Asking someone if she's pregnant could do more than just hurt her feelings. Trust me.
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.
|Julia Childless is a working actress living in Los Angeles without fertility insurance who has been trying to produce a bun in the oven for over a year.|