#30: Can I be too fat for motherhood?

with Virginia Sole-Smith

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In this episode we discuss…

  • how virginia began writing about the intersection of feminism, body image, and health

  • pressure to have the “perfect” pregnancy

  • virginia’s first daughter’s early medical complications, and how virginia had to help her learn to trust food and feel safe eating afterwards

  • how that experience inspired her book the eating instinct

  • virginia’s article “when you’re told you’re too fat to get pregnant”

  • the premise that high body mass contributes to infertility in women, where this assumption comes from, and how it’s impacted by cultural bias

  • stories of women who were encouraged to undergo serious weight loss surgery in pursuit of fertility

  • why half of the twenty largest fertility clinics in the country have body mass index cut-offs

  • what the research says about the impact of weight on health risks during pregnancy

  • other possibilities for discussing health risks with pregnant women

  • the role of stigma in health risks

  • stigma that many pregnant women experience around weight gain, no matter their body size

  • struggling with recommended weekly weight gain during pregnancy

  • why you can’t talk about health without including mental health

  • varied responses from doctors to Virginia’s article

  • declining to be weighed at the doctor’s office

  • how a parent’s own negative experiences around weight can impact how they relate to feeding their children

  • why it’s “hard not to catastrophize” with your kids when you’ve been told that there’s something wrong with your body

  • how in an effort to protect their child from weight stigma, people may unintentionally perpetuate weight stigma

  • how mothers show up to parenthood in a raw and vulnerable place in relation to their bodies

  • virginia’s answer to the million dollar question

In our kickoff to season 2, journalist Virginia Sole-Smith joins us to discuss all things pregnancy, motherhood, body image, feeding, and eating.

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As a journalist, Virginia Sole-Smith has reported from kitchen tables and grocery stores, graduated from beauty school, and gone swimming in a mermaid’s tail. With her new book, The Eating Instinct: Food Culture, Body Image and Guilt in America, Virginia explores how we can find that power — and reconnect to our bodies and our own innate understanding of how to eat — in a culture that’s constantly giving women so many mixed messages about both those things.

Virginia began her career giving diet advice in teen and women’s magazines, and reporting on environmental health issues, including the rise of the modern alternative food movement. She spent over a decade watching that movement’s obsession with whole foods and clean eating merge with the war on obesity and the belief that women’s bodies, in particular, should always be smaller. But it wasn’t until her own daughter stopped eating as a newborn, and Virginia was faced with making food seem safe to a traumatized child, that she realized just how many of us don’t feel safe around food, because our fears about body size have spun so out of control. The Eating Instinct tells the stories of women, men, and children, all learning how to eat again, on their own terms.

Virginia’s work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Elle and many other publications. She’s also a contributing editor with Parents Magazine and co-host of the Comfort Food Podcast.

Connect with Virginia on her website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, newsletter, and podcast.

Jordan Best