I share some of the hard and personal pregnancy lessons I’ve learned about my changing body, weight gain and nutrition through this journey of growing a baby.
Once upon a time I had dreams of being that woman that fucking loves those special nine months. I assumed I would relish in every moment and would mourn the end when that baby finally came. Well, let me cut to the chase and tell you that pregnancy hasn’t lived up to my expectations. It’s hard, exhausting and fucking uncomfortable sometimes. But if I can take some good out of the experience (aside from of course the fact that I cannot WAIT to meet this little Button we have growing), it’s the pregnancy lessons I’ve learned about my body, weight gain and nutrition that I hope to carry with me post-partum. I wanted to share a few pregnancy lessons with you that you can apply today- and you don’t even need the morning/ afternoon/evening/all the live-long day sickness to learn them. Lucky little devils. Let’s jump in.
Pregnancy Lessons I’ve Learned These Past Few Months
Your Body Tells You What it Needs (if You’re Actually Listening)
You all know I’m a big proponent of mindful eating and listening to your body. Well, in my non-pregnant state I never really had “cravings” or “aversions”, so most of my personal experience with this “listening” was to my hunger and satiety cues. Wow, things change in pregnancy. In my first trimester, I pretty much couldn’t eat any meat, I was totally turned off cooked vegetables of any type (I know, a total dietitian sin) and it was hard to eat foods high in fat like nut butter or avocado. I couldn’t even enjoy dessert like I usually do! WHAT KIND OF CHILD IS THIS?! So basically that meant I legit lived off of all bran cereal, mango, and crunchy raw salads with straight-up balsamic vinegar (omg acid was my saviour). So yah, I ate vegetables and lots of carbs. Considering that nothing catastrophic happened to my body, I am confident that I was craving those foods for a reason. I was nauseous, so bland foods like cereal were my BFF. I was probably dehydrated so salads and juicy fruit like mango and pineapple were my go-tos. And I probably off fatty foods or protein since these are typically harder on the body to digest and my digestive tract was a bit on the fritz. My body knew what it needed and because I just went with it rather than sticking to my usual diet routine, it all turned out okay. I’m sure this isn’t limited to the unique state of pregnancy, as well, so I’m going to make sure I make extra effort to tune in.
Don’t Stress the Macros
Okay, so I’m not going to lie, at the beginning of my pregnancy I was really worried about not getting enough protein considering all of my aversions. Pre-pregnancy, I had a pretty high protein diet, about 150 grams a day for my 125 lb body. That’s the amount that in the past helped me maintain my lean muscle mass with my exercise routine, so I’ve just gotten used to making sure I get enough. But when I was feeling morning/evening sick, and couldn’t stomach another chicken breast or egg, I worried I was going to gain a shit ton of fat and lose muscle mass QUICK. Spoiler alert: that just didn’t happen. In fact, in my entire first trimester (3 whole months), I only gained about 3-4 lbs. I also was able to keep up my usual workout routine (with obviously making some pregnancy-safe modifications). My point? I’m not suggesting that macros don’t matter and that you can just eat carbs all day and not see a shift on the scale, but I think that for most people, it’s not something we need to over-stress about. See my lesson 1 on knowing what your body needs and trust that some days that may mean more fat, more carbs or more protein. All good.
Your Body will Gain Weight at its Own Perfect Pace
I may strongly believe in body positivity, but I have to confess –seeing my body change so quickly during pregnancy was admittedly tough at times. One day I would worry I was gaining weight too fast, and the next, I would worry I’m not gaining enough and that something was wrong with baby. I’ve spoken with so many of my friends and I came to realize that this is just one of the brutal realities of being a woman, not just in pregnancy when body changes come fast and furious, but pretty much all throughout the life cycle. But as I near the end of my second trimester, I’ve learned to make peace with the chaos. My body will gain weight at its own perfect pace. It may not be the precise 0.5-1 lb each and every week that all the apps talk about. It may not be as slow or as fast as your best friend. You may get ass hole comments about being “so small” or “ready to pop” (when um, you’re not). I know that for me, some weeks I gain nothing, and others I’ll jump 2 or 3 lbs on the scale. But if you’re listening to your body (see pregnancy lessons 1 and 2), just know that your body is doing what’s best for you and baby and your weight will find its happy place in the end.
Hormonal Weight is REAL
In my first trimester, I was taking progesterone supplements to help promote a strong pregnancy. Once I came off around 10 weeks, I dropped like 10 lbs instantly. Obviously then I started to put in on as baby weight, but talk about a quick shift on the scale! I’ve talked about the role of some of these hormones with regards to birth control here, and while the research is sketchy and unclear, my personal experience tells me that yes, hormones do wonky things to our body and that’s okay. Nothing was personally more important to me than maintaining a healthy pregnancy, so I didn’t care what those hormones did, but I’ve learned that, at least in my experience, weight gain is not just about calories in and calories out.
Your Body Doesn’t Just Change Overnight When You Skip the Gym
I’m a gym rat, I can’t deny that. I work it out hard in the gym for at least an hour almost every day and I love it. But I was just so anxious at the beginning of my pregnancy that I took about 2 months off the gym. Not two days. Not two weeks. Two whole months. Obviously, it was all worth it, even if it never played a role in my successful pregnancy at all, but at the time, the thought of taking that much time off kind of freaked me out. Would I lose all of the strength I had worked so hard to build and have to start from scratch? Would I gain a shit ton of fat and lose muscle? Would I just fall out of the habit for good and never go back? My gym bunnies probably can relate to at least one of those concerns. But I’m happy to report that I came out the other side pretty much unscathed. OK, so my first day back on the weights was a bit of a struggle and picking up 12 lbs felt like a hefty set of 25. But after a week at it, I was pretty much back to where I was, and like I mentioned earlier, my body didn’t all of a sudden go to shit. OBVIOUSLY I gained a few pounds but come on, I had a baby growing inside me, so I was hoping to gain AT LEAST what I did. So the next time you make yourself feel guilty because you took a few extra days off the gym just remember that I took a long vacation and got back to it with gusto. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Just listen to your body, and when you’re ready get back in there with renewed energy and strength.
It’s Okay to Feel Like SHIT About Your Body One Day, and Totally in Love Another
This has been the hardest pregnancy lesson for a hormonal pregnant woman to learn because my emotions are often all over the place. But trust me, this one is worth taking to the grave. Being body positive doesn’t need to mean that I ALWAYS love my body. It doesn’t mean I always dance naked in the mirror singing along to Whitney, take countless selfies in the buff, or buy sexy lingerie just for me. There may be days when I do all of these things but there are other times I just want to put on a moo moo and hide. Like that time I split my zipper on my winter parka and had to rush to the store to buy a new one. Or that time I couldn’t find a bra in my drawer that didn’t make my boobs spill out on all sides. Or when I legit had to unbutton AND unzip my pants after lunch just so that I could walk home without pain. I wasn’t loving my body then. But there are nights I get into bed and my husband tells me how much he loves my belly and baby that I feel like the sexiest woman in the world. Loving your body, whatever it looks like, is an ongoing process. It’s messy, it’s emotional, it’s confusing at the best of times, but it’s definitely worth the struggle because those highs outlast every little confidence blip. I’m going to try to hold onto those feelings and the gratitude I feel that my body is able to sustain and grow a life as I transition into my post-pregnancy body. And that, my friends, will deserve a whole other blog post.
Now mommas and mommas-to-be, can you tell me, what are some of the pregnancy lessons you’ve learned along the way that have helped you through your journey? Leave me a comment below and help a fellow mom to be out!
Abbey Sharp is a Registered Dietitian (RD), regulated by the Ontario College of Dietitians. She is a mom, YouTuber, Blogger, award winning cookbook author, media coach specializing in food and nutrition influencers, and a frequent contributor to national publications like Healthline and on national broadcast TV shows.