Avoiding Adoption Weight Gain

Seven ways to keep your weight from creeping up when adoption stress creeps in.

Rachel Garlinghouse March 22, 2015
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I taught composition at the college level for eight years.  During this time, I became very familiar with the “Freshman Fifteen.”  Each semester, I would welcome two or three groups of eighteen-year-olds.  By the end of the sixteen-week semester, many of the students had gained, five, ten, or fifteen pounds (or more) due to the changes and stress they had experienced while starting college. 

Much like the Freshman Fifteen, adoptive parents-to-be may find themselves engulfed by the stress of the adoption journey:  the paperwork, the interviews, the background checks, the profile-creating, and, of course, the waiting. Many may choose to relieve stress by eating more and moving less.  Likewise, those who sleep less tend to weigh more than those who get a good night’s rest.

As a side note, I am type 1 diabetic whose well-being depends on managing my blood sugars through a healthy diet, exercise, and stress management.  The subject of health is very important to me.

As you progress down your adoption path, keep these tips in mind:

  • Step up your activity level.  Exercising not only helps you maintain (or lose, if that is your goal) your weight, but it helps you relieve stress and build strength and endurance.  Exercise is also a healthy way to “work out” frustration and sadness.  Choose an activity you enjoy, and you will likely stick with exercise for the long-run.
  • Eat balanced meals and snacks. Healthy meals and snacks should consist of carbohydrates (laden with fiber), protein, and fat.  These three components keep you full and focused for many hours.  Examples of a snack would be an apple with peanut butter or a string cheese with an orange.   Examples of a healthy meal would be baked chicken, steamed veggies, and a whole grain roll or stir fry made with brown rice, veggies, and tofu.   Nutrition can certainly be overwhelming and confusing, so before a child is placed with you, take the opportunity to learn about healthy eating, meal planning, and grocery shopping.
  • Make sleep a priority.  Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep, but the quality of sleep is important.  An ideal sleep environment is a dark, cool room, no electronics on, and quiet. It’s also important to sleep on a sturdy mattress.  Those who get poor sleep (or not enough sleep) tend to experience weight gain.
  • Get checked out.  There are many websites that lists the various tests and exams a person should have done based on the person’s age, fitness level, and family history.  Most adoption processes require adoptive parents to have current physicals on file with their licensing agency.  However, a general physical is typically not enough to determine your health.  It’s important to make yearly visits to your dentist, gynecologist (if you are a female), and optometrist.  If you have any specialists (cardiologist, endocrinologist, etc.) for specific health issues, stay current on those visits as well.  Underlying or uncontrolled medical issues can lead to weight struggles.
  • Manage your mental and emotional health.  If you are struggling with anything adoption-related (infertility, loss of a child, etc.) or other mental or emotional health issues, keep up with or establish visits with a professional in that area to assist you.  Joining a support group is also helpful for some.  Your mental and emotional health can affect your weight.
  • Make changes to any routines that don’t support a healthy lifestyle.  It’s so much easier to make changes before you child arrives!  For example, if you eat out multiple times a week, keep in mind this is not generally viable if you are caring for a newborn baby, nor is it very healthy. An alternative would be choosing to cook more meals at home.  Make and freeze meals so they are ready in advance of your busy week, or utilize a slow cooker.  Another alternative is to take turns cooking with your partner. Cooking at home gives you control over your food’s ingredients and the way the food is cooked.  For example, baking is much healthier than frying.
  • Ask for help.  There are many qualified, experienced individuals who can help you reach and maintain your weight goals.  These include personal trainers, counselors, and registered dieticians.  A subject librarian can point you to the best resources on a particular area of interest such as cooking methods and cookbooks, exercise, and sleep.

With realistic changes and commitment, you will be able to maintain a healthy weight for the long haul, all while enjoying your family!

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Rachel Garlinghouse

Rachel Garlinghouse is the author of "Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent's Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children," "Black Girls Can: An Empowering Story of Yesterdays and Todays," and "Encouragement for the Adoption Journey: 52 Devotions and a Journal" (co-authored with Madeleine Melcher). Rachel's adoption education and experience has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, Huffington Post Live, ABCNews.com, Babble, Scary Mommy, Portrait of Adoption, Slow Mama, I Am Not the Babysitter, and more. Rachel is a mom of three children, adopted domestically and transracially. Learn more about her family's adventures at White Sugar, Brown Sugar or on Twitter @whitebrownsugar.


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