Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Eating While Pregnant

When I found out I was pregnant, one aspect of the whole thing that excited me (granted, very low down the list because, you know, holy crap, I was having a baby!) was the eating.  I breathed a small sigh of relief because finally I could just cool out on watching what I ate.  It should be noted I was eating a super restricted diet trying to get pregnant (no caffeine, no alcohol, no refined sugar, no dairy, and limited whole grains), but even with those things aside, I've devoted a good portion of time in the past 6 years to healthy eating.  And while a lot of that dedication was related to living a healthy lifestyle, I'd be lying if I said some of it wasn't related to my weight (either trying to lose weight or maintaining weight loss after I'd achieved it).  So this 9 month period of pregnancy seemed like a good chance to let loose a little.

Now I wasn't planning to get all crazy with my eating, of course - I had (and still have) full intentions of only gaining the recommended 25-35 pounds for a woman with an average pre-pregnancy BMI.  But I was looking forward to not being so strict: allowing some treats, eating whatever I wanted at restaurants (not picking the healthiest option), eating fried food occasionally, stuff like that.  And importantly, not counting calories!

But here I am, 24 weeks in, and what I've learned is that one's weight actually matters during pregnancy.  Gaining the 25-35 pounds comes pretty naturally (that is, they say when all is said and done, with the weight of the baby & placenta, the increased amount of blood in the body, increased breast size, etc., you're looking at about 25 pounds).  So much for my french fries and cupcakes plan!  Additionally, an increased amount of weight gain means an increase in the baby's size, which can affect one's ability to have a vaginal birth.

And so what am I doing while pregnant?  Counting my freaking calories.  Lame.  Granted, I'm eating quite a few more per day than I would be if I weren't with child, but I still feel the need to do it, because in the back of my mind, this little voice says, "eat another bite of cake, you're pregnant, it doesn't matter."  And when that little voice overrides reason, if I don't watch out, I'll have consumed the caloric intake of an elephant by the end of the day.

So I count my calories.  And even though I have cravings sometimes, the act of having a craving isn't all that different than the act of having a craving pre-preg.  I mean, when given the option of having a dark chocolate Hershey's Kiss for dessert or a slice of pie, what does one usually want?  When ordering a side at a restaurant, which would one rather have, french fries or a side salad?  But for me, for the most part in these instances, reason beats out the craving.  And honestly, it's been the same in pregnancy.  Even though I want some things more than others, I don't really give in to those wants all that often.

I know so many women struggle with their weight during pregnancy.  It's the strange dichotomy of "in theory, I could eat more now (and unhealthier) because it's the only time in my life when I'm supposed to gain weight" vs. "I don't want to gain too much weight and not be able to lose it once the baby comes."  And I think it's a thing for women in our country, since so much emphasis is put on a woman's weight and how she looks.

So I've found it's been a strange mix of emotions I wasn't expecting.  Honestly, I was planning to go a little bigger with my eating than I have been, and not to worry about weight gain as much as I have.  But at the end of the day, I'm doing it mostly for baby.  Baby deserves to get nutrient-dense food, and baby doesn't need to be 10+ pounds because I couldn't back off the cookies.  I'm doing it for me too, though.  Whenever I overeat, my brain sort of freaks out and makes me look at myself in the mirror and think, "you look fat, not pregnant" (even though I probably look the same as I did the day before).  Eating healthy helps keep me mentally balanced.

I think it might be a struggle around the holidays (especially considering my office and how abundantly people bring snacks in to share).  But it will be ok.  I just have to remember the little babe - it's about him/her more than me right now.

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