It can be difficult to know how to eat healthy when you are pregnant and overweight. This series focuses on practicing healthy eating techniques while limiting the weight gain for a healthy pregnancy.
With my firstborn, pregnancy was incredible. I was excited from day one. I hit the exhaustion stage after a few weeks, but I enjoyed my “prenatal” naps. I felt some morning sickness, but I was mostly just nauseated for a few weeks. In my second trimester, I started craving apples and exercise. Oh, it was wonderful! I exercised once to twice a day with morning walks and light weight work. I craved salads, fruits, and veggies. I was eating healthier and loving it.
Toward the end of my pregnancy, I ran out of room for food. The big meals my tummy desired had to be broken up into tiny, itsy-bitsy meals throughout the day or else I would get sick. All-in-all, my eating balanced out. After my son was born, I weighed myself to check the damage. The day after I had left the hospital, I weighed 10 pounds less than my pre-pregnancy weight! Um, whaaaat??? Life was good.
This pregnancy, with my second baby, has been, well, different. The exhaustion with this pregnancy left me barely enough energy to play with my kiddo during the day. The “morning” sickness was morning, noon, and night. Most of what I ate came back up, but then I would be hungry again. Certain types of food I ate would act as a grenade in my stomach, making it churn and heave like sea waves at high tide. Any food I ate was mentally captured as a “good” food (hung in there) or “bad” food (left the premises). This lasted 18 weeks….18…..Not 3 weeks. It didn’t come and go. This nasty nausea lasted for awhile.
But one day, I woke up, and I wasn’t so nauseous. So I picked up my eating. The next day, my stomach churned less. So I ate a little more. I was able to eat until I was stuffed even without too much consequence. Unfortunately, when the weekend came, I felt the nausea return. Foods were hanging in there, but the richness of the food I had chosen to consume was beginning to affect me. I cut back and tried healthier options with some success.
By the next week, my second trimester energy had arrived. My nausea was better. I began to eat more foods. Slowly, I added more into my diet. I made some peanut butter cookies for my entrance back into the world. My little boy and I were finally able to leave the house. We returned to our usual hangouts with the other moms. This extra activity made me more hungry and left me no energy for exercise. I was also beginning to crave more foods (pies, ice cream, pizza, pastas…). Where did my apple cravings go? Why didn’t I want to exercise every day like I used to?
Where did my apple cravings go?
About 4 weeks went by before my next appointment. Though I had lost weight during the first 18 weeks, I had gained 10 pounds since the last appointment. Um, so I guess I am back on track? I didn’t feel like I was eating too much, but I wasn’t really keeping track. I began to try to eat healthier foods. But those pesky cravings returned, and I began to lose the feeling of fullness when I ate. I would eat a meal, and 2 hours later I would feel the effects. So much for that “in 20 minutes you will feel full” deal.
To be honest, I hadn’t quite figured out the whole eating right thing before pregnancy. I dieted and overate. Dieted and overate. Moderation was something I was working on before I found out I was pregnant again. It’s hard to focus on eating right when many foods make you sick and then you crave foods that are unhealthy for you. This time around was not a cake walk!
I began to think about dieting, counting calories, or tracking points. I began eating too much and then throwing up because my stomach couldn’t hold the extra food. I began stressing about the weight I had put on and constantly worried if I was putting on weight too fast. The stress lead me to more cookies and pies. I felt like I was completely out of control. So I read about how to follow weight watchers while pregnant. Not to lose weight, but just to control my eating. Well, every comment I read was that this was a diet, and diets were a no no. So what do I do now?
More stress piled on. The food I was eating was destroying any energy I had found from my second trimester. I began using eating as a way to cope with these feelings. I knew something was wrong when I wasn’t letting myself get hungry throughout the day. Any extra minute I had I would eat a snack here or there. I felt completely lost and alone.
Then I read “It Was Me All Along” by Andie Mitchell. She writes about her own struggles with food and how she lost her extra weight in a healthy fashion. Honestly, I found this while I was looking for a book that could tell me how to eat healthy when pregnant. This may sound like such an easy problem to fix, but when you begin to use food as a coping mechanism, you no longer think of food as fuel. Eating healthy doesn’t help you cope.
This is exactly what Andie teaches throughout the book. She writes in a way that describes the love affair with food when you begin to eat to cope with feelings. Food becomes a drug. Food becomes a best friend. Food creates an experience, and a delightful one, that releases you from the mess of your life. So I read, and read, and read. I understood her. She understood me. Her experiences were identical to mine. But the thing is, throughout the book, the reader is reminded that Andie has found a way to escape this pattern of destruction. It gave me hope to read her story.
I began to think about her story in reference to mine. Well, I can’t diet because I’m pregnant. I can begin to eat healthier, find alternate activities to cope with my emotions and hormones, and create a healthier body while I am pregnant. So I began to look at all of the diet books I owned, and I realized that many of them have techniques I can practice now to eat healthier without dieting. “30 Days of Healthy Eating Tips” is an article I created to share the practices I have learned over the years to eating healthy without dieting. I began to understand that, though my purpose isn’t to lose weight, it is to control my eating.
Eating Healthy Versus Dieting
Now please hear me loud and clear. There is a huge difference in controlling your eating versus restricting your eating. My purpose is to tell my body what to eat. It is to control what is going in, how much, when, and where food is going in order to create a healthy body for me and baby. My hope is to consume more vitamins and minerals while limiting unhealthy ingredients like sugars and processed foods. The end goal is to make me and baby healthier, more energetic, and more confident around food. Practicing healthy eating techniques and listening to your body are also necessary components to eating well after pregnancy.
This is NOT a diet. Restrictive eating is where one intentionally limits their calories or food groups in order to lose weight. There is none of that going on here. There is no counting points, calories, net carbs, or so-on-and-so-forth. There is even more of a focus on hunger level than on the “correct” portions. This is about using mindfulness techniques and experimenting with new kinds of foods to add in fun ways to eat healthier.
Many doctors suggest tracking calories to limit your weight gain during pregnancy and to keep your weight in a healthy range for you and baby. I have a problem with this. 1) For me, I feel like this could easily switch my focus from healthy eating into a diet mentality. This is just because I associate calorie counting with eating, but if you can maintain a healthy weight gain this way, go for it! 2) I have been on diets for awhile and have no idea how to calculate what my calorie range should be in order to maintain my weight as an overweight pregnant woman. 3) Calorie tracking was never quite my thing. I love counting points, but this is not the time to count points. This is the time to focus on health and the health of baby.
So here is the plan, guys. I plan on practicing some of the tips on “30 Days of Healthy Eating Tips,” writing about my experiences with using them while being pregnant, and explaining why these tips and techniques are important to try out. Every week, I will be writing about a new technique I am practicing for healthy eating. If you are anything like me, you hate being forced to gain weight when you have some poundage to lose. Well, what I learned from my first pregnancy is that by controlling my eating and by exercising, I felt great. I felt more energetic, confident, and beautiful.
I am 26 weeks pregnant right now, but my belief is that you can start this form of eating at any point in your pregnancy. Remember, the goal here is not to lose weight, but to practice healthy eating skills to create a healthier you and to develop a pattern of eating that will help you when you are ready to jump on a diet after baby is born. Forgive yourself for your past transgressions. Be easy on yourself with any eating techniques you try. This is about practice, not perfection. Your body is growing a beautiful baby. Let go of the feelings that being overweight brings. Instead, look to what your body is capable of and what it feels like when you eat healthier.
Come back next week for our first technique. Follow along with me, and write your experiences in a journal. You never know, this could be life changing for both of us!