Something funny happened ten days ago as I was at brunch in Casa de Tapas in Dubai Creek celebrating a friend’s birthday. As the birthday cake was presented and shots were brought along, one of the guests offered me a tequila shot. I declined, politely: ‘No thanks, I am pregnant’. He smirked and pointing to his tummy said: ‘That’s okay, I am too’. It took him a few more tries, and me a few more seconds, to understand that neither of us were joking.
I am not going to lie. I have been lucky so far. First, I exercise for a living. Second, Noisette does not seem to like pastries and chocolate as much as I used to.
The result has been a +2kg weight gain in this first half of my pregnancy. I know it is about to rise at a faster pace. But pregnancy brings about so many changes, it is comforting not to worry too much about one’s appearance during the first few months, on top of dealing with reduced immunity and hormonal changes!
Like I said I have been lucky and every pregnant lady will have a different journey. The following recommendations may however help if you are scared about hopping onto the scale, and want to « manage » and « enjoy » the first few months at once. Before we start take a look at the table, and remember that gaining around 12-13kg through this journey is actually a sign that your baby is getting everything he/she needs.
1/ Thermogenesis: Walk after dinner!
It is not a myth, your body does burn calories to process the food you ingest: Massive yay, right? Note that it spends more energy processing protein (20/100kcal) and carbohydrates (12/100kcal) than it does processing fat (only 3/100kcal), so don’t read this as an invitation to gobbling down extra spoonfuls of peanut butter 🙂
This process is known as thermogenesis. Adding movement to thermogenesis, within the hour that follows your meal, has been proven to increase the amount of heat (read calorie expenditure!) your body would produce if you were to move around at any other time. So try to go for a walk in the evening. This may be a good time to reconnect with your partner, make him a part of your journey, discuss potential names, or projects. It may also help fight a craving for post-dinner coffee. I would know first-hand!
2/ A balancing act: Cravings and weight gain
I have had quite a decent amount of fries and pasta lately. Not everyday, but on a regular basis. Noisette seems to prefer savory treats, and this is probably how I got the first hint that he was going to be a boy.
When asked about what my diet is like, and how I happen to stay relatively skinny this far into my pregnancy, I am quite open about the fact that to me, it is a balancing act. Having survived eating disorders, I know from experience that fighting your cravings and impulses every second of every day only makes you long for whatever it is you crave even more. And this usually triggers unfortunate times of binging.
I do not mean to say that you should binge on whatever it is you fancy every couple of hours. And again, I practice Pilates and walk at the very least 30-45 minutes every day, so I spend more energy than those of us who work in an office. But I do believe that indulging once in a while is key to not becoming obsessed with one’s weight gain, and paradoxically to maintaining a healthy weight.
3/ Fatigue management
I have noticed that those of my friends who have struggled with disproportionate weight gain in their first trimester were those who used food as a fatigue management tool. It is scientifically demonstrated that when we are tired we are most likely to crave sweet, savory, and greasy foods. And I have reached out to those super salty greek olives and hummus countless evenings (Noisette had to be loyal to his Mediterranean roots!).
If there is one thing you can control, it is finding out whether you are eating because you are actually hungry or because you are tired. If you have been putting on weight too early on, you might even find it useful to monitor your snacking habits in a diary: why and when are you snacking?
If you notice that overeating -or eating unhealthy snacks, occurs mainly when you feel exhausted, run yourself a bath in the evenings, cancel a few meetings, and go to bed early. Make sure you get enough rest days. And if you have work commitments that keep you from enjoying a 2-day weekend (this was my case during the first trimester as I had to teach every day), cut down on socializing and make time to relax.
4/ Water vs. Food
Have you ever felt like you were craving a smoothie, yet if you were served a glass of water before, you did not fancy the smoothie any longer? Whenever you feel hungry, make sure that a cup of tea or a glass of water with some lemon juice would not quench your thirst and hunger at once. It is quite common to get those two signals mixed up.
I hope this helps!