The Importance of Being Fit { Before Pregnancy }

Hi there, Mamas!  This article marks my first in “The Importance of Being Fit” series… before, during, and after pregnancy.  Being fit before kids is a great place to start!

How many times have we heard (or said): “I’ll just wait until I’m done having kids before I lose the baby weight,” or how about, “Pregnancy wrecks your body anyways.  Why would I lose weight first?”  These misguided statements could be impacting not only our health and that of our (born and unborn) children, but also may prevent us from becoming pregnant in the first place.

However, extra weight isn’t necessarily the only problem.  Getting to a healthy weight in a healthy way is a sure-fire way to optimize our quality (and quantity of life), as well as our fertility.

{Getting Fit Before Pregnancy}

Let’s Start with the Basics

In order to become pregnant, a woman has to ovulate.  When we don’t become pregnant, we get our period, which essentially flushes the unfertilized egg out of our system so we can try again next month.  Our monthly cycles are affected by many things, but weight is definitely one of them.  Excess (or too little) body fat can stimulate or amplify our hormones, and usually not in a good way.  It can even make us resist the action of some hormones (again, not good!).

The Nitty Gritty

Our hormones leptin and insulin increase as our body fat increases.  After a certain point, people can begin to become “resistant” to the action of these hormones.

Leptin is often known as the “satiety” hormone, because it should signal a feeling of fullness.  However, when people are leptin-resistant, their brains don’t register that they’re full as easily as someone without resistance.  This means that overweight people may keep eating more because they legitimately still believe they are hungry.  You can see how easily this can turn into a viscous cycle.  Leptin helps to control the production of sex steroids, like testosterone and progesterone.  When we have too much extra body fat, we can start making too much testosterone and too little progesterone.  Also, high leptin levels can cause a hormonal cascade, which can result in cycles where no ovulation occurs.  (No ovulation = no egg is released, so you can’t become pregnant.)

Excess insulin can also cause a rise in testosterone.  Too much testosterone can also result in anovulatory cycles.  Insulin resistance can result in blood sugar levels remaining higher for longer periods of time than in someone without resistance.

More Bad News

According to this article, an unhealthy weight during a woman’s first pregnancy can negatively impact future children and pregnancies.  This applied even if the mother was at a healthy weight for following pregnancies.  Yikes!  As the study author said, “Women who are over- or underweight during their first pregnancy may experience permanent physiological changes that negatively affect their second baby.”

Take Control

So, how can we reduce the effects of insulin- and leptin-resistance and start fighting towards a healthy weight?  Healthy diet and exercise are up at the top of the list!


She knows what’s up!

By eating a varied, balanced diet and getting adequate exercise, you’ll be well on your way to achieving a healthy body weight, and hopefully one step closer to getting pregnant!  Not only that, you’ll be providing nourishment to your body, correcting possible insulin- or leptin-resistance, and beginning to set a good example for your kiddos down the road.

Starting to make healthy habits now (before kids, or at least before more kids) can set you up for a healthy life!  I never knew how precious time was before I became a Mama.  There were days my husband and I would literally sit on the couch and do nothing.  Now, it’s a blessing on days I can get a workout in before L is awake at 6!  If I didn’t have that habit before, I know it would’ve been a lot harder to work it in post-baby.  Exercising gives me more energy to keep up with a busy toddler!

For more on exercise, check out this RDN Mama article.

As far as eating right, focus on whole foods (ask: What food group does this belong to?  If you aren’t sure, it’s probably not the healthiest choice), but don’t get sucked into a state of deprivation.  Work in a treat every now and then.  Focus on what eating right will get you in the long run.  Avoid fad diets (we’ll talk about fad diets in pregnancy next time).   For tips on eating healthy, check out these RDN Mama articles:

Calorie Basics

Eating Healthy is as Easy as 1-2-3!

An Easy Breakfast Trick to Slash Calories and Boost Nutrition

Snacks vs. Treats: What’s the Difference?

15 Healthy Habits for 2015


Meeting with an RDN is also a great way to make and achieve personalized health goals!  {Find one close to you}

Did you have trouble sticking with healthy habits when you were trying to conceive?  What kept you motivated?

Photo Credit

“Lady holding apple” by stockimages at

Leave a Reply