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pregnancy weight fears

Pregnancy Weight Gain Fears

By Amalah

Hi Amy!

I’m a fairly new reader to your blog. When I told my friend that I was expecting, she linked me to AlphaMom, and not only have I enjoyed it, but I’ve learned a lot too, so thank you for all your hard work! My question today may be one that you have answered in the past – I tried to do a search of your previous Smackdown posts, but admit I lost steam after about the third page (only because I have to click on every column and that gets too distracting…), so I apologize in advance if this is an issue that has been tackled before. As always there’s a bit of a back story, before the actual question!

Before I got pregnant, I worked very hard at losing weight, and with a lot of help, dedication, and supervision, lost about 60 pounds in a year. I was only about halfway to my target weight loss, but I was totally jazzed, and I was feeling really great about my body for the first time in a long while. When I found out that my husband and I were going to become parents, I of course put the diet plan on hiatus, and stopped concentrating on the weight loss, as I want the baby to be a healthy little boy or girl. And I have to say that the information I learned during my weight loss journey has really helped me, so I know that I am eating a healthy diet, and providing good nutrients to both my body and the little jellybean’s.

During my first month, I wasn’t sick at all (I know, I am hated by much of womankind), but I lost my appetite, and had to force myself to eat, and as a result, lost almost 10 pounds, which had me worried, as I was concerned that I was starving my baby. The appetite came back though, and I put those 10 pounds back on (which I was fine with, it put me back where I started), and have since pretty much maintained the same weight. I’m at 18 weeks now, and I have gained two pounds, but I have hit the point where I AM ALWAYS HUNGRY, and I know that I am going to start to see the results of this on the scale. I have actually caught myself sitting there debating whether or not I should really eat something, telling myself “You know, you DID just eat a yogurt 45 minutes ago” before I give myself a mental slap and go eat some dried fruit or some cheese and crackers.

My question to you, and your wise readers is this: how do you deal with pregnancy weight gain? As I write this I am beginning to feel like I’m sounding slightly neurotic, but I figure this has to be an issue that many of your readers deal with, no? I want a healthy child, and I am not going to stint on a healthy diet, and I know that weight gain comes with the territory. But I have to admit, my heart sinks a little bit every day that I get on the scale and those numbers creep up. It’s not a body image issue – I’m actually still very happy with how I look (I can’t wait to get a baby bump, it seems to be taking for-freakin’-ever to show up!), but as the numbers go up I can’t help but think ahead to how much more I will have to lose after the baby is born. So how do we deal? Do I just stop stepping on the scale (although I admit that worries me – I don’t want to get to my midwife appointment and discover that I’ve put on 30 pounds in a month). Any advice would be greatly appreciated 🙂

Sincerely,
Anonymous (because I couldn’t come up with a catchy or witty name to call myself)

We have covered this topic before, but hey, at this point (as the Smackdown column is over six years old!) I’d be surprised if we’ve left ANY topic completely uncovered. And this is one that deserves the occasional rerun.

Before we begin, let’s review the pregnancy weight breakdown, using a “typical” full-term gain of 31 pounds:

12 pounds: Maternal stores (fat, protein, Cheezits, etc.)
4 pounds: Increased fluid volume, aka water weight, aka blooooaaaat
2 pounds: IN YOUR BRA
2 pounds: Uterus
2 pounds: Amniotic fluid
1.5 pounds: Mmmmmplacenta
7.5 pounds: Baby! (“HA!” says the woman who birthed a 10-pounder.)

So a two-pound gain at 18 weeks means you haven’t really put those 10 pounds you lost in the first trimester back on. I mean, you did, but not in the way you’re worried about (i.e. 10 pounds directly on your ass). You crept back up to your starting weight thanks to all those baby-related accessories (uterus, placenta, fluid, etc.), NOT because you ate a yogurt 45 minutes ago and are now craving a pan of brownies.

It’s perfectly normal to feel uneasy-to-neurotic about the weight gain, though. Nobody wants to gain “too much” and yet then there’s all the crazy pressure to eat the “perfect” pregnancy diet (not too much, not too little, with every bite being organic and healthy and to not succumb to the pan of brownies because zomg your baby will be born with flippers if you do).

Listen to your body and your appetite, not the scale. Your body is hungry because you are growing a human being, not because you’re weak-willed or eating your feelings. (I needed regular, near-constant snacks too while pregnant, otherwise my blood sugar would go beserk and I’d black out while trying to stand up from the couch.) And if you need further reassurance that pregnancy weight gain doesn’t necessary translate directly into postpartum weight loss, there’s this: I gained the most weight with Noah. At my six-week checkup, I’d lost every pound without even trying. I gained the LEAST weight with Ike. I had to FIGHT to gain weight with Ike. Most visits showed a weight loss, up until the very end of the third trimester, when I finally ended up with a 12-pound gain. At yet at 14-months postpartum, I’ve lost NONE OF IT. (Thanks, aging metabolism!)

So. Put your home scale AWAY. Stop weighing yourself. Ask your midwife if you can face away from the numbers at your appointments, and that she not tell you the specifics. Unless your midwife has a concern about your weight (a too-sudden gain or loss), take her silence to mean that whatever number she’s writing down is perfectly acceptable. (You won’t gain 30 pounds in a week, no matter how much you eat. I mean, if you DID, it would be because of something medical going on, not from an extra afternoon snack or three.) And don’t take the scale out at home until at least six weeks or so after giving birth.

There are a ton of pregnancy diet and cookbooks out there, though I found most of them to be neurosis-aiding, not helping. They mostly upped my paranoia that I wasn’t eating enough of the “right” foods and eating too many of the “wrong” foods. Especially since I was already prone to MAJOR food aversions for almost the entire nine months of each of my pregnancies, so I could usually only tolerate a limited number of things. If you took away burritos and Indian food and told me to eat chicken and fish (the low-mercury varieties, natch) and salads…well, I probably would have barfed on you and ordered up some Paneer Makhni anyway.

So the best advice I can give is to 1) stop with the scale and 2) start with the instinctual eating. If you’re hungry, you’re hungry. Don’t argue with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re craving chocolate/salt/entire cans of black olives or whatever. And then — and this is the tricky part — try to ALSO not beat yourself up for feeling how you’re feeling about the scale and weight and food. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had to figure out our own way through the mixed-bag of pregnancy emotions. As long as those emotions aren’t keeping you from the fridge (i.e. disordered eating, calorie restriction/purging and the like), you will be fine and so will your baby, no matter what the scale says at 40 weeks.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Britt
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Britt

I totally second Amalah’s advice that you put away the scale. Weight gain during pregnancy is a funny thing. You’ll often find that it happens in spurts, even though THE BOOKS tell you that you should gain a nice, steady pound per week. Almost everyone I know (myself included) had a spurt between their 20 week and 24 week appointment, and freaked out that they were going to continuing gaining at that rate. (None of us did.) You’ll also have major flucuations in water retention depending on the day and time of day you get weighed, and that is just… Read more »

Jess
Guest

I agree with Amy…to a point. To my knowledge, Amy hasn’t ever lost a significant (30+ lbs) amount of weight, aside from pregnancy-related gain and loss. I lost 40 lbs in the 2 years following college. I kept it off for 5 years, then got pregnant. And I will tell you: you are not being neurotic or paranoid. Well, maybe, a little. But in the 5 years I kept my weight off, I was constantly hungry. CONSTANTLY. And I learned to manage and live with it. Part of the way I lived with it was by realizing that my body’s… Read more »

Lindsey
Guest
Lindsey

LW seems to have learned a very disciplined and healthy approach to her diet. I bet her body and baby will be fine if she keeps doing what she’s doing. 

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

Have you looked at the concept of Health at Every Size? (HAES?) Google it and see what it’s about, because it’s a MUCH more balanced and sanity saving way of tackling how to own a body and feel it deserves love and good health regardless of current, future, or past sizes.

And congratulations!

Stephanie
Guest
Stephanie

For whatever reason, I gained a LOT of weight with both my pregnancies – I didn’t have any morning sickness, so that probably didn’t help. With the first, I gained 55, lost 30 pounds in a week (hello, water weight and an almost 10 pound baby!) and had lost all but 10 by 5 months post-partum (I didn’t get back to my pre-pregnancy weight until I stopped nursing at almost a year). I’m now 4 months post-partum with my second. I gained 48 pounds this time, and so far, I have again lost all but 10. It’s coming off a… Read more »

Jenn
Guest
Jenn

There is some info missing from OP’s post. From what I can gather, she is still about 60lbs from a healthy weight. Given that fact, she is at higher risk for gestational diabetes and other complications. In the case of being overweight, it is OK not to gain as much weight, and OK to be aware of weight gain. With my first pregnancy, my doctor was alright with the fact that I didn’t gain anything until my last trimester, because I had plenty of maternal stores to spare (I was probably close to OP’s weight). My best advice would be… Read more »

Jenifer
Guest
Jenifer

Don’t forget to take time to enjoy and pamper your new body. Walking, pedicures, pre-natal yoga, massage. You deserve it all! All bodies are lovely and deserved to be loved.

tasterspoon
Guest

Major sympathy…and four tips that have nothing to do with how to gain weight correctly but might help your sanity a little. 1. Wrap your mind around letting go. Before my first baby I had never been overweight, but I did watch the scale and tried to keep things under control. Being pregnant was really hard for me – a HUGE mental hurdle to just let my body take over. To be clear, it took over anyway – I was exercising religiously and trying to eat well, but I was putting on a lb a week even from the very… Read more »

tass
Guest
tass

Thank you! I’m 10 weeks in and losing my mind over weight gain. for someone who was in such control of every pound, i feel helpless and sometimes disgusted at myself. but you reply was exactly what i needed to read, so thank you!

Olivia
Guest
Olivia

As a woman who is about 100 lbs overweight*, I gained just over 30 lbs both times I was pregnant and lost all but 4 lbs by 6 weeks postpartum. I ate like I typically do, just a bit more, exercised during the first pregnancy and not at all during my second. *shrug* you really can’t tell how your body may or may not store any pregnancy weight gain so please take it easy on yourself. If you do not lose all the weight right away, keep in mind many women find they will hold on to a few pounds… Read more »

Karen
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Karen

Just want to throw in my two cents specifically regarding OP’s concerns about the baby getting good nutrition… I think it’s important to remember that if baby survival was super-sensitive to major fluctuations in mom’s nutrient intake, then humans would not have survived. If, over the course of a week, you manage to down even a little bit of: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and/or good fats, and keep heavily processed food with yucky chemicals (I am looking at you Doritos that I craved during my pregnancy!) to a minimum, then I think you are doing pretty well as far as… Read more »

Stephanie
Guest
Stephanie

I have a 3.5 week old right now and a history of an eating disorder, and I was freaked out about weight gain during pregnancy.  Every appointment I was doing the math, thinking, “OK, I’ve gained x lbs so far, if I continue at that rate I’ll gain y lbs total.”  I asked my midwives enough times that they suggested I stop looking at the scale in their office, and I put away our scale at home at the same time.  It was the best thing I did for my mental health.  I found out afterwards that I ended up… Read more »

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[…] here to read the rest: Pregnancy Weight Gain Fears | Alphamom ← I Borrowed Money From My Parents to Pay for My IVF To Maintain a Healthy Pregnancy […]

A
Guest
A

I’m a believer in following your preggo cravings (as long as it’s edible food). While it’s always a good thing, pregnant or not, to eat healthy…I think cravings/hunger during pregnancy is a way for your baby and your body telling you that you need a particular nutrient. Moderation is key! Prior (and after) to my pregnancy, I was lactose intolerant – I craved and was able to drink milk without consequence – which I indulged in a handmade vanilla milkshake almost every day of my pregnancy. I had just assumed my baby and body needed the calcium and vitamin d.… Read more »

Shanelle
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Shanelle

Can I just second the not looking at the scale thing. As a recovering bulimic, it is what made me sane. You don’t need to know every fluctuation in your body because your body isn’t really your own if you are trying to grow a healthy baby. Just trust your midwife/ob to tell you if you are going to far… and register for more baby stuff….perhaps buy adorable baby outfits. It helps.

jill
Guest

I know how you feel – I lost weight just prior to getting pregnant the first time, and my next three pregnancies all happened right after I had lost the weight again from the last pregnancies. I joked to my husband the other day that I feel like I’m gaining and losing the same 25 lbs over and over again . . . because I am gaining and losing the same 25 lbs over and over again. Take care of yourself. Eat what seems best and keeps you strong and healthy. Exercise to keep up your muscle mass. Worry about… Read more »

Autumn
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Autumn

I am you, just with an 11 month old.  I was a good 75 lbs overweight when I got pregnant, and prior to that I had really just started trying to get my but in a healthier lifestyle place.  I wasn’t really trying to get pregnant, but not preventing either. . . I had pretty bad evening sickness, so I lost 15 lbs the first trimester, and I was never very hungry in the evenings my whole pregnancy.  I focused on nutrition, making sure I had super healthy breakfasts and lunches with lots of produce so If I was craving… Read more »

Jen
Guest
Jen

In most cases, your body is going to do what it needs to do, so if you have already learned how to eat healthy and the difference between free for all binging vs. eating when you’re hungry, then go for it and eat. (on binging: You will have weird cravings, you will feel like going all out on a plate of brownies – it’s okay once in a while. Some people overdo it but since you were already on a weight loss journey prior to becoming pregnant I think you’ll be okay..oh, and it will happen postpartum if you’re a… Read more »

-k-
Guest
-k-

My $0.02, for whatever it’s worth: I’m 32 weeks along now, was also losing weight when I got pregnant, and have not weighed myself once for the entire pregnancy. If being at peace with not weighing is within the realm of possibility for you, I wholeheartedly endorse it. Like Amalah said, you will be hungry, and you *need* to pay attention to that- but you also know if you’re generally on track, and you truly don’t need a scale number to tell you that you’re making decent choices overall. (I say overall because I think aiming for perfection, in this… Read more »

AmyRenee
Guest
AmyRenee

I am with you on being overweight before pregnancy, starting to lose weight and then getting pregnant. Its hard to change your mindset from losing to maintaining or slowly gaining. One thing to think about: you mentioned being hungry an hour after eating yogurt – does that happen often, especially after eating something thats mostly carb-y? You should mention it to your doctor if so, being overweight to start put you at a higher risk for gestational diabetes, and one of the symptoms is having your blood sugar spike and then crash after eating carb-y things. Not trying to scare… Read more »

Sarah
Guest

I’ve had four babies, and gained thirty pounds each time except the first, when I delivered at thirty six weeks, had a five pound baby, and had already gained forty pounds. I think the difference was that I craved spicy, but instead of cooking it, I just went to Taco Bell or Chipotle or whatever spicy takeout place was the closest. I went… a LOT. And I think that probably contributed to the extra ten pounds and the water weight, which took a few months to shed. In each other pregnancy I still listened to my body and my cravings,… Read more »

Allison
Guest
Allison

I lost about 40 pounds a few years before I got pregnant. I gained about 60 during my pregnancy. Yes, 60. And I am now 5 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight with a 9 month old. I did not follow a strict diet or exercise at all, and it still came off. So don’t do what I did and gain 60 pounds, but have faith that it WILL come back off, and if anything you are already ahead of the game because you have already figured out what you need to do for your body to lose weight once… Read more »

Hez
Guest
Hez

Congratulations on becoming a Mom…and on losing 60 pounds! What an accomplishment! I was overweight before my son was born…He’s almost three now. The last year I’ve had a similar loss…about 55lbs…with about 50 more to go. I’m not preggo, but planning for soon if the stars align. I think you “get” what works for you…you’ll find right mix for you and your baby…and on the positive side…all the great benefits you’ve felt from your weight loss…they’ll stay with you! Realistically, you’ll end your pregnancy 30 pounds lighter than you started at when you began your weight loss journey. That’s… Read more »

Lauren @ T&G
Guest

My situation is slightly different, but I can totally relate. I became pregnant two months after I got married which ended a year long struggle that ended in 20 lb weight loss. I still wanted to lose about 15 more lbs to get to a very lean/fit look, but I was looking better than I ever had since high school.  Right now, I am 32 weeks and have gained 35 lbs… and it stresses me THE EFF OUT. I have always had to fight to not constantly gain weight, meaning that I had to be on a restrictive diet to… Read more »

amymvr
Guest
amymvr

Firat of all congratulations on your weight loss and your pregnancy!  I lost 30 pounds when my daughter was 4 (from 185 to 155) and have kept it off for 3 years.  Not nearly the same achievement as yours, but I am now pregnant, just into second trimester,  and about 8 pounds up, so  I understand how you feel!  I think what you need to take into account is that it sounds like you still have some weight to lose to be in a healthy range.  I have been looking at info about weight gain during pregnancy, and there are… Read more »

Tami
Guest
Tami

Ok so I realize this is way after the original post but. If I’m reading it someone else probably is too right? My story is complicated and should prove that no matter what happens to your weight – you can come back. I lost about 20 lbs before getting pregnant with #1. I was still 20 lbs away from my ‘goal’ I gained normally for the first 6 months then I started gaining insane amounts but was doing nothing differentlt. I was still eating healthy and exercising moderately but was gaining upwards of 4lbs per week. I brought it up… Read more »

Ace
Guest
Ace

Before my first pregnancy I had lost at least 20 pounds. I say at least because I was too depressed to weigh myself at my heaviest. I was in the process of getting fit when I found out I was pregnant. All day sickness kicked my butt and I couldn’t handle getting out of bed much at all. I gained 17 pounds in the first 14 weeks. I gained a total of 55 pounds no matter how hard I tried to reign it in. I was pretty freaked out to say the least. But then the baby came. I was… Read more »