More Ice Cream With A Side Of Pickle: Figuring Out Healthy Pregnancy Weight Gain Without The Help Of Supermodels

7 years ago

It's easy to get down on celebrities for the things that they say about, oh, say, pregnancy and motherhood and the like. After all, they're so often saying and doing things that seem incomprehensible to us lesser mortals. Things like losing their pregnancy weight in just a few weeks or speculating that women who gain more than they did and have trouble losing it might have just, you know, treated their bodies like garbage bins, rather than done what they did and treated their bodies like the sacred temples that they are and, with the help of chefs and trainers and the like, kept themselves at an ideal weight throughout and afterward. It wouldn't be fair, in other words, to chastise supermodel Gisele Bundchen for saying things like that. She can't help it. She's a supermodel. Right?

Gisele Bundchen, according to Vogue magazine, gained about 30 pounds during her pregnancy. I don't know how much of that she's lost, but seing as she's on the cover of Vogue, and wearing skimpy clothes inside the pages of Vogue, I can't see that she's still carrying much of it. Which, fine. Her body is her career. But what to make of this statement?

"I did kung fu up until two weeks before Benjamin was born, and yoga three days a week. I think a lot of people get pregnant and decide they can turn into garbage disposals. I was mindful about what I ate, and I gained only 30 pounds."

Okay then. So those of us who gained, say, forty pounds? Fifty? Sixty (cough)? More? Are we to understand that we turned ourselves into garbage disposals? Is that what she means?

End of the day, it doesn't really matter what she means. Gisele Bundchen's idea of what makes a healthy pregnancy is not necessarily the standard of healthy pregnancies. My own doctor told me that my sixty pound weight gain was totally acceptable, especially since I had been a good fifteen pounds or so under the ideal weight for a woman my age (I won't speculate on where Gisele sat, pre-pregnancy, on the ideal healthy weight spectrum. I'll just say that I doubt that I was heavier than she was.) In my second pregnancy, I gained barely twenty pounds, not because I approached diet and exercise any differently, but because I had severe morning sickness for most of that pregnancy, and actually lost weight in my first trimester. I didn't have a whole lot of control over that. A diet of saltines and apple slices doesn't exactly pack on the pounds. Depending upon which online source you turn to, you'll find that anywhere from 25 to 45 pounds is cited as average. But ask a good doctor, and she'll probably tell you this: every pregnancy is different, and gaining more weight than a supermodel doesn't mean that you're a garbage disposal, and gaining less doesn't mean that you're virtuous or special.

My concern about celebrities waxing expert about pregnancy weight gain is the same as it is about celebrities waxing expert about post-partum weight loss or body image generally: their usual insistence that their physical state is a healthy norm imposes the idea that those of us who don't conform to that norm are deviant or ugly or, you know, "garbage disposals." And pregnancy in particular (to say nothing of the post-partum period) presents unique challenges v.v. body image for women. During pregnancy, one gains more weight in a shorter period of time than any other in a woman's life. And not only does one gain weight, become physically bigger, one just generally changes. One's feet flatten and spread. One's hips spread. Fingers swell, cheeks puff. Some of those changes make one feel stronger and sexier. Others make one feel like a beast. For some women, this is very, very difficult. As one such woman writes at The Shape of Mother, "even though I am a midwife and deal with pregnancy every day, I honestly and sincerely never expected that I would gain excessively, or in places other than my belly & boobs. This scares me with an intensity that shocks me." 

She goes on to say this:

"The worst part is that I don’t know what I could possibly do to stop this weight gain from continuing. I eat well, have cut out sugar, walk an hour at a fast pace most days, and do yoga a couple times a week. I also try to swim a few times a week. This all feels 100% intuitively right to me–hitting the gym just doesn’t jive with my sense of what my body needs right now. So short of completely abandoning my intuition about how to take care of myself, there isn’t any room to “give” for me to slow this weight gain down. So I assume my only choice is to just stand back and trust that my body knows what it is doing (and avoid looking at my ass in the mirror at all costs?). But how do I deal with the thoughts of panic I have when I see my naked body? How do I deal with the thoughts about restricting my eating when I plainly know this is unhealthy and damaging to my baby? How do I accept my body and even better–learn to find the beauty in the changes?"

I'll tell you one thing that we can all do to support such acceptance: stop listening to celebrities on these issues. We can start with Gisele Bundchen.

Did you worry about weight gain during your pregnancy? If you did, what did you do about it?

Catherine Connors blogs at Her Bad Mother and Their Bad Mother and The Bad Moms Club and everywhere in between.

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