Well, since I’m 40 weeks, 1 day pregnant and I’m still here, I thought I’d do a blog about eating primal while being knocked up.
First, a disclaimer.
I’m well aware that it can sound, er, “preachy,” to talk about eating healthy. Most people will put their guard up if they think someone is judging what they put into their body. Now put a prego into the mix and people get downright offended. So, before I even get started, just know that this is based on my own personal ONE-TIME experience of trying to eat paleo (though really I need to call it primal because I do eat dairy) while pregnant. To give you some background, I actually was not trying to get pregnant last summer when I did in fact get knocked up, and I had just begun a “30 Day Paleo challenge.” When I did find out I was pregnant it was only Day 2, and I swore up and down that I would simply continue the challenge throughout my ENTIRE pregnancy. And you know what happened… well I landed flat on my face. And along the way, I was reading all of these paleo and primal blogs written by chicks who had actually gone through their entire pregnancies without so much as touching gluten, dairy, grains of any type, processed foods, crackers, chocolate, coffee, caffeine, juice, or anything else that is even remotely unhealthy. They all followed the paleo/primal guidelines to a T, gained some ridiculously low amount of weight such as 15lbs total over their entire pregnancy, and swore up and down that their babies were born perfect as a result of their efforts.
You know how those blogs made me feel?
Like I wanted to hunt down the women who were writing those blogs, punch them in the throat, take a break from assaulting them long enough to eat some cheese and crackers, and then use the new energy to throw them into oncoming traffic.
But hey, if you were a pregnant woman who manages to succeed in this entirely paleo endeavor, more power to you.
End of disclaimer.
So, please know that I am NOT trying to preach. If you want me to take a picture of my back fat and inner thigh cellulite that I have accumulated since getting pregnant, I totally will. I certainly do not want to seem like those other blogs who act like “Oh my baby is going to be perfect and never have a fever or allergies and it’s because I ate nothing but organic raw vegetables while I was pregnant.“ Yeah right. This is just simply a recap of what I have done while pregnant, what has worked for me and what I wish I could have done better. Because overall, I have had a darn easy pregnancy with very little complaints or discomforts, and honestly I feel like it’s largely because of the way that Oatmeal and I eat the majority of the time.
So, here goes.
My diet during pregnancy.
It all started out great. I was eating tons of lean meats, veggies, fruits and nuts when Poppyseed was conceived. I’d cut out all grains, chips, crackers, cereals, bagels, cakes, cookies, pasta, and anything that came in a box a few months before getting pregnant at all. I was admittedly still addicted to Coke Zero (wow that was really hard to give up….that stuff was my crack), coffee (in the form of sugary Starbucks drinks), and wine… but hey. I felt great and was eating more vegetables in a week than I’d eaten in a year in my previous life. This all continued until I was about a month pregnant. I decided to make some “healthy paleo cookies” which included ingredients such as banana, apples, chocolate chips and coconut flour. The smell of the dough made me gag and I suspected I could be with child. Fast forward 2 weeks and I finally turned a pee test positive. The next 6-8 weeks were pretty tumultuous.
I should have known this would happen to me, because my mom and my sister also got very sick when they were early in their pregnancies. Everything I ate made me sick. Fruit, meat, eggs, nuts, you name it. I was so confused. I was trying so hard. I wanted SO badly to follow all of the healthy rules, but I was just so nauseous. The only things I could hold down were raw vegetables, cheese, and salty chips. I’d stop by a Mexican restaurant on the way home and order chips and queso and feel horribly guilty for feeding grains and plastic cheese to my developing fetus. I did feel better that I could at least hold down a good salad. I ate a LOT of sweet potato fries (heavily salted) and raw greens. Scrambled eggs made me sick, boiled eggs made me feel like a new woman. I started eating rice chex for breakfast because at least it didn’t have gluten, but during the day I’d be at a loss for healthy food on my lunch hour and I’d end up just eating whatever I could find (usually something with bread or grains) to avoid starving.
All of the symptoms I had before going primal returned with a vengeance. Headaches, bloating, constipation, UTI, yeast infections, acne. People will tell you these symptoms are just things that are typical with pregnancy, but I am convinced they are also related to what I was eating. And I was SO tired. Strangely enough, going on walks would make me feel better, but MAKING myself put on running shoes and actually going on the walks was really tough. After a few weeks of trying to force feed myself the healthy stuff and throwing it all up, I was eating crap, total crap, because I was so sick and had just given up. For breakfast I sometimes just pulled into McDonald’s (a place I hadn’t been in a year!) and ordered a hash brown and some OJ and thanked my lucky stars to not see it again in 10 minutes. My tummy would stay twisted for the rest of the day.
Finally, in the early 2nd trimester, the clouds parted and I started to feel normal again. I was able to gradually move back into my primal eating. Suddenly, animal protein (steak, eggs, bacon) was ALL I wanted. I could eat my weight in fruits and vegetables but my stomach would growl and I would feel light headed until I ate some meat. All of the yucky symptoms I mentioned above disappeared. I had the energy of three Olympians and I started going on runs and doing lots of kettle bell workouts. I felt AWESOME. I no longer had any of the bad pregnancy symptoms that people talked about. My weight gain started to increase at a good healthy rate and I slept a lot better.
Unless… of course… I let myself feel entitled to bad food choices just because I was pregnant. If you have ever been pregnant, you know what I’m talking about. “I deserve that bagel/cake/cookie/chip/pound of fried chicken because I’m PREGNANT!“ Or, this one… this one’s a classic, “I am craving ICE CREAM so it must be that my body NEEDS calcium!“ Yeah, nice try prego. I sort of slipped into a habit where I’d eat my good meats, fruits and veggies for a few weeks but then have a few crazy days of eating lots of grains and poor quality dairy. It would start out small with just a half of a bagel in the morning, or maybe I’d stop and buy a customer a dozen glazed donuts for breakfast and have just one or two. If I only did that, say, once a week, it was no problem. But if I did it a few days in a row… guess what? All of those embarrassing symptoms above returned, I’d kick myself for being a fool and then eat really clean for another few weeks before the cycle would repeat itself again. Christmas was a great example – I indulged all through the holidays and then got hit with a pretty yucky illness the week after New Years. I was stuck in Steamboat, feeling like junk, not able to take any medicine, and knowing in the back of my mind it was because I ate all the “bad stuff” over the holidays.
Finally, by the third trimester, I had it pretty much figured out. I’ve eaten clean without being extreme, and I’ve felt very good. So here are some closing arguments for why I think that sticking to a primal or paleo diet during pregnancy (as best you as can… no one is perfect) is a really great idea.
- Weight gain – I gained a lot less weight than I think I would have gained had I not eaten this way as much as possible during pregnancy. Some have said, “But pregnancy is the only time in your whole life you can eat what you want!” Well, I kind of see your point, but I’m here to tell you that gaining 28lbs in 9 months is still really hard on your body, especially your back. I am SO grateful I had these eating guidelines to help me avoid gaining more weight than necessary, because it’s already difficult to get up and move around, or get a good nights’ rest, or exercise with the extra baggage on my belly, back and legs. 28lbs is a lot of weight, but knowing me, I’d have gained 40+ if I’d gotten pregnant before trying the primal eating lifestyle.
- Quality of nutrition – It’s really not all about weight gain. Some people gain a lot, some gain a little.. But, eating this way did provide great nutrition for Poppyseed. One thing I’ve learned is that if you don’t eat bread and granola bars, it just leaves more room in your belly for things that are fresh and truly healthy. Sorry pregos, the truth hurts, but all the sugary junk that we crave does very little for our baby, especially when compared to the good things that we could be eating instead. In my former life I would have had dinner rolls, iceberg lettuce salad, baked potato, and fried chicken for dinner at least a few times a month. Now I’ll make a roast using the grassfed cow we have stocked in our freezer, kale and broccoli salad, and baked sweet potato. For breakfast I used eat something similar to a bagel with cream cheese or some other sugar-laden grain that was supposedly full of fiber or “heart healthy whole grains,” (usually purchased from somewhere like Starbucks alongside a latte) but now I eat things like egg, spinach and sausage scrambles in the morning.
- Swelling – I have not had swelling other than some slight swelling in my fingers when I’m on the treadmill. My shoes still fit (thank goodness because I already have giant man feet). I also haven’t had to stop wearing my wedding rings.
- Heartburn – I had zero heartburn until my third trimester. Then, one day I rewarded myself for eating so well and indulged myself by eating a giant pizza. HELLO HEARTBURN. I ate clean for the next few weeks and had no issues. Then one day I had a bagel. HEARTBURN. I still did not figure it out. A weekend later I cleaned out my freezer and ate some of my frozen wedding cake before tossing it out. I could not sleep that night because of the burning. Since then, all I need to do if I am tempted to have anything made with gluten or grains is imagine the heartburn that will surely follow and I literally have no problems passing it up. Heartburn is miserable and I am 100% convinced it is somehow related to eating grains. I don’t know if it’s gluten, grains in general, or both… but I’m telling you every single time I’ve eaten a baked good, bread item, cracker, etc I have had to deal with heartburn afterward.
- Emotional/Hormonal Stuff – Well I think I’ve been pretty darn emotional at times, so I am not a good argument that eating clean while pregnant will keep you from acting like a nut! Sorry, maybe next time!
For me, the key was this….
Hello, a pregnant woman has to be allowed some indulgences in this life. She’s up to pee every 70 minutes, she can’t drink her margaritas anymore, her boobs are weighing her down, she’s got veins everywhere, her gums are bleeding, she cries if her husband looks at her the wrong way, she’s tired, etc. The list of unpleasantries goes on. To deny a pregnant girl a little bit of ice cream every now and then is just mean, extremist, and unrealistic. But where to draw the line? For me, the key was to NOT HAVE BAD FOOD IN THE HOUSE. When I was at home, I was faced with nothing more than meat, veggies, fruit, greek yogurt, eggs, and nuts. If I had a bag of chips in the house, they were going to get mowed down. If I had a bar of chocolate, it was going to get inhaled. At one point I allowed myself to buy a gallon of ice cream, and suddenly I was eating it all the time. Finally I figured it out. If it was there, my crazy prego hormones would allow my brain to justify it. So finally I just stopped buying the crap food. So yeah, if I were in town grabbing lunch with a friend, I’d have some bread. Or over Christmas break, I had some cheese and crackers. At the birthday party, I had a slice of lemon cake. So 80% of the time I followed the primal/paleo rules, and the other 20% of the time I just tried to exercise moderation.
Next time, I’ll try to do this better…
I was completely blindsided by the amount of nausea in the beginning. Next time, I’m going to be a lot more prepared for the first trimester. I’ll buy some healthy salty chips, stock my fridge with raw veggies, always have a bowl of boiled eggs on hand, pack dried fruit or bananas in the car, etc. Before I was pregnant, I never kept healthy snacks on hand in the house because I really just wasn’t much of a snacker. I ate big filling meals and that kept me going all day. Pregnant women need snacks. So next time, I will not just assume I have the energy to drive into town for some healthy alternatives, I’ll stock up from the beginning.
Also, I won’t be so hard on myself. I was so strict about the “no grains” thing when I first got pregnant. I do truly believe that grains are associated with disease, but I do not believe all grains are created equal. I personally do not get all bloated and yucky if I eat a little bit of rice, and so if I get pregnant again and feel sick, I will probably have some rice with my veggies if it will help my tummy feel better.
Overall, I think I’ve done okay! Here are a few of our “Due Date” pictures.