Tuesday, February 15, 2011

reining it in: staying on track during pregnancy.

so, just like ashlee's post yesterday, my inspiration for today's post comes from a question--one that ashlee herself actually asked me. having been a person who has struggled with weight and has been successful on a large scale before pregnancy, she asked, how have you kept your weight gain under control during pregnancy?

this is a really good question, and one that i have been thinking about for a while.   if any pregnant person in my situation were to ask me how to stay in control, i would tell them this:

educate yourself about nutrition, if you haven't already.  knowing portion sizes goes hand in with not only understanding calorie content but nutrition facts too.  you have to be able to look at a food and evaluate, fairly quickly, whether or not it's a worthwhile use of your caloric budget.  and budgeting and money is the best analogy that i can make.  sometimes, you feel inclined to splurge, to buy a $400 purse.  if you have $400 to spare, that shouldn't or won't be better used on something else, then maybe that's a valid choice. but if you know that maybe, i don't know, the rent should be paid, that's not the best choice you can make.  the same is true for food.  you have to know what your body needs, how much you have, individually, to "spend," and what the wisest choices are. 

this isn't necessarily to make you feel like you can't eat anything. it's also to help you realize how much you CAN eat.  i can, for example, eat much more fruit than i think i can.  salad and spinach are practically calorie-less, as are celery and carrots.  this isn't really surprising, but compared to processed foods, these whole foods are calorie budget bonanzas. they're the sale foods of life, and knowing that helps me to know what i can add to my meals or choose as a snack that will be the wisest choice.

it's genuinely a process, but it's a process that is surprisingly quick. once you begin to educate yourself about portion size, about nutritional content, about vitamins and minerals and whole grains and fiber, you look at food in a whole new way.  in pregnancy, this has been especially true for me.

all of this leads to my second tip: vigilantly and honestly record your food

on days when you just don't want to care, this is hard.  however, it's essential.  during pregnancy, you just eat more. your body demands it. beginning in the first trimester, i was eating two extra snacks then i was accustomed to, and if i hadn't recorded my food, i would have only a vague idea of where i was at or what i was missing.

in short, ignorance is fatal to your goals.

i had learned, before pregnancy, that if i was not willing to be honest about what i was putting in my mouth, i was not on a road that was healthy. even on the days when i'm starving, when my self-discipline is cracking, when i don't feel like i want to choose wisely, if i am recording what i'm eating (from the cheezits i snack on while making dinner to the valentine's peanut butter egg i can't resist), i am much more likely to make wiser choices the next time.

i don't know why it works, but it works.  accountability and education go hand in hand, and you're only accountable to yourself.  (unless you're pregnant, and then you are accountable to a vicious, unyielding, unkind scale that never lies and that forces you to pony up every four weeks, then every two weeks, then every week.)

and, finally, something that i think has been key to my success so far: debunking the lies about cravings.

i'm going to be really straight with you.  the idea that cravings are this unyielding force that you are a slave to is a lie.  but when you're pregnant, it's like the whole world starts solidifying the idea that cravings are real and inescapable. there's an embedded sort of permission in your growing belly, like you are allowed to eat whatever you want because there's a fetus. "you're eating for two," "that's natural," "let yourself have what you want," or "you're supposed to be eating more--you're pregnant!"

the thing that has kept me sane, from the very beginning, is my vigilant belief that none of this is true.  i don't deny myself completely (because i know the negative implications of too much denial) and i will absolutely recognize that my particular pregnancy has, perhaps, not really tested this resolve.  i have a baby that likes healthy food.  HOWEVER, i have not been without some serious desires for fattiness and sugar.  but knowing what i know, and having a nutrition budget in mind, makes it very difficult for me to make consistently bad choices.

ice cream? sometimes, but i almost always measure and record it.  donuts? rarely, because i can't justify it in my mind.  waffles? yes, sometimes, but even better when they have some whole grain. pizza? i've just about given up on it, because it's just not worth it.  chocolate? i keep semi-sweet chocolate chips in the house for this precise purpose--adding a few to some yogurt or even just grabbing a handful can satisfy my desire without derailing a whole day's progress. excessive amounts of cheerios? yep, almost every day.  but that's a choice i can live with.

so, i guess, the answer to how i've kept my pregnancy weight gain in check is to remember where i came from and do what i did before, with a few tweaks here and there. 

i think it's also important to remember, though, that self-discipline doesn't negate the fact that your body is a changing being that will do what it will do.  you can do your best, but it doesn't mean that it will all turn out exactly as you think it will.  i gained 5 pounds these past two weeks, and i don't think i did enough to warrant that kind of gain. but i hadn't gained any for the six weeks prior, so it all balances out.

ultimately, in pregnancy and in your every day life, you can only do the best that you can do.  if you can honestly say that you are, in the vast majority of the choices that you are make, you are healthy. 

these are just my tips--those of you who are moms, what advice do you have for pregnant women who are trying to stay healthy?


  1. I knew a woman that was pregnant and because of her habits while pregnant she developed preeclampsia AND gestational diabetes early in her 2nd trimester. The doctors put her on a strict diet that did not agree with her cravings. (She wanted chocolate covered potato chips and chocolate covered bacon.) To help keep her on track, she made copies of ultrasound pictures and hung them anywhere she would be tempted to eat something unhealthy. That photo reminded her that this pregnancy thing was not about her at all.

    Now I didn't have any serious medical issues while pregnant, just a huge baby. Actually, I had low blood perssure even with covering my food in sodium rich hot sauce. Nevertheless, I kept a picture of James out where I could see it as a reminder of who I was eating those carrots for and why I needed to go walking. I used that picture in labor when things weren't going the way I wanted. Motivation is an important (essential?) part of pregnancy and motherhood in general. I promise you that nothing tastes as good as being the mommy of a healthy baby feels.

  2. I love how dedicated you are to your health and you aren't using your pregnancy as an excuse. Most people would be all over that.

    Are there any theories out there that show if you feed your baby healthy foods while in the womb the baby becomes healthier after it is born?

  3. getinshapegirl: there's some anecdotal evidence that moms who eat a variety of foods have kids that are less picky eaters. other than that, i'm not sure if there's any research about the relative healthfulness of kids who are exposed to healthy foods in utero. i would imagine, however, that would be the case (though i also think there's a great deal to be said about the deliberate choices of foods being introduced to a baby's palate!).