Susan Albers Psy.D.

Comfort Cravings

Eating Disorders

'This Is Us' Tackles Eating Disorders During Pregnancy

Struggling with body image during pregnancy? You're not alone.

Posted Nov 11, 2020

 Joey Thompson/Unsplash
Source: Joey Thompson/Unsplash

I love the TV show This Is Us for so many reasons.

Last night, my admiration grew even stronger. As a therapist who has worked with people struggling with eating disorders for over twenty years, I appreciate that the most recent episode of This Is Us included the topic of eating disorders and pregnancy.

To recap, Madison has struggled with an eating disorder for the majority of her life.  She almost lost her life to bulimia at age 17.  Now, she is pregnant with twins and struggling with the daily changes in her body.  

She spoke about a common internal conflict women who have eating disorders experience. On one hand, she is happy to be pregnant. On the other, she is extremely uncomfortable with her expanding body.  She admitted that it is triggering when people comment on her body like, “Look how big you have gotten.” Also, when going to doctors' appointments, the first thing required is to step on the scale. Her weight is often announced out loud. There are so many sudden and unpredictable changes to one’s body during pregnancy. For a woman who has had an eating disorder, this can be traumatic or difficult. 

On the flip side, Madison stated that she hangs up the sonogram of the twin babies growing inside her to remind her to eat well. Women often report doing better emotionally with food as they prioritize eating healthy for the sake of their babies. This was a great strategy, Madison—thank you.

In part, Kevin, her fiancé, could identify. He described disordered eating and dieting to stay looking good for his roles on TV. He revealed a lot of insecurity and issues with self-esteem in regard to his body’s shape and size.  

His struggle with alcohol and exercise addiction hit even closer to home for Madison. The underlying emotional mechanism is the same for them both. Their issues are about finding healthier ways to cope with life.    

Some take-home points:  

  • Men and women both struggle with eating disorders.
  • Addiction and problems with coping can take place in many different forms—struggles with alcohol, substances, food, or exercise, to name a few.
  • Pregnancy is often not an easy time for women who have had eating disorders, even if they are happy about being pregnant. 
  • If you have an eating disorder and are pregnant, it’s important to gain support from family members and a therapist.  

Thank you, This Is Us, for such a real, informative, and heartwarming conversation on eating disorders and pregnancy.  

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