Weight can be a sensitive topic but it’s important to address because it can not only affect your overall health but it can directly affect your ability to conceive and maintain a healthy pregnancy. Fertility treatment on the other hand can be an isolating and emotional journey. Of course all people cope with their emotions differently. Some may relate to feeding their emotions with comfort foods while others may lose their appetite and skip meals when they feel lonely, anxious, or sad. While these coping strategies may be an escape and bring some short-term emotional relief they can also lead to unwanted weight gain or weight loss.

A recent retrospective cohort study of nearly 240,000 IVF cycles found there is indeed a relationship between a woman’s weight and in vitro fertilization (IVF) outcomes. The researchers specifically looked at implantation rates, pregnancy rates, pregnancy loss rates, and live birth rates. Ultimately, data showed there is a progressive and statistically significant worsening of IVF outcomes as a woman’s body mass index (BMI) increased, and the same rang true for underweight women (BMI <17). There appears to be an ideal BMI range of 18-25, where researchers noted IVF outcomes and success rates to be the highest.

Despite these facts, it’s important to validate that diet and lifestyle changes are quite difficult to make at times, especially in stressful and emotional times. Lack of motivation, fatigue, time constraints, financial concerns, and physical aches and pains all add up, making commitments to lifestyle change that much harder. It’s most helpful to have a manageable plan, realistic goals, and a boisterous support network to set yourself up for success.

Set Realistic Goals

Nutritionists, counselors, and health coaches would most likely all agree with the old adage ‘a plan is only as good as its execution.’ Even more so, it’s about maintaining a healthy, loving, and realistic mindset. Setting unrealistic goals often makes them more difficult to achieve, which may lead to negative feelings of guilt and failure, ultimately resulting in giving up on the plan completely. It’s ok to start small, with only one or two diet or lifestyle changes at a time. These should be measureable, with a timeline, to help with accountability and tracking success. When weight loss is a goal, start with a manageable 5 pound goal rather than 25 pounds. It’s important to note, even modest 5-10 percent weight changes can have a profound improvement on health and fertility.

Build a Support Network

It’s certainly helpful when your partner is committed to making some diet and lifestyle modifications with you. When the whole household chooses to make and embrace small changes, all are more likely to succeed, which ultimately facilitates a long-term lifestyle change.

It is also beneficial to broaden your support network and feel comfortable turning to others for motivation and accountability. Think about a cooking club, an exercise partner, or walking group. Connect with an old friend, family member, work colleague, or even a new group of women in your community. There are many free groups out there that can help you on your journey. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Maybe that’s what you need to get you out of an unhealthy rut.

For any lifestyle change to stick long-term you must believe in it and feel comfortable working it into your daily routine. Once this becomes a manageable new norm, it’s time to add another modification to the plan. Barriers to change inevitably get in the way of success, so be prepared for bumps in the road. Don’t be discouraged by a “bad” day.  When making diet changes, you have the opportunity to ‘start fresh’ and ‘get back on track’ at least three times a day. Remember it’s not all or nothing, there is no perfect, and you don’t have to wait until next week to clean up your act. You can get right back on track at the very next meal!

Same goes for exercise… whiles it’s ideal to get in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily, it’s important to remember we need to start somewhere. Even short bouts of physical activity throughout the day add up. Try to get more walks in, climb the stairs at work, and never sit for longer than an hour without standing and stretching. When you can, chisel out 15 to 20 minutes for more intense activity, whether it’s a trying a home exercise video, using some free weights, completing a circuit routine, or finding an enjoyable class at the gym.

There’s no denying that achieving a healthy weight for fertility through diet and lifestyle changes are difficult. No matter who you are and what your long-term goals are, you must remember to start small, with realistic, manageable goals. The Wellness Center at Shady Grove Fertility is available to help you on your journey to better health. To learn more or make an appointment please call 301-610-7755.

To learn more about achieving a healthy weight for fertility and pregnancy or to schedule an appointment with one of our reproductive endocrinologists, please call 1-877-971-7755 or click here to complete this brief online form.

Written by: Meghan Sylvester, RDN, LDN