You have been trying to get pregnant and now you’ve been told you need to lose weight. Losing weight can be difficult under any circumstances, but the added pressure of losing weight to improve the likelihood of becoming pregnant can make the task seem even more challenging. Fortunately, losing as little as 10% of your body weight can make a dramatic impact on your fertility.
How can you enhance your overall health and improve your likelihood of becoming pregnant?
Shift your focus
While your doctor may advise you that weight loss is important to improve your chance of pregnancy, it’s not the sole reason to make a change. With pregnancy and children come additional responsibilities so why not take ownership of those responsibilities now? Shift your focus from losing weight to something more like “nutritional self-nesting.” Use this as an opportunity to phase-in the changes you would make during pregnancy anyway. You can develop the healthful habits you want to model for your family in the future and, as a result, position your body to be more receptive to fertility treatment. Following are just a few ways to get started.
Eat your vegetables
Most of us are not getting the 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables our bodies need to maximize our health. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants to help repair the daily wear and tear life puts on our bodies. They also are loaded with fiber to help you feel full and stay regular.
Fruits and vegetables help you stay hydrated and deliver essential vitamins and minerals your body needs to function. Look for ways to increase your fruit and vegetable intake by filling up half your plate with these nutrient-packed foods. You can add fruits or vegetables to just about everything –-eggs, pasta, smoothies, yogurt, pizza –- to meet your daily needs. Making this change will help you feel full longer and crowd out room on your plate for less nutrient-dense food choices, which will reduce your overall calorie intake.
If You Drink, cut out (or at least cut back) the Alcohol
You probably have no intention of drinking once you get pregnant or start nursing, but if you sometimes consume alcohol now, why not cut down or cut out alcohol to prepare your body for pregnancy? Alcoholic drinks are heavy hitters when it comes to calories, but do not provide any nutritional gain in return. Depending on the number, size and sugar content, alcoholic drinks can easily derail your weight loss goals even if you only imbibe on the weekends. Additionally, you are more likely to make unhealthy food choices while under the influence. Yes, there can be cardiovascular gains to a glass of red wine here and there if you already drink, but recommendations for women are still limited to no more than one serving of alcohol a day.
Model behaviors you can be proud to hand down
My daughter is only one year old and is already deep into her mimicking phase. She repeats gestures and sounds and even prefers to eat what we are eating. The “pre-conception” phase is a good time to begin habits that you will want your child to mimic.
Take inventory of some of the behaviors that you intend to change with pregnancy or post-partum. If you have promised yourself to stop smoking, cut out caffeine or start exercising because you know it will be good for your baby, start now. These are not small undertakings and it would be better not to go “cold turkey” when you get that wonderful positive pregnancy test. Working on these changes now gives you more time to solidify these healthful habits and get your body ready for pregnancy. Best of all, you will already be modeling healthy behaviors when that little one makes his or her appearance.
My philosophy is that improving nutrition and exercise is akin to the fabled race between the tortoise and the hare. ”Slow and steady” lifestyle changes are going to help you cross that finish line to a healthy life. If you take the “quick-fix” hare approach (read: “fad diets”), you may see initial results, but they are typically not sustainable and do not lead to winning the long-term weight loss race.
You certainly do not have to make these improvements all at once, but taking them on in the near-term will not just mean putting your body in the right condition for fertility, but starting lasting, healthful behaviors that will support a healthy pregnancy and help you raise a healthy family. Of course, you do not have to develop a plan alone. Seek the help of a Registered Dietitian to help you set realistic and attainable goals for pre-conception and beyond.
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