Jessica Simpson and Tara Solomon: In Pregnancy, How Much Weight Gain Is Healthy?

What Women Really Think
April 4 2012 4:00 PM

Is Jessica Simpson's Pregnancy Weight-Gain Normal, or a Problem? 

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Had Jessica Simpson gained too much weight while pregnant?

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

In a furious post yesterday, Jezebel’s Tracie Egan Morrissey let loose on commentators who are criticizing Jessica Simpson for gaining too much weight while pregnant. She wrote:

"I mean, someone needs to step in and control these cravings before she and her unborn child end up dying, or worse yet, influencing other women into thinking they're allowed to be overweight while pregnant. It might as well be the tabloid media. So, let the hunger shames begin!"

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Morrissey was particularly furious with a post on Hollywood Life, in which ob/gyn Tara A. Solomon was quoted as saying that “a pregnant woman should be eating about 1200 calories a day to keep up with baby’s nutritional needs. She [Simpson] has gone overboard for sure.”

Wait: 1,200 calories a day? That’s what a dieting, non-pregnant woman should ingest. “That has to be an egregious typo,” Morrissey wrote.

I spoke with Solomon today to make sure that she wasn’t really advocating for women to eat that little while pregnant. “That was a mistake,” she says. She meant that pregnant women should be eating 1,200 extra calories each day. “About 3,000-3,200 [total], let’s say.” (Other sources vary on how many extra calories pregnant ladies should consume; WomensHealth.gov suggests 300.) But she isn’t backing down from her comments about Simpson: “No one should ever look like Jessica Simpson. She’s an absolute porker. … I cannot believe how heavy she is.”

Some health problems for both mother and fetus are related to excessive weight gain in pregnancy. However, the discussion—and Solomon is clearly being deliberately provocative here—is uncomfortable because of the way health concerns are mixed in with abject disgust. Hollywood Life, Solomon, and others publicly criticizing the pop stars try to justify themselves by saying that they are worried for the health of her future child. But if Jessica Simpson is being unhealthy, surely her own doctor has spoken to her about cutting down on buttered Pop-Tarts. Nor should they justify their cruel statements by saying that other pregnant women may look to Simpson as some sort of pregnancy role model—that’s just insulting. 

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies.