....I'M GOING TO LOSE MY EFFING MIND"
- Many women facing infertility in it's ugly face
I’ve been seeing a lot of questions surrounding weight and fertility and there are many of you who are looking for the answer: Does losing weight really help with fertility?
Yes (and no).
First things to remember. We are all individuals. We all come in different shapes and sizes. When you meet your body’s pre-pregnancy needs for nourishment and activity, your body weight falls in line where it’s healthiest for you. However, remember that what works for one person will not necessarily work for you (unless we’re talking about eating mindfully, having appropriate stress management techniques, and keeping active – those work for everyone!).
In many cases, your weight and behaviours that are related when you conceive has a stronger influence on a positive pregnancy outcome than what happens to your weight during pregnancy. Healthy weight gain during pregnancy still has an important role and both have a very real impact on what will become important later on – the likelihood of successful breastfeeding, a healthier infant and school aged child, healthier weight between pregnancies and better health odds for you and our child throughout life.
Look for not only the short term benefits (getting pregnant), but the long game (healthier children, healthier you).
You don’t want to obsess over your weight or try to achieve a cookie-cutter appearance that doesn’t respect your genetics. You’ll only be more stressed and dissatisfied.
There are some important things to know when it comes to your weight and fertility.
Fat cells are busy hormone factories. They pump out hormones every minute of every day. In fact, fat is considered an endocrine (hormone producing) organ. Your ovaries and adrenal glands produce the raw materials, and your fat turns them into the sex hormones testosterone and the estrogens.
The more fat you have, the more hormones they produce. This will get your hormone balance out of kilter and interfere with your fertility. Having extra body fat will not help your fertility.
Fat cells not only produce extra sex hormones, but they reduce the amount of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) in the blood stream. Why is this an issue? Because this protein molecule circulates in your blood stream and holds on to sex hormones, keeping them inactive until they are needed. If you have plenty of SHBG, your sex hormones won’t be overactive.
So, your fat cells are producing extra hormones at the same time reducing the SHBG that would keep those hormones in check.
Note however that being overly lean can lower estrogen levels too much and can shut down ovarian function.
Weight Loss and Infertility
If you are suffering from ovulatory infertility, sometimes a weight loss of 5-10% of your current weight can be enough to improve ovulation and can be especially helpful to those that suffer from PCOS.
The BMI system is not perfect, but it can give a good estimation on if you could benefit from weight loss (or weight gain). It has been shown that a BMI of over 30 comes with the highest increase risk in ovulatory infertility (but the risk is also elevated in those with a BMI between 25 and 29.9). Folic acid supplementation doesn’t offer any extra protection against neural tube defects to babies born to obese moms.
I’m not just talking about weight loss, but weight gain could be a concern as well.
Women with pre-pregnancy BMI’s above or below the normal range, especially those who are obese (BMI above 30) or extremely obese (BMI above 40), or underweight (BMI below 18.5) increase their risks of problems in conceiving, pregnancy complications, and lifelong health of your future child.
And it isn’t just about your weight either; Overweight men aren’t as fertile as their healthy weight counterparts – excess weight can lower sperm production including lower counts, and fewer stronger swimmers, decreases in testosterone as well as erectile dysfunction. If he is holding on to some extra pounds, getting to a healthier weight can not only improve his fertility, but his overall health.
Don’t forget, you’re both going to be role models for your child, so now is the time to perhaps clean up some bad habits.
There are women who are obese who have no problems getting pregnant. But know that children who are overweight are more likely to have come from parents who are overweight. Part has to do with the ways that our genes control insulin secretion, the enzymes that respond to insulin and how and when we become insulin-resistant. But, remember, a child in the womb is supplied with all the nutrients from Mom. So, the higher the blood sugar, the more glucose her child will get in the womb. Stay with me here. As the pancreas develops in the child, it responds to this increased dose in blood glucose by developing more insulin-secreting cells itself.
Higher blood sugar in Mom = more insulin secreting cells in child = the more insulin the child will secrete closer to birth.
This not only will pre-dispose her child to over secrete insulin and become insulin resistant as it gest older, this means a predisposition to get fat as it ages as well. Obese mothers, diabetic mothers, mothers who gain excessive weight during pregnancy or develop gestational diabetes all generally have one thing in common – they tend to be insulin resistant and have higher levels of blood sugar, resulting in fatter babies.
A modest 5% weight loss can make all the difference. However, be cautious to avoid rapid drops in weight – this can negatively impact fertility because the body interprets it as a crisis, and it must channel resources towards immediate survival needs and away from energy-draining reproductive functions. A loss of no more than 2 pounds a week is not only sustainable, it won’t put your body into crisis mode.
Losing weight isn’t about crash diets and deprivation, it’s about better choices.
However, don’t think you’re off the nutrition and fitness hook based on a scale number alone. The truth is that all women need the benefit of healthy habit, independent of weight, before they go about the business of baby making.
You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet.
Don’t forget that sugar actually creates a hormonal imbalance in the body. Eat something high glycemic (causes your blood sugar to spike), insulin comes along to shuttle the sugar out of the blood stream – into cells for energy, and when the cells can’t take any more, stored into fat. Excess insulin = fat storage. This excess fat actually behaves like an additional endocrine (hormone producing) organ. Excess fat can upset the delicate hormone balance required for procreation and health!
One of the best habits we can all learn to develop around food, is to eat mindfully.
It is best to eat without distractions. No TV, no phone, no magazine, or book.
Take your time to chew your food. Digestion begins in the mouth. The simple act of slowing down and chewing will not only improve your digestion so that your body can get the most out of your food, it will allow your brain to catch up to your stomach. It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to relay to the brain that it is full.
Eat until you are no longer hungry. We often eat until our plate is cleaned. We can work to reframe the question; am I no longer hungry as opposed to am I full?
Before you reach for that snack HALT. Answer the questions:
H – Am I hungry?
A – Am I angry?
L – Am I lonely?
T – Am I tired?
These are often emotions that are happening when we’re reaching for the food. If you can start to only eat when you are truly hungry (and remember, feeling a little hungry is an ok feeling to have, but feeling starving before eating will only encourage over eating), you will be on your way to healthier eating patterns. When you learn how to feed your body properly, you won’t feel like you are starving.
Focus on the amazing foods that you can be adding to your diet, not what foods you could be taking away. Eventually with the right choices, the better foods will start to push out the not so good. When you slowly start making the choice for the whole food, there is no room left for the processed
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your future baby is to learn how to manage your blood sugar. This is key for weight management and long term health!
Your body knows how to deal with some excess hormones – your liver is doing that for you right now (as well as filtering out toxins, medications and other things).
The liver sends these to the bile duct, which leads to your intestines where the dietary fiber is supposed to soak them up and you poop em out (the best blog posts discuss poop at least once, no?)
If you’re not consuming enough fiber, these excess hormones will be reabsorbed into your blood stream. So, instead of being flushed away, they’re recycled. (Fiber also does the same thing for excess cholesterol)
The biggest take away is that weight is not the complete picture. Don’t compare yourself to others. Well-fed, fit people come in all shapes and sizes. There are many factors beyond our control that influence our weight. Shift the focus from weight control to taking charge of health enhancing behaviors that are in your power. Your choices. You have the power to choose; regular balanced wholesome eating, healthy eating behaviors, activities that promote movement. Focus on what you can chose, and what you can control.
The healthy weight that’s right for you can best be determined in the habits you can develop by nourishing your body well and engaging in movement, every day, day after day, month after month and year after year. In the sustainable choices you can make repeatedly.
Find me on Facebook or Instagram and let me know what one thing that you can do today to help get you to your goal of a healthy pregnancy? Tag me @givepeasachance.ca and hashtag #MyOneThing
If you need a personalized plan to get on track with your healthy eating habits before you try to get pregnant, book a free consult call https://www.givepeasachance.ca/book-online.
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