Research Shows That Women Can Gain Weight Without Being Pregnant

While what goes up must come down, what goes down sometimes decides to stay there. And when it comes to food and beverage consumption, what goes down stays in your stomach and in other areas of your body that can lead to weight gain and changes in that way your body looks. In some cases, weight gain can lead to drastic changes in the way your body looks. And despite the fact that weight gain is a normal occurrence that can be attributed to multiple factors, women who gain weight are often assumed to be experiencing weight gain due to pregnancy. Studies show that that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, women just gain weight.

According to 2014 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), more than than one in three adults are considered to be overweight. Everyone else varies across the spectrum. Even people who aren’t pregnant. Further, Harvard Medical School recently reported that there are more than 400 different genes that impact how are bodies are impacted by weight gain. And since people are consuming more calories a day than in previous decades, according to data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, it’s not surprise that weight gain is more common than ever before. Still, women who happen to gain a few extra pounds are given the benefit of the doubt. Strangers, friends, and loved ones can be quick to assume that a woman is pregnant.

While some people still believe that women are essentially just potential incubators who were specifically designed to breed and give birth, there are some women who think there is more to life than passing on their genes. Additionally, there are millions of women who struggle with infertility. So changing narratives surrounding pregnancy is important given the wide ranging experiences that women have with respect to child-bearing and fertility.

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The first step toward changing those narratives is to acknowledge and accept the fact that women’s bodies go through regular changes and, contrary to popular belief, they don’t all involve reproduction. Like men, women inhabit bodies that come in various sizes, shapes, and colors and that have the capacity to do different things. Growing a human is just one thing on an endless list of things a body is capable of. So necessarily associating the changes a woman’s body goes through with pregnancy is inappropriate and sexist. More than that, though, it’s potentially harmful.

Countless women experience weight gain as a result of depression, eating disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome, and other chronic illnesses. Centering weight gain narratives around pregnancy can prevent people from having important, and long overdue, conversations about general health. And, more importantly, obsessing over the physical changes of a body that isn’t your own is a sign that you should mind your own business and mind your own body.

Women shouldn’t have to worry about people assuming they’re pregnant because they gained weight. In fact, women shouldn’t have to face comments or questions about what their body looks like in general. No one should. Still, pregnancy rumors plague workplaces, schools, and the media, even if those rumors are false. Recently, author and motivational speaker Cyntoia Brown shared on social media that she was “just fat,” not pregnant, after receiving baby clothes as a gift. In like fashion, BBC Business reporter Steph McGovern responded to congratulatory messages on social media by saying “I am not with child, I am with pot belly.

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But offline, many women are forced to navigate awkward situations and conversations when someone mistakenly assumes that they are pregnant. More often than not, the assumption is made because a woman gained weight. The idea that someone can “look pregnant” is flawed given the multiple other reasons why a person’s body can change in appearance.

Speculating about a pregnancy, especially when the pregnant person probably wouldn’t ask you for support if they were actually expecting because you’re a stranger or not too close to them, is an invasion of privacy fueled by assumptions. Let women gain weight without attribute the weight gain to pregnancy. Let women be fat without the added assumptions related to pregnancy. When in doubt, mind your own body and let women exist without being associated with potential motherhood.

Written by

NYC-based philosophy graduate student whose work covers Genocide Studies, Repro + Enviro Justice, and Critical Race Theory. @moontwerk

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