A Doula's Thoughts on Rejecting Diet Culture in Pregnancy
By Kaeleigh Terrill
Diet culture is pervasive, destructive, and literally everywhere. The influence that the diet and fitness industries have had over our society are undeniable and so embedded that it’s nearly impossible to navigate. Diet culture and healthcare systems, unfortunately, go hand in hand. We are fed propaganda and studies that have furthered the thin ideal. Health At Every Size (HAES) practitioners and researchers have shown time and time again that most of this anti-fat research is correlational and more harmful than helpful, yet the majority of healthcare providers are still heavily steeped in the thin ideal belief system.
We see and hear about this all the time, especially in pregnancy. Pregnancy is a time, for most women in the United States in classic models of care, full of uncertainty. Because thinness is revered by medical care providers, this is a time when weight is under serious scrutiny. Weight gain is often linked to pregnancy conditions such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. Weight gain is not the reason for these conditions, plenty of thin women can and do develop these conditions. I have heard countless stories of women being fat shamed by their providers and it has got. to. stop.
Women are constantly being told that their bodies are not good enough. We are not thin enough. We are not pretty enough. There is never a good time for this to be the rhetoric we are told and pregnancy is no exception. Weight gain in pregnancy is normal and essential, but can be triggering. We often have to be our own advocates when dealing with our care providers. Choose a care provider that speaks to you in an empowered and non-weight-centric way. Being weighed is not a necessary marker of health. It is more important to pay attention to how you feel. What is your blood pressure and blood sugar? Are you eating enough? Sleeping enough? Moving your body in a joyful way? Getting back in touch with basic principles of health is a great way to ensure a healthy pregnancy without needing to be focused on weight. Nutrition advice from care providers is often based in personal understanding on nutrition, not based in evidence. A diet should not be prescribed except in cases that actually require diet modification, such as gestational diabetes.
Remember that people outside of your body can not gauge the health of your pregnancy. I find women lose body autonomy as soon as a belly is showing. People feel entitled to touch, ask, and tell you whatever they want without a filter. “You’re so huge” “TWINS?” “You’re all belly!” It’s okay to talk back and reframe how people think and talk about pregnancy. Our bodies are ours to talk about and you are allowed to push back to anyone that presents otherwise.
We could all do for cultivating body positivity, connecting and fulfilling our needs, and rejecting diet culture! It is really helpful to expose yourself to body positivity media content. Unlearning the lies we have structured ourselves around because of diet culture is important, yet challenging. Rather than only interacting with photoshopped and curated images, start surrounding yourself with body positive instagram accounts and websites. The Fourth Trimester Bodies Project is a favorite of mine as well as the Food Psych podcast. By choosing the content we are exposed to, we can start shifting the body ideal and start empowering ourselves to love the bodies we are in.