On this episode of Fat and Fertile, we explore the myth that you don’t deserve fertility care or treatment until you’ve lost weight.
We explore where that belief comes from, what happens when we think that and what we can do instead.
Hey my loves and welcome to fat and fertile the podcast. Today we are doing a slightly different episode. Our first couple of episodes focused a lot on some of the research around getting pregnant in a bigger body but this week the myth we are looking at is based on a thought that many folks think when they want to get pregnant as a fat person.
It’s the thought That you don’t deserve care and support growing your family til you’ve lost weight
It’s totally understandable if you think this. As fat folks, we are told time and time again that it is our fault that we are fat, that fat is bad and that it is our responsibility to make our bodies smaller.
a) fat doesn’t mean anything about you
b) bodies are meant to be diverse and
c) you cannot control your weight
The fertility industry led us to believe that if we wanted it badly enough that we would do anything – including losing weight – to reach our goal. And that if we are unable or unwilling to do that, then we obviously don’t want it badly enough.
But that’s just not true. I know that you have spent so much of your valuable time, energy and resources on this (or you’ve actively avoided it for all the same reasons)
It’s not that you don’t want this badly enough.
It’s that your body wants to protect you more. Your body is doing everything in its’ power to keep you safe and that includes the built in physical systems that are designed to stop you from starving yourself.
This is why diets don’t work. Your body is inherently designed to keep you alive, including when famine hits and your body doesn’t know the difference between a diet and famine. So all the physical mechanisms get activated:
- Your metabolism slows down
- Your brain is hardwired to seek out high calorie foods and consume them
- You think about food endlessly
You cannot motivate yourself out of these survival mechanisms. Your body is keeping you alive. It’s on your side and it’s doing it’s best for you.
I know it doesn’t always feel like that but you are on the same team.
This thought (that you don’t deserve care until you’ve lost weight) can also bring up heaps of shame and judgment around our bodies and ourselves. That shame can eat away at us, leading us into hating our bodies and believing that we don’t deserve to become parents.
That shame may mean that we put off speaking to our doctor (or even anyone) about wanting to get pregnant and we might even decide to delay it, telling ourselves that once we reach “that goal” then we’ll be ready.
Let me tell you a story about one of my clients that I’ve been lucky enough to support. They had been wanting to get pregnant for about 4 years and they had stopped using birth control. They had been told by countless professionals that the only way that they would be able to get pregnant was by losing weight.
So they kept trying. They tried 5 or 6 different diets but their body kept fighting back and none of them provided long term results. They felt anxious about seeing their doctor again because they hadn’t lost weight and they felt utter body hatred because they believed that their body was completely failing them. They didn’t feel able to talk to their partner about their feelings because they felt they were letting them down too. They shouldered all the responsibility and felt so overwhelmed because they blamed themselves wholly for what they were experiencing. They were also afraid that if they started fertility coaching that it would cause the whole experience to further consume their life
During our work together, their whole perspective shifted.
They moved away from diets and instead focused on feeding their body enough to feel satisfied and safe.
They recognised the impact that their thoughts had around their body and we worked towards finding a place of neutrality
They started to feel that they were worthy of care and began to dismantle the layers upon layers of guilt and shame that they had built up over the years, which led to them being able to finally see their doctor again and ask for some tests.
In the end they didn’t need additional medical care to get pregnant but the most profound change they experienced in their own words was a “deeper sense of genuine hopefulness for the future whatever it brings”
I want to offer you the idea that it is within your power to change this thought – the thought that you don’t deserve care til you’ve lost weight.
Imagine for a second that instead you 100% believed that you were worthy and deserving of all the care you needed to grow your family?
How does that feel? What emotions does it bring up?
Although changing your thought won’t change the BMI limits of clinics or the doctors attitudes, it will change how you feel about accessing care and how you feel about your body.
Instead of placing the blame on you, it will be firmly where it belongs, with the healthcare systems that demonise fat bodies.
You do not need to “earn” your right to healthcare. It’s actually part of your reproductive rights. The World Health Organisation state these as:
“Reproductive rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. They also include the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.”
There are many reasons why doctors and fertility clinics will claim that it is ethical for them to apply BMI restrictions to fertility care and treatment but none of them stand up to scrutiny. I’ll pop a link in the show notes to a free resource that you can download if you need research to back you up on this.
From the moment you were born, you were inherently worthy. Your body size nor anything else about you can take that worth away. You are worthy of accessing all the support and care that you need to grow your family and no one can take that away from you.