My Pregnancy Weight Gain Crisis
How pregnancy triggered memories of my eating disorder
It began the moment I stepped on the scale at my 24-week appointment. The office was short-staffed that day, so my doctor weighed me. We both watched the scale balance out and waited for the needle to settle on a number. Then my doctor turned and gave me a concerned look. Uh, oh. This was the conversation I had been dreading, the one I had been praying would never happen: the “you’re gaining too much weight” conversation.
I asked whether the number concerned her. She didn’t care about the actual number, but what made her nervous was the 10 pounds I had put on the previous month - a month when the average weight gain is supposed to be just 4 pounds. “I don’t want you to end up with a 10-pound baby,” she said. (I agreed. I didn’t want to deliver an extra-large baby either.)
So before I left her office she gave me a homework assignment: to gain only half a pound per week for the next four weeks. By my next checkup she wanted the scale to go up by only 2 pounds. If I was having trouble meeting that goal, she wanted to me to eat more protein and cut out carbs.
As someone with a history of yo-yo dieting and binge eating disorder, I know that eliminating anything from my diet is not smart for me. Not being allowed to eat something only increases my desire for that food and sets me up for failure.
My ob didn’t seem to have time to have the whole binge eating disorder conversation with me, so I just nodded and decided to reflect on her assignment later, on my own. I knew I needed to consider her advice very carefully but still make my own determination about what would be best for me to do, physically and mentally.
I felt a little sad right after the appointment, as though I had done something wrong. The perfectionist in me always wants to be the best, the good girl, to do what the authority figure (teacher, doctor, boss, whatever) wants. I felt I had failed. But I just let these feelings wash over me, not really getting stuck on them or letting them overtake me. Instead, I shared them with my husband, with my mom, and with a couple of close former co-workers who have children.
Fortunately, I managed to stop well short of beating myself up and prevented my mind from spinning out of control into negative body thoughts. But I did consider what my doctor said about carbohydrates and realized something important: Because I had been so sick up until week 15, I got into the habit of eating a lot more sugar and simple carbs (like white bread and macaroni) than usual. And the habit stuck, even after I could once again stomach more fruits, veggies, and whole grains.
While cutting out entire food groups, no matter how lacking in nutrition, is not a good option for me, eating more wisely certainly was (both for me and my baby). And that’s what I decided to do – gently.
So the next day I swapped my midmorning toast for apples and peanut butter and switched my afternoon pretzels to a Greek yogurt with honey. I left the boxed mac and cheese in the cupboard in favor of baked salmon with brown rice and started having an egg and wheat toast for breakfast instead of the pure carbohydrates in cold cereal.
I still had my nightly popsicle or Skinny Cow ice cream cone (dessert being a must-have for me most days). And I thoroughly enjoyed an ooey, gooey chocolate whoopie pie while walking around the neighborhood with my husband. But in general, my daily staples had become more nutritious, richer in protein, and less heavy on the simple carbs and sugars.
And guess what? Within just a few days, I noticed less swelling in my ankles and felt a lot more energetic. When I stepped on the scale to check my progress, I was delighted to see that my weight gain was right on track.
The fear of being thought of as “bad” for putting on too many pregnancy pounds or of having that uncomfortable weight conversation with my doctor was actually much worse than the reality of the situation. I simply developed a couple of not-so-smart habits while I had morning sickness, but once I remedied them, it put me on a healthier track.
Pregnancy can seriously challenge your food- and body-sanity. Most of us encounter some sort of challenge during pregnancy, one that may seem insurmountable at first. I hope my story inspires others to face their fears, move forward, and make this time a healthy, rewarding one.
This article originally ran on HealthyGirl.org, and is reprinted here with permission.