Researchers have recently “discovered” that preconception obesity negatively affects birth outcomes. Essentially, when a mom is severely overweight or obese, this can cause problems with her pregnancy and result in a baby with health complications.
Two problematic dichotomies exist when it comes to weight. On one end, body politic advocates push for accepting the fat body and embracing being overweight. On the other end, mainstream media pushes for unrealistically small proportions.
RootMama promotes a holistic perspective of balance and healing.
Western society compels women to “treat” weight as it pertains to being healthy by losing weight. A lot of emphasis is put on the quantifiable metric of weight. Realizing that weight alone is not a good measure of someone’s health, western medicine added, BMI, or body mass index.
BMI takes height into account. Western medicine even took it a step further than that and began to include percent of body fat as another indicator of health. In today’s mainstream health industry, weight, BMI and percent of body fat reign supreme as indicators of health. There’s an obsession with controlling these metrics by diet and exercise.
Black women come in all shapes and sizes and tend to lean towards fuller features, but not always. A Black woman has to find a healthy weight and fitness level for herself based on her bone structure, frame, physical ability and comfort.
Weight is a symptom, not a diagnosis
Weight is an indicator of what’s going on in the body, mind and Spirit, but, treating weight loss by diet and exercise alone, can miss the underlying reasons for the weight. Unfortunately, mainstream Western medicine treats symptoms without getting to the root cause of issues.
I once sat in on a popular weight management meeting, and I was terribly disappointed with the information being shared. The all women attendees were constantly assured that they could “eat whatever they want” so long as they watch the proportions. They were urged to eat low-vibration foods. They were not being educated on how to maximize nutrition.
It’s really important that women of childbearing age “watch their weight” but I would urge that if a woman’s weight is too low or too high, that she look deeper into what is really going on in the body. Is she stressed? Is she allergic to something? Is she depressed? These are just a few questions to investigate further. Simply going on a “diet” is not going to work in the long-run.
Furthermore, if there is an imbalance in the body and she just eats less calories or works out more, it may manifest in other ways – headaches, breakouts, fatigue, etc.
I see weight as a feedback loop. If there’s excess weight, the body is talking. It’s letting you know that something needs to be adjusted. The great thing about good preconception health is that it’s good for all women of all ages, especially of childbearing age, to be in optimal health.
What’s a Healthy Weight?
It’s great to be in-tuned enough with the mind, body and Spirit to really pinpoint the ideal weight for yourself. This level of connection and self-awareness takes intention and practice. It’s a skill to be self-aware. This skill takes time to cultivate. I would suggest that if you’re not quite there yet, you work with a licensed holistic nutritionist that can help you establish a goal.
It’s really important to take your height and frame into account. I love Dr. Llaila Afrika’s work because he uses health indicators for Black/African people. Many of the mainstream metrics are based on non-Black figures so they are not very accurate for measuring our health.
It’s also important to change the relationship with weight. It’s important to shift towards striving for optimal wellness, vitality and Spiritual growth. Do you see all the benefits to be gained on that pursuit? A healthy weight is merely icing on the cake. But, in sole pursuit of a lower weight, a lot of gems can be missed.
So, why should you care about your weight and health before getting pregnant?
Again, excess weight on the body is the body telling you that something is out of balance. Think beyond the scale. Think in terms of body systems. Think about the circulatory system, the digestive system, the endocrine system and so on.
Often overweight women will be prediabetic or diabetic. Is it the weight causing the diabetes? Well, we’d have to look at the organs and hormonal systems that metabolize glucose. What is your lifestyle and food choices? You see how this will lead to a series of questions and investigations to get to the root of the issue?
So, an overweight woman could be stressing her pancreas with an overrun of sugary foods and drinks. This could increase her chances of developing diabetes. Or, she could already be diabetic. Gestational diabetes is health complication that puts moms at risk of a large baby, preterm birth and preeclampsia.
Being overweight can cause stresses on the circulatory system
Perhaps poor food choices and sedentary lifestyle has created poor blood quality and the heart has to work extra hard. Well, becoming pregnant puts added stress on the organ systems. If the mom is already at risk for high blood pressure, she would be extremely susceptible for high blood pressure should she become pregnant. High blood pressure puts the pregnancy at risk for placenta detachment and preeclampsia.
In other words, it’s not just the numeric value of being overweight to take into account. It’s what being overweight or obese can be indicating as major imbalance and dis-ease in the body.
Weight gain during pregnancy
Another reason to be in optimal health and wellness before getting pregnant is because women will absolutely gain weight during pregnancy. In rare instances, obese women who adopt a healthier lifestyle while pregnant can maintain the same weight or even lose.
For the most part, women will gain anywhere between 15 – 50 lbs during pregnancy depending on her pre-pregnancy weight, frame, ethnicity as well as other factors.
Pelvic floor and abdominal muscles
Another factor to consider is the importance of carrying the baby to full-term. An overweight mother could have weak pelvic floor and abdominal muscles that are crucial for supporting a growing fetus.
Pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding are orchestrated by a complex system of hormones. Any imbalances in these hormones can cause complications in the pregnancy. As discussed earlier, being overweight can be the manifestation of imbalance in the body, including hormonal imbalance.
Preparation for labor
Labor is physical work. Having good health and fitness is key to getting through pregnancy healthily and having a safe delivery. But I’m not trying to get pregnant. Okay, sure. But ask yourself if you’re doing anything to get pregnant. Ask yourself if you’d like to be pregnant one day. It would be so much more advantageous to prepare now. Plus, good preconception health, and weight for that matter, is important for all women of all ages. It’s just a bonus to be in great health should you become pregnant or meet the man of your dreams and be ready to start a family.
That’s why it’s important to act as if. Act as if you could become pregnant in the short-term. Thinking about your future children may give you more motivation to achieve and maintain optimal wellness. A healthy weight is an indication that things are balanced in the mind, body and Spirit.