Dear 100 Hour Board,
I come from a family of full-figured people. The kind of people that easily gain weight if we don't pay attention for a few days. I have since married into a family who have the opposite problem of either never gaining weight or having a hard time maintaining a healthy weight. My sister-in-law and I are currently pregnant and when I'm with their family the discussion is how she has a hard time gaining weight, while I've had no trouble gaining 20lbs already. I've always been a bit self conscious about my size, gained a little weight before the pregnant and now that I'm pregnant I'm more emotional, it's hard to be around my in-laws at times especially when the conversation is about how much weight they've lost. I try to focus on being healthy, but sometimes It's easy to get discouraged when I'm trying to not gain too much weight. I'm trying to be reasonable- I understand that pregnancy and body changes skew my perception of myself especially when I can't exercise as I used to. How can I enjoy being around my family during this hormonal time?
-Pregnant and tired of no clothes fitting
You are being very kind, understanding, and reasonable. This is a tough situation and your in-laws do not even realize what they're doing to hurt you. You're going to have to make things a little uncomfortable for yourself to get to a more comfortable situation. You'll have to redirect conversations. Deflect with jokes. Change the subject. Straight out ask if it's okay if you don't discuss weight at all for the evening. They don't know how they are hurting your feelings and you need to be up-front asking them to change the subject.
Also, I don't know your medical situation but most pregnant women can exercise far more and in far more ways than pop culture/old wives tales say you can. You're not a fragile flower. Even just walking around more can help you feel better. I know it's starting to get hot out and being pregnant makes things even hotter, so it might take some time to figure out a kind of exercise that you enjoy. I'm not saying this because you need to change how you look, but rather because it might help you de-stress, keep your hormonal mood stable, and feel proud of your body (it walked four whole miles today!).
There is no one way to do pregnancy "right" and gaining weight does not mean you are failing your baby or your body. You are doing a LOT of hard work and you will be a great mom because you are so kind and thoughtful trying to figure out where your tactless in-laws are coming from constantly talking about weight.
Consider the fact that if you're retaining fluids, you might not be gaining as much fat as you think. I lost 30 pounds in a month after having Baby Z because I just retained a lot of water. (It was pretty awesome to step on the scale and see the number several pounds lower every single time, I'm not going to lie.)
My husband's family is all ridiculously skinny. I remember during my first trimester, my mother-in-law was trying to be relatable by talking about how she gained twenty pounds in her first trimester and she was so horrified to be 150 pounds. I had started my pregnancy at 158 pounds and had obviously gained weight since, so this didn't exactly make me feel great. But I tried to keep in mind that my mother-in-law is honestly a little more self-conscious than I am and that this probably really did bother her when it happened.
Similarly, it can be very stressful to not gain weight during pregnancy. If your sister-in-law's doctors are lecturing her about not having healthy weight gain - because some weight gain IS healthy and not having it can be an issue - she's likely very anxious about it.
I think Concealocanth's advice is very good. I found that exercising in pregnancy made me less self-conscious, especially because having toned muscles underneath any weight you may have gained looks a lot better than not having toned muscles. Squats are apparently really good preparation for labor, and swimming or water aerobics can be really great during the summer for both giving your body a break from the belly weight and for cooling down.
I think our culture puts an unhealthy amount of emphasis on not gaining "too much" weight during pregnancy or having a "belly-only pregnancy" or whatever. Try to avoid any sources (*cough* Pinterest *cough*) that promote negative ideas about gaining weight during pregnancy.
And honestly, if occasionally you need to claim nausea or pregnancy-related ailments to bow out of hanging out with your in-laws, that's okay. Focus on what you need during this time.
Dear Pregnant and Tired,
It is amazing how our culture puts a stigma on those who are overweight. I took an anthropology class and learned that in societies were food is scarce, being full figured is considered to be a sign of beauty. It seems that we all want what is hard to have.
The good news for you is that there doesn't appear to be a strong correlation between weight and health. To the extent that there is, it's because being overweight tends to be correlated with other factors that are correlated with poor health. In other words, doing things that put you in poor health can make you overweight, but the reverse isn't necessarily true.
And in other striking news, recent research also indicates that our bodies are predisposed to burn a target number of calories per day, regardless of our physical activity. As crazy as it sounds (and the researchers were perplexed by this, too), if you go out and exercise, your body will try to cut back the calories it burns on certain body maintenance tasks. This means that you can't really expect to lose weight by exercising--only reducing your caloric intake will do it.
Now be careful here--this isn't saying you shouldn't bother exercising. The same researchers verified a whole host of benefits from being physically active. Weight loss simply isn't one of them.
But I don't think I've really answered your question. I guess what I was trying to say in all this is that I hope you can find solace in the fact that your weight condition really isn't your fault. Evidence suggests that your body really is predisposed to put weight on and keep it on. If your weight creeps up, it doesn't mean you have been negligent or lazy. It's your body trying to do what its DNA is telling it to do. It's never going to be easy for you, so keeping your weight down represents remarkable commitment and dedication on your part, and you can take satisfaction in knowing you have worked hard to get to a place others take for granted.
I hope this helps.