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Pregnancy, food and body image

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Leading psychotherapist and author of 'Fat is a feminist issue' Susie Orbach talks to us about keeping a healthy relationship with food and body image during pregnancy...

Having a healthy relationship with food during pregnancy is becoming quite a challenge. Not every woman feels happy with the changes that occur in her body in pregnancy and this can lead to feelings of being exposed or out of control. This can also be a difficult feeling to acknowledge. From the experts who claim to know, to the pictures of yummy mummies with perfect bumps, the way we look and eat in pregnancy is in danger of becoming yet another dictate rather than a time of potential, hope and magic. Everyone feels they can touch and comment on your body, and give you advice about what to eat and what not to eat and what to do once the baby’s arrived.


I don’t want to add to the burden but having listened to many women and had my own pregnancies, I know that it can be hard to keep a steady steer on oneself. That however is crucial. Your body is changing every day and only you can discover what is right for it. Indeed, pregnancy is a special opportunity to tune into yourself and respond to your bodily needs for hunger, rest, exercise and so on.

Morning sickness

Some of you will experience morning (or all day) sickness and that will take some experimenting with to see how best to respond. Does dry toast help, or biscuits or lemon in hot water? Managing morning sickness can distort your appetite as you search for something to quell the discomfort and that can be hard, so try to really assess what does calm it down. Does the biscuit do the trick? It's unlikely to last your whole pregnancy and your appetite will soon return to nourishing foods which you absolutely need.

Hunger calling

Noticing what you want, when you are hungry and how that food sits inside is your guide, not regulations about what you should or shouldn’t eat (apart from a few foods that are best avoided). What you want will change as your baby grows. Pay attention. Most of your focus will be on the baby when she or he arrives, so it’s worth getting to know your personal signals, during this special time, while you can. It's your time.

Weight gain (or not)

As for weight gain (or not enough gain) in pregnancy, and weight loss following birth, the guidelines are just that. Not musts you have to meet or else you fail. Every woman is unique. It can feel like there is a premium now on not showing until late but that is to do with fashion and style and not to do with health or bringing a person into the world. Realising your baby is growing inside of you is miraculous and if you choose to and are able to breastfeed, there is a second miracle as your baby grows from what you give, a third miracle as she or he spontaneously lets you know how much feed is needed, and a fourth miracle as your uterus contracts in response. Bodies are there to work properly from the beginning. You can use your pregnancy and post-partum to reset yours.

Pregnancy is a precious time. It’s your time. It’s an intimate time to get to know yourself and to dream of what’s coming, without rights and wrongs. Enjoy!

You may also enjoy

What can't I eat when pregnant?
A balanced diet for pregnancy
What your food cravings really mean
Eating for breastfeeding


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