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The picture album in my mind is full of food. It leaves room for little else. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner—dissected and cataloged. It would seem all I ever do is eat. Or not eat.

My 15-year-old Birthday. I’m told there was a sleepover. A group of friends from school gossiping about boys and teachers. I see a picture my mom took; a friend is dressed up in a mermaid costume and everyone is laughing. I am noticeably absent. Perhaps I was staring down the sugar-free, fat free ice cream cake my mom had special-ordered from TCBY. Because that’s all I can remember from that day.

A family vacation to Disney World. I’m trying hard, I swear I am. My sister and I run, carefree through the park, laughing at inside jokes. We watch a parade as it rolls down the street. Fireworks light up the night sky, casting shadows across the ground. This is what I tell people when they ask me about my trip. But if I’m telling the truth, all I remember is the fight I had with my dad over whether I would eat another bite of chicken.

The first day of college, standing in front of the salad bar, I have a panic attack when I realize they don’t have fat free dressing. I don’t remember what my dorm mates looked like or the classes I took. But I remember that fucking dressing.

My wedding day. Everyone tells me to stop a moment and take it all in—you only get married once they say. I look through my wedding album, am amnesiac patient sifting through the ruins of her life. The hair, the nose, the awkward rolls of fat where I wish there were none. That girl in the pictures is clearly me. I flip through and see a picture of a towering cake, laced with delicate, pink fondant flowers. 400 calories a slice easily. And now I remember. While everyone else was dancing and drinking and being merry, I was worried about how much cake my husband had shoved in my mouth.

This is what my memory has become. Moments defined by my relationship to food. A life defined not by what I achieved, where I’ve been, or whom I loved. Only by what I ate.

If I could I’d erase all these images. Hope to make room for something else. But there in their too deep, and I am tired of fighting.

Can anyone relate? Please share your stories in the comments.

Happy 2013! With the start of the new year I’m rolling out my new baby related blog. I noticed that since becoming a mom, most of my posts on here centered around baby-related issues. Since the original aim of this blog was to discuss health and eating disorder related topics, I thought it would be appropriate to start a new blog dedicated solely to parenthood and steer this one back to its original focus.

For all those who are interested the new blog is called With A Baby In Tow and can be found HERE. I hope to see you all over there!

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One year ago today I wrote a blog called 27 Reasons in celebration of my 27th Birthday. It listed 27 reasons how overcoming anorexia changed my life. Reason #26 on that list was: “I can become a mom (this is a big one and has not always been a reality).” One day after writing this I found out I was pregnant with my now 15 week old son, Oliver. So this year on my Birthday, in keeping with tradition, I give you reasons #28. I am the mom to a beautiful baby boy.

 

While motherhood has had it’s fair share of struggles, when I think of everything I’ve already overcome to have him, I wouldn’t trade in my sleepless nights and spit-up stained shirts for anything.

But oh how easy it is to lose perspective in the moment. When Oliver is red-faced and screaming in my ear and my relief is hours away from coming home from work I find myself wondering if I’m really capable of being a mom. Am I strong enough? Compassionate enough? Patient enough? Do I have the fortitude to see this through? When I start to have my doubts all I have to do is think back on my past struggles. Overcoming anorexia required all those attributes that I am now calling into question. If I possessed them then, if I could do the seemingly impossible, what makes now different.

Most of us are capable of more than we think and it just takes a little reflection to realize it. Isn’t that what past trials are all about anyway? Building up a memory bank of successes and of exceeded expectations. What if I started to view motherhood in that way? Undoubtably there will be a day in the not so distant future when I find myself facing another challenge. With my back against the wall and my reserves almost on empty I will question if I am enough. And then I will think back to these past 15 weeks. I will remember that I survived and came out a stronger woman, and I will smile and move on.

 

Nothing could have prepared me for parenthood. Not the parenting classes my husband and I diligently attended at the local hospital. Not the hours I spent listening to advice from trusted friends and family members. Not even adopting the motto, “expect the unexpected,” could fully prepare me for how unexpectedly hard it has been.

I anticipated sleepless nights, and I braced myself for smelly diapers and vomit stained shirts. I expected a certain amount of crying and stocked my arsenal with endless tools to soothe a fussy baby. I was ready for all the trials and joys that go along with caring for a newborn, or so I thought.

When my 8lb 6oz son entered the world on July 20th at 11:20pm, and the doctor lifted him onto my chest I stared into his big blue eyes waiting for the influx of maternal warm and fuzzies that I’d heard so much about.

NOTHING

So I looked harder. I glared down at my son, squinting my eyes into focused laser beams of love. But still nothing. After a long labor, preceded by four sleepless nights, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. My birth plan had gone out the window about 20 hours into labor when, after having my water broke and experiencing continuous stabbing pain, I was still only 1cm dilated. When I first saw my son I was feeling defeated, overwhelmed, slightly traumatized, and upset that I didn’t have the “natural,” drug-free delivery I planned.

When we loaded our son into his car seat to go home, I was happy to be putting distance between the delivery experience and myself. Now I can move on, I thought. Now I can begin the bonding process. But the first few days home from the hospital were filled with conflicted emotions and uncontrollable crying spells more than tender moments and googly eyes.

As I stood hunched over in the shower with tears welling in my eyes and my chest tightening I couldn’t fathom what was wrong with me. This is what you always wanted, I told myself. This was a planned pregnancy, a decision my husband and I consciously made. Why was I suddenly feeling an intense regret? I couldn’t stop the deluge of unwanted thoughts.

Having a baby was the biggest mistake. My life is over. I wish I could take him back, give him away to someone more deserving. I don’t love this baby; I don’t feel connected to this baby; heck he doesn’t even feel like my son. I am a terrible person and I am going to be a terrible mother. This baby would be better off without me.

My husband, who was privy to a few of these crying episodes, raised a red flag and called my doctor. An appointment was scheduled for later that afternoon. As I walked into her office I tried desperately to compose myself, rubbing the desperation out of my puffy, blood-shot eyes and pulling a jacket over my shirt that was sporting a mix of baby vomit and my own snot. I was fine. I needed people to think I was fine. But the façade crumbled the moment the doctor entered the room.

I broke down and cried, muttering incoherently between gasps and sobs. My doctor diagnosed me with post partum depression, and along with a prescription for Zoloft, should I want it, she sent me on my way with a few words of wisdom.

First, bonding is not instantaneous for all women. Many times, the raging hormones from the baby blues or PPD make is difficult to establish a connection with the baby in those first few months. Additionally, the stress of being a new parent can be so overwhelming that it blunts a lot of the tender moments that lead to establishing a bond. Give yourself time to get to know your baby and build a relationship instead of expecting there to be one right away.

Most people carry certain expectations for parenthood throughout their pregnancy and are often upset when reality does not line up with those expectations. The disappointment can often leave the new parents questioning everything from their decision to have a baby to whether or not they will be able to cut it as parents. The best course of action is to mourn the loss of your unmet expectations, take stock of reality, and then set a new course based on your updated expectations.

Next, don’t compare your journey into parenthood with others because you’ll probably always find yourself feeling slighted on some level. At times, our son can be an incredibly fussy baby. It was a running joke the first month of his life that if he wasn’t sleeping or eating he was probably crying, screaming, screeching, whimpering, whining, or my favorite, making his high-pitched, ear-drum-breaking wail. It was one part car alarm and one part blaring smoke detector playing on repeat. I would look at other babies quietly sleeping in their car seats and think, why can’t my baby be like that? The simple answer is because I have a unique child, with his own temperament and personality and the sooner I accept him as he is the happier I will be. Babies don’t come in a one-size fits all mold. If you’re constantly comparing your baby to others, instead of working on appreciating your child as is, chances are you will overlook all the great attributes he does possess.

Lastly, acknowledge that being a parent, especially in those first few months, is one of the hardest things you will ever do. Expectant mothers are often inundated with stories about the joys of parenthood and are told repeatedly how having a child is the greatest gift there is. At the end of these feel-good tales, someone might casually throw in a “better enjoy your sleep now” as they look at you with sympathetic eyes, but the inherent struggles are merely an afterthought. From my perspective, it would be a lot more helpful, not to mention accurate, if people led with the sleepless nights and then proceeded to talk about the joys.

I liken parenthood to running a marathon. You eagerly sign up, spurred on by a friend’s story of glory and a glimpse at her shiny finisher’s medal. Training is hard but you persist. You think you’re ready, you’ve read all the books, put in the miles, and are rested and fueled. You show up at the starting line blissfully unaware of what is in store. It’s not until the race starts and you’re a couple miles in that you realize exactly what you’ve gotten yourself into and just how far you still have to go.  At this moment it’s easy to lose sight of the finish line and to forget why you set out on this adventure to begin with. Your feet are tired, your muscles start to ache, and you begin to question your resolve along with your sanity. You push on because you have no other choice and eventually fall into a rhythm. You cross the finish line exhausted but euphoric. You did it!

As the days and weeks and months pass, you begin to forget about all the pain, the fatigue, the blisters, and the bruises. The struggle becomes nothing more than a foggy memory.

And when the fog clears, all that is left is a story of triumph and your shiny finishers medal, gently encouraging you to sign up again.

Recently, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommended that doctors refer all patients with a body mass index of 30 or more to a program designed to promote weight loss. A successful program, according to the panel, combines counseling sessions with concrete weight-loss goals, nutrition advice, and education on setting limits and recognizing barriers to change.  The recommendation was met with mixed reviews from doctors and politicians involved in the healthcare debate. Some cited it as a “long-overdue” prod to physicians while others acknowledged the additional responsibility it would place on doctors who are already facing time and resource constraints.

What the debate skims over, however, and what may be the most important point is not a single study demonstrates the long-term benefits of an intensive weight loss program for health. This oversight is at the crux of the war on obesity and America’s obsession with weight loss.

One of the central misconceptions fueling the task force’s recommendation is that body weight alone is indicative of health. Many studies have indicated that weight, when viewed in conjunction with other lifestyle habits like exercise, is not related to disease or early death except in the morbidly obese. Other studies point out that equal numbers of thin and fat people exhibit unhealthy eating habits and whether or not those habits become externally apparent is largely determined by genetics. To assume all fat people are unhealthy and all thin people are healthy is prejudicial and does a disservice to both groups.

Another misconception is that everyone who is fat must suffer from some form of disordered eating. In reality many people with a BMI above 30 are healthy adults who exhibit moderate eating and exercise habits. Likewise, many people at a “normal” BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 do display maladaptive eating habits. Using BMI alone as the criteria for admission into a free counseling program both sets the stage for further discrimination against fat people and excludes many “normal” weight individuals who might benefit. In short, It is a grave mistake to assume everyone at a “normal” BMI is making healthy choices and everyone above a “normal” BMI is not.

As part of the initiative, doctors are urged to refer obese individuals to programs where weight loss is the primary goal and benchmark for success. There are many problems with this. First, weight loss programs fail for about 95% of dieters and ultimately cause more health problems from the resulting weight cycles. Second, there is not sufficient evidence linking weight loss with improved health outcomes in the long run, which the task force openly admits but appears to dismiss in another classic case of succumbing to popular culture rhetoric about dieting. The task force states that in some cases, programs include exercise sessions. From an evidence-based perspective, this should be priority number one. Research has shown dramatic improvements in health from exercise alone, and obese but fit people are as healthy as fit people falling within the normal BMI criteria. A focus on weight loss over increased physical activity gives people an inaccurate tool for gauging health.

Dr. Jack Der-Sarkissian notes that more than half of all obese patients are never told they need to lose weight, and that’s just “not fair to the patient.” Hmmm…. Let’s talk about what’s really not fair. It’s not fair that doctors assume all fat people have homogenous eating habits and weight loss is the lifesaving miracle panacea. It’s not fair that doctors assume a fat person is automatically unhealthy and on the flip side, a thin person is healthy. It’s not fair that so many medical problems a fat person encounters are attributed to weight with no further investigation. It’s not fair that people at “normal” weights are rarely offered nutritional advice, diagnostic testing, or counseling because they are assumed to be healthy. It’s not fair that so many people with diagnosable eating disorders do not get the treatment they need because they don’t meet certain weight criteria, while the government wants to the foot the bill for every fat person to a enter a weight loss program.

When will health officials come to realize that both physical and mental health are independent of body size and the people who could actually benefit from counseling fall all along the weight continuum.

 

Don’t let the smiles in those photos fool you, being pregnant sucks! And to anyone who says otherwise, please just stop talking, you’re making the rest of us look like whiny, complaining weaklings.

I hit the 35-week pregnant mark on Monday, and every time someone asks me when I’m due, I say “in a couple weeks.” Ah, if only proclaiming that he was coming in a couple weeks translated into an earlier due date; it’s wishful (delusional) thinking at its finest.

While my aches and pains aren’t unique to me, I certainly feel somewhat isolated when I hear how much other women LOVE being pregnant. “I love feeling the baby move, knowing that I’m carrying this life inside me,” I hear many women say. I want to counter with, “I love when the baby decides to stop moving for a moment; my internal organs need a break from the constant beating.” Another one I hear a lot is, “I don’t really feel all that different; I’m just so excited to be a mom I guess I don’t mind the minor discomforts.” Don’t get me wrong; I am looking forward to meeting baby H, but at this moment it has as much to do with wanting to get rid of the nausea, fatigue, stomach pain and pressure, back and leg pain, and constant need to pee as it does with holding him in my arms. Does that make me a bad mother? Am I the only one who yearns for her pre-pregnancy body to come back so she can finally feel “normal” again?

Better yet, am I the only one who thinks midnight feedings and a crying baby are going to be a breeze compared to the discomforts of pregnancy? On second thought, don’t answer that, I’m afraid of what I might hear.

Like most trying life situations, at least I can say I’ll be walking away from this one with some valuable life lessons:

1) My body has limitations

Silly me, I used to think I was invincible. I believed I could do anything if I tried hard enough: overcome any obstacle, become stronger, faster, work harder, push past my limits, because heck, I don’t have limits. I was a walking, talking Nike ad on steroids. But when I traded in my workout attire and running shoes for maternity jeans and nursing bras, it was time for a reality check. Sometimes, despite my wishing and willing my body to do one thing, it has its own agenda for the day and will not cooperate. No amount of mind over matter will get me off the couch and to the gym when sharp pains are shooting down my back and legs. No amount of determination and will power will get me to do the laundry or clean the apartment after a sleepless night and a mid-morning bought of nausea. Sometimes, I am limited. Sometimes I have to accept that instead of trying to make my body cooperate with me; I need to cooperate with my body. But that doesn’t make me weak.

2) Things don’t always have to go according to plan

When I was younger, I was fairly inflexible. I believed rules were meant to be followed, schedules adhered to, and organizational systems maintained. Tell me something was going to happen, be it a trip to the dentist or a trip to Disney World, and if it didn’t happen, I became distressed. Yes, I was that kid. And that kid’s attitude still has a way of popping up from time to time in this adult’s life. What can I say, I like when plans are made well in advance, I know what to expect, and I can adjust accordingly. Becoming pregnant has set my world off balance a little. In my mind I planned to get pregnant in July (the 6 month mark past when we intended to start trying) and have the baby in March. By the start of the third trimester I’d be an established free-lance writer with a decked out nursery, and all my little baby booties in a row. At 8 months pregnant I do not yet own a single pair of baby booties. Our nursery is strewn with shower gifts and little outfits waiting to be washed, and my career as a freelance writer has failed to launch (for now). Despite all this, ready or not, baby H will be here in July. I’m guessing like his arrival, most things surrounding our son will not happen on a set schedule, and I’m learning that I can adjust.

3) Despite its limitations, the human body can do some pretty miraculous things

Pregnancy is a miracle in itself. Me becoming pregnant is beyond miraculous. To have my body bounce back after years of neglect still astounds me. To follow the elaborate string of events that must occur for two single cells to turn into a tiny person in just nine months is beyond my understanding. If I were a religious person, it would be easy to see God’s hands at work.  It is witnessing this phenomenon first hand that teaches me that while I do have to respect my limits, those limits are often a little higher than I may think upon first glance.

4) Becoming an adult isn’t about hitting some arbitrary milestone

Growing up I kept waiting for that magical moment when I would transform from a pimple-covered, pigtail wearing, lunch box toting little kid to a sophisticated adult. When I hit a certain age, say 16 with license in hand or 18 when high school ended and college was on the horizon, then certainly I’d be a grown up. Or perhaps when I land that first “big kid” job, buy a house, get married, or, like my mom always told me, become a parent, then I’m an adult. Well at 27 years old with many milestones under my belt including a baby on the way, I’ve come to realize becoming an adult has more to do with an attitude than the number of candles on a cake. It comes from the wisdom gained through life experiences and the new perspectives those experiences offer.

5) Putting someone else’s needs ahead of my own does not mean forgetting entirely about my own needs too

Raise your hand if you’ve even been on a plane. Now raise your hand if you actually pay attention to the preflight announcements. Let me refresh your memory. If the plane cabin looses oxygen all adults are instructed to first place the oxygen mask over their own nose and mouth before assisting young children. There is an important life lesson to be learned here. I bet you didn’t realize there was free advice that went along with those peanuts. How many times have you heard a parent say, “I have no time for myself anymore?” What they’re really saying is “I forgot that I am a person too, and I have needs.” It’s common to think that having a child means your desires and dreams will be relegated to the back burner, but that doesn’t have to be the case. One of the best things you can do for your child is to be a present parent, to be a parent that has the energy and desire to give all of her attention and love to the baby in the moment. This is a nearly impossible task when you forget your own needs and become drained. To meet your child’s needs it is essential to also take into account your own; so put on your oxygen mask.

6) I have an amazing husband, and I will be a much better mother because of him.

My husband is a pretty amazing man, but you might not know it just looking at him. You see, his greatness doesn’t lie in a flashy, ostentatious life or a long list of personal accomplishments (although his wall of degrees is quite impressive). His greatness is a subtle and quiet kind that sneaks up on me when I least expect it. I find in trying moments, when I am at my breaking point, my husband steps up and offers the strength and support I couldn’t muster. In areas where I fall short, he excels. It is the moment that I am ready to quit, to give up and throw my hands in the air in frustration that he calmly reminds me that I can persevere, whether it’s of my own accord or he has to carry me. As an individual I may not be up for the task of parenthood, but I’m confident that with him as my partner I can handle anything. And if our son turns out anything like his father…then I will consider myself a very lucky woman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIET: that dirty four-lettered word that is so ingrained in our national vocabulary that it’s mention is akin to discussing the weather.

“What’s the forecast for tomorrow?” you ask.

“A high of 1200 calories with a slight chance of deprivation.” How gloomy.

Dieting has become as American as baseball and apple pie, that is, as long as you make it a slice of sugar free, fat free pie.

Yet despite how often we talk about dieting, very few actually succeed in losing weight and keeping it off. So why do we persist? Are we all insane, as a popular quote would suggest?

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Or maybe we’ve been bamboozled by an industry that profits off of our failures, an industry that designs a faulty product and then places the blame on the buyer? Today I challenge you all to embark on a different kind of diet: the anti-diet.  Let go of all your complicated food rules and beliefs about “good” and “bad” foods and begin to trust your body to tell you what it wants and needs.

To provide you with some motivation, I’m counting down the top ten reasons to ditch dieting for good.

10. Dieting wrecks havoc on your metabolism.

Dieting slows the metabolism down tremendously, as the body enters what it assumes to be a period of famine. And while fat people who lose large amounts of weight may look similar to a naturally thin person, their bodies are actually behaving more like that of a starving person. In other words, a fat person who loses weight will not acquire the health characteristics of a naturally thin person. On average, the metabolism slows so that a formerly fat person burns about 24% fewer calories per square meter of their body’s surface area than a naturally thin person. By avoiding diets, you can ensure your metabolism is functioning at its optimal level.

9. Your body produces hormones that fight against weight change.

Your body has a natural set point for weight, largely determined by genetics, at which it feels most comfortable. Deviating much beyond this point triggers a cascade of hormones designed to resist further weight fluctuations. These hormones can stimulate or suppress appetite, decrease or increase metabolism, and encourage or discourage activity. Dieting interferes with the mechanisms that regulate set point and makes it difficult to respond to hormonal cues. Much like a broken gas gauge on a car, dieting makes it difficult to tell when the tank is full or running on empty.

8. Dieting can lead to many psychiatric problems.

Here’s a novel idea: your body, as adept as it is at carefully regulating all your bodily systems, cannot tell the difference between a diet and unintentional starvation. And starvation has been shown to cause a lot of psychological problems. In the classic Minnesota Starvation Study, healthy men were put on 1,600 calorie diets with the intention of losing 25% of their body weight. Over the course of the experiment, the men experienced what head researcher Dr. Ancel Keys came to call “semistarvation neurosis.” They became nervous, anxious, withdrawn and overly critical of their appearance and weight. Many exhibited signs of depression, losing their ambitions, interests, sense of humor, and desire for social interaction. They became obsessed with food and many developed odd food rituals. And to think this all happened on 1,600 calories per day. Many popular diets today prescribe much less!

7. Dieting wastes a lot of time and energy.

As noted by a participant in the Minnesota Starvation Study the act of restricting food “made food the most important thing in one’s life.” Whether your counting calories, weighing out just right portions, or dreaming about all the food you wish you could be eating, dieting can quickly become an all-consuming undertaking, often at the expense of other areas of your life. When we deny ourselves food we enjoy in favor of “healthy” foods we dislike, a lot of time gets spent fantasizing about that forbidden food.

6. Dieting robs a lot of the pleasure from eating and can make for more complicated social situations.

Despite what many popular diets lead you to believe, getting pleasure from food does not make you a hedonistic, weak-willed person. Eating can and should be a pleasurable experience. Think about digging into a big stack of fluffy pancakes on a lazy Sunday morning, eating a slice of cake on your Birthday, or clinking champagne glasses with friends and family on New Years Eve. Food is a part of many of social situations, and when your web of complex food rules keeps you sidelined from digging in with everyone else it can be an isolating experience.

5. 95% of dieters regain the weight and then develop a higher weight set point.

Because of the numerous regulatory checks that your body employs, in the end, dieting is more synonymous with weight gain than weight loss. It slows metabolism, increases the body’s efficiency at getting calories from food, increases appetite, decreases activity levels, lowers your body temperature, breaks down muscle tissue, and increases fat storing enzymes. All these checks ensure you are on the fast track to gaining back any lost weight. And because our bodies are programmed to protect us from weight loss but aren’t too concerned with weight gain, they settle at a slightly higher set point than they were previously at. In other words, the same amount of calories you were once eating to maintain weight X are now how many you need to eat to maintain X+10lbs.

4. Dieting and weight cycling causes a lot of the problems that excess weight is blamed for like heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and liver damage.

It’s a classic case of what came first, the chicken or the egg? Many people see a correlation between excess weight and disease and assume weight is the cause, when in reality the relationship isn’t so straightforward. What often underlies conditions like heart disease is the damage done to the body by losing and regaining the same weight over and over again, the same cycling that leads to higher set point weights.

3. You don’t need to diet to maintain your body’s healthy weight.

Too many people are under the impression that without constant vigilance the pounds will keep piling on, when in fact, this is far from the truth. A scientist at the University of Vermont, Ethan Sims, conducted an experiment that was the mirror image of the Minnesota Starvation Study. Instead of looking at the effects of calorie restriction, Sims put men on a calorie dense diet. In order increase their weight by 20% above their natural set point the men had to eat as much as 10,000 calories for up to six months time. Sims discovered that the amount of weight the men should have gained based on a simple calories in versus calories out equation was much more than they actually gained. Their bodies fought hard to maintain their natural set point, and at the conclusion of the study they returned to these weight without effort. Your body knows the weight it is healthiest at and will fight you to maintain that weight. Ironically, you have to diet to NOT maintain your healthy weight. Watch a documentary that puts participants through a similar weight gain experiment here.

2. Being thin does not necessarily make you healthier. Moderate activity and healthy, moderate food choices make you healthier.

Fit, active people are much healthier than sedentary individuals, regardless of weight. In fact, fit obese people are healthier than thin sedentary individuals and just as healthy and thin active individuals. When fat people exercise, they reap all the benefits even without an accompanying weight loss. In other words, losing weight will not make one healthy but exercising will. Several studies also indicate that fostering an active lifestyle increases self-confidence and acceptance while dieting often has the opposite effect. Read more.

1. Dieting is NOT about loving and respecting your body.

How many times have your heard someone say (or said yourself) “I’m trying to lose weight because I want to take care of myself?” While the intention is good, dieting is a misguided attempt at promoting health and well-being. Choosing a healthy, varied diet, staying active, and accepting your body in its present state sends a lot more powerful message if you ask me. You wouldn’t tell your partner or your best friend, “I’d love you more if only you were….(fill in the blanks).” So why do we repeatedly tell ourselves this message by trying to lose weight? Love and respect come from an understanding that I am a complete, whole person as I am.

For a great resource on the research behind these reasons check out Big Liberty’s blog. Or pick up a copy of the book Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos or Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata.

My 26 week pregnant belly demands food! Lots of food! Okay, so more like an extra 300 calories or so per day, but it sure grumbles loudly with disapproval when it’s been too long in between meals.

I’d like to take you on a culinary adventure, aka, what did Dana eat today. The first thing my refined pregnant pallet got to enjoy today was 75g of pure, orange-flavored glucose. Yummy!

Between weeks 24-28, it is recommended that women take a glucose tolerance test to screen for gestational diabetes. Similar to snorting pixie stixs for breakfast, this test requires you to down 75 grams of sugar on an empty stomach and then just quietly sit around for an hour while you wait for your pancreas to explode release insulin and remove it from your bloodstream.

After that nutritious start to my day, I came home craving protein and promptly consume scrambled eggs with spinach, bell peppers, fresh Parmesan cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil. Protein is of particular importance when pregnant because the amino acids in protein form every cell in your growing baby’s body. Guidelines suggest consuming about 70 grams/day, especially during your second and third trimester when the baby grows the fastest.

My mid-morning snack of choice was a tall nonfat late from Starbucks and a petite vanilla scone. Coming in at 75mg of caffeine it fits nicely within the 200mg of caffeine permitted per a day during pregnancy and is a good start toward getting the recommended 1000-1300mg of calcium. And the scone…I swear I can’t go into Starbucks without getting one, 75 grams of glucose for breakfast or not.

Lunch consisted of whatever I could throw together quickly. A bowl of Trader Joe’s roasted red pepper and tomato soup, a broccoli cheddar lean pocket (because sometimes convenience takes precedence), and some dried mango slices.

Oh yea, and my favorite accompaniment to any meal: prenatal vitamins, DHA/fish oil, and calcium chews. When selecting a prenatal vitamin the two most important ingredients to look for are folic acid (at least 800mcg) for the prevention of neural tube defects and iron (at least 17mg)  for the production of red blood cells and subsequent transport of oxygen. Fish oil, specifically DHA and EPA, is crucial for the neurological development of the baby.

And what goes great with oodles of pills?

Water! Drinking enough water during pregnancy is very important. Besides preventing premature uterine contractions, a nasty side-effect of dehydration, it is needed to replenish your blood, which increases in volume by as much as 40% in some women. Additionally, it helps maintain adequate amounts of amniotic fluid for your baby to splash around in.

My post-workout out mid-afternoon snack for the day consisted of a yogurt and a handful of pistachio nuts. Normally I go for Greek yogurt, but with my digestive system faltering, I was hoping Activia would give it the jump start it needs. Results on that one are pending.

For my husband and me, dinners are always the most elaborate meal of the day. On tonight’s menu was salmon roasted with a dijon and horseradish topping (a recipe I had been wanting to try for awhile), garlic pea pods, red peppers, and potatoes, and a large spinach salad with peanut dressing. My husband isn’t much of a fish guy so whenever I cook salmon I make him an 8oz New York strip steak.

We finished off the meal with fresh, delicious kiwi fruit!

And because this pregnant girl can’t make it through the night without a bedtime snack… I chowed down on some graham crackers and Justins’s chocolate almond butter. Fair warning, Justin’s chocolate almond butter is addictive, and I dare you to try it without ending up spooning it directly from the jar to your mouth.

The key to my pregnancy diet: VARIETY! I try to not eat the same thing two days in a row. Also, eating smaller mini meals more frequently throughout the day has been very helpful in warding off hunger and fatigue and preventing first trimester morning sickness. Have any foods you really craved during pregnancy? Please share!

Worried your pregnancy eating habits are packing on more or less pounds than is considered normal? Here is a great tool from babycenter.com to ensure you are on track: http://www.babycenter.com/pregnancy-weight-gain-estimator. In the end, always talk with your doctor. Every woman’s body is different, as is every pregnancy.

I hate to admit it, but I was wrong.

Back in April of 2010 I wrote a blog entitled “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Fatness” discussing the fat acceptance movement. I questioned its motives, pointed the finger at what I thought were its unreasonable claims, and flat out refused to believe that being fat could be healthy. You see, like most people who have grown up in the “fat is bad” era, when I heard news reports claiming we are drowning in a nationwide obesity crisis (talk about a loaded expression), I jumped on the lifeboat.


It took a good amount of critical research, reading between the lines, and turning a deaf ear to the popular media fat-bashing machine before I would be willing accept the possibility that all my nutritional indoctrination might be wrong. But wrong I was.

A lot of current claims about the obesity crisis are based on misinformation. In 2002, Richard Carmona, the former surgeon general described obesity as “the terror within, a threat that is every bit as real to America as the weapons of mass destruction.” And how could it not be when the Center for Disease Control reported that more than 400,000 Americans die from being overweight or obese? This shocking statistic became the headline for thousands of popular media articles and pumped millions of dollars into scientific research aimed at curing obesity.

But in 2005, an updated report from the CDC acknowledged that the previous analysis suffered from computation errors and reduced the estimate fifteen-fold, taking the 400,000 deaths down to 26,000. Further separating “overweight” and “obese” individuals from “extremely obese” individuals (BMI over 35) decreases the number even more, as most deaths are clustered in the BMI over 35 category. When “overweight” individuals (BMI 25-30) are compared to “normal” weight individuals (BMI 18.5-24) an even more interesting statistic surfaces. Overweight individuals actually live longer than normal weight people.

Research from a Canadian national health survey following more than 11,000 adults looked at the relationship between BMI and longevity. Compared to people who fell into the normal-weight category:

– Those classified as underweight were 73% MORE likely to die
– Those classified as extremely obese were 36% MORE likely to die
– Those classified as obese had about the SAME risk of death
– Those classified as overweight were 17% LESS likely to die

Eric Oliver, a political scientist at the University of Chicago says the obesity epidemic is really “a relatively small group of scientists and doctors, many directly funded by the weight loss industry, (who) have created an arbitrary and unscientific definition of overweight and obesity. They have inflated claims and distorted statistics on the consequences of our growing weights, and they have largely ignored the complicated health realities associated with being fat.”

“So what?” you may be thinking. “Just because people are living longer doesn’t mean they are living healthier lives. Everyone knows fat people are unhealthy.”


While weight is a causal factor in a couple diseases, say osteoarthritis or sleep apnea, there isn’t much evidence that excess body fat itself causes disease. Instead other variables might be at play. For example, most overweight individuals report weight cycling at some point during their lives. A single weight cycle, think a failed crash diet, has been shown to damage blood vessels and increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. Rat studies indicate that obese rats that have weight cycled have very high blood pressures compared to rats that have maintained a consistent weight.

Additionally, there is a weak association among obesity and hypertension in cultures where dieting is uncommon. Could the “cure” for hypertension actually be the “cause?”

Research also finds that overweight people report feeling more stress and anxiety, both of which are a risk factor for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In countries where there is less stigma attached to weight, overweight individuals are not prone to the same diseases associated with obesity in the United States. Additionally, when researchers looked at a group of more than 170,000 U.S. adults, they found the differences between actual weight and perceived ideal weight was a better indicator of mental and physical health than BMI. In other words, feeling fat has a stronger implication for health than being fat.

Research indicates that activity level, combined with other lifestyle choices like sleep and social habits, are more related to health than body fat percentage. For example, one study found that obese men classified as “fit” based on a treadmill test have similar death rates as lean men classified as “fit.” The obese fit men actually had death rates one-half those of the lean but unfit men.

What about type 2 diabetes? This disease, characterized by a reduced sensitivity to insulin, is much more common among obese individuals, and thus, obesity is often blamed for its emergence. But is it possible that insulin resistance causes obesity? In this classic which came first scenario, research suggests that high levels of insulin appear before weight gain in future diabetics.  This finding is consistent with the “thrifty genotype” theory, which views insulin resistance as a helpful adaptation for storing more fat during times of famine. Because fat cells do not develop insulin resistance as readily as other cells, they allow glucose and nutrients to enter, promoting excess fat storage and weight gain. The added weight gain further increases insulin resistance and the cycle continues. So is weight loss the answer?

I’ll give you a second to guess what my answer is going to be (cue the Jeopardy music).

What is a resounding NO!?! A review of controlled weight loss studies for type 2 diabetes shows that initial improvements were short-lived, and study participants returned to their starting values within eighteen months, even when they maintained their weight loss. In another study, women who underwent liposuction resulting in an average loss of twenty pounds of body fat did not show improvements in insulin sensitivity. What have been shown to improve diabetes time and time again are changes in nutrition and increased activity, even without any resulting weight loss.

What’s most unfortunate about our culture’s association between body size and health is that it paves the way for fat bashing, prejudice, and discrimination. We demonize fat, and as a result, view the people carrying it around as vessels for evil. In our quest to cure obesity, we ostracize a segment of the population. We confer them with labels like lazy, sick, bad, stupid, and unhealthy. We spend so much time trying to rid the world of “fatties” that we lose sight of what is really important: health. If we could refocus our attention on finding health at any and every size, and let go of the notion that only “average” or “normal” weight people can be healthy we could start to see actual improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and a slew of other conditions previously linked primarily with weight.

In the end, by focusing so much on weight, we are preventing people from finding what every weight-loss venture promises to deliver: a long, happy, and healthy life.

Note: For further reading please check out the book Health and Every Size by Linda Bacon or refer to her blog at www.healthateverysizeblog.wordpress.com. Another great resource that promotes health and every size is thefatnutritionist.com. If you would like more information on the research I am referencing please comment or send me a message.

Okay so that’s not true at all… the baby was probably cringing at all the sugar coursing through my digestive system (nothing like getting them hooked at an early age right?) Truth is, I really wanted a doughnut and a decaf coffee, so without much thought at all, I drove to Tim Horton’s and purchased the following:

It was delicious and thoroughly enjoyed in moderation. No feelings of guilt, regret, or panic. Will I be eating more doughnuts again anytime soon? Probably not…although I did enjoy a cupcake the other day for my father-in-laws Birthday. But hey, it wasn’t a doughnut. Cupcakes and doughnuts are completely different food groups. Duh!

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