Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Body Image as Pregnant Person

I started another post about this, where I started to share my long history of body image issues... but you know, like so many white women, it's complicated. Very.

So I'm skipping to the present, and will fill in the back story later.

I'm very anti-dieting. It's a little bit complicated, actually, because I work in healthcare. And I'm supposed to follow these protocols when someone's weight is too high. Or her cholesterol is higher than it's "supposed" to be.

I don't know that I really believe in "the cholesterol hypothesis," namely, that high cholesterol, in and of itself, is dangerous to one's health.

I do believe that being overweight isn't healthy... but I don't think we have any great solutions for people who are overweight. I say this because, during my lifetime, the answer has changed from high carb and low fat, to high protein high fat low carb, and everything in between. And people just keep getting fatter. All of us.

Moreover, I know how completed fucked I would be if my healthcare provider had a serious chat with me about losing weight (my midwife, god bless her, doesn't really care about weight. Love that.) Because I would see it as a judgement on me as a person. Because in our culture, our appearances reflect our worth. Whether we admit it, as a society, or not.

Plus, I grew up as a white, upper middle class girl, and went to a fancy schmancy liberal arts college in New England. Eating disorder was our collective middle name. I didn't know anyone that had a normal body, aka self, image. Such that you saw yourself not only as fat, when you weren't, but also as a colassal failure, or at least a mighty screw up, even when you weren't.

So I don't talk to my patients about their weight. Ever. Unless they bring it up, they want help losing weight, and they are significantly overweight. But my patients, god love them, mostly do not care about their weight all that much. From what I can tell, as people of color, they have (mostly) escaped this curse of judging themselves by their weight. So I guess I should say that we do this as a white culture.

What I do do, to appease my guilty conscience, and so that I can fairly document that I've done what I'm supposed to in my patient's chart, is to talk to them about making "healthier choices." And I talk to all of them about that, fat and skinny alike. So I feel pretty good about that. And I make a point to ask them what they would like to do better with their eating... and to meet them where they are. So, for example, maybe they can switch from a large fries to a small when they go to McDonald's with their friends, that sort of thing. I think so many medical people screw up by not really hearing where their patients are.

Hopefully I am doing a good job with this. It's a tough balancing act. I don't want to screw up my kids by not telling them the truth... but I worry about scarring their psyches, permanently, by telling them their weight is not good. And I opt for promoting psychic health over physical health any day... but maybe I could do more. Who knows. Certainly my approach is not evidence based! But it's love based.

So I try to treat myself with that same love. But pregnancy, man, it's weird. I know my belly is supposed to grow, and my breasts as well. And sometimes I'm fine with it. And other times, it completely freaks me out.

And I "get it" about "feed the belly what it wants." But I'm not really an ice-cream-and-pickles-craving kind of girl. Not yet, anyway. I guess when those cravings strike at midnight, I will really mourn the fact that I don't have a devoted partner to run out and get them. Luckily, so far, I'm rarely awake at midnight.

I've been eating badly. Though I don't like to pass judgement on my eating. I've given in to my "cravings," if you can call them that. I'm not sure they are really cravings, or just an excuse I give myself as the-poor-little-pregnant-girl to eat crap that's not good for me. I've been eating an astonishing amount of sugar. I don't feel good about that. And now that the nausea has been gone for more than a week, woo hoo!, I'm trying to crack down. Though crack down sounds hard. I try to carefully, cautiously, lovingly coach myself in the right direction. Slowly. No elimination diets. Just consciously reducing, while still enjoying, sugar. And trying to eat more protein, now that I realized the nausea excuse for an all carbs diet is gone (and it wasn't a very good excuse... protein is what actually made the nausea stay away... the carbs worked for five minutes, tops.)

There was a point, here, I swear there was.

I'm trying to find balance. To embrace the pregnant body, but also to make better choices. And I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I hope that cutting back on sugar will maybe get my thighs to stop rubbing. I'm hoping that was just a freak occurrence.

PS I feel so daring and bad that I actually cursed in my post! But I'm trying to use this blog to escape the sanitized version of myself that I present in my job every day. I'm supposed to be that way, since I work with kids, but it feels great to escape it here.

Also, I dig me some italics. Sorry. 


  1. " I think so many medical people screw up by not really hearing where their patients are." Amen, sister!

    I know that sometimes we can't get it right, that patients will never feel like we hear them (I spent 35 minutes with a patient today and at the end she said, "I feel like you just don't care, that you didn't listen to me at all." What do you say to that after sitting there listening to her for 35 minutes? What, did she need an hour?) but at least we can attempt to meet them halfway.

    Anyway, as for the eating - I've found it much harder to control my eating while pregnant, especially during a phase where my appetite is huge. I've tried to make up for it by walking every day. And that really helps. I feel better about myself, and my body, even though I occasionally freak out when I catch sight of my nekkid self from the side in the bathroom - where did that belly come from??? I'm also trying to get back to the 5 veggies and fruits a day. Hard to do, but at least we're trying, right?

  2. Oh, and I meant to say that I don't see any ads on your pregnancy ticker! But when I see mine, it says that ad "might appear soon" - so far I haven't paid for anything.