Hello everyone! My name is Laney Jones, and I am a fourth-year student at UGA studying Dietetics and Spanish. I am extremely fortunate to be completing my practicum with Courtney at Vickery Wellness. I am hoping to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist so that I can help women to achieve their version of a healthy pregnancy. With that in mind, here are my top 5 tips for how to practice intuitive eating during pregnancy.
5 Tips for how to practice intuitive eating during pregnancy
Listen to your body
While there are definitely times when medical expertise from your doctors and dietitian should be followed to a ‘tee,’ there are also some exceptions to this approach. Some that come to mind are cases of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and other diagnosed disorders or deficiencies. But, there are also times that you can trust your body to know your needs! This is the first key step to practicing intuitive eating during pregnancy.
Most of us have been taught to ignore what our body is telling us. This can be especially true for those of us who have a history with diet culture. Hunger and fullness cues can be difficult to listen to, but it is always worth it to try. Your body can be its own advocate, and your “weird” cravings could be a message that your body is missing something it desperately needs.
For example, a craving for chocolate could mean you are low in magnesium. Consider listening to your body and seeing the changes in your mood, confidence, and energy levels that arise.
Remind your support system of your needs, including your need for a judgment-free pregnancy
You are the only one growing a second human, so you are the only one that gets to have an opinion about your choices!
Be sure to be proactive in setting boundaries with your partner, friends, parents, and others. You are allowed to ask for no comments on what you eat or how your body is changing! Your body is your own. Your comfort is your priority. You deserve to pay attention to what you are feeling and what you want without the perspective of others.
Mealtime can be stressful, challenging, and confusing even without the input of others. Care for yourself like you will care for your child, and be gentle. Consider creating boundaries with those closest to you about your need for a judgment and comment-free pregnancy. While it may take a village to raise your child, it only takes you to grow them!
Prioritize your health and comfort above fitting into a pregnancy standard
Every day, each of us is bombarded with examples of what “perfect” looks like on TV, social media, and even around us. It can be difficult to tune these expectations out and focus on our own growth and comfort.
The struggles of comparison certainly do not stop once we are pregnant, in fact, they can often get worse because you are protecting your child as well. These expectations can be about how much weight you gain, how much you exercise, how clean your house is, or how happy you seem.
The issue is, every pregnancy looks and feels differently. What one woman experiences is drastically different from every other woman out there. How can common standards be expected when every pregnancy is unique? The most important standard is that you prioritize your and your growing child’s health and comfort.
If you want to move your body, and you safely can, you should! Try to focus less on what others are doing and more on how you feel. Focusing on yourself is the best way to approach intuitive eating at any life stage.
Allow yourself space for emotions around mealtime
Mealtime can be a stressful and emotional time when you are pregnant. If you experienced nausea during your pregnancy, this may be especially difficult. Guilt surrounding your food choices and quantities can be a major factor in creating anxiety and confusion. The goal may be neutrality toward your body and food, but a great step is simply allowing yourself to feel what you feel! Life, especially during major periods of change, can feel out of your control.
Many people turn toward their diet as a way of creating stability and control over something in their lives. While this can feel beneficial in the short term, it can often end up creating even more stress and anxiety in the long run. Try allowing yourself the freedom to feel and express yourself!
Be patient with yourself when practicing intuitive eating during pregnancy
It is easier said than done and requires practice (and patience, ha!). Even if this is not your first pregnancy, it may feel like it is. No one knows everything, and it takes time to learn. You will make mistakes, and you most likely will find yourself falling into harmful self-talk and reverting to past diet culture patterns. Be kind to yourself during those times. Remind yourself why you wanted freedom from diets and freedom from rules. Allow yourself to continue to learn and change with your body.
You deserve the same level of respect and patience as your children will receive. Try finding a mantra that reminds you to approach yourself with kindness, like “you are enough”!
Being a parent is a selfless act that requires your heart, soul, patience, and attention. It requires hard work and sacrifices every day. You have to also take care of yourself throughout in order to give your children what they need. Remember to allow room for mistakes and to have compassion for yourself while you learn and are challenged. Believe in yourself and your body. It will tell you what it requires, just like your baby will if you’re listening. It is possible to practice intuitive eating during pregnancy and you are already an incredible parent, so be kind to yourself!