What to do if you’re told to lose weight to get pregnant…
If you’re in a bigger body and want to get pregnant, the chances are you’ve faced some problems. Have you been told, “you need to lose weight to get pregnant?” Were you dismissed in your request for help from a healthcare professional due to weight? This could be despite multiple attempts of weight loss which have not been sustained. Or a history of disordered eating that stemmed from the pursuit of weight loss. If these are your experiences, please know they are in keeping with the scientific research. This research tells us long-term weight loss is not sustainable and may lead to poorer health.
There are steps you can take to improve health without the focus on weight…
With this in mind, many who are in bigger bodies trying to get pregnant chose to pursue a Non-Diet approach to nutrition (intuitive eating). Intuitive eating is an evidence-based practice that supports the pursuit of health without focusing on weight or body size. Importantly, does not trigger disordered eating or poor mental health.
We’re told that fat is not healthy and that getting pregnant whilst “overweight” is the most irresponsible thing to do. This advice is based on the many myths about getting pregnant in a fat body. Being told you “need to lose weight to get pregnant” is just not helpful. That’s why I have invited fat positive fertility coach Nicola Salmon to the blog. Here, she offers her top tips on fat positive fertility and getting pregnant in a bigger body.
FREE Guide: Fat Positive Fertility Resources
Who Is Nicola?
Nicola is a fat-positive feminist and fertility coach. She advocates for change in how fat folks are treated on their fertility journey. Nicola supports fat folks (and others with disordered eating) who are struggling to get pregnant and find peace with their body. She helps them find their own version of health, and escape the yo-yo diet cycle.
Here are her 3 top tips on what to do if you’re told you need to lose weight to get pregnant.
Top 3 tips on what to do if you’re told you need to lose weight to get pregnant
1) Release the vice-like grip that the scales might have on you
We’ve been brought up to believe that our health is determined by the number on the scales and it’s just not true. Your weight tells me absolutely nothing about your health or your fertility. However, weighing yourself regularly brings a ton of stress and anxiety.
The idea that fat folks struggle to get pregnant is based on the assumption that being fat is unhealthy. In reality, fat folks experience higher risks because they are not given adequate healthcare. They also often get shamed and judged when they access healthcare. Furthermore, we know that there are no intentional weight-loss interventions that have any long term results. Instead, the only long term results from dieting are the likelihood of regaining any weight lost, increased risk of disordered eating and eating disorders. Therefore, you might like to explore the action steps below.
ACTION: What’s a small step that you can take to moving away from the scales?
- Can you move away from weighing yourself daily, to once a week?
- Maybe you could even throw out your scales! (I smashed mine in the garden! It was very satisfying)
- Shift your focus to something else, like getting better sleep, improving your energy levels or feeling stronger.
2) Practice advocating for yourself
If the only advice you are getting from healthcare professionals is to lose weight, then it might be time to advocate for yourself. We are never taught how to advocate for ourselves, it’s a skill that we need to learn and practice.
It’s important to acknowledge that advocating is work. It takes physical and emotional energy and it’s work that you should not have to do. It’s the systems that need to change.
You deserve appropriate and respectful healthcare.
However, unfortunately systems take time to change. This means that advocating for yourself to get that treatment may be the only option right now.
Advocating includes finding healthcare professionals that will treat you. Or, communicating with your current healthcare team to demand the treatments you need.
ACTION: What small step can you take towards getting your healthcare needs met?
- Ask local friends/online communities for recommendations for appropriate doctors/clinics.
- Spend 15 minutes writing down what your needs are around your healthcare. This way you can identify where they are and aren’t met.
- Write a letter (or asking your nutritionist/coach to write a letter for you). This can outline your needs and that you do not want to discuss weight loss/dieting at future appointments.
3) Set boundaries with friends and family
Friends and family can be a great support and get us through the hardest times in our lives. They can also say the most insensitive things when they don’t understand what we are going through. Especially when it comes to weight and fertility.
It may appear that talking about their own dieting adventures or giving you well-meaning diet advice is coming from a place of love. But impact always trumps intention and the impact of this well-meaning advice can be huge. It can trigger patterns of self-loathing, pain and shame within us. This can have a measurable negative impact on our health.
ACTION: How can we set boundaries with our close ones without alienating them?
- Can you try telling them about your needs. For example, “talking about diets and weight-loss makes me feel shame about my body. I need you to talk about your dieting/weight loss advice to someone else”
- Have a go at asking for their buy-in. For example, “did you know that there is no evidence that any form of intentional weight-loss actually works!!?! If you want to learn more I’d definitely recommend Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison”.
- Prioritise keeping yourself safe. If having conversations with others feels too difficult (and sometimes it does!), you can keep yourself safe by removing yourself from the harm. This could look like going to the toilet when your colleagues start talking about diets. Or quickly change the subject when weight loss comes. If possible, you could also avoid spending time with people who talk about dieting all the time.
In conclusion, being told you need to lose weight to get pregnant is simply not helpful for many. The biggest thing to remember is that you’re worthy of feeling safe and having support in growing your family. It’s okay for you to want to become a parent. You are not selfish or irresponsible. I am sorry if you have been made to feel ashamed or guilty. You deserve to choose when you grow your family. And most importantly, you are worthy.
FREE Guide: Fat Positive Fertility Resources