Fertility

IVF Diet – How to Lose Weight for Optimal BMI for IVF Treatment

Eloise Edington  |   19 Feb 2021


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I (Eloise) have spoken on our Instagram about how lockdown has not been good for my own waistline! We recently ran a poll which showed that nearly 70% of readers waiting for IVF treatment have not been eating well (IVF diet going out the window) or exercising as much as they used to, due to Covid and lockdown. The lovely Eugenie (a fertility dietitian) has been helping me with a personalised weight-loss programme and I’m pleased to say that I’ve shed the first 7lbs of the extra stone I gained over the past 12-months. It’s amazing having tailored advice and someone to kick you up the backside when you feel like caving!

Eugenie’s experience in the field of nutrition spans from intensive care nutrition, to specialised meal plans for patients with gestational diabetes. Her forte, however, is nutritional support, nutrition prior to conception and during pregnancy, maternal and female health, gastroenterology, weight management and disease prevention. In this blog, Eugenie shares her top tips for those looking to reach an optimal BMI goal for their fertility treatment.

Words by Eugenie

www.dietitianeugenie.com | @egdietetics

An optimal body mass index (BMI) is required for better IVF success. Calculating your BMI for IVF is a simple way to determine whether you are a healthy weight for your height. Different BMI interpretations exist, but most resources consider a BMI of 20-25 kg/m2 as a healthy range. However, the NICE guidelines on fertility problems (2013) suggest that a BMI outside of the following range 19-30 kg/m2 is likely to reduce assisted reproduction success. Therefore, many women are advised to either lose or gain weight to come within the above BMI band.

I often see ladies who are trying to lose or gain weight before fertility treatment. Unfortunately, my clients often desire quick fixes. My job is to ensure their (IVF) diets still provide all essential nutrients for optimal fertility while losing weight. Weight loss is very individual and depends on your age, health status and physical activity levels. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Think about your weight over the past couple of years. Has it been stable? If you gained or lost weight, why would this happen? What are you doing differently now? Did you change jobs or working hours? Do you feel anxious or stressed because of the lockdown? Do you drink more alcohol than you used to.

Below are my tips for successful weight loss while preparing for IVF treatment…

Related Article – 5 Nutrient-Dense Foods for Pre-Conception

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Portion Size

It is very common for people to eat more than they need. Ideally, our dietary intake should match our physical activity levels to keep our weight in balance. If you used to exercise every day and stopped, you have to eat less. Some clients report a habit of finishing each meal despite the portion size due to how they were brought up. This is a very tough habit to change. Still, it is possible to do that with professional support and your determination.

Furthermore, many of my clients are unaware of what is the right portion. The American Diabetes Association recommends to divide our main meal plate into quarters as follows:

  • 2 quarters made up of non-starchy vegetables

  • 1 quarter of starchy foods (rice, potato, pasta)

  • 1 quarter of protein-based foods (beans, chicken, fish)

Related Article – Gut Health: Why is the Mediterranean Diet So Good For Fertility?

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Snacks

The number of snacks you need a day is individual. But please think about why you snack? If you are hungry all the time, make sure your meals are balanced and contain a fair amount of protein and vegetables and slow absorbing carbohydrates. Examples of slow absorbing carbohydrates are listed below:

  • Wholemeal bread

  • Brown rice

  • Quinoa

  • Sweet potato

  • Pumpkin

  • Brown pasta

  • Rice noodles

Remember to drink plenty of sugar-free fluids to prevent dehydration which is often mistaken for hunger. Aim to snack on raw vegetables, fruits, a small amount of nuts and seeds, natural yoghurt, or homemade granola bars. Try to keep busy to avoid snacking due to boredom or stress. My favourite examples of keeping busy reported by my clients are: reading, going for walks, repairing their cars and DIY.

Related Article – Fertility Nutrition: How to Strengthen your Immune System through Nutrition

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Meal Pattern

I think there is still no consensus on the number of meals we should eat a day. However, it is a well-known fact that irregular eating is unhealthy and may contribute to weight gain. Therefore, I recommend eating within an hour or two from the time you wake up. Keep the gaps between meals to a maximum of 5-6 hours.

Cooking Methods

Think about how much oil or butter you are using when preparing your meals. I usually suggest sticking to a teaspoon of oil or butter per person as a guide. A similar rule applies to sauces and dressings. However, it depends on whether you are using a full or low-fat variety. Remember to limit regular mayonnaise to a teaspoon. However, the low-calorie version could be consumed in more significant amounts (max two tablespoons).

Eating Out and Takeaway Food

I think that an occasional restaurant meal or a takeaway now and again will not cause any harm. However, regular takeaway/convenience food consumption may cause weight gain and boost the intake of salt and unhealthy fats. Limit yourself to a maximum of one takeaway/restaurant meal a week. This can also help to save some pennies.

Related Articles – Folate vs. Folic Acid When Trying to Conceive

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Desserts

Have you got a sweet tooth? Please don’t worry because it is still possible to lose weight. Try making your own desserts. Measure ingredients carefully. Whenever possible, use low-calorie substitutes, e.g. natural sweeteners, low-fat yoghurt, chia seeds, and plant-based kinds of milk. If you’re busy and fancying something sweet, stock up on fresh and dried fruit, sugar-free jellies and small calorie-controlled desserts (under 200 kcal).

Eating When Not Hungry

Many people turn to food when stressed or bored. However, if you want to lose weight efficiently, every time you get an urge to have something to eat, ask yourself whether you really need it? Try a drink first, especially if it’s late at night. Many of my clients reported being able to resist nighttime snacking by substituting the snacks for warm drinks of herbal tea. Please don’t be hard on yourself if you cave in because it is normal when trying to change your habits.

Physical Activity

Regular physical activity is beneficial for our physical and mental well-being and can stimulate weight loss. The NHS recommends moderate exercise at least 3 days a week. Are you meeting this target? Are you walking daily? How many steps are you making? My tip for increasing physical activity is to pick the activity you enjoy and start slowly. I have heard so many times about how people didn’t enjoy running or going to the gym! You don’t need to do anything you don’t like. But if you like dancing or yoga, try to do it regularly to boost your fitness and speed up weight loss.

Related Article – Exercise Whilst Trying to Conceive: 5 Fitness Trainers who Help the Body, Mind and Soul

If you have tried all the above steps and your weight loss is too slow or insignificant, consider acquiring a slightly different approach or consult a professional. The examples of weight-loss strategies listed below are a lot more restrictive and most likely will require multivitamin supplementation to maintain optimal fertility and prevent nutrient deficiencies:

  • Calorie restriction

  • Intermittent fasting

  • Meal replacement

  • Keto diet

  • Bariatric surgery

I hope you have enjoyed reading about what I usually recommend for weight loss / diet in preparation for IVF. I hope to discuss tips on weight gain and struggles with low weight in my upcoming posts. Please feel free to get in touch for future individualised plans.

Related Article – Fertility, Wellness and Beauty Discounts to Rock Your New Year

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