Yesterday I filled you guys in on the body image speedbump I hit around month five in my pregnancy. Today I wanna share the fun convo I had with my doctor a little over a week ago. It started like this…
I stepped on the scale at my obstetrician’s office at my 24-week appointment, and because the office was short-staffed that day, my doc herself is the one who weighed me. We both watched the scale balance out and settle on a number—and then she turned and gave me a concerned look. Uh-oh. This was a conversation I had been dreading, and hoping wouldn’t happen: The “You are Gaining Too Much Weight” conversation.
I asked her if the number she saw concerned her. Here’s what she said: She didn’t care about the number itself—but what made her nervous is that I had put on about 10 pounds in the previous month, a month when the average weight gain is supposed to be just four pounds. “I don’t want you to end up with a 10-pound baby,” she said. (And I agreed: I don’t want to deliver an extra-large baby either!)
So, before I left her office she gave me my homework assignment: I was to concentrate on gaining only half a pound a week for the next four weeks. That means that by my next check up, she’s hoping that the scale will only have gone up by two pounds. If I was having trouble meeting that goal, she said, she wanted to me to eat more protein and cut out carbs.
Now, as someone with a history of yo-yo dieting and binge eating disorder, I know that “cutting out” something—anything—is not a smart answer for me. Not being “allowed” to eat something only increases the desire for that food and sets me up for failure. My doc didn’t seem to have time for me to get into the whole binge eating disorder history conversation with her (like I said the office was short-staffed and she seemed slammed), so I just nodded and made a mental note to consider her advice very carefully but to make my own determination on what would be best for me to do, physically and mentally.
I felt a little sad right after the appointment. Sort of like I’d done something wrong. The perfectionist in me always wants to be the best, be the good girl, do what “teacher” (or doctor, or boss, or whatever) wants, so I felt a bit like I’d failed. But I just let these feelings wash over me, not really getting stuck on them or letting them overtake me—and I shared them with my husband, John, when I got home, and then with my mom the next day on the phone, and even with a couple of close coworkers at the office who’ve had children.
Happily, I was able to stop well short of beating myself up and my mind didn’t spin out into any crazy cognitive distortions or negative body thoughts. I considered what my doctor had said about carbohydrates though, and realized something important: Because I had been so darn sick up until about week 15, I had gotten into the habit of eating a lot more sugar and simple carbs (easy-on-the-tummy stuff like white bread, macaroni, bagels, etc.) than usual. And even after the nausea left me and I was able to stomach more fruits, veggies, and fibrous carbs like whole wheat bread and brown rice, the habit of eating the more-refined, less nutritious stuff had stuck around.
So, while cutting out any group of foods—no matter how lacking in nutrition they are—isn’t a good option for me, choosing more wisely (for the good of myself and my baby) certainly is. And that’s what I decided to do—gently. So, the next day I swapped out my mid-morning toast (second breakfast is key in pregnancy!) with milk, an orange, or an apple + peanut butter, switched my afternoon pretzels/granola bar/popcorn for a Greek yogurt with honey (another snack I love); I left the boxed mac ‘n’ cheese in the cupboard in favor of brown rice and baked salmon (with lemon salt…mmm); and started having an egg and wheat toast for breakfast instead of pure-carbohydrate cold cereal. I still had a nightly popsicle or Skinny Cow ice cream cone (dessert is a must-have for me most days). And on Saturday while walking around the neighborhood with John, I bought—and thoroughly enjoyed—an ooey gooey chocolate whoopie pie. But in general, my daily staples had become more nutritious, more rich 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 feet, I felt more energetic, and, when I got on the scale to check my progress on Sunday, I was happy to see that my weight gain is now right on track.
The fear of being thought of as “bad” for putting on too much pregnancy weight—and the fear of having an uncomfortable conversation about weight with my doctor—was actually much worse than the reality of my situation, which was that I had developed a couple of not-so-smart habits while I had morning sickness that, once remedied, put me on a healthier track.
I know that this is not the experience that every woman has during pregnancy. Food- and body-sanity can be gravely challenged during this time—in fact, it was a letter from HealthyGirl.org reader Lacy, who had relapsed into bingeing at nine months pregnant, that spurred me to talk about my own pregnancy issues with all of you. (Read Lacy’s story here.)
So, to those of you with kids, how did you deal with food and weight issues during pregnancy? And to those without kids, do these issues ever scare you? Are you worried you won’t be able to deal and stay sane about food? I was, but I’m so happy to say that the recovery foundation I built is still holding strong. And I’m so grateful! xo…Sunny
[pic via David Boyle]