A ‘myth-busting' pregnancy book; resisting temptation

03/08/2014 2:48 PM

08/08/2014 10:22 AM

“Is it normal to be turned off by sex after giving birth?” is probably not a question many women feel comfortable asking their doctor – or perhaps even a close friend. Linda Geddes, a science writer based in London, has asked the experts on your behalf. (The answer: Yes.) In “Bumpology,” Geddes answers an array of questions about pregnancy and a baby’s first year. The subjects range from the serious – “How much alcohol is safe to drink during pregnancy?” (Excessive drinking is risky, but “the truth is that no one really knows what constitutes a ‘safe’ amount.”) – to the funny-but-you’re-too-embarrassed-to-utter-aloud – “Why don’t pregnant women topple over?” (It has to do with the shape of the spine.)

Of course, Geddes is not the first – nor probably the last – writer to wade into this territory, but her book is refreshingly frank and often funny. It also benefits from Geddes’ constructive outrage over the misinformation and sensationalism that she says plague much of the writing about the subject. “Every week, expectant parents are given new things to worry about. Pregnant women mustn’t eat too much, as it may raise the baby’s risk of obesity or diabetes, but we mustn’t diet as that could have a similar effect. Neither can we exercise, for fear of triggering a miscarriage. It’s enough to raise your blood pressure just thinking about it, only we mustn’t get stressed, because that’s bad for the baby, too.”

So Geddes, who wrote much of the book while pregnant with her second child, digs through the studies, talks to the experts and breaks down her findings into accessible, thorough explanations. As she admits, the science of pregnancy and babies – like all science – is constantly evolving. For real-time news, you can check out her blog.

Fighting temptation

If there’s no caramel cheesecake, you’re not likely to eat any. But plop one down on a table among a group of friends and the forks come out. That’s a simple scene that embodies some of the complex mechanisms that make it so hard for people to lose weight and keep it off.

Researchers in England who were trying to sort out what tempts dieters and what makes them give into temptation looked at a group of 80 people, mostly women, over seven days, giving them phones and apps to record instances of temptation: how they felt, what was happening and whether they took a bite or a sip.

Over the week, they recorded 898 instances of temptation.

As every dieter knows, keeping weight off for good is extremely difficult. And some of the factors the researchers reported were no surprise: Being around friends, late-night cravings and alcohol have a major effect. Other factors, as the makers of desserts and snacks surely know, include being tired.

But while some of those might seem obvious, the researchers are looking at exactly what’s going on in an effort to develop ways to empower people to resist temptation. Would it help, for example, if you had a phone app to record your feelings every time you happened upon a bowl of chips or an ad for ice cream?

“The findings help piece together the complex jigsaw surrounding the daily predictions of dietary temptations and help us to better understand how dietary temptations and lapses operate,” the researchers wrote in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

The participants gave into temptation a little more than half the time, according to their diaries. They were particularly vulnerable at night and more likely to have an alcoholic drink than to eat a sugary snack.

No surprise, they reported they were more aware of their eating because they were carrying around the phones. And one of the limits of the work will surely ring true with dieters: The study was just seven days long. What happened on the eighth day?

Los Angeles Times

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