PREGNANCY sparks all kinds of invasive, inappropriate commentary from friends and strangers alike.
But one woman says that snarky quips about her diet and lifestyle choices have ended since she became pregnant and gained weight – even while working out multiple times a week.
Danielle Arce lives in Stockton, California, where she supports herself as a stand-up comedian. As a side job, she teaches group fitness classes and offers personal training.
Arce is passionate about fitness and even ran a martial arts school in her early twenties, but in recent years, it’s become something she does just for fun, and she considers any income a fringe benefit.
“I love fitness but it’s not enough for me to make it my career,” Arce said. “It’s my hobby.”
Before pregnancy, Arce worked out five or six days a week. Along with her own workouts, her routine included teaching group fitness classes and working with personal training clients.
“In my first two trimesters, I was still teaching group fitness and sticking with the same regimen, at least five times a week,” Arce recounted.
It was only when third-trimester troubles like swollen feet and rhinitis came into play that she dialed down her toning-up.
Still, she instructs her personal training clients, via webcam, three days a week, including one client who’s in the same stage of pregnancy.
Teaching group classes, especially high-intensity ones, is the thing Arce is most looking forward to post-pregnancy.
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“I can’t wait to do more high-intensity interval training,” she said.
“I love teaching. I just work harder than when I work out by myself,” she continued. “It inspires me to push harder.”
Prior to pregnancy, Arce also liked intermittent fasting, and sometimes wouldn’t eat before noon if she didn’t have a high-intensity workout scheduled. That’s changed, too.
“The first thing I do in the morning is I eat,” Arce said. “I have at least two breakfasts.”
Arce maintains a completely plant-based diet. In the six-and-a-half years since she went vegan, she’s seen no shortage of rude commentary on her choices.
“I’ve had coworkers watch me eat and say ‘you’re not going to do that to your kids, are you?’” Arce recalled.
The statement was so common, she heard it from six different people before she was even considering pregnancy.
Arce recalled a beach day years ago when she met up with a group of close friends and newer acquaintances.
They were having a pleasant day until mealtime rolled around, and Arce offered to go find food on her own if the group couldn’t find restaurants with a vegan option on the menu.
Another woman, who Arce had met just that day, sneered at the word “vegan,” and warned Arce against veganism if she ever hoped to have children.
Though some might argue the comments are well-meaning, Arce believes they stem from a wild misunderstanding of her plant-based diet – a hypothesis that reactions to her pregnancy have proven.
Arce is due in mid-July, and with well over a month to go, she reported a weight gain between 40 and 45 pounds.
On average, women gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy.
In other words, Arce’s diet certainly hasn’t resulted in malnutrition, the way some warned her it would.
“I started showing very early,” she explained. Between months four and five of pregnancy, her doctor said Arce’s baby was within the 72nd percentile for size.
Since she started showing, Arce hasn’t heard a single comment criticizing her veganism.
“Now, when people find out that I’m vegan and pregnant, that stigma is broken the moment they see me,” she said.
She’s still careful when how she talks about her dietary choices. Arce said people react to the word “vegan,” especially when she uses it in her standup.
“You can see the audience pull back, the moment I say the word,” she said. “I typically tell people that I stick to a ‘plant-based diet,’ just because it softens that reaction.”
While her husband and stepkids aren’t vegan, they’re happy to enjoy Arce’s plant-based food when she prepares meals.
Arce and her husband plan to raise their son with a plant-based diet, though Arce recognizes her child will likely want to try animal-based foods when he’s older.
That’s no problem, she said – but will require some preparation. When you don’t consume dairy products on a regular basis, for example, even a small sample can lead to major discomfort.
“I’ll let him know that he can try it when he’s older,” Arce said. “We’ll have a conversation about it and if he still wants to do it, then he can go ahead, but we’ll introduce it slowly and he can stop if he gets uncomfortable.”
With plenty of vegan treats like ice cream on the market, she’s not concerned about her son missing out, and she knows that any criticism she hears is based on stereotypes.
“I make fun of myself for being vegan all the time,” Arce said, “and sometimes it just doesn’t matter what you say.”q