Get Rid of the Shame of Being Told to Lose Weight

By Dara Godfrey, M.S., R.D.

Having a doctor tell you that you need to lose weight to help improve your chances of fertility success can make you feel embarrassed, ashamed, not to mention, overwhelmed. There is often a lot of stress associated with trying to conceive. But, it is a necessary part of the initial consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist that should be de-stigmatized.

Weight and fertility are intimately linked. Weight can have a significant impact on fertility success. Women often wonder what they can do to try and help improve their chances of pregnancy, and this is something that is often attainable. Aiming for a BMI goal close to the normal range (18.5-24.9) can hopefully improve one’s chances of getting pregnant as well as help contribute to a healthy pregnancy. Being at a healthy weight during pregnancy can also help prevent possible complications associated with excessive weight such as a higher risk for gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia as well as a higher risk for miscarriages and C-section deliveries. Even losing 10% of one’s body weight can markedly contribute to a successful conception. The good news is that most people who are eager to have a baby are often more inclined and motivated to lose weight than people without a goal of conception.

As healthcare professionals, we have an obligation to tell our patients different strategies that may help make treatment as safe as possible. Losing weight, encouraging well rounded eating habits and stressing the importance of exercise, should be standard discussions in any fertility clinic. Of course, how the news is delivered is paramount towards de-stigmatizing this. Patients should be told in both a clinical and empathetic way that the best odds for pregnancy come when a patient is healthy from the inside out. But remember, it is not an insult if you are told to lose weight. Instead, of being ashamed, it should be seen as an actionable and often critical component of the fertility process.

Meeting with a registered dietitian can help you get the guidance, support and accountability that are paramount to long-term successful weight loss. An expert can give you the tools and tricks that are catered to your lifestyle, which can help ensure positive results.

Tips For Weight Loss

  • Hydration is crucial for good egg quality and for the production of cervical mucus to help the sperm travel more easily. Aim for at least 8 cups (2L or 64 oz of water daily).
  • Cut out added sources of sugar, especially from soda, fruit juice and other sweetened beverages. A huge contributor to the obesity epidemic is the regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Never skip breakfast. It is so important to try and eat some lean protein and fiber within the first hour of waking in the morning. It will help ensure your metabolism gets working after an overnight fast (while you sleep) and helps prevent you from bingeing or having huge meals the rest of the day.
  • Try to get in some form of activity daily. It can be as simple as taking a 30 minute walk, putting on some music and dancing, or taking the stairs instead of an elevator/escalator at work, at home or even in the subway. If you go to a workout class for 60 minutes or longer, makes sure to eat a small snack including a source of protein within an hour post workout. This will help prevent you from being ravenous the rest of the day.
  • Don’t skimp on veggies. Vegetables, specifically green-leafy veggies are packed with vitamins and minerals, including folate, iron and calcium – all, which can be helpful for fertility and essential for a healthy pregnancy. They are also relatively low in calories, but high in fiber, which helps with one’s satiety levels.
  • Be accountable and start a food diary in a book, on a spreadsheet or using an app (MyFitnessPal makes it easy). Be as specific as possible when recording, including the time of the day you eat, the portion sizes of your food and what you are drinking at each meal. Having a record of your meals can help you plan for the next meal and for the following day. They are also a great way for you and your nutritionist to help make goals and plan for the future.

For more information on weight loss and fertility, click here.

Dara Godfrey, M.S., R.D. is a nutritionist at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York

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