What Does Intuitive Eating Look Like in Pregnancy
Becoming pregnant and having a child was something I wanted for a long time. When I finally became pregnant I was elated of course. I had heard and read all about the nausea, food cravings, and food aversions that happen to most women during pregnancy. I ‘thought’ I was prepared for anything thrown my way during this time. And while I do think I navigated it to the best of my ability, nothing could actually prepare me for what happened during those first 14 weeks of growing a life.
The constant nausea was, at times, completely overwhelming and consuming. I felt as if I was trapped inside my own body. The best comparison I can make to it is if you get motion sickness, but you know that as soon as you get to your destination you know that the nausea will go away. But in this scenario you never know when the nausea will subside. For me it wasn’t until I went to sleep. I felt nauseous all day long. The only thing that would make it go away was eating tiny amounts of food every 1-2 hours. If I went more than 2 hours I felt awful.
This was so different than the way I was used to eating. Usually I eat and then 4 or so hours later I eat again. At times it felt “wrong” to have eat so soon after I just ate, but if I didn’t my body would be very unhappy with me.
The first trimester also brought an inability to grocery shop, cook, or basically have anything to do with food. I am usually the one that does most of the food prep in our household simply because I like to do it, and frankly, am just better and way more efficient at it then my partner. However, during this time, I could not fathom setting foot into a grocery store or cooking a meal. The thought of each made me feel more nauseous. So we basically subsisted on take-out and cereal during this time. There was a huge part of me that felt terrible about this, but I repeatedly reminded myself that this was all for a very good reason, and there was literally nothing I could do about it.
There was a part of me that resisted eating whatever I could. I kept reading and thinking about my baby and how he needed more nutrients than I was giving him. But by thinking this I was violating #4 of The Intuitive Eating Principles, which is to challenge the Food Police. Even though my body was clearly telling me that cooking a meal of nutrient dense food was out of the question, the old part of my brain that knows nutrients are important was trying to take over. When this happened I simply noticed it and would tell myself that this was not the time for me take into account principle #10 of gentle nutrition. Right now was all about survival and eating anything that sounded okay and didn’t make me nauseous.
Not being able to incorporate the “gentle nutrition” part of intuitive eating was difficult for me. This principle had NO place in my life at this time. I have been eating intuitively since recovering from my ED 12 years ago. I do absolutely believe that incorporating gentle nutrition into your life is very helpful for ongoing recovery and health. But during these 14 weeks I could barely touch a fruit or vegetable! It did not matter how much I “knew” they were good for me, the thought of eating them made me gag. My meals looked as bland and colorless as ever ; plain pasta with no sauce, plain cold, uncooked tofu, bagels with butter, cereal, un-toasted bread with nothing on it, etc. You get the picture. Occasionally I would eat a tomato or some plain cucumber slices but that was about it. I tried my best to be patient with myself during this time but at times it was difficult since you hear so much about how important it is to “eat for the baby”. Of course I worried I was depriving our baby of nutrients, but again I was just doing the best I could do.
One other part about this time that was so interesting was my inability to consumer anything sweet or made with sugar. This was so weird! I am usually a dessert every night kinda person. But I could not touch sugar. It made me incredibly nauseous and did not taste good at all. Again, I found myself resisting this part. Eating sugar as a daily fun food has been a key part of my own personal recovery. I love dessert and think it is wonderful and healthy in moderation. Not being able to eat sugar during this time reminded me eerily of when I was in my ED and I would not eat sugar (so dumb). I actually tried to override my body several times and would force myself to eat my typical go-tos (peanut butter cups, cookies) but each time I felt awful. I had to again, resign myself to listening to my body and did not eat it again until I felt better, around 15 weeks. I am happy to say this phase has passed and now I love sugar and dessert again ;)
Now that I am almost 26 weeks pregnant, I am eating fairly normal and typical for myself. I don’t have any weird food cravings or aversions. I attribute part of this to me allowing myself to eat intuitively for the past 12 years, and never depriving myself of a certain food if I want it. I’m not sure if there’s any truth to this, but there’s a part of me that wonders if the reason why so many women have food cravings is because they typically deprive themselves of food, but then allow themselves to eat anything they want during pregnancy. I don’t have any scientific evidence to back that up though so don’t quote me on it. You do not need the excuse of pregnancy in order to listen to your food cravings.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned so far while being pregnant, which is actually no different than what I constantly preach to clients in our Denver office, is that our body always knows best. If you listen to it, it will tell you exactly what and how much you need. Our bodies are so much smarter than our minds when it comes to food.