All of me | Fit Pregnancy

All of me

There'’s a reason for each pound you put on during pregnancy, but some women find the weight gain disturbing. Here's how to love that growing body.

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Kelly O’Dea Landes, 35, a clinical social worker from Marion, Mass., struggled with eating disorders in her early 20s but, at 5 feet 1 inch, had leveled out at 98 pounds when she got pregnant at age 33. “I was running about 30 miles a week, and my obstetrician, who was conservative, told me to stop exercising, cold turkey,” she says. “He also told me to expect to gain more weight than the average woman because I was underweight. I thought, OK, so he’s telling me I’m going to be short and fat.”
    Landes gained a normal 30 pounds yet dreaded each weigh-in at her prenatal visits. “One time I stepped on the scale and had gained 9 pounds in a month. I just started crying. That day I went home, took a bath and thought I looked like a freak. I knew I was going to love my baby, and I was so excited to be a mom, but I hated what was going on with my body.”

{fear of fat}  Glowing skin, full breasts — what’s not to love about being pregnant? Plenty, according to women who find the natural weight gain so troubling that pregnancy becomes an emotionally painful experience. For such women, normal belly growth is perceived as unwanted “fat” that makes them feel ugly, not beautiful.
    This phenomenon is a result of a culture that has an “out-of-control obsession with thinness,” according to Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D., director of the Cincinnati Psychotherapy Institute. For 16 years, Kearney-Cooke has helped women with eating disorders and body-image problems. “For the very first time, I’ve had women responding in a survey that they won’t get pregnant because they don’t want to gain weight,” she says. “Our culture has gotten so much into the development of an image rather than into the development of the self. This was not so much a worry in the past.”
    Even women who have never struggled with these issues can experience them during pregnancy, according to Diane G. Sanford, Ph.D., co-developer and president of the Women’s Healthcare Partnership in St. Louis. “It may be the first time in their lives when they feel no sense of control over their bodies,” she says. For many women, the early months are the hardest.
    Susan Pruitt, a 35-year-old Los Angeles mom, had never had a problem with weight. “At about four months pregnant, though, I felt awkward. My stomach didn’t show that much — I just looked fat,” she says. More important, however, was the prospect of having a baby in her life. “I was so excited to meet Wyler. The bigger I grew, the sexier, stronger and more empowered I felt. Toward the end, I felt very feminine and fulfilled.”

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