I asked Hilary Kinavey, MS, LPC and Dana Sturtevant, MS, RD of Be Nourished to write a gust post addressing a topic that comes up all of the time on the Plus Size Mommy Memoirs (PSMM) Facebook page – Should you lose wight prior to pregnancy? I’m delighted they wanted to share their wisdom.
You are planning to be the healthiest host you can be for your future baby. Recommendations about what you should do to accomplish this are everywhere, and there is one that can really raise anxiety: Lose weight first.
Thoughts about weight are unavoidable when becoming pregnant; it’s part of the whole deal! Maybe you’ve heard comments or even recommendations from loved ones or health care providers about gaining as little as possible, or none at all, depending on your current weight.
The real truth is this: planning to get pregnant in a plus-sized body could be treated the same as any other pregnancy, however, in this weight-focused world, it is often not so equitable. We all too often assume risk factors based on size, instead of approaching all people through a weight-neutral, health-promoting lens.
We know that many providers you encounter will not treat you weight neutrally, which can be quite shaming at such a vulnerable time in your life. We know that body shame may be something that has colored the way you have related to your body for a long time. Pursuing weight loss is often emotionally and logistically really complicated. Most of us in plus sized bodies have tried to change our weight in our lifetime, multiple times, often with mixed results. Why isn’t it easier? There are a couple of things we know for sure about weight loss:
Although you can lose weight on many of the popular diets and weight loss programs, but in the long run, dieting doesn’t work. 95% of people regain the weight (and then some) within two year of the initial weight loss. (Mann et al, 2007)
Short term dieting can have negative results for our physical health and our emotional wellness.
Weight loss efforts tend to follow a predictable cycle that starts with high hopes and ends in self- blame. Dieting and weight loss efforts lead to a diminished relationship with yourself. Why is this? We rarely blame the diets when they don’t work; we usually blame ourselves. Dieting whittles away our sense of competence, our love for ourselves, and can amplify the distaste we might feel for the (truly) amazing bodies we have. Respect, connection and trust in our bodies are often the very things that heal body shame and dissatisfaction, and can help put an end to the harmful cycle of dieting.
Healing body shame and increasing connection with your body is actually more health supportive than focusing on weight loss when you are about to weather the changes that pregnancy (and parenthood) bring to your life. Conception is an exceptional event in our lives –unparalleled, magical, and tough to comprehend. We are in need of our whole selves when we move into that sweet transition. Attunement with our bodies keeps us in relationship with the trust, curiosity and faith in ourselves that we were born with. When we feel connected and worthy, we step into life’s challenges with more kindness and compassion for the journey.
Focusing on weight loss prior to pregnancy may not produce the results you seek, and actually do more harm than good. When we heal our relationship with food, allow our bodies to move for pleasure, and minimize the stress in our lives, our bodies flourish. So what if, instead of focusing on weight loss, you kept your focus on health and self care?
Here are some suggestions to guide the way:
Ask yourself: “If you lived in a compassionate, weight-neutral world, what would you want to do for yourself and your health?” Then do that, just for you.
Find a size-friendly provider.
Immerse yourself in reading about Health at Every Size® and offer your provider this letter.
Remind yourself daily of the amazing ways your body is working for you right now. Build amazement and trust in that.
Try this mantra on for size: May my love for my future child be mirrored in my love and respect for my body.
Want to read more about this approach to weight and health?
Be Nourished was founded on the idea that we are all born with remarkable instincts to love and care for our bodies. We believe body trust is a birthright. Our passion is helping people lose the weight of body shame and create the change they seek from a deeper place. Be Nourished offers e-courses, groups, workshops and retreats to help people cultivate body trust. Their e-course “No More Weighting: An Introduction to Body Trust” launches this summer. More info is available here.
I was first introduced to Hilary and Dana’s work at The Body Love Conference. I attended one of their free webinars recently and it was so good I called my mom afterwards to share everything with her. They talked about how many of us go through an insane dieting cycle and then blame ourselves for failing. Yet nobody ever blames the diet. I was mesmerized and then they said something that has truly stuck with me, “No more fixing, you are not a problem to be solved. Neither is your body.” I’m a huge advocate of their work and really encourage you to spend time on their website. – Jen
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