APL Pregnancy: Quelling the Cravings & Giving In to Your Body

WARNING: this may be the longest blog I have ever written. My apologies, but I am fitting in an entire 3 months of advice into a single post…Enjoy!

Living healthy is incredibly important, if not more important, when you are pregnant.  Unfortunately, it is also sometimes the most difficult time to be stress-free, sleep well, eat well, and move often. My advice here is super simple: do whatever your body tells you to do.  Trust it. Read on for some more tips and tricks to starting off on the right foot with food and fitness!

In the beginning: If you have been or are pregnant, chances are you have foods that fit into specific categories: cravings, go-to’s, and absolutely-will-not-eat. Let’s get real, some women are definitely more picky than others (ahem, meaning me.) First trimester I was supremely nauseous and the only things I could even consider putting in my mouth were potatoes, plain toast, sparkling water, and ginger chews. Occasionally I could get in some gluten-free quinoa pasta with a simple marinara. Not. The. Healthiest. You have to accept that this is just the way it is until you can get back into a healthy eating groove. Other complete mind-jobs that happen include your lack of motivation and near-narcoleptic tendencies.  (I would fall asleep standing, literally.) Being taken off of exercise my first trimester (yea, me the fitness guru was told to not be active at all,) was my second biggest obstacle. So eating all of those carbs and not moving was putting me in a sleepy stupor, like a sloth!   It is so arduous to give in to it, but another way to look at it is that in 9 or less months, you will not be able to just relax and put yourself first, so now is the time!  Also, 100 percent, always sleep when you need it.  I listened to my doctor and my body, which I realized was of the utmost importance.

As time progresses: I can promise that IT ALL GETS BETTER, but once you make it past that initial I-am-not-human phase, is it really easier? Every pregnancy is different, which is why I stress that listening to yourself is the most important thing, but it does get better. At the onset of my second trimester, I started to gain my energy back (yay, I am human again,) craved more complete meals with healthier components in them, and was able to start moving again. With this rebirth, came the cravings…these hit people at different times, but mine came on like a mack truck at 12 weeks. I wanted Indian food STAT and I was not into meat at all (in fact, looking at raw chicken sent me running, which I hear is common.) Off to an unhealthy start because my first craving was definitely not nutritious, I set out to make the entire day super healthy and when I got to our local Indian food haunt, Jaipur, I made menu choices that would not leave me guilt-ridden but would satisfy my need for some spice.

FOOD ADVICE: This is what you need to try to work through…getting “buffer” foods in your diet that will abate your need for your “trigger” foods (whatever it is you are craving.) Yes, giving in every so often is ok, but you cannot live your days in and out of fast food joints or doing take-out. Not a sweets person in general, I had a stint of chocolate cravings that totally caught me off guard. Instead of giving in each time, I bought some sweet treats with less sugar and some nutrients.

Top examples of healthier buffer foods for a sugar fix: mixed berries with Wax Orchards fruit “fudge,” Greek yogurt ice cream with chopped pineapple and raw cacao nibs,  a sliced apple soaked in lemon juice and dashes of cinnamon on top, fiber-filled muffins (made with applesauce or yogurt instead of oils and butter) vs cupcakes, a banana with organic nut butter and drizzled with Wax Orchards fruit “fudge” (allergic to nuts? Try sunflower seed butter instead,) smoothies vs milkshakes (made with a scoop of Greek frozen yogurt, a small frozen banana, 1/2 cup of unflavored oat or hemp milk, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 cup of an organic frozen fruit, and any healthy add-ons like flaxseeds, etc.)

After the brief stint with sugar, I turned into a totally salt-crazed lady.  French fries, tortilla chips, mashed potatoes, cheese (which I had not eaten in some 6-7 years) – you name it, if it had sodium, I was game. This made me feel atrociously guilty. On came the task of fulfilling my needs without going to such an unhealthy place.

Top examples of healthier buffer foods for a salt fix:

  • For the French-fry fix– homemade baked french fries are a great substitute for the deep-fried fast-food variety (I messed around with different ways to spice them and made some healthier dipping sauces for some fun,) sweet potato baked fries (for some added beta-carotene,) or even some of our APL healthier mashed potatoes (1 medium baked potato, mashed, with 1-2 TB vegan horseradish from Veganiase.)
  • For the salty snack fix- keeping bags of yummy PopChips on-hand, making air-popped popcorn (has some good fiber in there for you, which you need for your not-so-lovely constipation symptoms,) buying blue corn tortillas chips and slicing jicama to have with homemade guacamole, or slow-roasting veggies in the oven (basically dehydrating things like zucchini, carrots, daikon radishes, yucca, beets, and more makes chips for 3-4 hours at about 120 degrees) for dips, which is a great way to get in veggies in a “chip” format.

FITNESS ADVICE:  everyone says that you can start off where you left off before you were pregnant, but don’t feel badly if this is not exactly possible. Some things I noticed that happened to this crazy workout-a-holic, include:

  • It gets harder to breathe.  This can be deceiving, because your heart rate might not be high, but you may be reaching for deeper breaths already…this can be because you need more oxygen (duh,) your uterus is actually pushing on your diaphragm,  and an increased level of the hormone progesterone, can stimulate the respiratory center in your brain.  This can definitely make your cardio routine a bit confusing for you if you are not used to breathing problems.
  • Your muscles may feel weak. I am a lifter; I have never been a stranger to heavy weights, but during my pregnancy, I have noticed a dull weakness throughout my muscular system.  That’s ok…you shouldn’t be power-lifting anyway! It’s time to drop the weight and increase the reps. This is TOUGH for someone used to the “burn” and who yearns to be constantly sore! Right now, it isn’t about building muscle, it is about staying toned and lean.
  • Sometimes you just don’t want to. With a nearly life-long ritual of working out 6 days/week (in my excessive phase, 7,) I realized that with pregnancy, you need to give in when you just don’t “feel it.” Today for example: I have worked out the last 4-5 days combining cardio and weights, but woke up this morning and just knew I was going to try to walk a lot and take it easy. It comes from a combination of factors: how did you sleep the night before, how your back is feeling, have you taken a day off in the last week, and more.

My simple recommendation: aim for 3-4 days with a solid workout regimen each week that includes some weights and cardio.

 

  • Lift: A solid foundation for weight-training would be doing upper body one day, lower body one day, and full body the other.  This is important.  Staying toned is a big “must” when it comes to post-pregnancy.  You want to bounce back, right?
  • Cardio: Combine your weight-training with cardio workouts.  Try for 30-60 minutes of cardio at your own pace (has a lot to do with where you were physically before you were pregnant.) I have been mixing up treadmill hikes so I get the heart rate up moderately with the elevation (since I am more of a runner, it takes a bit,) and run-walk or run-jog workouts (bringing the speed up and down to control my heart rate and exertion,) and some longer, more slow workouts on the elliptical or brisk walks outside.  Obviously, if you have the energy for 5-6 days one week and only 2 days the next, just do it.
  • Added Workouts: pre-natal yoga and Pilates have some serious benefits when it comes to helping with your posture, back pain, and more during pregnancy, but also for the process of giving birth.  I have yet to get into a routine, but I am signing up for pre-natal yoga ASAP!  You are more flexible (thanks to lax joints) and have some minimal limitations, but I strongly recommend putting some more core-focused and flexibility into your routine.

I know this was a lengthly blog, but the takeaway is: listen to your body, do the best you can, and when you start to slip back into feeling like the “old” version of yourself, set off on developing more of a routine of healthy living again.  Stay tuned for more blog posts to do so!