Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Attention, Nicole Richie:


It is now officially 43 hours after my departure from a weekend in New York, and I think this is the first hour of those previous 43 in which I've had the time to actually sit down and think. Funny how work doesn't really care that you're a fabulous jet-setter who reads Vanity Fair (okay, and People) during her flights and who gamely deals with flight delays and excruciatingly long runway taxis by chatting up the uber-suave Italian couple in the seats next to you about their vacation to (inexplicably) Columbus, Ohio. I got home Monday morning at about 2 am, hopped into bed until 6 am, hopped right out of bed and have pretty much operated on adrenaline up until about two this afternoon when I crashed and begged the nurse to hook me up to an intravenous caffeine drip.

One of the SUPER WONDERFUL quirks about my body, besides the child-bearing hips (I apparently got the "Quadruplets? No problem!" model), is the fact that any sort of narcotic that enters my system, whether it's cough syrup or Chianti, apparently takes an express route away from my pancreas and straight to my brain, thus negating any reasonable chance of normally metabolizing all the caffeine or alcohol or high-grade Sudanese opium (kidding!) I've consumed, and ensuring that the root beer float I had last Friday is going to make me feel like a meth addict until at least the following Wednesday. It's actually kind of handy for me; I don't like the taste of alcohol and I was always too chicken to try drugs in college, so I learned I could pretty much simulate the effects of a normal person's beer buzz by drinking down, say, a grande Frappuccino. On a typical Sunday morning during my first two years of college at a super-rural, super-Christian liberal arts school, most of my friends would be staggering to church still drunk (having likely gotten drunk after realizing they committed to spending four years of their lives at a super-rural, super-Christian liberal arts school) or coming down from a marijuana high, and I'd be working off the shakes from a Saturday evening bender of Mountain Dew and Twizzlers. Unequivocal lameness is my anti-drug.

So anyway, while I was sitting at my desk at work and trying not to shake uncontrollably from the cup of coffee I had to boost me back up to fighting form for the rest of the day, I happened to run across this article from the good people over at That's Fit regarding the link between childhood obesity and mothers who smoke while pregnant.

My mom is a lifelong pack-a-day smoker, or was until she gave up cigarettes last winter after visiting my grandmother in the nursing home and seeing room after room of elderly emphysema patients tied to their oxygen tanks and barely able to get out of bed before collapsing down again, winded from the exertion. My mom also smoked while she was pregnant with me and my little brother, a fact that I conveniently use to assign blame for all my faults, from being really short to having an unfortunate addiction to Perez Hilton. This article makes me wonder whether or not I can really point my finger at one of her discarded packs of Marlboro Lights as an accomplice in developing my Rubenesque figure.

At the end of the study, the scientists speculated that babies of pregnant smokers were likely nutrient starved while in utero, and so have to make up their deficiencies by eating lots and eating often as they grow. But does the fact that right now my inner voice is seductively whispering about the jumbo bag of mini candybars nestled in my plastic jack-o-lantern bowl really mean that I was deprived of whatever's in a Kit Kat wafer as a fetus? By that same logic, and as several other studies have suggested, the fact that my body was pumped full of nicotine and tar every time my mom lit up a cig means I should have the same cravings and withdrawal symptoms that an adult smoker has even after quitting for several years. Honestly, though, I think I'd prefer eating one of my Halloween Kit Kat bars that had been dipped in ketchup and dredged through used cat litter before I'd willingly suck down a cancer stick, so I'm not really buying the whole retroactive eater/smoker hypothesis.

As I commented on this blog entry, I think maybe the more plausible explanation for the link between pregnant smokers and obese children is that women who don't shrink from putting huge amounts of toxins inside their own body, especially while growing life inside it, probably don't give healthy lifestyle choices much of a thought in general. Cigarettes cost a lot of money, and if your family was like mine, paying for Mommy's cigarettes meant that we'd have to cut corners somewhere else and that usually meant we ate a lot of frozen or packaged junk food instead of fresh fruits or vegetables. My dad also smoked when I was a kid, and I remember that neither of them really had the stamina to get up and run or jump or play with me or my brother, so we usually ended up bonding as a family through movies or television instead of something more active.

I'm not entirely sure if I buy this article, but I think even if it doesn't pan out as a solid biological link between cigarettes and fat, at the very least it'll scare a few female smokers into realizing that if you repeatedly put something nasty inside your body while you're pregnant, you're a total moron and your baby will suffer.

I'm interested to know, though: Among those of you who are or have struggled with obesity, how many of your mothers smoked while she was pregnant with you?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

what is irritating about this kind of news blurbs about some health study is that a not as much as a link to the original paper is never offered much less a proper citation. instead, whatever actual merit the research has must be filtered by the dubious understanding of some anonymous associated press reporter. in this case, with no context, the researchers' speculation is laughable

Luna Bella said...

I've struggled with obesity for most of my life, and my mother smoked while pregnant with me. I was a small, skinny newborn, but within a year I had bulked up and looked like the Michelin Baby. It's pretty much all been downhill since then...

Interesting hypotheses for the link between maternal smoking and obesity, but like you, I don't really buy the official 'science' explanation. Yours makes more sense.

Lauren said...

my mom has smoked since she was 12. having previously been a smoker, I can say that you have the right idea bout the kitkat and the ketchup, though, also having a cat with used cat litter in the room right now makes me want to urge you to choose something like sand with glass in it instead.

Anonymous said...

I've struggled with my weight all my life. My mom did not smoke when I was pregnant -- in fact, that's when she got into healthfood and hardcore healthy eating.

Nory Roth said...

My mother and father smoked excessively until I was seven years old. At that point the doctors in the E.R. told them that they HAD to give up smoking, or they would kill me. I was severly asthmatic as a young child, and miracle of miracles, when they quit smoking, I quit wheezing!

I have struggled my whole life with weight issues. Your point about prenatal "starvation" was quite interesting. I also wonder if my "jones" for carbohydrates, which stimulates the feel good endorphins, has anything to do with the area of the brain which is stimulated by nicotine?? It makes sense, really.

I, too, would rather eat used cat litter than light up a coffin nail.

Lori said...

I think your other explanation for the smoking-obesity link is probably more accurate than you realize. My mother says she's never smoked but I have seen (admittedly rare) cigarettes in her hand. My dad smokes like a fiend and even though we live in cheap cigarette land, it did eat up a lot of money. (Oh, I made a funny.) We were pretty damn poor (Friday nights were Banquet pot pies 10/$1 back in the sixties).

I either was born before canned formula was available or we were way, way poorer than I even realize. Mom said my formula was canned evaporated milk mixed with Karo syrup. Add that my mother is known as Our Lady of Fried Foods and is an emotional eater too probably stacked the deck against me more than my dad puffing on a Raleigh cigarette.

Grumpy Chair said...

My mom didn't smoke buy my dad did. So maybe second hand smoke contributed?

Zandile said...

My mom smoked with me, although she apparently did cut back a lot. Her doctor told her that the stress of quitting completely would be worse for me than a couple of cigs a day. My mom has also always struggled with her weight, and so has my aunt. I've never been able to figure out why since their parents and aunts and uncles never had weight problems. My grandmother (5 feet tall) probably only breached 120 when she was pregnant. And she smoked a LOT from her teens till the day she died (at 86 . . . with clear lungs. . . she was bizarre). Who knows, maybe there's something to be said for their hypothesis, but I think there are usually way more variables impacting outcomes than anyone can conceive, much less measure.

Abba said...

Both my parents smoked. Ahhh, something else to blame on them.