It’s a no brainer that a healthy body can go a long way towards supporting a healthy pregnancy. But for women who are struggling to conceive, the research about this issue can be confusing, and sometimes even contradictory. Some studies indicate that body mass index (BMI) is a relevant factor in a woman’s ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to term, and other studies seem to refute that assertion. No matter where your opinion on this issue happens to fall on the scale, very few people would contest the common sense notion that a healthy BMI is simply better for your over all health, independent of your baby making plans, than an unhealthy one. And that applies to underweight as well as to obesity.
This issue strikes a cord with Stephanie Himel-Nelson, the Community Manager for Attain Fertility Centers. Himel-Nelson has initiated a new, innovative interactive program called Weight Loss & Wellness Wednesdays – Let’s Get Healthy. Examiner met with Himel-Nelson to find out her motivation for this program, and to learn more.
Examiner – Rumor has it that you’re the Community Manager for Attain Fertility. Can you tell our readers a little bit about Attain and what your role there means to you?
Himel-Nelson – Attain Fertility Centers is one of the country’s largest fertility networks. But online, Attain Fertility is so much more than that. It’s a wonderful resource for people looking for information and support while they’re trying to conceive. That’s where I come in! As Community Manager, I’m the person behind the posts on the Attain Fertility Facebook page and the tweets on Twitter. I’m also infertile and dealing with my second round of infertility testing, so I know exactly where our community members are coming from. I know that when you’re struggling with infertility, it’s crucial to have someone you can talk to who understands what you’re going through.
Examiner – Tell us about Weight Loss & Wellness Wednesdays. What is your goal for this weekly program?
Himel-Nelson – I coulld stand to lose a few pounds! So what better motivator than to publicly declare to thousands of people that I will post my weight loss every week for the world to see?
Examiner – It’s brave of you to let the universe in on your ups and downs, scale wise that is! When did you first envision this program?
Himel-Nelson – Weight Loss & Wellness Wednesdays started while I was thinking about New Year’s resolutions. I’m not a huge fan of resolutions because I think that we all aim too high, with major life changes that aren’t sustainable all at once. Why pretend, even to ourselves, that we’re all going to lose 20 pounds, begin training for a marathon, start volunteering 30 hours a week, elminate plastic from our lives and start composting? All in the month of January! Let’s face it, real change is gradual, not instantaneous. So I determined to make gradual changes to my life and to not beat myself up if I couldn’t immediately change the world through weight loss!
Examiner – Changing the world through weight loss! What a concept. So, what are you trying to change through this initiative?
Himel-Nelson – Well, for me, and for many of the people in the infertility community, the single best thing we can do to make ourselves healthier is to lose weight. For many women, the connection between weight and infertility is real, and profound. Obesity is thought to decrease success rates for assisted reproductive technologies and also to increase the rate of complications during pregnancy and birth. For those of us who struggle with our weight, this is an issue that we must address, however uncomfortable it may be. But Weight Loss & wellness Wednesdays is about so much more than just weight. It is also about being the healthiest people we can be, not just in order to increase our fertility potential, but also, for ourselves and the people who love us. So each week, I’m going to focus on “One Thing” that I’ve done to make my life healthier that week.
Examiner – That’s a powerful statement, and a powerful invitation.
Himel-Nelson – I agree! I am encouraging everyone in the Attain Fertility community, and all women and men everywhere who wish to be moms and dads someday to join me in becoming healthier, whether through weight loss or through doing that simple “One Thing” every week that can make you be healthier. Look, we all just want to be parents and I’m hoping that we can help make that happen by gradually, and realistically, changing our lives. Hopefully, many of us will some day be healthier parents because of it.
Examiner – I know that you are diabetic and have struggled to conceive personally. Did either of those things help to shape this initiative?
Himel-Nelson – It did. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during my pregnancy, six years ago. I had been tested for diabetes during a series of earlier miscarriages, so my husband and I were floored when this pregnancy related health issue stuck around and became full blown Type 2 diabetes. Now, I have the ultimate guilt trip to lay on my son when he misbehaves! But seriously, I’ve been lucky to be able to mostly control my diabetes through diet. However, I have struggled with my weight since my early thirties. Now that my husband and I are trying once again to get pregnant, I know that I need to do everything I can to make myself as healthy as possible.
Examiner – So why invite the world into your private struggles with weight and infertility?
Himel-Nelson – Like many people, change is easier for me when I have the public support of my friends an a diet or wellness buddy. And through this initiative, I hope I’ll have several thousand of them! You know, the people in the Attain Fertility community are part of my life now and I care about what happens to them. And they to me! They’re always there with encouragement, hugs or laughter, whenever I need them.
Examiner – Nice work if you can get it! Sounds like you have a dream job. You get to not only support people and help create change on the planet but also, to get emotional support and friendship in return. How do you reach people primarily?
Himel-Nelson – I know that when you’re struggling with infertility, it’s so crucial to have someone you can talk to. So that’s what we’ve built into the Attain Fertility Facebook page, an online community of people who will listen, learn, give advice, hold our hands, wipe our tears, and cheer for us when we succeed.
Examiner – So tell me a little bit about weight and its impact on fertility.
Himel-Nelson – There’s a big relationship between infertllity and weight. Obesity increases the chance of fertility related problems like irregular periods and hormonal imbalances, and overweight women have higher rates of miscarriage. They also go through more Caeserean sections. Obese women are less likely to become pregnant through assisted reproductive technology. And most importantly, obese women who do coneive and carry their babies to term experience higher rates of birth defects among their infants than the general population. It’s not great for men, either. Being overweight for men can lead to lower sperm counts and more erectile dysfunction.
Examiner – Stephanie, we applaud you for being a standard bearer and for telling the truth about this issue and your own situation. That’s not always easy! Good luck on your initiative.
Himel-Nelson – Thank you! To join in on the conversation, and to follow my own personal progress, click here.
Examiner – We’ll be watching!