I had my snack ready to go, knowing I would get hungry at some point during my library visit. I’m still not sure if food is “allowed” in the library, so I find quiet corners and try to open bags or packages quietly. I’m also never sure when hunger will strike, but it announces itself LOUDLY and clearly. This tiny human has demands and I’m like, You got it, babe! That afternoon’s hunger was no different—I didn’t make it off the bus or to the library before digging into a dried fruit bar in my backpack. That dried fruit bar has been in there for weeks. It wasn’t the snack I had packed for the day, but a bus ride isn’t prime time for pouring granola in yogurt, or spooning away. I’m also not sure about “eating on the bus” rules, or a lack thereof.
I learn a new Intuitive Eating lesson at least once a week. It usually has to do with the many levels of hunger, and my choice to honor it. (A tangential lesson here is that I need to be more familiar with the food rules of work locations I frequent, and transportation I rely on.)
Earlier that morning I had half of my packed lunch sandwich less than two hours after breakfast. It was that kind of day. I read that we’re in a growth spurt—which I translated to “shopping time,” not “buy-the-whole-grocery-store-and-carry-it-with-you-everywhere time!” Turns out, it’s a mix of both. And on the days I happen to run a few miles? I should never be more than a few steps away from a food opportunity.
This is sixteen weeks (for me).
This is being hungry, and using Intuitive Eating on a whole new level. Prior to pregnancy, my default response to hunger was curiosity. Maybe that was the dietitian in me, or the eating disorder always looking for a crack to invade. Maybe it was a mix of both, depending on the day. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the ways I’ve questioned hunger. Why am I hungry right now? What time is it? When was my last meal? What did I eat? Why didn’t it hold me over? I didn’t disclose that I was nine weeks pregnant at the time. I wasn’t ready to announce that. I also felt it was an important topic to explore, pregnant or not.
“I feel grateful everyday that I found Intuitive Eating a while ago.”
In my podcast conversation with Anne—my friend, and fellow preggo (dietitian)—we talked about how important Intuitive Eating feels in pregnancy. I expressed that gratitude for the foundation I’ve built with my own Intuitive Eating, and the way I use it in client sessions. I believe it’s important in any life stage, but especially when you have another human to grow. That’s a lot of work! It takes up a lot of energy! And with pregnancy comes more than new levels of hunger and exhaustion. It comes with major body changes, changes to how you can or can’t exercise, what does or doesn’t satisfy you, and a standard set of food rules. Intuitive Eating can be part of the process that helps you embrace all of the above.
There was a time in my life when I would have calculated the extra 300 calories recommended per day during pregnancy.
The general recommendation at this stage of pregnancy is to start eating “300 extra calories” per day. A younger me would have known exactly where those 300 calories were being added. Any extra hunger would have caused an internal debate, because damn, I already had my “extra” calories. I would have stressed about whether I’m gaining “too much” weight, because many clinicians warn you not to. I know these are necessary medical recommendations; we have to have some standards, and we trust that the Institute of Medicine reviewed the research responsibly. But it’s easy to forget it’s a general recommendation. It’s easy to ignore (or not even read) the text that follows about lifestyle, age, genetics, and other factors that influence a human’s daily needs. It’s easier for some to assume that once that extra-calorie-box is checked, hunger can be stifled or ignored. I’ve been there. I’ve done that.
In pregnancy, I’m quick to trust and honor my hunger signals.
Instead of looking at the clock first, I think about what snacks or meal-making ingredients I have on hand. Instead of thinking about what I ate last, I think about what I want to eat now. Now that my appetite is “normal” again, I don’t have to mentally run through a list of foods that sound disgusting for five minutes before landing on something that’s at least palatable. I can eat whatever I happen to have available. And I do. Instead of wondering why my yogurt, cereal, and banana breakfast combination didn’t satisfy me until eleven a.m. like it did yesterday or the day before, I eat whenever that mid-morning hunger strikes.
I’m respecting my body in a way I haven’t before.
I don’t think eating disorder recovery happens in one fell swoop. I don’t think it’s something you’ll never think about again. I do think it’s a daily choice. Why, even after adopting and trusting Intuitive Eating, was I still regularly mistrusting my own hunger signals? Why did it take growing a tiny human to teach me this self respect? The answers are uncomfortable. I don’t know all of them, exactly. I’m exploring it right now, as I realize what I was doing then compared to how I honor hunger now. And for the most part, the answer points to a desire for my body and my routine to stay within certain limits. To not want to eat “too much,” even in the absence of counting calories or tallying anything up. To not wanting my body to change, even as I prepared for pregnancy and the changes it would come with.
Practicing Intuitive Eating requires trust.
It requires taking the reins away from your brain (and ego), then handing them over to your body. It requires trust that your body’s healthy set point is set. It’s not something you manipulate with your mind and your efforts. My body hadn’t changed weight or shape in years, but still I had that lingering fear that it might. Even as I learned Intuitive Eating principles, put them in practice, and kept my lifestyle the same, disordered thoughts crept their way in here and there.
I can’t imagine going through pregnancy without Intuitive Eating.
I can’t imagine restricting or questioning the sometimes constant pregnancy hunger. (Honestly, I can’t imagine ignoring the hunger and getting through the day without failing at basic adult tasks.) I can only hope that what I’m learning through my pregnancy experience with stick with me. This tiny human has a lot of needs. Growing yourself from embryo to baby status is no small task! I can’t imagine restricting those resources because I thought my yogurt should keep me full longer, or I want my jean shorts to fit for one more week (not happening).
If you’re curious about Intuitive Eating, have questions about how to adopt this philosophy during pregnancy or otherwise, please don’t hesitate to reach out.