Like most women, I care about the way I look. I have insecurities about my body, but parts that I’m proud of, too – like my wrists. I like that they’ve always been slender without being too bony.
Six months into my first pregnancy, my wrists no longer looked the same. They somehow appeared puffier. As I loosened my watchband by a notch, I experienced a pang of anxiety about the weight I had gained so far, and how much more I was bound to put on.
The doctor, my husband and everyone reassured me that gaining pregnancy weight—between 11 to 16 kilograms in my case—was normal. That it was good for the baby. Just eat healthily, they said, and don’t worry about the tipping scale.
But still I worried. As the number edged up and I became heavier than I had ever been, I wondered how on earth I’d ever get my old body back. Even though my husband told me that he loved the way I looked when pregnant, I missed my pre-pregnancy thighs and feet when they weren’t swollen.
Whenever I stepped on the scale I’d remove all my clothing and accessories first, convinced as I was that even my rings and bangles could add to the number. Yet sometimes in the middle of the night I’d have an acute craving for molten chocolate cake or blueberry muffins. Corn bread. Dumplings, even. I scrolled through mouthwatering food photos on Instagram and felt my stomach churn. Soon, I would get up and ruffle through the kitchen cupboards, popping one, two, three biscuits into my mouth.
For some women, pregnancy is an excuse to indulge, to make up for all the previous times when they restricted calories. The doctors tell us that we’re not really supposed to “eat for two.” Two adult-sized servings are unnecessary. We only need about 300 extra calories per day. But it’s hard to resist a craving. What’s worse is the guilt you feel after a binge.
A part of me relished my pregnant form, though. In some ways I had never felt more empowered by my body and the life it was growing inside. And who could complain about bigger breasts? Even as I fretted over thin, silvery stretch marks covering my bump, I was excited about my expanding womb and the baby nestled inside. All in all, I seesawed between cherishing and being fascinated by my changing body, and feeling at times like a clumsy whale.
It was only during the last two weeks of my pregnancy that I stopped fretting about my weight. I was too preoccupied with preparing for the birth. I gained 25 pounds, and lost it over the next four months thanks to breastfeeding, daily walks, and being busier than ever caring for my darling newborn baby.
Here are some tips to cope with worries about pregnancy weight gain:
1. During your first pre-natal visit, ask your doctor for the recommended weight gain for you. If you gain too much, you might be at risk for gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. On the other hand, if you don’t gain enough, you have a higher risk of delivering a pre-term or low-birth weight infant.
2. Ask your doctor the rate at which you should be putting on weight. How much in the first, second, and third trimesters? Having this information will help you know if you’re on the right track.
3. Ease up on the pressure! It takes nine months to put on the weight, so expect it to take at least nine months to shed it. If you’re able to lose your baby weight faster, good for you. But don’t rush yourself into intensive dieting. As a new mum, you already have enough on your plate. Plus, if you’re breastfeeding you will need to eat an adequate amount to help your milk production so don’t be too strict about cutting calories.
4. Eat nutrient-dense foods and make time for exercise. Your body has been through a lot during pregnancy. Be kind to it no matter what size you are, and be proud of what it’s done!
By Jenny Tai