The news that Jersey Shore’s Snooki is pregnant has people asking questions about the impact of eating disorders on pregnancy and post-natal weight loss. Every individual is different and how they have (or have not ) processed and healed from the eating disorder will determine how and to what degree they manage the weight gain of pregnancy and weight loss after the child is born.
Snooki has admitted to a dangerous bout of anorexia during high school. She has used the unbalanced Cookie Diet to help her lose weight and seems to continue to lower her goal weight. Eating disorders impact two major aspects of pregnancy – weight gain and lack of control. Weight gain may be more obvious, but despite all our efforts much about what pregnancy does to a woman’s body and how a pregnancy evolves is outside of our control.
A clearly caring eating disorders treatment specialist Christel Parker, LMFT stated, “while pregnant, women who have struggled with eating disorders often share how their changing bodies, hormones and weight gain can ramp up symptoms of their illness. That said, being pregnant and having a child can be an unparalleled motivator in the recovery process. I’ve seen many times how this motivation develops into courage and strength throughout pregnancy and after giving birth.” While pregnancy can complicate the major issues involved in an eating disorder, pregnancy can also provide the existential motivation for a women to change behaviors and find healing, placing the health of her child ahead of her own health.
Weight gain is an important part of pregnancy, which can be painful for those that have suffered from eating disorders. It is suggested that even women classified as obese gain weight during pregnancy and ingest enough nutrients to nourish the growing baby. According to a two-year study, a pregnant woman’s diet has a direct impact on their unborn baby’s brain and their future eating and drinking habits. They are also “sensitized” to the smells and flavors of those foods. Pregorexia is a dangerous trend of trying to avoid any weight gain during pregnancy. Even those who are trying to avoid weight gain may find themselves frustrated when the growing child increases their body weight despite their attempts to remain thin.
Even if an eating disorder is more about personal control than body image, pregnancy can be an experience that pushes a woman back towards feelings that she had in the midst of an eating disorder. I have watched women who are extremely well read about and experienced with pregnancy be surprised by symptoms and experiences. Every pregnancy is different and every woman responds somewhat differently. Such moments complicated by hormonal changes and weight gain can easily cause a woman with a history of an eating disorder to turn back to those old coping skills.
It is my hope that she will be inspired to create the best situation possible for her child. It is my hope that she will seek out healthy foods and an appropriate caloric intake each day to help her child grow. I hope she will avoid alcohol and cigarettes to ensure her child’s development stays on track. I hope that she is surrounded by support and able to manage the stress of pregnancy and the associated weight gain without feeling drawn back into eating disorder coping skills.