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When I got pregnant with Big Girl I saw three medical professionals: my midwife, a psychologist, and a nutritionist. As I have mentioned before, I have struggled with food issues all my life and I wanted to make sure I was eating enough and not getting too crazy.

The nutritionist spend about an hour or so with me during our first meeting. We discussed the food I liked, the food I didn’t, and what the growing baby inside of me needed. Not just calories, but also calcium, vitamins, protein, and essential nutrients. Then, based on my height and weight, she gave me a target calorie goal. I would be journaling my food intake every day, writing down exactly how much iron, for example, I was taking in, how much protein, how much fiber (to help ward off constipation), how much folic acid, how much good fat. I was charged with a huge responsibility: Take in enough good stuff to help that little baby grow. I took it very seriously.

I ate real, whole food. Lots of lean meat, cheeses, vegetables. I ate a protein bar every day. (They were super-yummy chocolate raspberry bars.) I ate yogurt. Almost everything was organic. If I ate something sweet it was made with real sugar — no artificial anything. At the end of my pregnancy I had only gained 19 pounds. It seemed to be the right prescription, though. Big Girl was born a week late at 8 pounds, 5 ounces. I went home with only ten pounds to lose. It came off that first month. So what’s the point of this story? Who cares?

Well, according to a recent study by Janet Currie, a health economist at Columbia University, and Dr. David S. Ludwig of Children’s Hospital Boston, women who gain too much weight during pregnancy may be setting their kids up for obesity in adulthood. A scary thought — that overeating during pregnancy can make your kid fat. The New York Times has a great story about this study and others. It talks about the recommended guidelines for weight gain — typically much less than most people gain. It’s not happening, though. Very few people stay within the recommended range. Pregnancy is now a free-for-all, with many women eating hot fudge sundaes every night and chocolate chip muffins for breakfast with snacks of candy in between. (And many end up with too-large babies and gestational diabetes and all sorts of health complications.)

It could be so easy to say women are just selfish gluttons. But that would be too easy, and not the real reason, I think, that women are getting so fat during pregnancy. I think the problem stems from our society’s ideals that say people — women in particular — should be super-skinny. Most aren’t, of course, but most of us try to get or stay slim. When you’re pregnant and this no longer applies, your mindset shifts. I have several friends who were size 2 before they got pregnant and who gained 40, 50, or even 60 pounds over the course of 10 months. They have been subsiding on next to nothing pre-baby and so when they were told, “Make sure you’re eating enough for the baby,” they went nuts. Who wouldn’t want to eat everything you’ve been denied for months and years? Heck, if I didn’t go into pregnancy with a nutritionist in my corner who knows how much I would have gained?

For me, though, I couldn’t eat all those “bad” foods because I was so focused on the nutrition. In fact, I think my healthy gain can be linked back to the protein and iron goals I had. Sure, I could meet my caloric needs eating five bowls of ice cream, but in order to hit 40 grams of protein, I had to be eating enough meat, hummus, beans, and soynut butter to make that number. Same went for iron. I have always been slightly anemic because I am not a red meat eater. So every morning I started my day with a big bowl of Cream of Wheat. I also ate broccoli, beans, and spinach. I am not exaggerating when I say after hitting all my nutrient goals some nights I felt quite literally stuffed. I couldn’t have chowed down on brownies if I wanted to. I didn’t have the room in my stomach.

I’m not sure why pregnancy isn’t seen as more of a collaborative health condition. I don’t know why, for example, every woman doesn’t get to meet with a nutritionist and a therapist after seeing their doctor or midwife. I can tell you that, as someone who went through it not once but twice, it was really nice having lots of different supporters in my corner. And that cream of wheat really is a great way to start the day.

How much weight did you or your spouse gain during pregnancy? Were you happy with your gain? Would you do anything differently? BTW: This post is how I am participating this week in Real Food Wednesdays and Fight Back Fridays — two awesome campaigns to get people eating real food again.

4 Responses to “Pregnancy: Fat Mommy = Fat Kid?”

  1. With my first I think I gained almost 40lbs. With my second I think I gained closer to 50.
    Was I happy with my gain…
    Hmmmm.
    My children were both good weights, even my son who arrived – emergency-like – a month early was just shy of 7 lbs, so yes, I’d say I’m happy with the fact that how I ate contributed to a good healthy size of my kids.
    But losing 40 – 50 lbs afterwards is challenging, certainly.
    I’m of the mindset, however, that your body gains what it needs to during pregnancy (obviously, that is, if you choose wise, nutrient-dense foods – which I believe I did, mostly, particularly with my 2nd pregnancy), so I didn’t check the scale other than at check-ups (& tried not to pay much attention to that either) & my midwife never stressed about my weight (other than to mention at my first visit that I was on the small side so she’d like to see me gain at least 35 if not more – have to wonder if that had any subliminal affect on my eating habits during pregnancy).
    Would I do anything differently?
    Both pregnancies I heavily craved ice cream. Not so much anything else, but ice cream. So, I indulged. Not like every meal or anything like that, but probably I had a dish of ice cream every day. Now… it was all-natural, and calcium-rich. Yet, heavy with dairy fat, so… there’s that.
    If I knew then what I know now about food, I’d have gone for more organic, more fruits, and far more veggies, and less processed foods. But, I’ve changed a lot in the last 7 years.
    I think that pregnancy did make me feel less self-conscious about my body – I was proud of my body, not worried about it. So, food & its effect on my “figure” wasn’t an issue – it was much more about food & its healthy effect on my baby. I’d love to be able to transfer that same food = good mentality post-pregnancy… which I did do to an extent through breastfeeding.
    But then again… you have to eat far more breastfeeding than you do while pregnant… and then when you stop breastfeeding, the eating more, more often has become a habit hard to break.
    FWIW, I’m still 10lbs over my pre-pregnancy weight.
    Good post.

  2. Frances says:

    I think the biggest risk is women who start out fat and then gain 60 pounds on top of that, especially women who are obese to begin with. That said, “fluffy” women can gestate and deliver perfectly healthy babies as well. I gained about 50 pounds with each child and had healthy pregnancies and not overly-large children. I was a healthy weight to start and I also lost all the weight and more within a year. Larger babies are often healthier as well. The idea that one needs to restrict the size of babies by limiting weight gain in women is from the time when women often had rickets and birthing could break their pelvises. That is no longer the case.

    I do, however, agree with you that pregnancy is not a free-for -all. Eat nutrient dense healthy food and limit nutrient empty foods.

  3. karalee says:

    I started out chubby, gained 30 lbs (give or take a couple) with my 1st 2 pregnancies. R was born 3 days before his due date by c-section (pre-e) at 7 lbs 5.5 oz and G was born 23 months later, 6 days before his due date via VBAC at 10 lbs 2.2 oz. I lost about 40 lbs between birth of R and getting preggo with G… ate roughly the same, excercized the same, ate out at restaurants/take out less while pregnant with G who was the 10 pounder. Now at 9 weeks pregnant with our next monkey, my midwife is grilling me about what I did differently to MAKE them be such different weights. I can’t think of anything. But my friends and family say – look at them now, R is tall and lean and 2 year old G is only 6 lbs shy of his 4 year old brother. They are different kids… but now I’m feeling like I need to try and limit what I gain to the point of causing myself some real anxiety when logically (and from my obvious experience) it’s not something I can control. :(

  4. Iris says:

    I only gained 16 pounds with my daughter. I was at a healthy weight at the beginning of my pregnancy, lost about 4 pounds at the beginning (I don`t know why, I did not through up, but I stopped consuming coffee-shop beverages like latte with a lot of milk, maybe that made the difference)? I definetely increased my food intake but I only started gaining when I ate to a point where I was overly full – I literally had to stuff myself in my third trimester in order to gain some pounds. My daughter was born 3,5 weeks early for reasons that had nothing to do with my weight gain. She was at a normal weight for 36,5 weeks of pregnancy and she has been developping great right from the start!

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