Pregorexia? Ugh.

Just wanted to share my friend, Claire Mysko’s smart response, to this article about “pregorexia”–”a disorder marked by preoccupation with weight control through extreme dieting and over-exercising while pregnant.”:
I just cringe at that “pregorexia” term every time I see it. It’s just another example of how eating disorders are always presented in extremes (and having the gallery of “look how skinny she was!” photos certainly doesn’t help). That kind of coverage makes it much easier for other women to separate themselves and, sadly, to pass judgment (“How could she be so selfish?). And that “selfish” label is one that the pregnant women and moms we interviewed are truly terrified of. It’s why so many of them keep their eating disorders, disordered eating and body image issues quiet. Three quarters of them admitted that didn’t even discuss those histories with their doctors.
The pregorexia buzz is like this sensational distraction from the fact that millions of women have eating disorders and serious food and weight issues, so OF COURSE all those issues aren’t going to be magically resolved when those women get pregnant and have children.
Hopefully we’ll be able to broaden the discussion with our upcoming book, Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat?: The Essential Guide to Loving Your Body Before and After Baby.

Keep any eye out for it in October!

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14 Comments

  1. JetGirl70
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    I hear you on the frustration with the way only the most extreme eating disorders get noticed. So many of us are disordered eaters, and while this is not necessarily fatal, it makes us miserable and more prone to getting worse.
    I’ve known several women who dieted while pregnant. One had severe complications as a result, with a preemie birth and her own health problems.
    Books like “Skinny Bitch Bun in the Oven” just add to the horror. There’s actually a chapter in there on being a MILF. ICK. ICK. ICK.
    Thank goodness your friend is writing a sensible book on the subject!

  2. autumnally
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    It’s aggravating that society stigmatizes food – it is made to be the enemy, rather than a necessary and highly pleasurable part of life – yet expects pregnant women to magically overcome this stigma once they get pregnant. Pregnancy adds an incentive – needing to care for the health of the baby as well as your health – but it doesn’t solve the problem. Only a society with healthier attitudes about food and bodies will.

  3. UnHingedHips
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    It’s unsurprising that pregnancy can exacerbate eating disorders, and the way we handle prenatal visits certainly doesn’t help. You have to gain just the right amount of weight at the right times (and what that is changes every decade), get weighed at every visit, and have a list of things you’re supposed to be hyper-aware of avoiding (deli meat! fish! sprouts!). Doctors could actually talk about diet, but that’s more complicated than sticking someone on a scale and telling them they got the wrong number.
    And of course everyone feels entitled to comment on a pregnant woman’s appearance. “You’re not showing at all!” “You must be having twins!” etc. etc. It’s maddening, even if you *don’t* have a history of eating disorders.
    And re: pregnancy and post-partum body issues, everyone should check out http://www.theshapeofamother.com

  4. Miriam Heddy
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    The cover of the book “Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat?” features a silhouette of a woman with a bulging belly that’s in clear contrast to her thin arms, legs, and face.
    She’s also in heels (though pregnancy often makes that even more uncomfortable) and wearing pink (because all good women like pink, right?). And she of course has long, flowing straight hair (because all good mothers have straight hair or straighten their hair).
    Although the book itself may, on the inside, question that normative image of female pregnancy and suggest that it should not, in fact, be the ideal against actual woman measure themselves, the cover of Barbie with a belly suggests we do exactly that.
    Further, the title (which is, I recognize, reiterating a frequent “joke” line appearing on t-shirts that say things like, “I’m not fat. I’m pregnant.”) precludes the possibility that a woman might be *both* pregnant *and* fat, and not
    simply look fat because of pregnancy.

  5. autumnally
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    I agree – the cover is a little off-putting. Seriously, what is with the heels?
    The image of the woman who is perfectly thin except for a bulge around her middle is very pervasive – I wish it weren’t on the cover of something that’s supposed to fight this pervasiveness.

  6. Pirate Jenny
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    Another thing to remember as far as pregnancy and food/weight issues go is that social reinforcement is still a factor.
    Women who are thin and pregnant are often praised for this whether it is something they have strived for or not. Hearing how skinny and amazing you look “despite” being pregnant can contribute to fear of losing that praise if weight is gained.
    Even if women are urged to eat or told they are “too skinny” this can still be interpreted and positive reinforcement to some.
    Add to this the “public property” attitude some people have towards pregnant women and there is likely to be an increase in comments about weight and appearance.
    BTW- the term “pregorexia” makes me feel ill.

  7. vegkitty
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    I hate the need to make everything into a cute single term.
    Pregorexia.
    Manorexia.
    Tanorexia.
    Tweenorexia.
    And let’s not forget the celebrity single-name couples like Brangelina and Tomkat.
    How about trying to help people get over these issues or conduct normal relationships instead of condensing them into cutesy sayings?

  8. kristen
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    not a substantive comment, buuuut this reminds me of the character played by Amy Adams in the (totally great) movie Junebug.

  9. Kurumi & Cheese
    Posted July 2, 2009 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Here in Japan there are pretty archaic views of gaining weight during pregnancy. Yes, gaining too much weight can be bad, but gaining too little weight is bad too. I’ve heard of doctors recommending to gain no more than 10% of your body weight. In a country where the average young woman weighs less than 120 pounds, 10% of your weight is … barely enough to account for the weight of the baby.
    I guess this is why you see stick thin girls pushing strollers. It must be really easy to lose your pregnancy weight if you only gained 10 pounds.

  10. Posted July 2, 2009 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    I’ve written before on how much I loathe the cutesy made-up names for very real and serious eating disorders. Terms like “pregorexia,” which isn’t even a legitimate, medically-recognized disorder, imply that disordered eating is temporary and confined only to a period of pregnancy and will just go away after nine months. Often times these problems exist before pregnancy and continue long after.

  11. Kathleen6674
    Posted July 2, 2009 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Skinny Bitch has a PREGNANCY DIET BOOK???
    *headdesk* I’ve always thought that particular book series was especially frightening, but this takes the cake. Or leaves the cake on the plate without eating it.

  12. Téa B
    Posted July 5, 2009 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Try being overweight & pregnant…
    Despite having an eating disorder, starting my third pregnancy overweight resulted in being scolded by the Ob, told to diet and to “try not to gain any weight”. I would be praised for having lost weight in a high risk pregnancy.
    Of course, this triggered me and I wouldnt eat for 4 days before an appointment… but of course, fat people can’t have an eating disorder… right?
    I can relate, but I think that Drs attitudes are triggering to anyone with eating issues… not just pregnant women.

  13. Eliza-Rose
    Posted July 6, 2009 at 3:18 am | Permalink

    Just logging in to be a linguistics pedant.
    The word “anorexia” means no (ano; in some words shortened to a, as amoral) appetite (rexis). It’s from Greek. People pay NO ATTENTION to this when they invent stupid new -orexias.
    “Pregorexia” translates as “an appetite for pregnancy”. What does that mean? Presumably either that you love being pregnant, or that you eat pregnant women. Either way, stupid.
    Neologism fail.

  14. Nicole
    Posted July 8, 2009 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    The thing that bugs me about this is that the condition of “pregorexia,” in its definition, is absoutely no different from anorexia. This is what the author of the original article states:
    “It is a disorder marked by preoccupation with weight control through extreme dieting and over-exercising while pregnant.”
    That is anorexia while pregnant. The disease of anorexia is any different in a pregnant woman–it is the same psychological illness caused by the same factors and with the same symptoms. The only difference is that in “pregorexia” there is an increased assumption of selfishness; these women aren’t just starving themselves, they are hurting their fetuses. I see no other reason why to give it a different name; it’s only because it seems even worse to be anorexic when you’re pregnant so it’s its own class in terms of egocentric, obsessive-compulsive psychological disorder, beyone the level of non-pregnant anorexia.
    Fuck that noise–I smell a “human incubator” sentimentality here.

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