Monday, August 11, 2014

Fitness and Health While Pregnant

My 24 week pregnant self

The theory with fitness and wellness during pregnancy is that pregnancy is not an excuse. Since I've been reading the message boards on the What To Expect app, I have noticed how many women are using pregnancy as an excuse to go all out, and I mean ALL out in regards to their diets. They post pictures and comments about their cravings and indulgences, constantly one-upping each other with more and more trash that they are putting into their bodies.

I should have prefaced this post with the fact that I am a food snob. As a professional chef and a slow food advocate I am a 100% believer in the power of sustainable, local, real food. I have read books on the subject of nutrition and would say that I am pretty knowledgeable on the subject of food. That being said, I don't diet and I LOVE food. I simply eat when I'm hungry and try and make the best choice as to what I put in my body. I love good food, especially carbs and make no apologies for not living a gluten-free existence. I take food very seriously and even more so now that I am pregnant.

This is a time in our lives as women that our decisions on food and wellness are affecting our growing babies and setting the stage for their health and behavior later in life. It is already proven that starting around week 22, a fetus can start to actually taste the food you are eating! It makes me so sad to hear about women drinking soda and eating fast food during pregnancy because they just "had to have it!" because your baby is being exposed to harmful chemicals, preservatives and insane amounts of sodium and processed sugar.

As a pregnant woman myself I call bullsh*t on the craving excuse. Of course there have been times when something especially bad for me sounded great, but you improvise, you satisfy your craving in other ways, or else you satisfy the craving in moderation. The most common pregnancy cravings are for sweets and even I have had them on occasion. My solution is eating fresh fruit. It's the summer here in South Carolina and there are several farms right up the road and let me tell you, nothing you can get from Dairy Queen tastes as good as a farm fresh peach. I seriously can't get enough fruit and have stocked my fridge with fabulous seasonal options like watermelon, nectarines, cherries, peaches and melon. I have also made sure to have squares of dark chocolate and almonds on hand when I need something a little more decadent. The antioxidants in dark chocolate are actually beneficial to your body (especially if you're staying active) and the almonds add a nutritious crunch that adds to the yumminess.

Now on to fitness. I hate working out. I've always been an active person but it has always been a love/hate relationship with exercise. I'm not the girl who loves to wake up at 5:30am and make it to two classes before 9am. I enjoy sleep and on the scale of 1 to lazy, I would rank myself close to sloth-status. However, it's a necessary evil, like going to the doctor or brushing your teeth. In my book, there is no option, you work out, you stay active and you sleep better knowing that you are taking proper care of yourself. Sure, I would love a perfect body and six-pack abs like a Victoria's Secret model but I have made peace with the fact that a) I'm not built that way, and b) I love food too much to ever have 4% body fat. I'm satisfied with staying trim and trying to ease gracefully into my 30's without letting my cellulite spread too rapidly.

Pregnancy makes working out even more tedious. You're exhausted, your body hurts (for good reason) and the notion of exerting extra energy seems impossible. My tip is to give yourself a break in the first trimester. I beat myself up for taking a few weeks away from my normal gym routine once the morning sickness and exhaustion set in. I was terrified that I would never get back to working out and as a result would spend my pregnancy in sweat pants on the couch growing fatter. This was not the case. Once the second trimester hit I felt like myself again and back to the gym I went. You have to modify your workouts to accommodate your growing and changing body, but for the most part I do everything I used to do pre-pregnancy.

Believe it or not, working out helps a LOT with the symptoms you will undoubtedly deal with. I prefer yoga and weight lifting with moderate cardio mixed in. Everyone needs to find what works for them but the key is to stay active! It will make it much easier to lose weight postpartum (so I've been told) and get back to your before baby body.

Pregnancy is an incredible time but it definitely comes with its fair share of challenges. Keeping yourself healthy and active not only benefits you during the journey, it will give your baby a step-up in life from day one.


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