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Eating for Pregnancy: Following My Intuition

Previously Jessica shared her honest reaction to getting pregnant and then talked about the myth of that pregnancy glow and her experience with all-day morning sickness. Now she’s sharing her tales on how eating for pregnancy and working out is going—and changing! —Erin


Ok, I admit that even before I was pregnant, intuitive eating wasn’t very easy for me. I just love good food so much that even when my tummy says “Oh, please, no more…the button on these jeans is about to pop!” my brain and tongue say “Oh, please, just one more bite!” I found that, for me, the best way to drop extra pounds was to join a program that forced me to track my food intake and my exercise. I’m an engineer, and I get a kick out of numbers and graphs and tracking things, so this kind of program works well for me.

Of course, these weight-loss programs have some limitations. The first of which is the obvious focus on weight instead of fitness or health. There’s nothing bad about wanting to see the number on the scale fall when you’re overweight, but sometimes—a lot of times—you can make major improvements in strength, endurance and flexibility (not to mention clothing sizes) without losing a single pound. The second big limitation is that you can’t do them when you’re pregnant because you’re supposed to gain weight during pregnancy.

So what’s a girl who likes a structured program to do when she’s expecting? There is plenty of info out there on eating for pregnancy and how much weight you should aim to gain during your pregnancy, but guidelines about how to achieve that healthy weight gain with exercise are hard to come by.

So, I decided it was best to just trust my body and my intuition with regards to eating and exercise. During my weight-loss trials and successes, I’ve picked up lots of good habits that should help me eat intuitively—concepts like assessing my true level of hunger before I put food in my mouth, staying hydrated to keep from mistaking being thirsty for being hungry, rewarding myself with things other than food, making some kind of movement a priority every day, eating slowly, and on and on. But about 19 weeks into my pregnancy, I’ve experienced a few roadblocks along my intuitive-eating journey.

First, for about six weeks toward the end of my first trimester, I felt nauseated every day and the only foods that sounded good to me were macaroni and cheese, breads and fruit. I ate a lot of carbs during that time. Turns out that eating mac and cheese every other day wasn’t exactly an easy habit to break after the nausea went away. I found it takes a really long time to form good eating habits and hardly any time at all to break them. Those few weeks definitely destroyed some good habits.

Second, I’ve had problems really coming to terms with the number of calories that I’m no longer burning from my old exercise routine. There’s definitely not as much cardio in my life these days. I’m not burning nearly the calories I used to, so if I do the calculations, I really don’t need to be increasing my calorie consumption much during pregnancy, if at all! Try telling that to a growling tummy that wants food every two hours.

Finally, I think that maternity pants basically eliminate all clothing-related feedback. Those puppies are meant to expand, and there is no amount of food when eating for pregnancy that makes you feel like your pants are getting too tight. This is wonderful and terrible all at the same time.

Still, there have been some successes in listening to my body with regard to when and what I eat. I’ve noticed that I’m actually craving dairy, which is a food group I have probably never gotten quite enough of. I enjoy having a glass of milk or some yogurt or some cheese now, so it’s been easier to make sure I’m getting the calcium I need. I’ve also found that allowing myself to have a snack when I start to feel hungry helps me control the amount that I eat at normal meal times because I never go into meals feeling ravenous. (I make sure to keep healthy and satisfying snacks with me at all times, since the hunger seems to come fast and hard these days.) Finally, I’ve noticed that as I’ve started to really get that baby bump, I get full faster. I guess my stomach is already starting to get a little bit crowded.

So while I still wish I had some better “rules” to follow for fitness and eating for pregnancy, and my attempt at intuitive eating is still a work in progress, I would give myself a passing grade. I just keep reminding myself that everything I’m putting in my body, I’m also putting in that tiny body inside of me, and that I want to do everything I can to make sure that body grows to be strong and healthy.

Do you have any advice for intuitive eating for pregnancy or have any stories to share about how changes in your fitness routine affected how you were used to eating? —Jessica 

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