Musings on Intuitive Eating During Pregnancy

As I mentioned in my last blog post, Intuitive Eating has been a lifesaver during this pregnancy.  I have done so much work in this area over the past few years and all that I’ve learned has been consistently applicable while pregnant.  Being proactive with food in this way has helped me have a lot more good days than bad days in terms of sickness, nausea and fatigue. I actually felt the sickest when I didn’t know I was pregnant.  Once I found out I was pregnant, I understand my symptoms better and therefore could be much more proactive with food, sleep, etc.  

One of my first meals after finding out I was pregnant and it totally hit the spot.  That felt good after not loving food for a few weeks and not understanding why.  Lasagna FTW.

One of my first meals after finding out I was pregnant and it totally hit the spot.  That felt good after not loving food for a few weeks and not understanding why.  Lasagna FTW.

While the nausea and fatigue and general lousy feeling is more pronounced in pregnancy, I feel a lot of the same symptoms - pregnant or not - if I’m not proactive with self-care strategies.  As such, I had already worked to know what type of eating patterns and type of meals helped me feel my best.  That hasn’t changed at all with pregnancy.  In fact, when I stay on top of hunger, eating regularly and adequately, I actually have a fairly normal appetite.  The only casualty has been a complete dislike for dark chocolate, when my non-pregnant self would eat at least a square after most meals every day.  I also really don’t like Mexican food with this pregnancy.  Who am I!!? I do love milk chocolate and Italian food, particularly anything covered in marinara sauce.  

I used to sincerely prefer dark chocolate over milk chocolate, which is opposite now.  With caramel preferred. 

I used to sincerely prefer dark chocolate over milk chocolate, which is opposite now.  With caramel preferred. 

I think most people would rather be told what to eat instead of doing the hard work of discovery with Intuitive Eating.  IE requires trial and error, awareness, and intentional connection with hunger, fulness, satisfaction and appetite.  It is anything but impulsive or passive, as many assume.  Intuitive Eating is all about coming to know how to best support yourself with food.  That’s definitely a process but as I’ve discovered with this pregnancy, it allows you to adapt to whatever life throws at you.  For many people, when life gets chaotic, food gets chaotic.  Intuitive Eating creates a flexible dynamic that can be applied to whatever situation you find yourself in - traveling, long hours at work, eating out, vacation, stressful life events, social gatherings, holidays, illness and/or pregnancy.  

In fact, pregnancy has probably made me an even more aware Intuitive Eater.  There’s much less time between gentle hunger signals and extreme nausea (with a slight headache) than there was pre-pregnancy.  Also, all interoceptive signals are more sporadic and less predictable with pregnancy.  While I can rely on a certain amount of rhythm, it often changes from day to day and week to week.   There are definitely some weeks that I need more food and more rest than others, which I attribute to a growth spurt for the baby (especially since I can see my belly growing).  I think the same could be said for all of us - that’s just real life.  But all this together has me much more alert to what my body is communicating to me.  

I've eaten SO many potatoes.  Butter + S&P.  

I've eaten SO many potatoes.  Butter + S&P.  

As a result, pregnancy has also taught me even more flexibility.  I’ve actually had an appetite for a fairly wide variety of foods, but there are certainly days where high fiber foods, for example, just don’t appeal to me.  It’s cool though since I get that nutrition is much bigger than one meal or one day (or even one week or month…err 9 months!).  Working with clients who struggle with disordered eating (and having struggled myself), it’s common to become way too preoccupied with one food, one meal, one day or even one week.  There’s an ebb and flow to life that is bigger than what’s just right in front of us.  At the same time, embracing what’s right in front of you and making decisions based on what’s actually happening NOW (rather than what you ate yesterday or anticipate happening tomorrow) is how you achieve the natural flow of overall nourishing and satisfying food patterns.  

There's just something about a tuna sammie on thick wheat bread...

There's just something about a tuna sammie on thick wheat bread...

So here’s my tidbit of advice after all my musings:  Practice taking life as it comes, one day at a time.  Make decisions based on RIGHT NOW, not yesterday or tomorrow.  Connect with what you need now (which in my experience actually makes tomorrow better and easier).  Setting this intention can make a world of difference in cultivating trust, confidence and peace with food.  

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD