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Of all of the things I’ve struggled with in the past 29 weeks or so, I think my weight has been the hardest.
I’ve always been the type of woman who was on one sort of diet or another. I’ve been on every diet from Atkins to Dukan to Nutri-System to Weight Watchers. I’ve gone from a size 0 at age 22 to a size 8 at age 27 to a size 4 at age 32.
If the experiences taught me anything before pregnancy, it was that there is a voice of wisdom that lies somewhere in the extreme chasm between total self-deprivation and total self-indulgence. Living in a state of self-compassion meant maybe not being model-thin, but looking hot enough in skinny jeans and heels to feel good about myself on a Saturday night. Not eating the whole bag of chips, but being satisfied with 1-2 servings. Not running ultramarathons, but completing a half marathon every 3-6 months or so. Optimism and realism, Type-A confidence and moderation, baby steps and discipline.
It was working.
And then came along pregnancy.
All of a sudden, there was this loss of control over my body that I haven’t experienced since puberty. The hunger pangs and cravings have, at times, been extreme. It’s been harder to exercise, although I’ve been able to keep up with the frequency and duration of my workouts, just not the speed (Not even close).
But unlike when I was going through other times in my life, pregnancy has a way of bringing up other’s shame and inner beliefs, particularly around weight. “You don’t need to count calories now,” “Now is the time to eat whatever you want,” “You’re eating for two,” or “All that matters is that you have a healthy baby” are common statements told to a pregnant woman with good intentions who is worried about her weight. It’s like you’re an awful selfish person for even thinking about the residual pounds you could be holding onto afterwards.
In truth, on the other side of the spectrum, it’s very easy for a perfectionistic woman such as myself to stumble across the Sarah Stages and pregorexia blogs online, who advocate for everything from 1700-calorie diets throughout pregnancy, 10-15 pound total weight gain goals, working out *just* until the 140 bpm heart rate limit, and somehow maintaining six pack abs throughout. These women have their own form of shame patterns: “Some women let their bodies turn into garbage disposals while pregnant,” Gisele once famously said.
As someone who has struggled with her feelings about her body and weight pre-pregnancy, I’m finding it very hard to find solid, healthy, balanced resources about this, and especially to find resources that don’t make you feel like you’re a negligent, selfish future mother for caring about your weight while pregnant or conversely for feeling like a lazy, slobbish future mother for gaining more than 15-20 pounds while pregnant. Even doctors seem to weigh heavily (no pun intended) on one end of the spectrum or another.
My wish is that a ob/gyn, nutritionist, and trainer would get together and write a resource guide or blog advocating evidence-based, healthy, balanced advice for Mom and baby. The resources out there just don’t resonate well with me (and believe me, I’ve tried a lot).
At the same time, I’m doing the best that I can to still try to live in that “middle ground”. I’m carefully counting calories (500 more a day now!), exercising, taking vitamins, and seeing my doctor regularly. But I’m also having the occasional slice of pizza or piece of cake, napping as I need, and I have been slowing down my running pace significantly since the start of the second trimester.
I’m up 18 pounds at 29 weeks. I’m praying for a healthy baby and simultaneously trying not to panic every time I see the scale go up. It’s a struggle, but I guess I’m putting this out there, just to let other pregnant ladies know, if you’re not in either the “let it go” or the “pregorexia” camp, you’re not alone. There’s nothing wrong with you for wanting to be a healthy weight before and after delivery *and* wanting a healthy baby. There’s nothing wrong with refusing to gain 30-plus pounds and not needing at the same time to look like Sarah Stage when you’re eight months along. And I wish there were more resources out there advocating this sort of approach!
But I digress. I’m doing the best that I can for my baby and for myself, and that’s all that I can do.
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