I couldn’t believe the medical system and several of my peers had me obsessing about my food consumption. I was experiencing food shaming during pregnancy.
I was never afraid of eating. Then I got pregnant.
I gained 40 lbs during my first pregnancy. I went from being able to comfortably fit in a small or medium to a double XL. My body looked very different from what I was used to. While I didn't like the changes, I coped with them.
At each prenatal appointment, I would watch my prenatal care specialists' faces shift between shock at my weight gain and confusion at my consistently healthy vitals. I knew they were wondering how could a woman — a Black woman at that — gain so much weight in such a short time and still have a healthy range for blood pressure, proteins, and cholesterol? They damn near fell out of their chairs upon finding the butterball in front of them passed the glucose test. They never stopped harassing me about my weight.
But more than my weight, they would talk about what I was eating.
I won’t say I have a horrible diet, but I do enjoy bi-weekly ice cream and have a day or two where I might eat an entire bag of chips. When I’m at my usual size, no one bats an eyelash at my habits. However, with my accompanying baby bump, every fast food order came with a free size of judgment.
Eventually, after being referred to a nutritionist, I was finally told the truth: You don't seem to be at risk for gestational diabetes, but if you don't fix your eating habits soon, you will never get back to your pre-pregnancy weight.
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I was furious. I couldn’t believe the medical system and several of my peers had me obsessing about my food consumption so that I could get back to my pre-pregnancy weight.
The longer I thought about it, the clearer it became that what I was experiencing was an extension of the systemic discrimination women face daily — the pressure to “fit in” both literally and figuratively.
But the shameful part was I fell for it anyway.
For the first time, I began associating my value with my ability to return to my pre-pregnancy size. I questioned what would happen if I didn't lose the weight. Would my family ridicule me? Would my health suddenly be in jeopardy? Would my husband leave?
As I grew in size, I started shrinking in confidence. Before I knew it, I was a doubt-filled shell of my former self.
Now, nearly three years later, I'm pregnant again and facing that same situation. Thankfully this time, I’m not willing to stop eating — but I am willing to make an effort to eat better. I’m also walking several times a week because it doesn’t take a hardcore workout to promote health. And lastly, I’ve started telling my doctor I don’t want to be told my weight at my appointments. My plan isn’t a cure-all, but it’s enough to give me peace of mind and the confidence to accept all the wanted and unwanted changes that come with bringing new life into the world.