I was diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea as the reason why I wasn’t ovulating and was struggling to conceive. This is a condition where the brain is not sending the right message to the ovaries to produce the hormones required to have a normal cycle. It’s all to do with stress and is quite common in athletes and underweight women. I still don’t know what exactly caused my periods to go MIA – it could be related to not eating enough (especially animal proteins and fats), exercising too much (especially on an empty stomach), being depleted of nutrients from years on the contraceptive pill or if I was partying too hard in my early twenties. Let’s face it, it’s probably a combination of all of these things.
Either way, I need to be very careful to eat enough high quality food to have the body fat required to make babies. For others, the opposite is true and they need to lose weight to bring their bodies into peak baby making condition. The last thing we want to do is to body shame women. There is already enough pressure to be a certain size and that is not what Wholesome Inc. is about.
The reality is, weight and BMI play a big role in conception and pregnancy. Being overweight negatively impacts egg and sperm quality making conception more difficult. It can also lead to complications during pregnancy like early pregnancy loss, fetal malformations and gestational diabetes. And the instance of medical interventions like inductions and C-sections are increased for women with a high pre-pregnancy BMI.
However being underweight also has its own risks like reduced ovulation rates and babies being born with low birth weight, meaning it can take longer to get pregnant and the health of your baby is at risk if you do conceive. Studies show that women should have at least 20% body fat to ensure good quality eggs and ovulation is occurring. As women, we are meant to womanly bodies, otherwise they’ll start acting like prepubescent teens.
So the benefits of being in a healthy weight range before conceiving are unquestionable. Research has also shown that a parent’s diet at the time of conception can permanently influence their babies DNA.
This all feels like a lot of pressure, hey? So how do you make sure you’re giving yourself and your baby the best start to life?
Here are my 3 tips to keep your weight in the baby-making range:
1. Manage blood sugar and insulin – around 60% of overweight women have insulin resistance which can impact our fertility hormones. So it’s important to control blood glucose spikes (which is the trigger for a surge in insulin) by eating a small amount of low GI carbs like sweet potato and brown rice and avoiding high GI carbs like sugar and pasta. If you do eat some high GI foods like rice or corn cakes, try and pair it with some good quality fat (avo or nut butter) or protein to reduce the overall GI rating of the food (I also do this by eating dark chocolate and nuts together).
2. Increase protein – protein should become the main focus of your meals when you’re trying to conceive. You should aim for 25-35% protein and less than 40% carbs. So think eggs for breakfast, tuna and brown rice salad for lunch and a beef Bolognese with zucchini noodles for dinner. (Check out the article here to see how this type of fertility diet increases IVF success rates). It can be had to reach the recommended level of protein so I always suggest having a protein shake as a mid-morning snack when trying to conceive.
3. Move your body every morning - exercise is a great way to keep fit and healthy, but about 70-80% of our weight is determined by the food we eat, rather than the exercise we do. The thing with starting your day with some form of exercise is that it makes you want to keep nourishing your body throughout the rest of the day. So try and get at least 20 minutes of cardio or strength training every day. I am loving starting my morning with yoga - check out Yoga with Adriene for some nice routines.
If you are trying for a baby, it’s important for you to be a healthy weight for your body. The Wholesome Inc. Preconception Program can help you achieve this while coming from a place of love and nurture, not shame and deprivation. You'll learn how to cook to boost your fertility and to exercise with your goals in mind. You'll improve your overall health for the long-term, and this is the best way to get pregnant fast. Find out more.
 Poston et al, Preconceptional and maternal obesity: epidemiology and health consequences. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinology, 2016.
 Vinturache, A. et al. Pre-pregnancy Body Mass Index (BMI) and delivery outcomes in a Canadian population. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth, 2014.
 Magnetic resonance imaging of overall and regional body fat, estrogen metabolism, and ovulation of athletes compared to controls. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism August 1, 1993 vol. 77 no. 2471-477
 ACOG, High Protein, Low Carb Diets Greatly Improve Fertility, American College of Obstetricians and Gynocologists, 2013.