My Version of a Healthy Pregnancy

Key Lime Cupcake
I want to eat all the cake. 

(Key lime cupcake from the Southern Cake Queen)

I like to think that my version of a healthy pregnancy is somewhere in the middle of extremes — the extreme of getting no exercise and eating whatever sounds good at the moment and the extreme of diligently keeping up with a rigorous workout schedule and denying any food that doesn’t fit in the “healthy” category.

I find it really interesting that doctors recommend that women gain 25-35 pounds if they had a healthy BMI when becoming pregnant. (Please call me out if you had a different experience — this has been my experience and everyone’s experience that I’ve talked to about the subject.) I just don’t see how a woman who is 5’9″ and I, someone who is is just under 5’2″ should gain about the same amount.  Even 10 pounds doesn’t seem like enough of a difference to me; especially when if we had the same BMI at our different heights, we started out with extremely different weights.

That being said, I’ve feel like I know better than most professionals when it comes to my own body. If you know me in real life, you know I’m respectful but skeptical of current medical research and its practice.  And that affects how I treat myself and my somewhat “laid-back” attitude about following the “rules” of pregnancy (most of which are based on out-dated research or IMO inadequate research).

However, my own take on a healthy pregnancy isn’t too far outside what a doctor would recommend (according to my research), although I shockingly had very little counseling on this topic by my medical team. I’m assuming if I started tipping the scales or my blood pressure started skyrocketing, they would step in and have a talk with me. But I think it’s important to think about these things at the beginning or even before embarking on a journey through pregnancy. So, I’d love to share what is working for me during my pregnancy.

Here are some of my core “healthy pregnancy” beliefs:

- I’m not eating for two. I’m actually eating for about 1.00001 to 1.01 people.
- Consistent activity that gets me off my butt and moving around is good for my baby (and my aching back).
- Cravings are there for a reason so I should listen to them, but it’s possible to mindfully give into cravings without getting out of control.
- Pregnancy is not a carte blanch pass to gain weight freely with no mindfulness.
- My body knows what’s best, but only if I’m treating it right.

ultrasound at 18 weeks

Baby E at 18 weeks = .00001 of a person (*I am not a mathematician)

I’m not eating for two.
Most people, of course, are joking when they say this (I think). Brad and I got up early one morning to make the trip down to Gastonia to see my cousin who had just had a baby.  He ran into a bakery to get us coffee (mine was decaf, thank you for asking) while I popped into a CVS to get a Luna Bar. This old lady at the cash register, gave me the stink eye and asked me if that was my breakfast with her raspy “I’ve been smoking since I was 13″ voice. My reply was, “Yes, for now.  I can’t eat much at one time.”

However, what I wanted to say was, “Maybe you should think about having something else for breakfast besides the carton of cigarettes you had this morning.”

If anything, pregnancy has reduced the amount I can eat at one time (sometimes)…maybe because my baby is squashing everything in my belly area? But I definitely have to eat more often.  So my portions seem smaller but I’m definitely getting enough to eat.

33 weeks pregnant

I work from home so I wear workout clothes 99.34% of the time to inspire myself to workout. 

Consistent activity is good for my baby.
I may not be able to run right now because I wasn’t in good running shape when I got pregnant and I personally believe you should only do what you were already doing…BUT I can walk.  And walk I have…about four miles almost every single day of my pregnancy thus far. I’ve been to the gym a few times, but walking has been my exercise of choice during my pregnancy.  It’s easy and it works for me.  Plus Rascal has never been in better shape.  He’s pushing seven years old right now so it’s really important to me to keep him in good shape and walking allows me to kill two birds with one stone.

I’ve had back ache now for at least three months (maybe more — I’ve lost track of time), but wouldn’t you know, it never hurts when I’m walking.  In fact, it only hurts when I’m sitting with my feet down in a chair.

Salmon Cobb Salad at The Gryphon Tea Room

One of the best salads I’ve ever had — the Salmon Cobb at the Gryphon Team Room in Savannah, GA. 

Cravings are there for a reason.
It’s fascinating to me that protein is so important to pregnant women and I had such intense red meat cravings in my first trimester.  Nowadays I’ve switched to mostly chicken, plus a little red meat and a little more fish.  There have been many an occasion that I’ve ran through the drive-thru at any fast food restaurant I could find for a grilled chicken sandwich (hold the excessive mayo). Is it the best choice for lunch?  No. But it’s what I wanted. And truth be told, it’s not the worst choice either when I’m busy and don’t have time to run home to make lunch.

Another healthy craving has been avocado, and now guacamole, which is just “fancified” avocado. I built meals around it. I eat it at every opportunity. I think “what can I make that would be good with a huge dollop of guacamole on top of it?”.  Healthy fats are so good for a growing baby, so I’ve embraced this craving.

But I’ve had unhealthy cravings too.  More about them in a minute.

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

I keep popsicles around the house as a healthier choice and for portion control, but sometimes you just need the real thing. 

Pregnancy is not a carte blanche pass.
Some of my more intense and less healthy cravings have been sweet tea and ice cream. Before being pregnant, I probably haven’t drank sweet tea more than twice since I was 18 years old. I grew up on sweet tea and as unhealthy as it is for you, I couldn’t get it out of my head during a huge part of my second trimester.  I made decaf at home and sweetened it with Stevia, but I did grant myself permission to have the real thing a few times a week.  As good as Stevia is as a sugar replacement, it just doesn’t taste quite the same as the real thing.  I never made the “real thing” at home which limited the amount I would drink.  I would only purchase it when running through a drive-thru (usually with a grilled chicken sandwich). I tried my best not to order it at restaurants where they will continuously fill up your glass.

And now I think the intense craving has passed (knock on wood) and I’m perfectly happy with the Stevia version.  I carry the Stevia in my purse so I can order unsweetened tea when I’m out.

Ice cream has also been an intense craving.  I’ve limited my ice cream consumption by buying the individually sized portions of ice cream at the grocery store and have recently fell in love with all-fruit and Greek yogurt popsicles.  There has also been a few runs through drive-thrus for a small vanilla cone. I give into my cravings, but I try to find a way to make sure I’m not digging into a gallon of ice cream late at night just because it’s there and I want it.

My body knows what’s best, but only if I’m treating it right.
Over the years, I’ve learned that my body usually knows what’s best.  But when I’m filling it full of crap, it gets confused.  If I eat tons of sugar all day, I’ll just continue to eat sugar.  So being mindful of this has helped me to eat a salad or some protein when what I really wanted was ice cream. I know I can’t really trust my cravings if I don’t fill my body with what my baby needs. It’s a balance, but it’s not really all that complicated.

What’s your version of a healthy pregnancy? 

9 Responses to My Version of a Healthy Pregnancy

  1. Great post. I agree about the weight gain recommendation too. I am 5’1″ and have friends who are 5’9″ and taller and have no clue how we should gain the same amount. I am gaining weight and baby is growing that is all that matters.
    I have been lucky to not have many cravings but really think people do use pregnancy as a pass on many things, over indulging etc. At the end of the day if I really want something I would usually have it, pregnant or not. But eating tons of unhealthy food will not benefit me or baby in the end.
    I also think being active is key, again it makes me feel better and I know it is good for me and the baby. I think the key here is not to overdo it and really listen to your body :)

  2. I LOVEEE this. As someone who is 26 weeks pregnant, I can fully relate to every item you listed and feel the exact same way. I was not at my ideal weight when I got pregnant but have been fascinated that my body knows exactly what it’s doing and at 5’2″ I’ve only gained a total of 11 pounds. While my eating hasn’t been 100% stellar I just listen to what my body says it wants/needs and have not gained a ton of weight (sure hope it stays that way though, ha!)

    I commented on your instagram the other day regarding the back pain – I’m so there and I so wish I could find a miracle relief to this; walking feels great, laying down feels great, sitting…ugh. Can’t believe you’re so close to done!! :)

  3. Chrissy

    My doctor never said anything about weight, she said she’s not a “weight” person and she’d let me know if she was ever concerned. It’s funny how every doctor is different! I ended up gaining 29 pounds during each of my pregnancies (I’m 5’6″), which I thought was interesting since I didn’t really pay attention to it. I guess my version of a healthy pregnancy is a lot like yours, listen to your body and don’t worry about the little things!

    • That’s exactly how my midwives have been. I’m kind of at a stand-still for weight gain and I was expecting to get a “talking-to” at my last appointment, but my midwife said that they baby (my belly) is measuring right on schedule so everything is fine and she’s not concerned about weight gain (or lack thereof). Hope you’re feeling good!

  4. JOY

    I wish you could have been my personal consultant 32 and 30 years ago!!!! I LOVE your great attitude and you just said it SO WELL!!!!!!!!!!

  5. I’m SO thankful my Dr. doesn’t focus on weight gain unless there’s a big spike (which can indicate abnormal water retention) or gestational diabetes. I do wonder where they get that “25-35lb” range from though – especially since weight gain can be weird! I still don’t know how I gained almost 10lbs more with Evan than my first two pregnancies, but tons of my clothes didn’t fit because they were too big (more muscle??).

    My version of a healthy pregnancy is really focusing on what the baby needs AND what makes you physically and mentally happy. I love being pregnant, but it definitely has it’s challenges and sometimes it worth it to do whatever it is that makes you feel good!

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