Intuitive Eating While Pregnant

Intuitive Eating While Pregnant

Posted on April 3, 2019. Last updated on April 21, 2020
Alyssa a registered dietitian
Written by Alyssa

Here I am, 22 weeks pregnant with my second baby on the way. This time around is a little different than with our first. First of all, baby is a GIRL! So exciting because who doesn’t love a new challenge?! Second of all, I am MUCH further along in my intuitive eating journey during this pregnancy than I was during my last.

As we all know intuitive eating is never truly “over” or “done” or even “mastered”. Intuitive eating is a life long journey. It’s a process, it’s the way that you eat, it’s your diet – in the truest sense of the word, not the dirty four letter sense of the word. It’s how you’ve fueled your body, how you’ve shown love to your body, and how you’ve honored your body. It’s a work of art that includes all the colors in all the spaces in all the amounts, no holding back.

So this being said I had started learning and incorporating intuitive eating in my life about six months before we found out I was pregnant the first time. So to say I was working on it would be an understatement. I was still holding on to food rules and had foods on a “do not consume” list in my head or even “consume this only on rare occasions” list. I was weighing myself bi-weekly and had a fitness routine I was stuck to even though I hated [most] of it.

Being pregnant gave way to MORE food rules, restrictions, and at the same time MORE food freedom – or what felt like food freedom. We’ve all heard the saying “eating for two” which although highly inaccurate let’s women “off the hook” when they have extra helpings or eats something they normally wouldn’t eat, right? It perpetuates the idea that women need an excuse to eat that extra portion or eat that food they would normally leave on their plate. It gives an excuse and a reason when really, you don’t need a reason or an excuse. You don’t need to explain away or justify anything or any amount of food you eat.

I have found with my first pregnancy I felt I had more of what felt like “food-freedom” because I used excuses and justifications. I felt more food rules because as an RD I knew I needed more of certain foods. I knew in order to feel like a good mom I SHOULD eat this and not that. I SHOULD avoid these sweets and eat more whole foods etc etc etc. These are all food rules and when you have a healthy relationship with food you realize that you eat healthier. You’re not restricted or feel like you “deserve” a binge because all foods fit and honestly you body does eventually crave the whole foods that it needs during pregnancy without any coaxing from your inner diet culture jaded voice. Yes, it will ask for the foods that were previously on your “do not eat list” but that’s ok because again, ALL foods fit. I repeat, ALL foods fit.

All that being said, this time around I am about four years into my intuitive eating journey. I’ve come a long way but I have a far way to go. I have noticed a huge difference with my intake as a pregnant woman. First of all, I don’t feel the need to justify what or how much I’m eating. Second of all, I am more in tune with my body. I feel the upswings and downswings of hunger and I know how to respond. I feel the tug on my stomach and my soul with cravings and I respond. I anticipate how my body will respond to food and I make informed choices of what to eat and when while also respecting my satisfaction factor and appreciating the gentle nutritional need that pregnancy puts on my body.

All in all I find that eating is the best cure to hunger, and I am hungry A LOT. I found intuitive eating more difficult in the first trimester. I was riddled with nausea and extreme exhaustion. On top of taking care of a toddler I had to make sure I was meeting the bare minimum nutritionally. I leaned on my support system heavily, my husband, my mom and my mother in law. I ate when I could and I ate whatever I felt wouldn’t make me nauseous while keeping in mind my body’s need for carbs, fat, protein and even trying to work on getting in more vitamins/minerals like vitamin D, calcium, choline and iron etc. I would run through the rolodex (do you even know what that is any more) of foods that I like, that I have access to, and that I’ve had in the past and only stopped once something sounded tolerable.

My eating was spontaneous at best and what some might call “reckless”. I would have days of pop tarts and tacos followed by days of smoothies and salads. I would go all day without food then make my husband grab a burger from Five Guys at 9:58pm (right before they closed-sorry workers). I would eat mounds of nuts and protein bars, cold fruit and cold pizza then the next day I would eat eggs for breakfast lunch and dinner. This is all ok. This is part of it. Intuitive eating is messy and sometimes unpredictable and definitely not always instagram-able. That’s ok. I would have loved to write “especially during pregnancy” right here but honestly – not especially. This is true for all stages of intuitive eating. You learn day in and day out what works best for you, you learn bite by bite what you like, and what you don’t.

Second trimester (honestly more like 2.5 trimester) has been my jam. I am no longer in survival mode. I have very few (and far between) aversions to food. I am back in the swing of intuitive eating based on my body and my needs. I hear my cues and I am able to respond. I find that I am hungrier than before I was pregnant which makes sense. I respond by eating more because of course I do. I find that my lunch meal is bigger than it used to be and my breakfast is a little smaller. Times that I am hungry or feel like eating change daily. I find that I say no to a lot more food than I did with my first pregnancy. I used to feel like pregnancy was the only time I could fully “indulge” or “binge” because ‘the baby needed it’ hehe. I now realize that pregnant or not I can have what I want, when I want it and the freedom that that thought alone provides gives my body the ok to crave and ask for whole foods. I find that when I stop restricting or reducing or placing rules around food I actually want those foods LESS often.

So how to intuitively eat while you’re pregnant, listen and respect your body more than ever before. It will be good to you with what you need, want and what will serve you and your baby well. Let go of the food rules you’ve made – write them out as you come across them and repeat to yourself that all foods fit at all times. Remember that intuitive eating is messy and looks inconsistent sometimes and that’s ok. Remember not to eat out habit. I had the hardest time coming back to intuitive eating in my new body after baby or after breast feeding. I had developed eating patterns and habits that weren’t serving me after Aiden was born. I needed to re-learn my body, my cues, and my responses to food. They had changed, and that’s ok too. It is normal and expected for your eating habits to change as you change. It is a constant learning process that is ever-changing and ever-exciting. 🙂

Alyssa Miller picky eating dietitian
Hi there! My name is Alyssa

I'm a registered dietitian and picky eating specialist with nearly a decade of experience, mom of three, and the founder of Nutrition for Littles. I'm dedicated to making mealtimes enjoyable and nutritious for families.

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