Among the most loaded issues during pregnancy is diet and weight gain. The mixed messages you receive from different sources are completely overwhelming. Your friends tell you horror stories of gaining 80 lbs, but then magically losing them all in 3 months due to the wonders of breastfeeding. Other friends struggle with putting on weight and not being able to take it off postpartum. Still other friends looked smugly perfect, all belly while carrying the baby and seemingly back to normal in a matter of weeks. The pamphlets at the doctor’s office talk about healthy eating and stress that you shouldn’t indulge in whatever you want. The pregnancy books instruct you to never ever diet during pregnancy. So what the hell are you supposed to do? Because on top of all the different stories you are getting from the universe at large your own body can’t decide what it wants.
I love food. A lot. Like almost as much as I love Z and T. Um, my relationship with it might not be the healthiest in the world. It was perplexing to have food become my enemy during the first half of my pregnancy. I was nauseous all the time, strangely eating took the edge off the nausea, but I couldn’t think of anything that was palatable enough to eat. Suddenly one of the most pleasurable parts of my life turned into something to dread. And then at about 20 weeks that phase was mostly over. Food tasted great and as time went on started to taste even better. My body told me it wanted carbs, lots and lots of carbs. And sweet stuff. And salty stuff. And carbs. Failing the first glucose screen, which is the test for gestational diabetes, should not have been a shock.
Here’s how my fabulous doc explained it to Z and me: every pregnant woman in the world has gestational diabetes. The placenta sucks the nutritional value of food right into your blood stream, not just the sugars, but the fats, and the proteins, and the vitamins, everything. It’s part of the parasitic relationship that is gestation. Back when women didn’t have access to unlimited amounts of food it undoubtedly saved the lives of many fetuses. Now that many of us in first world countries can eat whatever we want whenever we want it, the gestational diabetes can quickly get out of control and create a negative health impact on the fetus and the mom.
We were on vacation for two weeks starting the day I found out about my failed glucose test so the 3 hour screen (the next step) was put off until I got back. The nurse told me I needed to immediately cut out sugar and refined carbs and limit whole grains. So at about 28 weeks I found myself on a diet. Um, diets haven’t worked so well for me in the past.
It’s not that I wasn’t raised in a home that modeled good eating. Mom made our lunches which included a sandwich, small bag of chips, piece of fruit, and dessert. The vast majority of the time we ate dinner as a family and there was usually meat, potatoes, a veg, and always a glass of milk. I sucked at rebelling in general, but food came to symbolize the promise of making my own adult decisions. And I demonstrated really poor judgement that was a pretty big indicator of how I’d handle being a grown up for the first decade or so.
There was a coke machine in my high school and I spent 4 years having a can of coke during first period. Which started at 7:50am. I think I pretty much ate the lunch mom packed because I sucked at lying and she’d ask about the damn apple. But I remember being on a theater trip either my sophomore or junior year and visiting a food court with no adult supervision for dinner. I got an ice cream sundae, you know, because I could. College wasn’t any better in terms of food choices. By my last year breakfast was that good old can of coke, a huge NYC bagel with tons of butter from the place around the corner from my northern Manhattan apartment scarfed down between cigarettes on the drive up to Bronxville. God, it was delicious. And lunch for almost every day of the four years I was at Sarah Lawrence was fried eggs, bacon (extra crispy), and cheddar cheese on a bagel. I’m nothing if not a creature of habit. And holy shit, I can’t think of a better lunch. The thing is when I graduated I was about 120lbs. There were never any repercussions for eating like total shit. You know, until there were. By that time I’d been eating crap for so long I refused to acknowledge there could be a correlation between what I ate and what I weighed. Then I started on high doses of antidepressants and rapidly put on another 50lbs. In my mid to late 20s I became overweight for the first time in my life.
I took no action about my weight except to complain about it constantly. And to use it as further proof that I was completely worthless. Adding to the problem, during my 20s I started working in the food industry and Z and I developed a love of fine food together. Going to restaurants we couldn’t afford became one of the highlights of our relationship as everything else about it was falling apart.
When I started coming off the antidepressants I did lose about 20lbs. But I was older and my metabolism had changed and I needed to actually do something about the other 30lbs plus the extra I’d put on before the drugs. Again I did nothing. Expect complain about how I looked.
So why the boring history of my food issues? Well, I figure a lot of you ladies have them as well. If you aren’t the best about taking care of your body and you get pregnant it feels like a shitty time to try and get yourself on track health-wise. But I am living proof that it is possible. In fact, when a doctor tells you to modify your diet because if you don’t you are putting the health of your baby at risk the it becomes achievable. Now that I know I actually do possess the willpower to not eat potato chips when everyone else at the table is having them I feel like continuing with this healthy eating thing might just be possible after the baby finally arrives.
And I did pass the second glucose screen. But my doctor told me to continue to stick to the modified diet for the remainder of the pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a bummer. I crave carbs all the time. Right now I could really go for a soft serve twist cone, or a Butterfinger Blizzard, or just a really excellent piece of bread covered in half an inch of butter. I’ll settle for a bowl of glamourous Weetabix. And my doc did tell me I could have one serving of ice cream a week. Friday is my lucky day. I look forward to it all week long. Listen, I’ve flat out made terrible nutritional choices for my whole adult life. And who the hell knows if I’ll be able to continue to motivate after New Guy comes. But if this situation happens to you I can tell you it is a hell of a lot easier to make the right choice for the safety of your child than it is to make the right choice for yourself. If I can diet during pregnancy anyone can.