Intuitive Eating During Pregnancy & All of the Other Pregnancy Rules I Broke

This is going to shock some people, but I actually do not know how much I weighed pre-pregnancy, how much weight I gained, nor do I know what my weight is right now at 8+ weeks postpartum.

Guess what? I don’t care.  

Un-clutch your pearls, and un-clench your butt cheeks.

Mentally I prefer not knowing my weight, despite being a numbers, and data centered person, to me – weight is a tool, but personally that number just bugs me – it always has – so I’m better off not knowing. It is also not the only measurement, nor is it always a particularly great measurement of health!  I am also going to try to rein it in here, and not go down a rabbit hole of diet culture… 

So now you MUST be asking: “But Sarah, how can you POSSIBLY say you had a healthy pregnancy if you don’t know how much weight you gained”.

Well I did have a lot of help from women who were smarter than myself.  My key resources were: “Real Food For Pregnancy” by Lily Nichols, RDN, CDE, “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD & Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA, CEDRD, & lastly “Expecting Better” & “Cribsheet” both by Emily Oster.  *More on the books below.

I approached my pregnancy as an optimistic pragmatist, thinking, “I’ll do my best:

To exercise, and continue for as long as I could with movement that felt good (walking Luna, running, biking, weight lifting) – and I had a wonderfully active pregnancy.  I also experienced extreme fatigue in the first trimester so there were MANY days I said “no” to working out in favor of a nap.  

However, this is where I did in fact break another pregnancy rule- my heart rate.  My OB office said my heart rate should be under 140.  That was my advice, I pushed back, and I asked why, and I asked does it matter that I am already a runner, and track my heart rate, and that my body is used to it?  Again, I was advised no heart rates over 140.  I opted to cautiously disregard this for several reasons: 1) I know that from years of tracking runs and mileage, that even a VERY easy run puts my heart rate in the 150’s, 160’s, whereas a very hard effort is going to put me in the 170-180’s.  2) It is also incredibly hard to find anything that is TRUE evidence on this is as pregnant women are not great sample populations for research. 3) I made an agreement with myself (and also my husband) to run, and bike on feel, and for enjoyment, and stop for any cramps, spotting etc (which thankfully never happened).  

Still cycling, and definitely modifying workouts at 36 weeks

To eat well– for me this meant having snacks and food available -my work days (pre-covid) could be REALLY WILD, and I had to ensure I had snacks, and portable mini meals that were nutrient rich (and tasty). I had great bloodwork, and blood pressure throughout my pregnancy, and used my labs as a guide as opposed to my weight (not to mention our outdated nutrient recommendations for pregnancy).  

To honor cravings, you betcha ass I ate a donut when I wanted to (but I probably ate exponentially more eggs).  

I also knew I would have routine lab work, and I also knew by how my clothes were fitting, and how I was eating that I wasn’t gaining too quickly (and I knew I WAS gaining), worst case I knew my OB would say if I was gaining too rapidly, or not gaining enough.  

So not only did I not know how much weight I gained during pregnancy, I did not follow the “traditional” nutrition recommendations either- but I kept incorporating my favorite foods such as sushi (gasp), and I enjoyed MANY eggs, and fattier meats.  My choices were just that – mine – and not for everyone (I ate sushi 1-2 times a month, and from places I trusted quality and handling).  

Ultimately I had an active and healthy pregnancy, that was uneventful in terms of side effects (I did have some weird ones, but no nausea).  

**My purpose of sharing all of this is to emphasize that even in pregnancy there is room for intuitive eating, and after delivery there doesn’t need to be this rush or emphasis to “snap back”.  Even if I were back at my pre-preg weight – my body has CHANGED – so even if the number on the scale read the same, I do not feel the same, and taking that with grace is easier some days, and much harder others.   Again – we are not defined by the size of our clothes or numbers on a scale. 

The numbers I care about pertain more to my labs like Hemoglobin, blood pressure, and my baby’s weight (because who doesn’t love a healthy, chunk-chonky baby).  

In short I was a bit of a rebel, but I have no regrets, I declined my OB’s prescription for a prenatal vitamin, I ate sushi, I threw the office’s booklet on nutrition in pregnancy in the trash the second I got home, I let my heart rate get above 140, and I most DEFINITELY did not care, nor do I know how much weight I have gained, or lost.

*Real Food for Pregnancy and Intuitive Eating were both books I had read before, and I would describe my diet as one that is centered around intuitive eating, as well as incorporating many principles from Lily Nichols’ works.  I don’t really follow any food rules, I eat when I am hungry (I try to prevent getting TOO hungry), I stop when I am comfortably full (try to), I honor cravings when I have them, I don’t use exercise for anything other than moving my body in a healthy way.  My “staples” are eggs, meat, fish, veggies, full fat dairy, and whole grains/high fiber grains.   Prior to getting to pregnant I was working on incorporating more nutrient dense foods in more frequently such as organ meats like liver, sardines, and smoked oysters.

**Please remember that this is my experience, so even though I am a Registered Dietitian – I am not YOUR RD, and therefore I am sharing this NOT as any sort of medical advice, but as my own n=1 experience.

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