On Weight Gain and Love as My Guide
By Shannon Kopp
I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday morning. I was told that I’d gained too much weight in my pregnancy and not to gain another pound in the next month. If I don’t change my eating, said the doctor, then I’d be stuck with diabetes and I’d “never get the pregnancy weight off.” She said “never get the weight off” as if this was the worst thing that could possibly happen to a woman.
I laughed and politely said “thank you,” because right then, shock and fear were in charge. If Love was guiding me, I might have used the moment to educate her. To remind her that I have an eight-year history with an eating disorder, and thirty million others in our country suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder in their lifetime. I might have shared with her that eating disorders are much more than a matter of food and weight—they are serious, biologically-influenced mental disorders—often triggered by trauma.
I might have also let her know that I live in the real world. I’m not some celebrity who is going to be taking pictures of myself in a bikini four months post-delivery and selling them to a magazine for a ton of money. I’m not aiming to be featured in a “Post-Baby Weight Secrets Revealed!” US Weekly article. Or to fit into skinny jeans a few months after pregnancy, like Sarah Michelle or Ellen Pompeo. Or to strut down the runway just two weeks after giving birth, like Natalia Vodianova.
No. I’m an expecting mother who works at an eating disorder treatment center, and too many times, girls and women have shared how a visit with an uneducated doctor has sent them on a downward spiral. Body Mass Index is not the end-all-be-all Judge of one’s overall health—it’s an old, misleading calculation that often inaccurately deems people overweight or obese. Too many doctors encourage women who are not overweight to go on a diet. Too many doctors use a harsh and judgmental tone. They encourage rigidity and the false belief that there are “good” and “bad” foods. They say something like, “No more dessert,” rather than “Would it be possible to bring more awareness into your nutritional habits?”
I was told yesterday, with a pointed finger, “No more ice cream or soda. And definitely no juice. Juice is really bad for you.”
Now, I’ll admit, I’ve been having a good deal of ice cream and soda…I’ve even started having the root beer floats that I enjoyed so much as a kid. It would probably be a good idea to decrease the amount of sugar I’m consuming…but to cut it out completely? To deprive myself of foods I enjoy? To have no more ice cream or soda?
I deprived myself for eight years. Ice cream was particularly hard for me to enjoy.
My recovery from bulimia is the greatest gift of my life. It’s a second chance I do not intend on wasting.
So I’d like to say that yesterday, I was empowered and confident in what I know to be true to my heart. I’d like to say that I kept a sane perspective and what I made out of the conversation with my doctor was that I could afford to have a few less root beer floats.
But instead, I walked out of that office freaked out and ashamed. I knew that I wouldn’t cut out ice cream and soda like she told me to, that rigidity wasn’t the answer…but I berated myself for the weight gain.
Thankfully, these thoughts did not last long. I came home to four dogs and a loving husband who has been with me for ten years, from the days I was in eating disorder treatment until now. I opened up my favorite spiritual books. I meditated and prayed for guidance. And eventually, I was able to see that there was nothing to freak out about. Since I have a history with restriction, I’d been hyper-vigilient about feeding my growing baby, making sure that I never skipped a snack or a meal. Already, I love him so much. And I wanted to feed and nourish him like a king.
Not much is going to change. I’ve just been given the okay to exercise for the first time in my pregnancy, so I can go for small walks and try a bit of prenatal yoga. I can live a balanced and abundant life, and focus on what matters—connecting with my child.
With Love (not fear and shame) as my guide, that’s what this mama fully intends to-do.
About the author:
Shannon Kopp is an eating disorder survivor, animal welfare advocate, and the best-selling author of Pound for Pound: A Story of One Woman’s Recovery and the Shelter Dogs Who Loved Her Back to Life (HarperCollins Publishers). She is also the founder of SoulPaws Recovery Project, offering free animal therapy and healing resources to those suffering from eating disorders. Shannon’s writing has been featured on CNN, Fox News, Huffington Post, Salon, NPR, Good Housekeeping, Dogster, Maria Shriver, and more. She also regularly posts recovery-related poetry on Instagram! www.shannonkopp.com