You are literally growing a human being, you would think that this would be the one time women get a pass to finally exist without the pressures of the diet industry suffocating them—but no. Of course not. I guess this kind of makes sense. You can’t be raised in a society constantly telling you to make yourself smaller in order to be beautiful or lovable or just freaking human your entire life and then just miraculously be free of those expectations for nine months. Even if society did back off of pregnant women and let them gain all the weight they want (hint: nope), it would be impossible to purge yourself of the messages you’ve been receiving since you turned 11 and wondered why you didn’t just drink lots of water to flush out all the calories and be skinny. These messages run deep.
So what happens when women who are constantly told their weight is inherently tied to their worth as a person get pregnant and literally have to gain weight? We start policing how much they should gain, of course.
I’ve heard from countless sources that I should aim to gain no more than 35 pounds this pregnancy. When I asked why that was the magic number, the main answer seemed to be “If you gain any more than that, it’ll be really hard to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight.” So…like, it has nothing to do with the baby? Or my actual health? No? Okay, great. Let’s start with that.
I’m not saying that monitoring weight during pregnancy is an objectively terrible thing. In some scenarios, weight gain can be a symptom of something deeper going wrong, but weight gain is also a completely normal part of pregnancy, and there’s no need to pathologize weight gain in and of itself. Who cares if I gain 40, 50, or 60 pounds this pregnancy, so long as baby and I are both healthy? In fact, I’m only at 30 weeks, and I’ve already gained 40 pounds, and I’m sure I’ll gain more as baby puts on some fat and I start getting big enough that doing things becomes more and more impossible.
When I’m talking to people in person and I tell them about my pregnancy weight gain, they seem totally shocked. “You don’t even look that big though!!” Yeah, it’s almost like weight, appearance, and health are three COMPLETELY SEPARATE THINGS. I’ve always carried weight gain in a way that often hides exactly how much weight I’ve gained, meaning my gaining 40 pounds might look completely different from someone who gains weight differently. But both of us could be just as healthy and perfectly fucking fine as the other one! Amazing, right??
Look, I haven’t had a kid before. Who knows, maybe after I give birth I’ll be super sad that I gained so much weight and can’t get back to my “normal” weight. I’m not trying to say you should ignore your doctor and gain a bunch of weight out of spite when you’re pregnant. I’m just saying, if it happens, it happens. Why should it matter, as long as you and baby are healthy? If the only issue is getting back to your pre-pregnancy weight so you can feel good about your body, then I would argue that there’s a much better solution to that problem than panicking about weight gain when your body is literally building another human life and you have 80 million other things to be stressing about: fuck diet culture and accept your body the way it is.
It’s easier said than done, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an endeavor worth pursuing. Honestly, getting pregnant is the best thing that’s ever happened to me in terms of not giving a flying fuck about my weight or size. I have never felt more attractive in my own skin than in the last couple of months. Sure, my stomach is ballooning and I have crazy stretch marks on my ass, but I look like me, and I actually really like what “me” looks like.
I think for me, when I got pregnant and started gaining weight, I just thought, okay, this is what my body needs to be doing. Instead of wondering what I was doing wrong to cause the weight gain, I saw it as something going right. Of course, now that I’m over the magic 35 lb. mark, I’m having to actively fight returning to feelings that I’m doing something wrong, but in general, I think we should frame all pregnancy weight gain like a good thing. Imagine how much better it would feel to look at the scale, see a higher number than you’re used to, and feel proud instead of crushed? Because the reality is, gaining weight in pregnancy is totally normal, and 99% of the time, totally healthy, even when it’s more than 35 pounds.
So to anyone else out there who’s pregnant and worried about their weight, just let me say: YOU ARE OKAY. Keep an eye on your actual health and baby’s health, but remember that your weight is a totally separate thing, and gaining more than the golden 35 pounds is okay.