I will admit that I am a bit exercise-obsessed. While some women relish in the freedom of eating whatever they want during pregnancy and embrace their growing bellies, I have historically been overly paranoid about every pound gained.
I distinctly remember my very first prenatal appointment. I was a mere eight weeks along, but discovered upon stepping onto the scale that I had already gained 10 pounds! I was devastated. I gained 40 total pounds — above the recommended range — despite delivering my daughter two weeks early. I became pregnant with my son right around my daughter’s first birthday, so I never returned to my pre-pregnancy weight, and finished with the same 40-pound weight gain.
When my son was 10 months old, I decided it was time to get back into shape. Using at-home DVD workout programs, I ended up with the best physique of my life. As a lesson to all of you scale-obsessed ladies, I was still eight pounds heavier than I had been before my first pregnancy, but was a full size smaller. I felt great.
So when I discovered I was pregnant with my third child, the calorie obsession began. I tried to hold tight to the 300-additional-calorie rule a woman is supposed to stick with while pregnant, and continued my workout regimen. I was plagued by chronic exhaustion, but it didn’t come as a shock to me since it had always been one of my first trimester symptoms. I was so proud when I completed my first trimester with the recommended three-pound weight gain. I had done it!
The problem was, the chronic exhaustion didn’t stop. The second trimester is supposed to bring additional energy, but I could barely keep my eyes open. I finally had to acknowledge that perhaps I should start eating more. My body responded with instant relief. Once I stopped counting calories, I gained 10 pounds in two weeks, and my energy rebounded.
My logical mind knew I was doing the right thing, but I still struggled. It felt as though each pound contributed to the unraveling of the ideal body I had finally achieved. My anxiety didn’t push me to extremes, so I did what I had to do to ensure a healthy baby, but other women experience deeper problems.
Some women with disordered eating are able to more easily cope with weight gain during pregnancy because they see it as a sacrifice for an important cause. But others may plunge into deep depression as they struggle with the tension between the idea of weight gain and their body image issues. – National Eating Disorders Association
If you are pregnant and believe you fall somewhere on this spectrum, it is important that you are honest with your healthcare provider. You also may need to do any or all of the following, according to the National Eating Disorders Association:
- Extra appointments with your prenatal health provider may be necessary to more closely track the growth and development of your baby.
- Consult a nutritionist with expertise in eating disorders before or immediately after becoming pregnant. Work with the nutritionist throughout the pregnancy to create a plan for healthy eating and weight gain. Continue to see her postpartum. She can help you return to a normal weight through healthy means.
- Individual counseling during and after pregnancy can help you cope with your concerns and fears regarding food, weight gain, body image and the new role of mothering.
- Attend a support group for people with eating disorders.
- If your doctor approves, attend a prenatal exercise class. It can help you practice healthy limits to exercising
- Other classes on pregnancy, childbirth, child development and parenting skills can also be helpful in preparing to become a mother.
- Allow your prenatal health provider to weigh you. This information is essential to track the health of your baby. If you would prefer not to monitor your weight gain, ask your doctor about standing on the scale backwards and instruct them to not share the number with you.
- Under certain circumstances, for example if you suffer from severe depression or obsessive-compulsive problems, you may require medications for these conditions even during pregnancy.
- Tailor your schedule to your pregnancy instead of trying to keep your regular schedule; cut back on commitments and activities if necessary.
For additional resources regarding an eating disorder, visit nationaleatingdisorders.org.
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