop eating so much, or maybe I’ve lost or haven’t gained again, and they’ll tell me I’m not taking good enough care of myself and am harming my baby. Because, when it comes to weight in pregnancy, we can never do it right. We’re either gaining too fast or not gaining enough, at least in many people’s eyes. I’m really fortunate that my OB is fantastic and very laid-back, and as long as I’m measuring the way I should and taking my vitamins, she isn’t concerned with my weight.

      But, even though I’ve only gained 10 pounds this time, my boobs have still gotten bigger, and my stomach has still gotten a LOT bigger (obviously!), and I’ve got some brand new stretch marks that I didn’t have after my first. My “post-baby body” is STILL going to be different than my pre-baby body, because there is no magical number of pounds you can gain where your body will just snap back to how it looked before you were pregnant. Not going to happen, for anybody, short of those who can afford plastic surgery and being professionally photographed and photoshopped.

      • CandiceBP says:

        Thank you for your thorough and interesting response! I agree with you on the alienation of women from their bodies due to the increase in medical interventions during birth.

        And it is remarkable that even when we’re supposed to gain weight, when it’s “okay” to, we still feel nervous and anxious about it. I think I posted here previously about how the first time the scale went up, I made some joke about “Uh oh, pounds coming on” and the nurse was like, “Well, you have to gain something SOME time, you know.” Even though I KNOW that, it’s still not easy. I don’t go into a tailspin when I gain 2lbs at the OB, but I do still get nervous getting on the scale. But how could I not since the past 30 years of getting on the scale has ended in reprimands and stern lectures and pitying looks?

        The pregnancy hasn’t been remarkably transformative yet, but at 29 weeks, I’ve really only started to show a couple of weeks ago. I’m still at the point where people might just think I gained weight and am not actually pregnant… but I do find myself fascinated by all the little changes and continually amazed at what’s going on. I do think the birth experience will really be the keystone to seeing just exactly what my body has accomplished.

  2. McLauren84 says:

    Wow, I just read the Salon article. One of the first lines hit me like a slap in the face:

    “Like many other new moms, I was fat; not obese, not fat in the gastric-bypass, reality show spectacle way, but a solid, undeniable, 15 to 20 pounds over the range that is considered healthy for my height.”

    She’s calling very obese people a “reality show spectacle.” I don’t even know what to say. That’s definitely one of the most offensive things I’ve read in awhile.

    • CandiceBP says:

      Thank you – I meant to mention that line but forgot to. As someone who’s had gastric bypass, I really felt sucker-punched, being made to think of myself as a “reality show spectacle.” Ugh. If we want women to be healthy, do we have to go at them like this about the health choices they make (whether you agree or not)?

  3. TerriL says:

    My husband and i want to have a baby so badly. This article your talking about sadly hits home. We have put off haveing a baby because i am in fact a heavy girl who is well as heavy implies over weight. I went to my obgyn and talked to her and she didn nothing but crush me in tracks. Frigtening me to death with horror stories and complications telling me how if your having trouble now wait till your pregnant. I could have cried when i walked out of her office. I am a big boned girl not that it should make a difference, who has fought with my weight my whole life. The whole time i was sitting there looking around the waiting room i thought i had a chance there were woman much larger than me having children and i see them out everywhere. But unfortunately i am still at a stand still wondering if i should try to lose weight or go ahead and try.

  4. poppy says:

    There is nothing wrong with her blog post. Infact it was far more entertaining and easy to read than yours. I think it was about her personal struggle more than ripping down every other ‘fat’ pregnant woman. Sounds like, if you’re 29 weeks and JUST starting to show you have no idea what she’s trying to say and that maybe you should give her a break. Really….2 pregnancies doesn’t make YOU a guru, how about a little compassion, and understanding for us woman that gain and show withing the first trimester, are not all happy with our bodies but know that this is the way we seem to carry happy healthy kids.

    • Looking4Understanding says:

      I think you’re completely missing the point of this article. And asking about compassion? Where was the compassion when the other blog poster referred to severely obese people as ‘reality show spectacles’ Really? Being someone who is extremely overweight and a self-loather, it just further sinks me knowing that there are such minded people in the world to make those kinds of comments. I understand where the other person is upset over weight gain, but to throw us ‘fatties’ into the mix of her blog in the manner in which she did, was unnecessary. If she were so upset over those mere 15 pounds, then she should put herself in the shoes of us that are much more overweight than that, and have empathy herself, not for the reason that we are there, but for the emotions we endure on a daily basis.

  5. FormerFatGirl says:

    Being fat does not give someone victim status. It’s time to cut the crap and get to the issue — do something about it. We have created a society where we are so coddling, so enabling, and so concerned about hurting someone’s feelings that we neglect the truth.

    The truth is. CUT THE GARBAGE. Each and every “fat” person chooses everyday to be fat. Yup. I said it. You choose to eat foods out of plastic wraps that can sit on a store shelf and survive a nuclear blast. You choose to neglect eating whole, REAL foods provided by the Earth. Maybe you eat an apple. And you think your bottled oj in the morning next to your “whole wheat” toast is a healthy choice.

    Buy a juicer. Invest in real foods that aren’t filled with high fructose corn syrup or labeled “low fat” with an ingredient list 3 paragraphs long. Do you know what’s in strawberries? Strawberries. Do you know what’s in “Low Sugar Strawberry Jam?” Preservatives, sodium, FAKE man-made chemicals that are packing pounds on your gut and causing an increase in cortisol production.

    Get off the Internet and quit b**ching about who offended you for a fat remark and go for a walk outside. Go to the gym. Clean the house. DO SOMETHING. Get moving, get sweating, get your heart rate up.

    This isn’t about genetics. This isn’t about what you were born with. This isn’t about skinny girls vs. fat girls. It’s about the choices YOU make on a daily basis and the constant co-fat girl enabling that society loves to do — “oh girl you can’t help it, you’re curvy.” No. You can help it. Obesity is not curvy. It’s a drain on our healthcare resources. It’s celebrated because of people like Someone-so-and-so Boo Boo. Obesity is nothing to celebrate. It’s asthma, diabetes, immune problems, depression, autoimmune disorders, heart disease…it increases your chances of cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, infertility, still born births. Obesity is malnourishment. Obesity is an abuse of your body.

    Obesity is a choice.

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