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No, I'm Not Pregnant -- Just Fatter. But Thanks.

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Asking someone if she's pregnant could do more than just hurt her feelings. Trust me.

woman holding belly

Julia Childless: It's National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. As someone who suffered from both binge eating and anorexia for most of my 20s, I thought it would be appropriate to share my story about why I believe nobody should ever ask another woman this question: "Are you pregnant?"

Also unacceptable? "When are you due?" "Is it okay that I noticed you're expecting?" And, "I think you must be pregnant -- you have that special glow!"

I have heard all of these things from very well-meaning and very intelligent friends. It felt very hurtful. Very upsetting. Very uncomfortable.

One way I finally overcame my binge-eating was by allowing myself to eat whatever I wanted while attempting to be less concerned about what size I wore. At first, the novelty of having "forbidden foods" around all the time caused me to overindulge. But after a while the excitement wore off, and I was able to eat more moderate, "normal-size" portions. I gained about 20 to 30 pounds those first few months, and tried to embrace my new attitude by wearing stretchy clothes -- ones that would expand to my ever-changing body while it adapted to my new eating habits.

At the same time, I was trying to get pregnant -- a huge reason why I wanted to conquer my disordered eating and become my healthiest. I wasn't quiet about my attempts; most people around me were either expecting themselves or already had children of their own, so I picked their brains about trying to get knocked up. A number of them put two and two together: I was talking babies, I was looking heftier and happier ... hence, "Are you pregnant?"

I don't know if it would've stung less had these people been strangers. My stomach has always been a problem area, and after a hearty meal I can definitely look like I'm in my second trimester. But the fact that these women were my friends -- and people I respected -- I had to tell them the truth. It felt like my eating disorders were sitting on each of my shoulders, saying, "Told you so. Shouldn't have tried this. Look at this sticky situation you've gotten yourself into. Should've kept starving yourself, so you wouldn't have to admit you're not pregnant yet."

As if I needed to be reminded.

I told my friends that I wasn't pregnant, of course -- and also said that I was actually recovering from an eating disorder and had gained some weight. The reactions were definitely awkward, but not one of them apologized. Maybe they didn't want to admit, "Sorry, but if you're not pregnant, you don't look like yourself. And that ain't good."

Another thing you should avoid saying? If you're pregnant, never utter these words: "I'm so fat!" "I'm huge!" "I'm a beached whale!" Hearing things like this didn't help my infertile, bloated self recover any quicker.

Ultimately, through a lot of positive self-talk and the advice of my therapist, I was able to move past these comments without relapsing. I've also, over the last year, naturally lost all of the weight I initially put on, and then some. When I talk with friends about my fertility issues nowadays, nobody suspects that my skinniest self might be expecting. But that doesn't mean it wouldn't hurt if someone did make a mistake, and asked the dreaded question.

So don't do it. Your curiosity isn't more important than someone else's self-esteem. And if the person you think is pregnant doesn't have an eating disorder? Still don't assume -- or you might just trigger one.

next: Should We Stop Taking Our Kids to Animal Parks?
28 comments so far | Post a comment now
Raine February 26, 2010, 5:18 AM

Wow, people are harsh in the comments today.

As a pregnant woman, I find the questions and comments pretty rude, too. Even if a woman is pregnant, maybe she doesn’t feel like announcing it to the world or discussing her due date, parenting choices, etc, with everybody because they happen to notice a baby bump.

Whether weight or pregnancy, the self-centered unrealistic people here are the ones that feel like they have a right to just randomly comment on other people’s bodies and/or health. That’s just rude. Then again, maybe I should start walking up to random bald people and asking” So, how’s the chemo going?”

Anonymous Mom February 26, 2010, 6:53 AM

Thank you Raine, exactly! But I’m really rather upset by all the negative comments here. Why all the hate? Of course it’s bothersome. And it’s not just for overweight women, you know. What about whenever some celebrity woman has a big meal, is bloated, etc. and the paparazzi is instantly taking pictures of her abdomen and saying she has a “bump”? Stop hating on overweight women and those with eating disordres - if you’ve never had one, you are blessed to not know how difficult it is. If you’ve never been overweight, you are blessed in that regard too. And if you’ve never had to tell someone nope, I’m not pregnant, just fat - I hope you never do. Even without an eating disorder, even if you’re not overweight, it will smack your self-esteem so hard you won’t know what hit you.

Anonymous February 26, 2010, 9:07 AM

wow…Sometimes i cant believe how incredibly rude and insensitive other people can be. This woman is brave enough to write this article about her personal experience. And trust me being mistaken for being pregnant and admitting it takes courage. I have been through it..because out of all my girlfriends i am losing the baby weight from my 2 yr old the slowest..but i also had the child that slept the least. I have been mistaken for being pregnant a number of times and yes i am doing something about it. But this writer had an eating disorder..and is working on herself. And the comments she receives are saying deal with it? do something about it? accept reality? Cmon…some sensitivity. I am also a therapist..and know some of the dynamics and possible deep seeded issues involved in it..and those negative kind of comments seen on here can destroy a person. Cmon people..this is momlogic..moms supporting each other..women supporting each other and sharing information…doesnt seem that way lately with the rude comments.

michelle February 26, 2010, 10:57 AM

Some of the comments here are not just disgusting but ignorant. This woman’s friends should know better than anyone that she is recovering from an eating disorder and that recovery is difficult enough without the constant implication that she is fat. Those friends are underminers and she might want to distance herself from them. And why all the blaming her for her illness? Yes, an eating disorder is an illness. Go look it up. Do you blame people for having cancer and tell them to get over it? No? Okay. Shut up.

Wendy Lee February 26, 2010, 6:17 PM

I have been educated and moved by this blogger’s posts. On the other hand, I am truly disturbed by the tone of some of the comments. There seems to be an epidemic of supreme lack of empathy. Even though we have free speech in our country and on the Internet, it makes sense to think of how another human being would feel when you comment online as well as in real life. As for me, I will read these posts but no longer subject myself to the comments. Goodbye.

wow February 26, 2010, 7:55 PM

I am continually shocked and appalled by the level of ignorance and hostility displayed on these comment pages. If you don’t like the post you’re reading, don’t continue reading it! I certainly hope you all do not treat those you know in real life the way you treat the writers on this blog. Probably don’t have a lot of friends if you do. I’m expecting my first, but it certainly doesn’t make me want to continue reading any momlogic posts when the readership is so hateful.

Anonymous February 27, 2010, 4:46 PM


Paula March 23, 2010, 11:24 AM

I am also appalled by the nastiness here. I appreciated this honest assessment of the bloggers’ body image and relationship with food. I once heard a comedian joke that you should never comment on someone’s pregnancy unless you see a baby actually coming out of her body! I try to follow that advice.

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