The Struggle to Lose Weight when Trying to Conceive

Eloise Edington  |   24 Mar 2021


Today on Fertility Help Hub, we hear from Nicola Salmon, AKA Fat Positive Fertility, who is a Fat-positive fertility coach, author, activist and speaker. In this fertility blog, she highlights the strain and extra pressure a fertility ‘diet’ can have whether you’re trying to conceive naturally or via IVF / fertility treatment. Why is so much emphasis and pressure put on weight and fertility?

Words by Nicola

www.nicolasalmon.co.uk | @fatpositivefertility/

If you’re reading this article, then you’ve probably been told to lose weight for fertility and conception. You’ve likely read hundreds of fertility blogs about the ‘optimum weight’ for getting pregnant, the thousands of different diets available that you could try in order to lose weight, and you’ve probably beaten yourself up more times than you can count, purely for the fact that you aren’t thin.

It’s not your fault.

Yes, you read that right. It’s not your fault that you haven’t gotten pregnant yet. It’s not because you haven’t found the one diet that will help you lose weight for fertility. It’s not because you didn’t eat the right foods or exercise the right way. I understand that this might be hard to believe when every single doctor / fertility specialist has told you to lose weight, and every book you’ve read has recommended a diet, so let me explain a little more…

Related Article – Nurturing Yourself for Fertility and Beyond


Diets Do Not Work

Have you ever had the experience where you’ve gone on a diet and lost a bit of weight only for the weight to come back (and sometimes a bit extra)? You are not alone. 70-95% of folks who diet, experience the same thing. It’s not that you are doing it wrong or are unmotivated. The fact is that no diet has any evidence that it works long term. If you want to dig deeper into this idea, then I recommend reading “Anti-Diet” by Christy Harrison.

Not only do diets not have the desired effect of long-term weight reduction, they come with risks such as:

  • Many of those who diet experience disordered eating, where their relationship with food is negatively impacted throughout their life.

  • Dieting is the number one risk factor for binge eating.

  • Eating less than your body needs will impact your energy levels, mood, sleep, concentration levels and increase levels of depression and anxiety.

  • Low calorie diets have been shown to have a negative impact on fertility.

  • Weight cycling (which is commonly called yo-yo dieting, where your body weight goes up and down) is known to increase chronic inflammation.

So why on earth are doctors / fertility specailists recommending weight loss?

Related Article – Fertility Help: How Do BMI and Age Affect IVF and Fertility?


Fat is Not Unhealthy

Our medical systems are based on the ideas that being fat is unhealthy. We assume so many things about the health of fat people and this is reflected in our culture and media in so many ways. But research now shows that there are similar percentages of people in all BMI categories that have sedentary lifestyles and “unhealthy” eating habits. Adults who report more positive health-promoting behaviours have better health status regardless of their BMI. We also know that health is affected by so much more than what someone is eating and how they move their body.

Related Article – Intimacy and Self-Care: Balancing the Pressure when TTC


So What Can I Do?

In a system that does not support you, you have to take matters in your own hands. It should not be your job to do this. You are absolutely deserving of receiving the same care that thin folks receive, but right now we don’t have time to wait until the systems change.

Here are some things that you can do now based on my FAT+ve Framework:

F (Formulate)

If weight loss wasn’t your goal, what things would you do to support your physical and mental health? What daily habits would you have that make you feel good in your body and give you more energy? What things can you do to ensure you get enough rest? Formulate a plan where you focus on supporting your well-being, no matter what that looks like for you.

A (Advocate)

We were never taught in school how to advocate for ourselves so it’s something we have to learn and practise. If you are able, find a doctor or clinic who will support you at your current size (they can be harder to find but they are out there!). If that’s not possible, have a conversation with your doctor about what tests and treatments you can do now rather than waiting. There is so much research out there that supports the idea that fat folks can and do get pregnant and that fertility treatments work just as well for them.

T (Trust)

When you are told time and time again that your body is wrong, it’s easy to believe it. What little steps can you take today to rebuild trust in your body and its capacity to get pregnant?

+ve (Positive Mindset)

So many of our daily decisions are based on the stories we tell ourselves and what we make them mean about us. Maybe you’ve been telling yourself the story that you don’t deserve support when trying to conceive because you weren’t able to lose weight. What would happen if you told a different story? How would it feel to say that weight loss doesn’t work and that you absolutely deserve support to grow your family?

This should not be your task to bear, but no matter what, the one thing I want you to take away from reading this is that you are worthy of becoming a parent right now, exactly as you are.

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