If there’s a fad diet you’ve heard about, I’ve probably tried it.
As a wellness blogger and personal trainer, I’ve always paid close attention to the latest diets and eating “lifestyles” that pop up. I, admittedly, get sucked into the claims and if they are enticing enough, I’ll give the diet a try. Paleo, Whole30, macro-counting, intermittent fasting, yes, I’ve tried it. All of these eating styles are different, but the one thing they have in common are strict rules. For years, the way I have chosen to eat and run my life has been guided by these various rules, whether it’s what to eat, when to eat, or how much to eat.
However, there’s one style of eating that I’ve always ignored – Intuitive Eating. The basic idea of Intuitive Eating is to not to follow any eating/food rules. You’re supposed to ignore all diet mentalities and eat based on listening to your body – no specific food, quantity, or time of eating is off-limits. Intuitive Eating is about trusting, respecting, and honoring your body and what it’s telling you it needs to feel its best.
I’ve never attempted Intuitive Eating because I never trusted myself. Without rules, wouldn’t I sit around eating huge portions of pizza and ice cream for every meal? Would I really stop eating when I was full? I wasn’t brave enough to find out.
And then I got pregnant. The day I found out I was pregnant was the same day I had told all my friends I was starting Whole30. But once I saw that positive pregnancy test, I knew Whole30 would be a mistake. Instead of following a long list of rules and restricting myself, it was time to listen to my body. It was no longer about me, how thin I wanted to be, or if I hit my goal weight.
It was now about helping this tiny baby safely grow inside of me. The truth is, our bodies are incredibly smart. Too often we ignore our internal cues in favor of the latest diet craze and what “experts” are telling us (who, in most cases, unless you are seeing a specialist, has never met you and does not know your specific needs). We easily get caught up in what everyone around us is doing. I’m sure I’m not the only one who, upon seeing tons of social media posts about Keto Diet success, has questioned whether or not I should try it too.
During pregnancy, it was like a shield went up against all diet talk and culture that constantly surrounded me. I was still seeing it and hearing it, but I knew it wasn’t for me. I didn’t even allow myself to consider it. Instead, I used this special time to truly listen to my body and practice Intuitive Eating. My body was already doing one incredible thing – creating a tiny human!
If I could trust my body to do that, couldn’t I trust it to eat the right things in the right amount to keep us both healthy and strong?
And it turns out, I could trust my body. Aside from removing certain foods from my diet as recommended by my doctor (the common list of off-limit pregnancy foods), I let my body and my mind do its thing. Yes, I ate some pizza (okay, a lot of pizza some weeks!) and had some ice cream. But, our bodies really do know what will make us feel our best.
I listened to my cravings and honored what my body was asking for. It was mostly healthy and deeply-nourishing foods, a touch of indulgent foods, and also a bunch of foods I’d considered off-limits for many years due to the strict diets I had followed. In combination with researching what foods would help my baby’s development and what would make me feel my best, I learned to listen to my body and not what trendy diets were telling me I needed.
I won’t say it’s all been easy and that I always feel confident in my new style of eating – or in how my growing body looks and feels. It still takes every ounce of me not to ask my pregnant friends how many pounds they’ve gained and check how I compare. And every time I see a more fit-looking pregnant woman in the same stage of pregnancy as me, a part of me questions whether I’ve been letting myself go a bit too much.
When these thoughts come up, I remind myself that every woman is different and every body is different. A pregnant woman’s body is hard at work and is doing what it needs to do. Maybe I am gaining more weight than the girl next to me in prenatal yoga. But, as long as my doctor says the baby is looking healthy and I feel strong, I fight to focus on that instead of questioning if my hips have gotten too wide.
It’s natural to compare ourselves and our habits to others, pregnant or not. We can get stuck in the numbers (our weight, our calories consumed, and so on) and fall prey to diet talk. Whether it’s in pregnancy, fighting for that post-pregnancy “bounce back”, or in everyday life, we have a lot of expectations thrown our way.
I’m thankful for a lot of things in my pregnancy, including how it has helped me to quiet the noise surrounding bodies and weight. The noise will always be there, but it’s important that we, first and foremost, listen to and honor our strong and unique bodies for all that they do.
It’s natural to compare ourselves and our habits to others, pregnant or not.
If you’re looking for ways to quiet the diet culture noise and focus on feeling your best, here are a few tips:
1. Stay in your lane
Keep your energy on you and your baby. What works for one woman doesn’t work for another. Remember that every woman (and every pregnancy) is different and you are the only one you need to worry about.
2. Surround yourself with the right people
This goes for friends IRL and those you follow on Instagram. If scrolling through your feed brings you down, take yourself on an unfollowing spree. If it’s your friends, ask to shift the conversation or even open up about your mindset and how you’re taking an intuitive approach. Hopefully they will respect this. You want positivity surrounding you, whether it’s the friend you’re meeting for lunch or what you’re seeing through your phone screen.
3. Learn to listen
If you’ve been conditioned to ignore what your body is telling you, there’s no better time to start listening than during pregnancy. Your body is giving you loads of information. Check in with yourself daily; think about how you feel after eating certain foods and tailor your future needs based on how your body responds.
4. Focus on how you feel instead of how you look
Let’s be real, pregnancy does a number on our bodies, and you only have so much control. Instead of worrying about every pound or stretch mark, focus on how you’re feeling. Let your happiness come from beyond your reflection in the mirror or the number on the scale.