Is weight gain during pregnancy such a bad thing?
There is a major disconnect happening between some doctors and their patients seeking their care during pregnancy, and it’s time for it to stop.
This article is sparked by the absolute FURY I felt for my client yesterday who contacted me still in tears after having not one but TWO doctors shame her for the weight she has gained during her third pregnancy.
K and I have worked together for well over a year now. She came to me after her second baby was born, and then hired me again to help her through this pregnancy. Together, we have created and executed a plan for sustainable healthy eating, we have conquered and removed all disordered eating patterns and tendencies, focused on sustainable movement that feels good for her pregnant body, but most importantly we’ve improved her body image and self-compassion.
The vast majority of her daily diet is whole, nutrient-dense foods. Around her second trimester, her pregnancy forced her to stop all intense workouts because of pain in her hips and back. It was disappointing, but we worked to use a shades of grey mindset to remember that all that mattered was that she moved. She began daily walks that she enjoys and has kept up her entire pregnancy.
She enjoys snacks from time to time, doesn’t restrict, and this makes it possible for her to maintain and adhere to her healthy food habits.
She is in a really good place.
But a few weeks back, a doctor at her practice told her she was gaining too much weight according to their chart. She was rattled, we talked through it, and hoped that this particular doctor was ignorant and wouldn’t see her again.
And then yesterday on one of our monthly calls, K tearfully told me about her last appointment with yet a different doctor in her practice who came into the room and laid into her. She told her that she had to stop gaining so much weight (at 26 weeks, she has gained 24 pounds). That at this rate, she would gain “too much” weight by the end of her pregnancy. That she needed to stop eating so much sugar and unhealthy food and start working out more.
At this point K began sobbing, triggered by her previous struggles with body image and disordered eating patterns. Thank goodness her husband was there and interjected the exact argument that I’ve been encouraging K with this entire pregnancy:
WEIGHT IS NOT THE END-ALL BE-ALL PREDICTOR OF HEALTH EVER, BUT ESPECIALLY DURING PREGNANCY.
It’s not about the weight. Repeat with me. IT’S NOT ABOUT THE FREAKIN’ WEIGHT.
It’s about the habits and the actions.
K is tiny. With each of her three pregnancies, no matter what she has done, her body has put on about 40 pounds. This is just what her body does.
She’s not eating tubs of ice cream and laying on the couch. Her blood pressure is good. Her vitals are good. She feels great. She is practicing daily healthy habits, and she feels incredible during this pregnancy compared to her other two.
In fact, when going through her notes, she found a list of questions for her doctor that she had written down for one of her previous pregnancies, where she had not been quite so focused on her health. Subjects to ask the doctor about included “extreme exhaustion” “extreme back pain”. It reminded her that her commitment to her own self-care and health during this pregnancy IS paying off, as she feels better than she ever has.
But this doctor did not care about any of that. In fact, simply because K was not following the official weight gain chart that apparently every pregnant woman’s body – no matter it’s individual DNA or makeup – is supposed to follow, the doctor did not believe her.
This doctor had the audacity to say to my sweet, sensitive, 6 months pregnant client who was sobbing on her table that her blood glucose test would indicate “whether or not she was telling the truth.”
It took two hours of sobbing and reassurance from her husband to calm down from this encounter with the doctor, and had we not already discussed the reality of pregnancy weight gain, K admits she likely would have left and resorted to her old restrictive ways. So the doctor did not accomplish anything with her beratement except to trigger previous disordered eating habits that luckily this one patient was aware of and actively working on.
Which made me ask the question to myself….how many women out there don’t have someone in their corner reminding them that weight isn’t everything? That it’s the habits we practice that predict our health? That it’s better to gain weight living a healthy lifestyle than to practice unhealthy, disordered eating just to slow weight gain down?
Fat on your body does NOT automatically indicate poor health, laziness, and dishonesty.
It’s time for the medical professionals who work with pregnant women to begin putting their focus where it should be: on HABITS, not weight.
With the attitude of “weight is the only thing that matters”, these practitioners are missing an important opportunity to address the CAUSE rather than the symptom. Telling someone to just stop gaining weight isn’t helping if you don’t address how they gained it in the first place. Was it truly unhealthy habits, fast food, and lack of exercise? Or is just the way their body works?
And if your patient says it wasn’t from unhealthy habits, why aren’t you believing her?
And have you considered that if your patients are in fact lying to you about their habits, might it be because they are afraid to experience the shame that you’ve been dosing?
What good does this do anyone?
Ladies, if your medical professional treats you in this way, I challenge you to do the following:
1 – Insist that your doctor discuss your HABITS with you, not strictly or exclusively your weight. If your habits are good and you feel good and are healthy, your doctor should dismiss what they consider excessive weight gain. Your doctor should also support that your psychological health is just as important as physical health and not insist on extreme diets or behavior simply in response to gaining weight.
2 – If your doctor accuses you of lying either subtly or blatantly, GTFO of that practice and don’t look back. You deserve respect no matter what you have been eating or how much weight you have gained. Period.
3 – Remind yourself and your medical professional that you are an individual and charts are averages. You should be treated as an individual, not as an average or statistic.
Of course this is likely a case of a few making a bad name for the majority. Did you have a good experience with your medical professional? Or were you shamed over weight gain? Let me know in the comments, I want to hear your story.
And then please do me a huge favor and share this article with women who need to hear it. This is happening far too often and I’m ready to start a movement!!