Pregnancy and weight loss are jarring concepts because you can’t deny your body food when you have a baby depending on you for its nutritious breakfasts, lunches and dinners!
The ideal is that you start pregnancy at a healthy weight and maintain that over three trimesters, gaining up to around 35 pounds, steadily, as your baby grows. After the birth, you lose weight slowly but surely by eating well and being active. A good pace is nine months to get the weight off – the same time it took to put it on!
But what do you do if you fall pregnant when you’re overweight, or obese? Is pregnancy and weight loss ever a safe option?
Well, the short answer is no. But the long one starts with “Sort of…” First of all, you should never ‘diet’ in pregnancy. That baby relies upon the food you put in your body to survive… not what you’ve already stashed as fat.
So you can’t diet, but you can – and should – manage your weight by eating the right things and taking regular exercise.
Your midwife monitors your weight – and if she thinks it’s a problem, she will give you advice on exercising safely in pregnancy and eating healthy food that will help you with your weight goals. This is essential for baby and for you – reducing your risk of suffering from dangerous conditions like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia.
You might feel like you could eat a horse, but you really don’t need to ‘eat for two’ in pregnancy – even if you’re having twins or triplets. Have a healthy breakfast every day because this can help you avoid snacking on foods that are high in bad fats and sugar.
The main thing is that you have a balanced pregnancy diet that incorporates plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, protein and carbohydrates. When it comes to carbs, I advise steering away from white bread and pasta – choose wholegrain varieties instead. Go for unprocessed food – choosing clean, real food – wherever possible.
Some pregnant women find it helps to satisfy hunger pangs, while avoiding indigestion, to eat little meals more frequently. If your tummy’s rumbling in between meals, snack healthily: fresh fruits, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, oatcakes, rice cakes… all brilliant ‘fillers’ that will do you and Junior good!
Remember that whatever you have been told about ‘needing the calories’, its not *the calories* you or the baby needs, it’s the nutrients. Empty calories in the form of sugar-laden or processed foods will simply slow you down and cause you to gain unnecessary weight… Just like they do when you’re not pregnant!
Regular pregnancy exercise prevents excessive weight gain and helps you feel more positive about yourself and your pregnancy. It also helps you prepare you for the rigours of labour, by strengthening the muscles you will need to give birth.
But what exercise is safe? Well, if you were keen on exercise before you fell pregnant, you can probably manage more than someone whose fitness wasn’t up to scratch. In general, I advocate a balanced pregnancy exercise program: 30 minutes of aerobic exercise like aerobics, swimming or cycling, 3-4 times a week; plus regular resistance training to build muscle strength. Take it easier as your pregnancy progresses.
A Fit Ball (or Birth Ball) can also be invaluable. Sit on it instead of a sofa to maintain good posture and strengthen your core muscles. By focusing on sitting up straight, you can help prevent backache and other discomforts caused by slouching.