Monday, November 8, 2010

Fertility Diet and the Need for Body Fat

There is a weight range that is considered to be ideal for fertility. It's based on your Body Mass Index (BMI), which is calculated by putting your height and weight into a formula and getting a number, which is your BMI. There are many BMI calculators on the Internet, such as this one at the Department of Health and Human Services. For fertility, ideally, your BMI, should be between 20 and 24.

If your number is above that range, don't panic! And definitely don't go on a crash diet. That is too stressful for the body, and when trying to conceive we want to limit stress in all its forms. Work to take off the weight in a healthy manner over time. Consult with your doctor about it. The fertility diet in our book can definitely help you lose weight in a healthy way. Once you eliminate alochol, caffeine and coffee, processed sugar, trans fat and overly processed foods -- not to mention dairy and wheat, the "bad" or "overly taxing" calories will be gone. Instead you'll be eating a balanced variety of all-organic veggies, lean protein, good carbs and healthy fats, and all of this will ease your body toward a more balanced, natural, healthy weight without your being hungry at all! You'll have a ton more energy too.

But what about those who are all ready at a healthy weight? You may have to be careful not to lose weight on a fertility diet by being sure to eat enough quantities and have sufficient levels of healthy fats (in balance with the rest of your diet.) You may want to eat heavier dishes that still nevertheless have all-healthy ingredients, such as a healthy version of Chili Con Carne (like the one in our book) and lamb stew.

But your BMI alone is not the only thing to watch out for... your body fat percentage is also important. You need fat to conceive!

I recently got a question from a new reader who said she was athletic, lifted weights and on a low-fat diet. She was also lean with a body mass index of 18.5. Great fitness level, great health. But to help her conceive, she would need to gain weight. She also would also need to increase her body fat, because likely with her vigorous activity and lifting weights her body fat percentage is probably well below average. When you're trying to conceive, you want your body fat to be closer to the average woman's, which is about 22 to 25%. In Toni Weschler's book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, she recommends a minimum body fat percentage of 18 while trying to conceive. Female athletes can have body fat as low as 8 or 10.

For this reader, and those in her position, I recommend exercising moderately (instead of vigorously) and totally backing off on the intensity of weight lifting and even better, eliminating it, knowing that it’s temporary. Along with that, stop the low-fat diet; the body absolutely needs fat while trying to conceive, just make it the healthy kind. And put on some weight. In other words, slow down and get soft.

This is not easy! Especially in our society, which pressures women to be thin!

I myself am a former athlete who exercises 6 days a week and lifts weights, and backing off (I slowed way down with exercise and stopped lifting weights) and allowing my body to get soft and putting on eight pounds so my Body Mass Index (BMI) was within the ideal range for fertility/conception was by far the most difficult change I had to make.

Of course, know that once you have your baby, you can go right back to your previous fitness level! And the baby does make it all worth it.

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