Eating for two won't do - Slimming World warns expectant mums
Slimming World stress the importance of 'healthy conversations' about weight between healthcare professionals and prospective parents.
At a time when the scourge of child obesity is rarely out of the headlines, the All Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood has published its seventh Report and its Co-Chair, Baroness Floella Benjamin, has welcomed both the subject matter and the timing:
‘Since we launched the APPG, our Reports have demonstrated that there is an urgent need to tackle an obesity epidemic that is costing us dearly both in health and economic terms. Our over-burdened NHS cannot bear the strain of treating largely avoidable diseases that are a direct result of poor diet and lack of physical exercise. We have previously considered the role of the family in forging healthy patterns, the significance of the early years, food in school and the importance of play and physical education. Our latest Report addresses Maternal Obesity and argues that waiting until a child is born to embed a healthy lifestyle is leaving it too late. Pre-pregnancy and pregnancy itself provide a window of opportunity to establish healthy habits that will endure throughout the life course.’
The new Report supplies evidence from successive governments and Parliamentary debates to demonstrate that the health risks of overweight in pregnancy for both prospective parents are not new. On the contrary, they have been raised in the public arena for over a decade. Yet they have remained firmly ‘under the radar’ whilst myths and old wives’ tales about ‘eating for two’ and ‘blooming’ (before feeling pressurised to return speedily to ‘skinny jean’ size) have continued to hold sway.
Whilst the risks to mother and baby from birth complications to disease in later life have been documented, Healthcare Professionals have found themselves increasingly unprepared to offer advice on nutrition in pregnancy and feeding an infant afterwards. Lack of resources both financial and in time allocation have produced a ‘tick box’ culture whereby essential information is loaded upon prospective parents and the relevant advisors have cited an urgent need for continual professional development to update their skills and ensure that they feel confident in raising the potentially embarrassing topic of weight with the patient.
Slimming World - the only weight management organisation that continues to support women during pregnancy - and The Royal College of Midwives have stressed the importance of Healthcare Professionals being empowered to initiate ‘healthy conversations’ with prospective parents. There is a need for government to invest financially now in order to avoid the health and economic deficit consequent upon inaction.
Jenny Caven, Head of External Affairs at Slimming World said:
‘Slimming World welcomes this latest report from the APPG on a Fit and Healthy Childhood which adds to a growing library of useful reports on healthy families. We know that supporting people to lead healthier and happier lives is a challenge in our modern environment. Helping women to manage their weight at a time of their lives when they are most open to making positive changes is certain to ensure that the health of future generations is improved. This report will go a long way to ensuring that calls for improved care and advice for women about the benefits of achieving healthy weight before, during and after pregnancy should not go unheeded.’
Helen Clark, lead author of the Report added:
‘I hope that our Report will be useful to policy makers as they strive to find a solution to the problems occasioned by an increasingly overweight population. It is encouraging that the Government and many media outlets are now facing up to the problem of child obesity but it’s never too early to start. Pre - pregnancy and pregnancy itself are real chances to embark upon healthy habits that will last a lifetime. In the 21st century, it’s about time that prospective parents were presented with accessible information from confident and well qualified professionals so that they can become empowered to make healthy choices for themselves and their baby.
And it’s also time to consign the old wives tales to the realms of history where they belong. ‘Eating for two’ really won’t do!’