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Dec 9

I was told I would have to lose weight to get pregnant – but I didn’t –

For three months, I restricted and restricted food, exercised every day (Picture: Rose Stokes)

One cold and dreary day during thewinter lockdown, I mentioned offhand to a GP that within the next year or so, my partner and I would be trying for a baby.

Oh youd better try to lose some weight before you do, they told me, mentioning fertility issues in higher BMI women.

When I put down the phone, I was immediately filled with a familiar sense of dread. Not because a medical professional had told me to lose weight no, that has been part of the routine script of every doctors appointment Ive had since I was 18, even when I was five stone lighter. But because my body had been positioned as the obstacle standing in my way if I wanted to fulfil my lifelong dream of becoming a mum.

The body that I have spent my life battling because it wont be or stay as small as the ones I see in magazines had now betrayed me in the ultimate way.

And so, I did what most people trapped within diet culture do and I downloaded an app (a diet I previously used in 2017 and lost a significant amount of weight with).

Immediately, I began tracking everything just as I had done before and upping my exercise. I would do everything in my power to lose weight because this is what I had been told to do by the medical establishment.

For three months, I restricted and restricted food, exercised every day I did everything the way the app advised.

Every Friday morning though, when I put myself on the scales, I burst into tears. Because despite all of my effort, feeling hungry, pushing myself out to exercise in the freezing cold and dark and resisting every urge to binge (something Ive struggled with in the past), the number on the scale simply would not budge.

Every week I hoped. And every week I would quickly become inconsolable, crying all day and pouring scorn on my body. I did everything Id done before, so why wasnt it working?

Eventually, my highly concerned partner stepped in and asked me to stop. Watching me hurt myself like this week in, week out was simply too upsetting. He wanted us to focus instead on more positive and constructive efforts and so suggested we contact a nutritionist.

From the very first appointment, my nutritionist was very clear that the most serious problem I was suffering from was not being overweight, but the amount of stress I was putting on myself. She suggested that the intense pressure I was putting my body under against a backdrop of lockdowns and coronavirus terror meant I was living in a constant state of fight or flight.

She explained that when the body is stressed and cortisol is high, it clings onto weight, which may be why I was experiencing an issue losing it. But she also reassured me that the most important thing for my fertility and for carrying a healthy baby was my mental state.

And so from the first appointment, even before wed looked at what I was eating she told me I needed to meditate and journal every day, as well as giving me a set of positive affirmations to try to help me battle the cruel voice in my head. She prescribed exercise, yoga and maximising activities that made me feel good about myself.

As she suspected, all my medical tests came back clear, and after a few weeks, my mind started to ease and we began trying for a baby. At this stage, she told me to start taking folic acid. Within a few weeks, I was pregnant.

I say the last point not to gloat; I know that for many people, fertility isnt a walk in the park and I by no means want to show off about how quickly we conceived. But more because I want other high BMI women to read this and know that all the scaremongering they have been told and read is not necessarily true.

While there may be some evidence to suggest that weight can affect fertility, it does not and will not ever give the full picture. And telling women before theyve even tried to conceive that their bodies are problematic is simply not a helpful way to support them through the process.

The advice I was given by medical professionals did nothing to improve my health; in fact it had the opposite effect, pushing me to wage a war with my body that made me miserable.

The day I found out I was pregnant, my best friend was visiting. She, like my boyfriend, has had a front-row seat in the auditorium of my misery about my body.

The first thing she said to me was, look at that body you have hated and been horrible to your whole life. Look what it just did! Look what it did for you! Maybe now is the time to start loving it more. We both cried because we were happy, but also because we knew she was right.

The road to self love is long, especially when it comes to making peace with your size, and I am only a few miles from the start. But what Ive learned is that even with the best intentions, the facts (or opinions) thrown at you by medical professionals are not always right.

I am working very hard to make sure that my body is as healthy as my baby deserves it to be, so that they can grow in a safe and stable environment. A big part of that for us is keeping my stress levels low, as well as, like any other mum, managing my sugar intake, taking regular exercise and eating a healthy diet.

It is hard to deny that there are health benefits from being lighter for some people. But its also important to remember that not everyones body is the same, and that health is a broad picture, encompassing everything from our blood pressure to our mental state.

I hope that this is the start of a new relationship between me and my body, one that is more supportive and less antagonistic.

Beyond that, I hope one day medical professionals will realise the emotional impact that their words can have on people in bigger bodies, and try to look at us as humans first, rather than simply numbers on a scale or a data sheet.

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I was told I would have to lose weight to get pregnant - but I didn't -

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