Pregnancy Lessons from an Extreme Dieter

You may have read about Loni Jane Anthony, the 25-year-old Australian blogger who subsists almost exclusively on fruits and veggies despite being 26 weeks pregnant. She’s skinny, especially for a woman almost into her third trimester. And the world, at least online, is in an uproar: get this woman some complex carbs already! Protein! And where’s the fat?!!!!!

Apparently Anthony subscribes to the raw-food 80:10:10 Diet, in which you eat 80% carbohydrates, 10% protein, and 10% fat. According to reports, her carbs all come from fruits and veggies; she eats whole bunches of bananas every day, and a meal might consist of a plateful of mangoes. She’s been eating like this for three years for “health reasons,” and apparently has no plans to change course simply because she’s eating for two.

Not being a nutritionist or a doctor, I don’t feel qualified to comment on the healthfulness of this extreme diet during pregnancy (though my instincts say she needs a much more balanced approach). It’s interesting to read the commentary about her choices though: some people are in an uproar over concern for the baby, others because this woman has 100k followers on Twitter who might be influenced to follow her extreme ways themselves. Ultimately, though, it’s a story about a woman’s weight, and that always makes for good debate. Too fat, too skinny, too flabby, too toned—essentially it’s all about how we ladies compare, right?

Like seemingly all American women, I’m weight conscious. Now that I’m six months pregnant, I’m maybe even more concerned about calories in, calories out than ever before. I set a goal to not gain more weight than I did with my first pregnancy (36 pounds). I look at pictures of pregnant celebrities online and try to gauge if I look bigger than them. I loved it when my skinny sister-in-law told me I looked “tiny,” but I also instantly started worrying, because I still have a long way (and a lot of weight) to go before this baby arrives. That SIL only gained 17 pounds during her pregnancy; I’ve already bested that. How enormous will I look when I see her again at Christmas? I fear the comments that will be uttered behind my back.

Because we all do it. Say things like “She’s huge,” “she gained a ton,” “she looked like she was having twins.” You’re damned if you do put on some weight, regardless if it’s a reasonable amount, because we’re not used to seeing “large” women without immediately labeling them as fat. And you’re condemned if you go the other waylike Anthony—and gain almost nothing. If Anthony pulls off a normal pregnancy and delivers a healthy baby, will it be a slap in the face to every other pregnant woman, who couldn’t survive on just fruit for even one day? Does it mean that even eating a super healthy, well-balanced diet, albeit one where you gain 25-35 pounds, is unnecessarily indulgent for a mom-to-be?

I really hope not. Like everyone else online, I’d like to condemn her diet, both for the health of her child and also in the hope that the recommended intake of fruits and vegetables during pregnancy doesn’t increase even more. Because I really love the top half of the food pyramid. And I can just imagine how I will compare if more people, especially pregnant women, start committing themselves solely to the bottom half. 

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