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Embracing Your Body & Mindful Eating in Pregnancy

As I navigate my second pregnancy, I’m receiving a lot of questions and expectations from other people. I get the feeling that people expect me to model a “perfect pregnancy” or a “perfect prenatal diet,” but let me quickly burst this bubble for you.

I’m a real person, I’m not a perfectionist with food, and I have nothing to prove.

I didn’t escape nausea and the food aversions that go with it (sorry, the symptoms can be lessened with certain strategies, but not necessarily avoided, as I explain in Ch 7 of Real Food for Pregnancy).

I don’t quantify and calculate all of my food (if you’ve followed me since the beginning of this blog, you know this well!). I simply aim to incorporate as much nutrient-dense food in my diet as possible.

On that note, though… I don’t stress when I eat something that’s not the most nutrient-dense thing imaginable or fall into a wallowing pile of guilt and remorse because I had some potato chips or dessert (more on this here).

People who know me in real life know this about me.

Yes, I love to nerd out about the research on micronutrients and deeply understand the importance of good nutrition in pregnancy, but I’m also very down-to-earth, a foodie by nature, and not extremist by any means. I don’t judge myself or others for what they’re eating or what they’re craving.

I do my best to celebrate the small victories (yay, ate some #hiddenliver + kale today!), but I don’t catastrophize less-than-perfect foods coming into my diet from time to time.

Pregnancy has ups and downs; learn to roll with it

Pregnancy is an emotional time and one that reminds you that your life (and body) is not entirely within your control. (What a perfect preparation for motherhood, right?).

Learning to “ride the waves” of feelings and expectations you may have about the trajectory of your pregnancy is an ongoing process.

It’s natural to want to do the best for your baby and be proactive about your food and lifestyle choices. It’s precisely this demographic of people who enjoy reading Real Food for Pregnancy.

I do, however, find that some people get a little too wrapped up in perfection that they cause more stress and worry for themselves.

Embracing Your Body & Mindful Eating in Pregnancy

That’s why I was so happy to tackle all of the above topics in my interview on the Real Talk with Dana Podcast. If you’re not familiar with Dana (find her on Instagram @realfoodwithdana), her work as a clinical nutritionist focuses on helping women improve their relationship with food & their body (while also embracing real food).

I really loved how she steered our conversation towards real life situations/questions that pregnant mamas often have, especially around perfectionism and body image.

I’ve been fortunate to develop a positive relationship with my body & food from a young age (which I believe is related to the focus on mindful eating in our household during childhood), however I’m also not immune to the external pressures and expectations from other people.

This is more so the case than with my first pregnancy presumably because my second book, Real Food for Pregnancy, has attracted a lot of attention.

Pregnancy sometimes turns into an invitation for others to comment on your body size and shape (I ranted about this my during my last pregnancy in this post: My Pregnant Body is None of Your Business), and this can leave you feeling vulnerable and uncomfortable, even if you’ve been otherwise happy with all the bodily changes from pregnancy.

If any or all of the above resonates with you and you want to dive deeper, take a listen to my interview with Dana!

Real Talk with Dana Podcast Interview Highlights (listen here or on iTunes, episode 68):

  • How having broad experience in the prenatal nutrition field (from public policy, clinical practice, consulting, and research) made me realize there were many holes in conventional prenatal nutrition policy
  • Why it’s so helpful to set realistic expectations for the first trimester and nausea/morning sickness (as I say, “celebrate the small victories and let go of the rest”)
  • How to handle the pressure of having a “perfect pregnancy” and having the “perfect diet”
  • Why it’s an uphill battle to fight against your body’s cues (and how to balance nutrient needs and cravings/aversions with mindful eating)
  • How pregnancy is a microcosm for motherhood, especially when it comes to trusting your instincts
  • How to approach the increased energy/nutritional needs of pregnancy and the old adage to “eat for two”
  • Why I believe enjoyment of your food (mindful eating) + nutritional common sense can complement each other
  • My recommendations on minimal protein needs in the first and second half of pregnancy (based on the latest research on protein requirements for pregnancy; more on this here)
  • Research highlights on choline and DHA
  • Is it possible/pragmatic to meet all of your nutrients from food alone? (i.e. Do I recommend supplements and/or prenatal vitamins? Psst – there’s a whole chapter on this in Real Food for Pregnancy; see Ch 6!)
  • After having your baby, how to navigate the push to “get your body back” + why focusing on nutritional repletion is key (more on this in my webinar on Postpartum Recovery & Nutrient Repletion)
  • Finally, why I don’t recommend restriction whatsoever in the postpartum adjustment period (also, see the last chapter of Real Food for Pregnancy on the 4th trimester)

Aaaaand… that’s a wrap!

There were a lot of little nuggets in this interview, so I hope you have a chance to listen. Download it on your phone before your next commute or long drive (episode 68 of Real Talk with Dana).

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed or guilty for not following the guidelines (or my recommendations!), I really, really, really encourage you to take a listen, give yourself a big pat on the back, and know that you’re truly doing your best.

Be especially kind to yourself if you’re in the throes of nausea or food aversions. They really DO tend to lessen over time in the vast majority of women.

If you have found your body image or relationship with food to shift during your pregnancy, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

I’m sure many others can relate to your experience. Thanks for sharing your story and normalizing the roller coaster that is growing a human. #solidarity

Until next week,
Lily

PS – If you want to check out more podcasts where I’ve been a guest, check out my press page.

PPS – For more information on mindful eating, see these posts from my archives: How to Know if You’re Truly Hungry & Mindful Eating: Does it Work Even When you Eat Junk Food?

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Lily Nichols is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, researcher, and author with a passion for evidence-based prenatal nutrition and exercise. Her work is known for being research-focused, thorough, and unapologetically critical of outdated dietary guidelines. She is the author of two bestselling books, Real Food for Pregnancy and Real Food for Gestational Diabetes.

10 Comments

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  1. This post speaks to me! I’m currently 17 weeks pregnant and read your book while preparing my body for pregnancy. My diet was overflowing with salmon, eggs, avocado, all the veggies, and slow cooked fatty meat. Imagine my horror when I actually became pregnant and found I couldn’t bare the thought of eating any of those foods, but especially eggs! All that sounded appealing to me was soup, fruit, and carbs. I found myself feeling guilty because I bought cartons of lovely choline packed eggs that expired in the fridge because I couldn’t stomach the idea of cooking them, let alone eating them. Then, I realized I just had to let that shit go, and trust the innate wisdom of my body over all else. I ate what my body told me I could stomach, and sure enough, the first trimester ended and the idea of an omelette in the morning sounded lovely again. Here’s to trusting our bodies and living guilt free!

    • The first trimester can be so hard. Glad you were able to make it through and follow your instincts. It’s such a treat when the aversions subside!

  2. This is exactly what I needed to read today. I’ve been feeling guilty over food so much lately. My aversions are so bad right now. Sometimes I think something will sound good and 3 minutes later when it’s in front of my, I can’t even touch it. Apparently my mom had the same thing with me for like the first half of pregnancy. I’m just hoping it passes soon. It’s tiring not knowing what my body can/can’t eat.

    • Those aversions are so tough. Hang in there!

  3. Lily, thank youuuu for being so REAL and sharing part of your pregnancy journey! I find that people can get so caught up in trying to be perfect that it can be counter productive or even harmful. Obviously, eating as much nutritious food as you can is important…but don’t worry about the occasional treat! The first trimester is especially hard, so I’m all about giving grace in the early months!!

    • Yes. Nutritional common sense and mindful eating can peacefully coexist if we don’t get too wrapped up in perfection about pregnancy eating.

  4. Can I get an amen?! Seriously though, this made me feel way better about my pregnancy cravings and diet all around. I try to eat paleo-ish, but there are treats from time to time.

  5. This is how I feel postpartum! I’m two weeks into my postpartum period with my second daughter, and I’ve made the mindful decision to do the best that I can (even if it means that I loosen the reigns a little bit). My cravings aren’t bad in pregnancy, but moreso after the birth! And with a newborn, the phrase “fed is best” applies to ME. I look at it in the sense of even with having a daily treat right now that I wouldn’t otherwise normally have, a good percentage of my food is actually still pretty nutritious. I think, too, once you get in the habit of eating real food, it becomes much easier to see when you break away for a minute. It feels like a much bigger deal than it really is. The pressure of what you put into your body while growing another person is immense that it’s nice to give yourself some grace throughout the entire process, including during the recovery.

    • Crazy hunger while recovering from birth (and breastfeeding) is 100% normal. Your body is sending signals for nutrient repletion & it’s wise to heed the call! More on this in my postpartum recovery & nutrient repletion webinar or Ch 12 of Real Food for Pregnancy. <3

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