Eating For Two!

How lovely is it to finally be in the month of March? I always think there is something lovely about a new month, a fresh start, and turning the page on your calender to reveal a new picture. It's a chance to make new plans and put the last month behind you if it contained any stress or worries. At the same time it's a chance to start something brand new. I know a lot of people who like to start diets at the beginning of the week, or at the beginning of a new month. This post is dedicated to that topic exactly. That scary word that none of us really like to use or think about. Diet. Now, for the record I am 28 weeks pregnant and I am by no means 'dieting' or trying to lose weight during my pregnancy and I certainly would not advocate anything of that nature, but I am referring to the term 'diet' in it's most literal sense. Not 'being' on a diet, but just what your 'diet' includes, ie what you put in to your body and what values you hold in that regard.

Let me first start by saying that I am very familiar with the idea of 'being' on a diet, unfortunately. I've always battled with my weight and one way or another I have probably been over-weight most of my life. This is not a pity party though (but if it was you would all be on the guest list I promise). I love food and there is no secret there. I have tried lots of different diets from Weight Watchers, to the Cabbage Soup Diet, to strict gym diets, and finally Slimming World. For me Slimming World was the 'diet' that I actually learned the most from. It taught me some really good habits and it has affected me in a really meaningful way. I fell of the wagon several times, usual story, but I was always trying to lose weight in some form or another, and once I followed it properly I found that Slimming World had the best results. I am not an ambassador for Slimming World, nor do they endorse or sponsor my blog, so these are just my own views and opinions and everybody is entitled to their own.

What I liked most about Slimming World was the emphasis on 'healthy eating'. You know, the stuff we all know but choose to ignore. It's really is very simple so why complicate it with numbers and points? Obvious things like drinking a lot of water, including fruit or vegetables with every meal, limiting your fat content, choosing wholemeal, limiting sweets and crisps, making the 'healthier' choices when it comes to takeaways and restaurants, and portion control are all things that Slimming World advocate. It's put in a nice simple way with a nice book explaining everything and at the same time you have the accountability in the form of a weekly weigh-in and essentially a support group. I'm not here to talk about Slimming World (and if it was so easy I wouldn't have fell off the wagon so many times right?), but instead the idea of weight-gain, health and wellness in pregnancy. Interestingly enough though, Slimming World is the ONLY advertised diet on the market that doctor's and midwives will actually recommend to patients. That goes for people who are considered to be over-weight and whom a doctor would recommend a new healthy lifestyle to lose weight, or those who need to lose weight for an operation, or people like me who are pregnant. Being on Slimming World while pregnant doesn't mean you are aiming to lose weight. Far from it. Some people, like myself, might just want to stay on the straight and narrow and Slimming World is a great way to be accountable for your eating and to ensure you are giving your body and your growing baby the best foods and nutrients possible. Once your midwife or GP is happy for you to follow this healthy eating programme Slimming World will happily sign you up and you get all sorts of extra things to ensure that it isn't a weightloss programme but more so a healthy eating regime.

That being said, I have not actually been strictly following Slimming World throughout my pregnancy but I have probably been following it 80%. When I found out I was pregnant I was already over-weight and the last thing I wanted was to gain about 4 stone and be in a really bad way when I have the baby, with no energy and another couple of stone to lose on top of the weight I already had. Once the first 12 weeks of pregnancy passed and I began to feel human again and had no sickness I started consciously trying to be as healthy as I possibly could be, within reason. I was/am by no means an angel and I still have my treats at the weekend but in general I have adopted the 80/20 rule which a lot of people follow. It basically means that we should aim to be healthy and eat wholesomely 80% of the time and then we can justify treats 20% of the time. It's a good approach to have! When you get pregnant you will hear many people say this to you, and it could not be more of a myth...

"You are eating for two". This is probably one of the most common misconceptions of pregnancy. Some people have it in their head and are advised that they are eating for two people and can eat double the amount that they normally would. Wrong! I would have always thought this way too, until I did a bit of research. Once again. let me just say that I am in no way judgemental of any other person pregnant or otherwise and I would not judge another pregnant ladies diet. I know how difficult pregnancy can be for some people, especially with other children and demanding jobs and personal lives, but I wanted to share all this with you because these are the things that have helped me and it might help someone else too. I am 100% all for making sure that you feel good in your pregnancy and I know that feeling good can be very different for each individual so we have to do what is best for ourselves, and only you can personally know what that is.

"Eating for two" is a phrase that I have heard so many times, and trust me, a foodie like myself would only be too delighted to accept that as some sort of challenge and just eat whatever I want each day while pregnant, but a bit of research has taught me that this is not something that would work for me. Firstly, yes we are eating for "two people". One person is you and one person is your tiny growing baby. It is not another 5 foot 8" woman who needs three meals a day and another 2000 calories to get by. You are eating for two people in the sense that everything that you eat not only affects your own physiology, growth, development and health but also profoundly affects the little person that is growing inside of you. In this regard we should always be considering what we eat and how it affects both people, but we are not eating double the amount. When I found out I was pregnant I read the guidelines for pregnancy weight gain. I personally know ladies who gained 40-50lb when they were pregnant and looked absolutely fabulous because they never had a pick on them before, but I knew that for my own health and well being I could not allow myself to do the same. Gaining that much weight for someone of my size would be really dangerous for my health and it would make moving and simple things a lot more difficult so I made it my mission to not look at pregnancy as a meal ticket to eat what I want, but instead to actively nourish my body and my growing baby as best as I could. It was really important for me to find a balance. I definitely would not enjoy healthy eating 7 days a week 24/7. Pregnancy or otherwise I still have genuine cravings for chocolate or a take-away, just like everyone does. I suppose for me it was about finding a way to be as healthy as I could be, not gaining too much 'unnecessary' weight (because a lot of weight is very necessary and involves the weight of the baby, the fluid around the baby, the placenta and a larger volume of blood in your body), and at the same time enjoying my life and some treats along the way. I knew I didn't want to follow a 'diet', so I created my own. I decided on the things that were most important to me and I came up with a plan in my own head and it's been working really well for me ever since. 

The things that were most important to me were :
  • choosing wholemeal bread and limiting myself to two slices a day. 
  • having a healthy breakfast to start the day on the right foot 
  • always including some sort of vegetables with my dinner 
  • treating chocolate and sweet things as a treat and not a daily occurrence 
  • choosing low fat or fortified milk 
  • limiting sugary drinks and choosing sugar-free cordials instead 
  • drinking lots of water 
  • choosing 'low fat' where it was safe and healthy to do so (such as mayonnaise and yoghurts)
  • staying away or limiting certain foods which may be harmful during pregnancy (such as unpasteurised dairy products, peanuts, shell-fish) 
  • limit intake of caffeine. 
  • getting out moving as much as I can. Even a short walk home from work is better than nothing.
  • allowing myself a treat at the weekend whether it's a take-away, eating out for lunch/dinner or having some   chocolate. In my opinion these treats are just as important because they make you feel like you're not restricting yourself, and for me I am less likely to be 'good' during the week when I know that I can have a treat at the weekend if I really want it. 

From my research one of the most interesting things that I learned was that during pregnancy the recommended extra dietary calories are 200 extra calories in your second and third trimester, and that your first trimester does not require any increase. 200 calories is not actually that much. It could be a slice of toast with butter, an extra yoghurt , some crackers and cheese, some extra fruit etc. It is NOT a 3-in-1 from the Chinese or a Big Mac from Mc Donalds. See what I mean? Here is a nice article which shows you examples of what 200 calories worth of certain foods actually looks like

The other thing I learned is that every woman is completely different and pregnancy affects every woman in very different ways. Some women become really swollen, some women get thread veins or varicose veins, some women get really high (or low) blood pressure, and some women get gestational diabetes which is a type of pregnancy diabetes that comes on sometimes for no particular reasons and it greatly affects things like the baby's size, delivery and of course diet. I remember when Kim Kardashian was pregnant the media was so unbelievably critical of her. Every other magazine had a photograph of her pregnant self with words attached to her like 'fat', 'beach whale' and 'ugly'. This is so disgusting and is sending out such a negative imagine of beauty to young girls and women all over the world. Being pregnant is such a miracle and it is a beautiful time. The level of scrutiny and the superficial vanity behind it was just really awful. Sure, she is a model and a reality show member but that doesn't mean that she needs to be criticised for her weight gain during pregnancy. As it turns out Kim Kardashian gained about 45lb during her pregnancy and she ended up going in to premature labour because she had a condition known as preeclampsia which is a condition associated with high blood pressure and fluid retention. Remember all those comments about how big and swollen she became? You just never know what is going on in people's lives. It might seem silly to use this example but I am doing so because everybody knows who she is and she is typically known for being sexy and beautiful and once she became pregnancy she was labelled with some horrible derogatory terms based on her appearance and weight. It was the same for Frankie from the Saturdays. What we should be focusing on is health and well being, not vanity.

For anyone who is interested, there are guidelines that suggest certain levels of weight gain during pregnancy for those who are under-weight, normal weight, over-weight or obese and they are as follows for single births (ie not twins etc). It is all BMI related.
  1. Underweight - 28-40 pounds
  2. Normal Weight - 25-35 pounds
  3. Overweight - 15-25 pounds
  4. Obese - 11-20 pounds
My midwife told me that these are just rough guidelines though and they are only a general rough idea to give people some idea of what would be the 'ideal' in a perfect world. Personally, I picked a figure in my head as my 'ideal'. Something I would be comfortable with and something that would be healthy and as of today (I weighed myself this morning) I am really delighted to be well within the healthy range for my stage of pregnancy and it looks like if I continue to be as healthy as possible I should stay within my desired range. As I said before, it's not a diet and I am not being obsessive about it, but this is one of those situations where a little goes a long way and at the end of the day I want to be as healthy and energetic as I can be when I have the baby, particularly as I plan to breast feed. I also know that anything can happen and who knows what the next few weeks have in store for me but healthy eating can only help.

Here would be a typical example of what I would eat in a day. In fact, it is exactly what is on today's menu.
  • Breakfast - A bowl of porridge made with low fat milk with added raisins, cinnamon and honey (or banana) with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice (not from concentrate)
  • Mid morning snack - A pear 
  • Lunch - 2 slices of wholemeal bread with light mayonnaise, smoked ham, cheese, and lettuce with a packet of 99calories low fat crisps and a big juicy orange.
  • When I get in from work - Slice of wholemeal toast with butter or a yoghurt & grapes with a cup of tea 
  • Dinner - Meatballs (Lidl ones are gorgeous and are 90% beef) with a tomato and mushroom pasta sauce (again Lidl's finest) with mushrooms, courgette and red peppers served with a small portion of pasta and a bit of mozzarella on top. Oh and LOTS of black pepper because I love it). 
  • Before bed - could be a cup of Ovaltine made with water or a cup of tea, depends. It could also be nothing.
In addition to this I drink water all throughout the day, at least two litres!

So there is a rough idea. Not perfect by any means but it means I am sticking to what I feel is most important ,and it keeps me accountable. As I said, a little goes a long way in this situation.

Now, having said all that this week I have felt so much more... pregnant! It's becoming a bit more difficult to do certain things and I am finding it harder to move around and sleep with this growing belly of mine. I am nearly in to my third trimester and with 12 weeks till my due date that is to be expected. Thankfully I still feel great though and I think that all the healthy eating has a lot to do with this. I walk to and from work and it might only be a 25 minute walk in total but it really makes all the difference for me. Speaking of healthy food, I am going to Las Vegas on Saturday morning. A babymoon of sorts, booked well before we heard our happy news about being pregnant, and I can safely say that I will not be paying too much attention to what I eat while I am over there, much like any holiday, so when I get back I will have to give it an extra push on the healthy front. 

Speaking of growing bellies, I have been feeling SO much movement lately. There is a constant reminder that there is a little human being growing inside me. That will never ever get old for me. I am still in amazement that this is even happening to me and I always feel it is such a miracle. Not drinking alcohol and eating healthily is absolutely nothing when you consider the miracle that is happening inside of your body. I couldn't feel more blessed! 

And just to put a face to the name, here is me just two days ago at 27 and a bit weeks pregnant. Adios! :)