Food, Health and Happiness

Healthy Pregnancy (Even When You Are Overweight) Series: Mindful Eating


First rule of having a healthy pregnancy? It’s all in how you eat. In this article, we will be walking through mindful eating techniques. These steps you can practice anytime and anywhere. You don’t have to have a calculator or a special app. Your duty is to focus solely on what your body is telling you.

Why adopt mindful eating techniques first?

I am a busy woman. I have a toddler, a husband, a dog, and a baby on the way. The jobs I give to myself are the same many stay-at-home mommies give themselves: cooking, cleaning, and raising our children. I, oftentimes, find myself forgetting meals, eating when I’m in the kitchen cleaning, or eating in front of the TV when my kiddo is napping. I tend to overeat at these times because I’m not paying attention to my body’s signals. I have been practicing this method for so long that it has been difficult to locate my hunger cues and fullness signals. Is this true for you, too?

In pregnancy, we aren’t supposed to diet. We are supposed to watch our calorie intake. Well, if you are like me and have a bad history with counting calories to excess, this is no longer an option for you. So what is left? How do we eat healthily for baby while maintaining some kind of balance and structure?

What do you do?

We pay attention to our bodies, girls! We don’t eat unless we are hungry. We stop when we are full. We stop eating while we are distracted. We savor our delicious homemade meals, and we eat slowly so our bodies have time to realize we are providing it energy. We listen to what our bodies have to say. Try to follow the hunger/fullness scale from below. Stay within a the 3 to 7.5 range. Limit times when your hunger level is below a 3 and try stopping before you pass the 7.5 mark. If you happen to stray outside of this range, don’t feel guilty! Just notice what your body feels like.

For some of you, you may have this down. Oddly enough, for this pregnancy, many of my hunger signals and fullness signals have gone awry. It could be that I am not focused on what my body is needing and habit has turned into a regular practice. It could be that my hormones are crazy or that I am more focused on keeping my toddler alive than myself. Whatever the reason, I realize these methods are the only structure that I really have the option of practicing to keep my body healthy.

My Experiment

This past week, I tried out these methods. I even went so far as to write down what I was eating, when I was eating it, how hungry I was when I began, and how full I was when I stopped eating. Half-way through the week, I dropped the journal. I decided that I would bring the journal back in later steps because I didn’t have time to focus on writing everything I ate down. Writing your food down in a journal can be very helpful in identifying your eating patterns, though, so if you can fit it in, do it!

Even without the journal, I was still able to tune into my body. I discovered that I wasn’t very hungry in the mornings after having my coffee. The caffeine is great, but it began to trick me into thinking I wasn’t actually hungry. By noon, I was starved and tended to eat more than I needed. By 1pm, I was overstuffed, tired, and ready for a nap. The thing about noticing your habits and your body’s responses is that you can change your eating patterns. I soon found myself eating while drinking my coffee in the morning. I ate a smaller meal for lunch and still had some energy to get a few things done. Interesting how that works!

I also found that I was having difficulty feeling full within 20 minutes. Eating slowly wasn’t helping. During one of my doctors appointments, I told my doctor about it. She recommended eating more protein throughout my day and said it was one of the most important food groups for pregnant women. I hadn’t heard that before! She let me know it should bring back those fullness signals.

I practiced my new found protein knowledge, but, though I was feeling my fullness quicker than before, I still wasn’t quite getting what I needed from my signals. I decided to look up how much it should take for my stomach to feel full and try to eat that much. According to a few books and articles, the size of your fist is roughly the size of your stomach. By eating meals that are the same size as 1 to 2 of my fists, my tummy should feel full.

This has been working perfectly for me. My body tends to feel the fullness about an hour to an hour and a half after I eat. By eating using my fists as portion controllers, I’m not eating multiple meals within a short time frame because “I haven’t felt my fullness signals, therefore I must still be hungry.” I have also found that I don’t have ravenous moments throughout the day, and my cravings for sugary foods have gone down a ton! Woot!

My family has also been sitting at the table for our regular meals. This has, actually, been a real treat. When hubby gets home, and I finish cooking. I place our meal and sides on the table along with our fancy plates and glasses. We all sit down together and pray over our meal. I have found, personally, praying before our meal has helped me transition and center my mind for eating. Without background noise, it has been a lot easier to measure my portions for 2 fistfuls of food, savor my food, and slow down my eating. Eating at the table with my family makes me feel like eating is an event rather than just something I need to do to fill my stomach. It is something to share with my family, and a way to sit down and spend time together.

Don’t forget!

An important thing to remember is that we pregnant women need to eat small meals frequently throughout the day. Don’t try to eat three meals following this method. You will be hungry, tired, and won’t be getting enough nutrients or calories from your three meals a day. Thus why we eat when we are hungry and stop when we are full. This is a great practice anyways because when your baby expands, there won’t be much room for a lot of food at once. Get into the habit now, even if you are in early pregnancy, and it won’t be such a shock to your body (and schedule) later when you have to shift your eating patterns to eating often throughout the day.

Don’t forget to balance out your meals as well. Try to sit down with your main meals, fruits, and veggies. Try to get in those healthier meats, but don’t overwhelm yourself with too much change in your meals right now. There is more time to adjust your meals later. Once you begin tuning in to your body, you can start seeing the ways different foods affect your energy and mood. Try to take note of these along the way, but keep making small adjustments to your diet every week.

This series is meant for learning about our bodies and our eating behaviors. Give yourself a little slack. We aren’t trying to lose weight at all, but we are trying to practice healthier eating patterns. Listen to what your body is telling you, and respect it. Your body has a lot of say in how your day ends up progressing. Pray before meals. Connect your body with God’s vision for you. Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full. Savor those meals, tasting every morsel as if it was the first time you have eaten that food. Take your time enjoying your meal and the company of your family. Finally, come back next week for some more fun techniques!


Hunger and Fullness Scale

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