March 31, 2008

Babies Are Overrated

Today's guest post is courtesy of the awesome blogger Charlotte of The Great Fitness Experiment. Charlotte also blogs at The Huffington Post.

With childbirth these days, it's not about what you gain (a baby) but all about what you lose (fat, skin, your sanity). As if carrying a squirmy watermelon with sharp heels for nine months (ten really, if you're counting by weeks) wasn't hard enough, now pregnant women are held to the impossibly skinny standards of the media as well.

Any woman who has been pregnant in the last few years or so already knows exactly what I'm talking about. Suddenly a baby bump has become the new it bag. But it isn't enough to have a healthy baby. You have to look like a stick bug with a basketball tucked under your shirt. Especially so you can fit into the belly baring, body conscious maternity fashions that are so popular now. Don't get me wrong, I was no fan of the tent dress but there has got to be a happy medium between that and this (look, a pregnant high-end hooker! Who doesn't want to hit that?):

(Although I must admit I laughed myself silly when I saw this one.)

The Toll
The worst part though is after the baby is born. With my last child, people started asking me months before he was even born how fast I thought I was going to "lose the weight." Just typing that phrase strikes terror into my heart. Isn't it bad enough that we have to worry if everything will come out with ten fingers and ten toes and possibly your mother-in-law's nose? Must we add "losing the weight" to the list?

Heidi Klum lost the weight from her 3rd baby in a record-breaking 4 weeks so she could strut her sexy stuff on the Victoria's Secret catwalk. The same sexy stuff, I might add, that gestated, birthed and nursed an actual baby. Side note: I'll never know how men manage to look at women in lingerie and yet still not connect the baby making apparatus with a living, breathing baby. Add to Heidi's example the recent spate of celebs who lose their baby weight in ever-shorter amounts of time. Keri Russel! Trista Rehn! Tori Spelling! Julia Roberts! Nicole Richie! The list goes on and on and on. (Do they ever lose the baby too? I mean if you are losing stuff that darn fast, those little guys are pretty easy to misplace. I'm just saying.)

But it is not with men that I make my complaint. Every person who asked me about losing the weight was a woman. I even had one girlfriend tell me that she envied my extreme morning sickness at the beginning. "You're so lucky! You get to lose all that weight. It probably keeps your overall weight gain down too. I wish I was a puker!"

Except that somehow it didn't keep my overall weight down. That was why I could totally relate when I read about the Jennifer Lopez's fear about her weight gain while she was pregnant.

"Jennifer is delighted to finally be pregnant. However, she has already put on more than three stones and is only around four months gone. She is huge and freaking out," said a source.

Three stone is about 42 lbs. I gained 47 with my first pregnancy - well above the "recommended" 25-35.

So what's a mom to do? "J. Lo, who is famous for her curvaceous backside, is taking extra precaution against the weight that may be left after she has given birth by waking up at four in the morning to work out."

And if that doesn't work? "Her face has become really puffy from retaining a lot of water. She plans to do a Victoria Beckham now and hibernate for the last few months. You won't be seeing much of her in public from now on," the source says.

So it's come to this: a beautiful pregnant woman had to go into hiding to have a healthy baby and a normal pregnancy. Not because people don't want to think about how she got knocked up but because people will call her fat.

And now that she has given birth to two healthy and - if they got her genes and not Marc's - beautiful babies, the tabloid race is on to see how fast those famous abs flatten out.

The Skinny on Baby Fat
I first read this story on the Skinny Website. And I almost choked on my lunch (the irony of eating lunch while reading a site called "the Skinny Website" is not lost on me) when I read Rian's closing line "It will be interesting to see how fast Jennifer loses the baby weight. Will she be one of the ones who lose it so fast we barely see it at all, or will she be like Britney and not ever take off the extra few she gained? What do YOU all think?"

Rian also points out that Jessica Alba is indeed "gaining weight all over" as if it were a capital crime. Don't people realize that you need your legs to get bigger to support that sack of fluid and flesh? It ain't made of air, people!

This is what pregnant women have to deal with. Britney's baby is not even two and already she is judged as "not ever" being able to take off the weight? I'm no fan of Ms. Spears but you gotta give a girl some time. Jessica Alba is a picture of health and gestation. Jennifer Lopez is a gorgeous mama regardless of the status of her baby-got-back. Enough is enough. Pregnancy, more than any other time, should be a safe haven from weight criticism.


  1. Thanks Charlotte!
    The media feeds on criticism and conflict. If they can't find something wrong they'll make it up. Let the women's bodies find a natural way to deal with the changes.

    Everyone criticized my niece for being too skinny during her pregnancy, not gaining enough weight. Still don't know how she managed to produce a 9-pound-plus baby... I mean ...where? ... how?

  2. Actually it's not just the media who feed on criticism and conflict. Sadly, it's a lot of people. (None of the media covered my niece's pregnancy, for example.)

  3. *sigh* I love the way the media is surprised when women gain weight when they are pregnant...the same way they are "surprised" when women actually age. Apparently we are not allowed wrinkles or gray hair...


  4. This was a terrific post! The Bag Lady visited with a neighbour who was 8 months pregnant and barely looked it. She was PROUD of the fact that she had been so ill she had scarcely gained any weight. The Bag Lady felt sorry for the baby...
    (of course, the Bag Lady still feels sorry for the baby, but that's another story.)

  5. Ok, "The Skinny Website" makes me sick. I can't believe people can feel good about themselves making comments like that about a pregnant woman.

    People are seriously messed up! It's so true though, instead of being congratulated for going through 9 months of having a baby develop in you and then successfully going through LABOUR people question how fast the weight will be lost... um, why does that matter??!!

  6. It's another kind of misogyny. Really. Please don't tell me I'm overreacting before you think about it for a while.

    You know how celebrities lose the weight? They have lots and lots of help. Nannies, cooks, trainers, etc. Did I say nannies? Because it's a lot easier to get up at 4AM when someone else was taking care of the babies so you could get some sleep.

    Meanwhile in the real world there seems to be more women like me cropping up. Women who have GAINED weight after giving birth. Despite breastfeeding. (If I hear someone say, "Oh! Nursing will help you lose the weight" one more time I swear I'm going to scream...)

    In my particular case, I had gestational diabetes. So I ate really, really well and I walked at least an hour a day for the last few months of my pregnancy. Then I gave birth, my sleep schedule was screwed, I started eating whatever was handy whenever I got the chance, and I couldn't get ANYTHING done let alone find time to exercise. Mostly because I didn't have much help, let alone consistent, daily help. So by the time he was four months old, I had gained 25 lbs.

    The Goob turns 6 months this week. I haven't gained any more weight and I'm just now managing to get a walk into my day. Most days - some days there's just no way.

    Every time I read something about this new 'pressure' I want to tear my hair out. Making new moms feel bad about their weight doesn't really accomplish anything, except add onto the weird fears American women have about getting pregnant. What most really need is a hand with the baby (*cough* DAD *cough* ANYBODY *cough*) so they can take care of themselves.

  7. Our society has become so obsessed with physical appearance that we're overlooking some major things:
    - health for ourselves as moms (can't take care of kids if you aren't healthy!)
    - longterm health (sure you are thin, but are you HEALTHY and your rapid weight loss comes at what cost?)
    - How are our choices affecting the health and well being of our children (short term AND long term)?
    - When will we look at the value of a person for what gifts they have to share with us instead of how nice they look on the cover of a magazine?
    - If we're obsessed with the looks of pregnant and post-partum women now, what chance does the next generation of women hope to have to feel confident about her body?

    I had the same "problem" as Merry's neice - I lost 10 lbs. during my first trimester (was able to gain it back and more later) and had a 9 lb. 9oz. baby. People always commented on "how great" I looked, but I wasn't focused on ME, I was worried that the weight loss was going to mean problems for my daughter. Why don't others see that? Just as there are women who can't control larger amounts of weight gain during pregnancy, I had a hard time gaining enough - and I DON'T think that it made me a model for pregnancy.

    Thanks for sharing your insight with us Charlotte! I hope that we are able to see a shift in the media sometime soon. I'm not sure what it will take, though, beyond everyone turning off their tv's and not purchasing the tabloids.

  8. Given the topic, I thought you were going to mention this article, which mentions a certain Dr. who thinks some women are gaining too much weight during pregnancy.

    I started with the same topic this week in my video blog.

  9. great great great post.

    (and lisa, you're SO right, "Because it's a lot easier to get up at 4AM when someone else was taking care of the babies so you could get some sleep.")

  10. The worst for me are all those stories on how people kept their weight down during pregnancy (I remember Christine Taylor saying she calorie counted) I was completely flabergasted at that. Plus all those stories on how they quickly got the weight off (followed by their lies of breast feeding and pilates).

  11. first? total blogcrush on charlotte so I need to admit that up front :)

    such a fantastic post (and alas Im so late to the soiree the good points hath been made. I agree on the misogyny remark).

    and, on a different but same note, ID LOVE to be a fly on the wall in JLo's domicile.
    she *so* rules her man with a Prada iron-fist.

    not that there's anything wrong with that :)


  12. I think it was Fast Food Nation (but I'm not positive), but there was a book I read where they discussed the quality of food that pregnant mothers eat. And if they don't eat enough (calorie count, limit food, etc), then the baby thinks it's going to be born in a time of famine. So it basically grows in the womb with the hormones to help stockpile calories, which (in our society of plenty) can lend itself to being overweight or obese later on. So it worries me that all these pregnant women are dieting. Not that they should pig out, but they should count on gaining some weight - I mean, come on, did they think they were going to stay the same weight as normal?

  13. I think we've just discovered another reason why it is good to not be a celebrity.

  14. I was bad enough when pregnant celebrities were losing the baby weight too quickly (Hello? Nursing? Requires extra calories, people!). But now they're not gaining enough during pregnancy...we're in for a generation of sick, malnourished kids. When I read that some model has given birth to a "healthy, 5 lb. 1 oz baby..." WHAT?!?! That's not exactly the picture of health!

    It's just sickening. I must say that, during my pregnancies, most men, even ones I didn't know, were incredibly gracious. It was the women who were getting in my face about my weight, and whether or not I was going to breastfeed, and how it was going to kill my (acting) career because I was fat. Geesh!

  15. You had me at "Babies are Overrated".

  16. LOL I couldn't agree more hehehe

    Cranky it's been too long since I've stopped by I must apologize - by the way this is Lady Rose (from the Diet Pulpit).

    I would be honored if you stopped by my humble new blog that I have just started (as a fun diversion) - as the Queen of crankiness your opinion would mean a lot to me :)

  17. I LOVE this post!

    Celebrity watching is fun, and it's possible that I indulge in it a litle too much. But just because I like the way Nicole Richie dresses doesn't mean that I need to make her the standard for how I should handle pregnancy weight/loss. Despite what the media thinks, if I have concerns I think I should turn to my mom or my doctor instead of People magazine.

    Oh, and I totally visit The Skinny Site daily. I love the photos, but I've stopped reading the copy because it's generally annoying. And I've NEVER read the comments, I think it would be too sad.

  18. wow, i totally agree with this blog! great guest blog!

  19. Great post! You'd have hoped that because there's been such a huge amount of celebrities popping out babies lately that society would be a lot more embracing of motherhood and everything that comes along with it.

    And that photo of Jennifer Lopez? She looks gorgeous, as always.

    Who cares how much weight people gain when they're pregnant? No matter how much your body changes, every woman always has that "pregnant glow" about her, and it is beautiful.

  20. Amen, Charlotte! What a great post.

  21. OK, that's it. I officially give up. I haven't even HAD a baby yet and I've already got body issues. I can't believe people ask you WHILE YOU'RE PREGNANT when you're going to lose the weight!!! That's insane, and it deserves a sharp punch to the forehead.

  22. Wow, logging on and seeing all these great, insightful & down right witty comments totally made my whole day!!

    Merry - good point about the flip side of the coin. You just can't win:)

    Bag Lady - now I'm officially worried about your neighbors baby. Can you adopt it??

    lisa G - excellent point and I totally agree with you about the misogyny. And breast feeding? Didn't help me lose a single pound. In fact, my body likes to keep a little extra "insulation" when I have a suckling. Right on about the celebs too!

    Briana - Those are some great questions. Thanks for providing a great example of the other side. It seems like everyones an expert on your body sometimes;) And hey - I'm ALL for chucking the tube & the rags - hear, hear!

    Red - you know, I did read that research. The part that got me was it was based off of Asian women who typically are much smaller in general. I think if you naturally only gain 15 lbs, and you have a healthy baby then that is what your body needs. I just don't think people should be dieting whilst preggers.

    Sara - Amen to that!

    MizFit - Awww, girl - you know it goes both ways:)

    Lethological reader - excellent point. With all of our body image obsession few people (with notable exception Briana!!) pay any attention to what it means to their babies.

    Azusmom - That is such a crazy story. 5 lbs?? Egads.

    Nitmos - I laughed so hard, I peed a little. Brevity is the soul of wit:)

    Maggie - sounds like you are one grounded girl. Never change!

    jen - "a sharp punch to the forehead"!! That is exactly what I needed to know. Where were you a year ago??

  23. Smaller weight gain can mean smaller babies. Smaller babies are more likely to have birth defects.

  24. such a great post charlotte! I'm with Lisa G. as well, breastfeeding does nothing for me weight wise. (sigh) I've had many people tell me straight to my face "you still have some baby weight to lose, don't you?" which makes me want to pull my hair out. There is just too much emphasis on women's weight and putting this pressure on new (or not so new) moms is just not right.

    How about letting the moms just enjoy their new bundles and getting the cameras off their back(side)?

  25. I Love Charlotte!!! It makes me feel better to read this again, because I'm a single Mom for 6 weeks and have been getting down on myself for not being able to fit turbo or any exercise in my schedule lately. No doubt: Mommies need Daddies to help take care of us!

  26. People actually said you were lucky to have morning sickness to keep your weight down. zOMG! I still can't get over maternity Spanx.

    Gabby Reece was another who lost her baby weight lickety split. She looked so fit during her pregnancy.

  27. Char, you've done it again! We women have such a passion for this topic. Celebs aside--I mean really, they're so exploited they have no normal life--it's we who hurt each other with our stupid comments about weight. We're too focused on looks and not health. So, all of us who have gone through this "baby weight" ordeal can stop obsessing. I know. I had four babies. So, do all of your friends and acquaintances a favor and stop talking about how they look. Be interested in their feelings. We just need to change the way we think and speak. Sadly, I seriously doubt this will happen on a global scale. I think skinny is "in" for the long haul. But we each can affect our own little corner of the world.

    Thanks, Char, for brightening MY little place in the universe!

  28. Awesome post, and a great points made by everyone. I've never been pregnant, so it blows me away to hear the ridiculous attitudes that people seem to have about pregnancy weight.

    Thanks so much for this Charlotte!

  29. it was very frustration on my first pregnancy to gain all this extra weight.

  30. You're very right. I'm currently pregnant with baby #7. I admit, it frustrating when you don't lose the weight as fast as these celebrity moms. But at the same time, I know there is a time for everything. I do try to choose healthier foods, but darn those sweets can be tough to stay away from while pregnant!


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