Fat and pregnancy

Pregnant women are not fat.  Are there not enough body issues in our society without the media promoting weight-loss during and immediately after pregnancy?  It takes 9 months to grow a baby and put on the weight, so why do we expect our bodies to shed it all in weeks?

Media constantly congratulate and marvel over stars who lose their pregnancy weight immediately, as if that’s something we should all be striving to do.  Here’s a whole gallery of before and after miracles, most focusing on just how little time it took them to “look good again”.  The pressure is so great to both get rid of the baby weight immediately but also appear to be a caring mother figure who would never go to extremes to shed pound that women like Tori Spelling lie about how they slimmed down.  Healthy eating and sensible exercise, turns out to be starvation.  How many others are lying about their weight-loss tactics?  And what does that kind of example set for other women?  Women who have a baby, eat well, and moderately exercise but then don’t drop 45 pounds in 3 months because the truth is that their role model was eating nothing, and possibly doing extreme exercise routines frequently, or even more drastic, liposuction.  That is not right, neither the lie nor the method.

When it comes to this extreme weight-loss trend that more and more average women are following, let’s be clear about who the role model are that we are looking up to.  We are talking about a sector of people who have virtually unlimited resources.  They have enough money to take as much time off as they would like to.  They can afford to hire a nanny while on their parental leave.  They can afford to hire a personal trainer, chef, dietitian, maid…. anyone to do anything on their behalf.  They can dedicate 4 hours or more per day to changing their body at the gym.  This also means they can dedicate 4 hours away from their newborn child to focus on their looks.  And let’s add in that they can afford the best medical help, because intense exercise can be dangerous soon after birth or a c-section (6 weeks is the generally quoted recovery time your body needs.)  All of this money, time and absentee parenting is so they can go out on a red carpet a month after birth and have strangers all over the world say “Wow, she just had a baby a month ago.  Look at how thin and fit she looks!”.  Again, the baby is not on this red carpet or at any of these events that go on for hours.  The baby is home with the nanny and is likely being fed formula.

Why do I add the dig about formula?  Because this is how skewed our society’s values have become.  Firstly, breast milk is undeniably the food nature made for babies to eat.  Formula is an inferior substitute, proven fact.  I understand some women cannot breastfeed, but that is actually very rare– let’s face it, the human race would have died out long ago if as many women who claim today that they “could not breastfeed” actually could not.  In a situation where a woman puts her appearance on such a pedestal it is unlikely that breastfeeding will be successful- for a myriad of reasons (I’ve listed some of them at the bottom of this page, for those interested in reading).  The reason are directly related to her pursuit of a perfect post-birth figure and so she is short changing her child for something as unimportant as beauty.  What is sadder, is that it’s a specific concept of beauty that does not include honouring a mother’s body.

What is worse is that we now have people like JWoww telling us she’s doing 2 workouts a day and speaking about limiting her food so she doesn’t get “too much” of a baby bump.  Why does any pregnant woman feel she needs to limit her weight gain so severely?  And it is irresponsible to be advertising this to women.  None of the articles question if what she’s doing is a good thing, or talk about the implications of such weight control.  All of them tout how fabulous she looks and how impressive it is that she’s 5 months along without being “fat”.

The focus is constantly on how much or how little weight a star gains during pregnancy, when really different weights are healthy for different people.  We have women who now constantly focus on the number on their scale instead of their health during pregnancy.  Eating fast food for 9 months and gaining 80 lbs. because of that, is not healthy, but neither is limiting food and over exercising to make sure you don’t put on more than you “need to”.

I fully encourage women to have a healthy pregnancy.  Eat well, eat more calories per day (about 300-400 more than your daily recommended intake), continue to exercise, continue to live and have fun.  And gain weight!  Pregnant women should, on average, gain between 25 and 40 pounds.  Only 1/3 of that weight is delivered, and another 1/3 is fat stored specifically for supporting breastfeeding.  All of this “fat” though is gained to sustain life, both during pregnancy and after birth.

Perhaps JWoww is doing all of these things I listed above, and gaining normally, but the spin is what is damaging to women.  The focus is not on her exercising for health, just as she always does and eating well, instead it is on exercise and eating to control weight gain.  And then we have women like Lea-Anne Ellison, who posted a picture of herself weight-lifting at 8 months pregnant.  Though women can continue their pre-pregnancy exercise as normal, and weight lifting is not considered dangerous the world erupted in horror at these images of her lifting weights.  The same back-lash occurred when Amber Miller ran a marathon at 39 weeks pregnant, though again their is no proof that this is dangers to mother or baby.  So it seems that truly healthy women who continue to exercise late in pregnancy are not accepted, but if it’s to keep their weight down early on when the most development is happening to the fetus that’s okay.  What is interesting about this is if these hard-core exercise routines caused labour to begin Lea-Anne and Amber’s babies would very likely survive just fine, but JWoww’s baby would not.  And if you deprive yourself and fetus of proper nourishment early in pregnancy that can cause developmental issues as well as general health problems.

The pregnant woman is becoming an embattled image.  She is fighting the image of being a sick invalid who can do nothing.  While fighting off those who say she is doing too much and is harming her child.  While fighting her weight gain or fighting for people to accept her weight gain.  While fighting for the right to lose her post-birth pounds at a pace of her choosing, because normal people cannot drop everything (including their newborn baby) to enroll in an extreme weight-loss regime… and many of us mums are proud of our bodies, sagging bits and all!  And she even fights against everyone’s judgment on how she loses the weight.  Society demands she loses it Now and Fast but “the right way” and those two things are at odds with one another.  Very few women will drop 50 lbs in 3 months by eating adequate calories and exercising at the level advised by their doctor.  And even fewer new mums are able to eat proper meals let alone find time to fit in exercise around a newborns schedule of demands.  The media needs to stop celebrating dress sizes, in general, but definitely surrounding pregnancy.  Nobody should be made to feel that they should still be able to fit in a size 10 while pregnant and then be down to a size 2 by the time their baby is 12 weeks old.

I hate to quote Jessica Simpson, but she seems to be one of very few stars who allowed herself to be a mother before being thin (Hilary Duff is another.)  Jessica and all of these stars take a ton of flack (and hate mail) for “staying fat for too long.”  Amazing- we hate women who have babies and don’t get thin fast enough but if you gave your baby to a nanny for 3 months to lose 45 lbs we’d all cheer!?  Here is what she has to say: “You are creating a life, and honestly, it’s not easy,” give yourself a break, the hard work can wait for a bit.

And I’ll leave it at that- pregnant women, give yourself and your body the chance to create a life.  Fuel it with good foods and keep everyone healthy by exercising every day at the level you are used to.  When your baby comes, enjoy every moment with them.  You will never get back those first few moments.  They are babies for barely a year, then they are toddlers for barely another year, they are kids for a few years, and adults for many.  That baby and toddler time is so short and so precious.  Don’t waste it looking in the mirror or at the scale.

Here’s a link to an article on real women after 3 months post-partum.  It’s a great reality check- the last lady’s comments really hits the nail on the head.

Why would focusing on “getting your body back” affect breastfeeding success?
– most importantly breastfeeding women need calories!  Exercise needs calories.  People trying to lose weight limit their calories.  I think we can all see the issue here & it causes low milk production.
– less time spend directly with baby, especially skin to skin, causes lower milk production
– on demand feeding regulates milk and dictates production.  Using formula sometimes hurts supply particularly in the first 3 months
– exercise causes dehydration, more so if you are doing many hours per day.  Breastfeeding demands a lot of water intake and it would be very difficult to stay properly hydrated if you added a lot of physical activity as well.
– many famous people book c-sections to improve post-baby weight loss, schedule birth, and to avoid childbirth.  C-sections interfere with the natural process women who have them are less likely to have a successful breastfeeding relationship.
– if you are this focused on looks then breast enhancement surgery is more likely.  Depending on the surgery, milk ducts may have been cut.

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