Chronicles from first trimester: Food baby vs. baby bump

Early in my pregnancy I was excited, curious, and anxious.  Still, those first view weeks, I didn’t really feel pregnant.  I kept wondering What is happening in there? Is there really anything going on?  Before I started feeling baby’s movements (something that can take up until week 20 or 25 if you’re a first-time mama) there was one telltale sign I kept waiting to see emerge:  a baby bump.

Desperately wanting to see your cute little bump start to show and having intense first-trimester food cravings can create at tricky situation.  You may start to indulge in foods that you’re craving (processed foods, refined carbohydrates, etc.) and mistake the resulting belly bloat (food baby) for an actual baby.  Every woman’s body and pregnancy is different — from how quickly you start showing to how you carry your weight.  For example, women may start showing more quickly with their second or subsequent pregnancies than they did with their first.

So how should expecting mamas deal with food cravings, caloric needs, and belly bump anticipation?  There seem to be different schools of thought on “eating for two” in pregnancy — one that says you should choose only nutritious foods and another that advocates indulgence because, hey, you’re pregnant!  I tend to subscribe to the former with an occasional order of french fries. 😉

Did I have cravings?  I’ll tell ya, at one point I wanted certain things so bad I dreamt of them. I recall at one point around week 9 or 10 wanting bagels and cream cheese, pizza, milk and cereal, grilled cheese — basically every combination of bread and dairy imaginable — none of which were things my body could digest or were going to have a positive impact on my health.  Having an intolerance to both gluten and lactose meant giving into those cravings was going to result in bloating, indigestion, and a general icky feeling.  Quite simply — it wasn’t worth it.

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I dreamed about bagels and cream cheese but turning those dreams to reality wasn’t worth the toll on my digestive system.

But something interesting happened:  the longer I was able to stave off the cravings the less I wanted them.  That being said, I didn’t stress myself out by depriving myself.  When I craved something I thought about it — What am I craving?  What about it is appealing? (Texture, taste, smell?)  Is it something that is going to be healthy for me and baby?  Is there a healthier option I can substitute that will satisfy the craving?

So, for example, I interrogated my craving for ice cream, realizing I wanted something sweet and cold that I could eat with a spoon (I don’t know why but I like eating things with spoons…)   And so a craving for ice cream was replaced with unsweetened applesauce.  (Apples, are sweet, y’all — you don’t need added sugar in applesauce!)  A desire for cupcakes and brownies (I wanted something baked and chewy) was fulfilled with flourless banana bread muffins.

banana-muffins

Once I got past the first trimester without giving into those cravings I rarely had cravings again and was able to follow a healthy and nutritious meal plan without “going crazy”.

While I certainly don’t think you should “diet” during pregnancy or restrict calories as you would for weight loss, it’s also totally possible to overeat, fill up on foods that lack nutritional value, and rapidly pack on pounds early in your pregnancy.  This can set you up for a pitfalls like gaining excess weight and health risks like gestational diabetes.  As someone who is currently 40 weeks and three days pregnant, I can attest to the fact that pregnancy is not a sprint — it’s a marathon.  The key is to pace yourself.

In the first leg of this marathon that is pregnancy — the first trimester — eating for two is much more about quality than quantity.  In the first thirteen weeks your body doesn’t really need additional calories to perform its functions.  This doesn’t meant that you won’t be hungry, that you should skip meals, or that you don’t need to pay attention to what specific macro nutrients (protein, carbohydrates, etc.) you’re fueling up on.  To the contrary, you should be really choosy about what you put on your plate — trying to select foods that will give your body the fuel it needs for you and your growing baby.

Eating the right nutrients is just as important for you as it is for baby.  The growing fetus will take what it needs first.  In that sense, babies are like parasites.  Your body gets what is left over.  So if you’re eating the bulk of your calories from cheetos and ice cream you may feel full (or bloated) but neither you nor your baby will have gotten the nutrients you actually need.  Over the long haul, your body may end  up becoming deficient in macros it needs as it diverts whatever nutrients it can find in your reserves to your growing baby.

If you’ve already given in to unhealthy cravings don’t beat yourself up.  Pregnancy is hard enough without self loathing.  Instead, take a break from processed foods, sugars, and other foods that may be hard for your body to digest like dairy.  Find a good probiotic and see if in a few days time what you thought was a cute baby bump starts to become less noticeable.  If so, it’s likely you had a food baby on board.  Don’t worry — keep focusing on eating right and you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy rubbing that baby bump once it emerges!

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