“I'm not fat...just pregnant...”
This became my mantra over the last 9 months. What happens when a
personal trainer who works almost exclusively with weight loss
clients faces her own pregnancy weight gain challenge? Like many
women, I struggled with the idea of gaining weight during pregnancy.
Seeing my body change was stressful at times, but alas, I knew it was
a necessary part of motherhood.
Maybe I was lucky to have the
added pressure of being a trainer. I had an image to uphold. Gaining
too much could have been bad for business. I didn't want to let my
clients down, BUT ultimately it was not my work life that helped me
stay on track. It was the health of my baby girl that seemed to keep me
motivated...even when all I wanted to do was sleep and eat ice cream.
I'm due any day now, and by maintaining
healthy eating habits and exercising regularly I gained 30 pounds
with this pregnancy (not too little, not too much). This moderate
gain is good for baby too! Studies have shown overweight or obese
mothers tend to have larger babies, and larger babies (over 8lbs
12oz) have a greater risk of developing diabetes and obesity later in
life. In addition, a mother who exercises has shown to have a fetus with a lower heart rate and greater fetal
heart rate variability, which is a very good thing!
If you are pregnant or trying to get
pregnant here are some tips from my personal experience that may help
you stay on track...
My Approach to Healthy Eating:
When you are pregnant you are
eating for two, right? Um, not so much... More like eating for 1 and
a tiny fetus... But, of coarse, many of us have been programmed to
believe that as a pregnant woman we are entitled to eat as much as we
want when we want it, and everything from ice ream to pickles are
fair game. In reality you only need about 300 extra calories a day.
That's the equivalent of a small afternoon snack. I really had to
fight against the misconception that I was "allowed" to
indulge every step of the way.
The other factor working against me
was hunger. I was definitely hungrier than my pre-pregnancy self who could get through a work day living on coffee, fruit, nuts
and salad. During my first trimester I found myself ravenous
every couple of hours, and specifically craving things like bagels
and cookies. I even felt nauseous and weak if I didn't eat
How did I end up staying on track even when it felt
impossible? I kept my focus on what was best for my baby. And what do
you know, it turned out to be the same things that were best for me!
I concentrated on intake of protein and nutrient dense fruits and
vegetables. I tried to stay away from foods that had no direct
benefit to my growing baby, such as processed foods, sugary foods, or
anything with ingredients I couldn't pronounce. When I had a craving
for something bad I would ask myself- "How does this help my
baby?" and most of the time it worked. Not to say I never
indulged. I definitely had my fair share of Ben and Jerry's, but I often opted for the frozen yogurt instead of the ice cream.
I aimed to eat the recommended 70 grams
of protein a day (25 grams more than the recommended amount for a non
pregnant woman). Protein is a building block for human tissues, so
knowing that each meal was making my baby bigger and stronger was
extra incentive get those 70 grams. Greek yogurt, protein smoothies,
nuts, tofu, fish (in moderation) and lean meats where staples in my
house. Every meal revolved around the protein. Just to give an
example – one chicken breast has 30 grams of protein, so you can
imagine that fitting 70 grams per day could take some extra thought
and planning. Bagels are not a high protein meal, and therefore
there was no room in my day for a bagel!
The next step was adding in the fruits
and veggies to make sure I was getting a wide variety of vitamins and
minerals. I started using what experts are now calling the “rainbow
approach” to my fruit/veggie intake. With the rainbow approach the
goal is to eat a colorful assortment of produce each day, from
strawberries to eggplant, and spinach to sweet potato. Because I am
not a nutritionist and am not always sure which foods contain which
vitamins, the rainbow approach was a good way to insure the my baby
was getting a little bit of everything.
My Exercise Routine:
Because I am someone who really enjoys
staying active, it was not hard to make it to the gym or a yoga class.
I know that is not the case for everyone, but I have to say, even
when it was the last thing I felt like doing, I always came out of the gym
feeling re-energized and free from the pregnancy blahs. I truly
believe it helped to make my pregnancy go smoothly with minimal
discomfort, making mommy and baby happier all around.
I worked out 4 to 6 times per week
during my entire pregnancy, with at least 4 days of 30 to 40 minute
cardio sessions. Other days I added moderate strength training
and/or yoga to the mix.
Please note: After the the first
trimester it is not recommended to lay on your back, do extreme back
bends, high impact exercises, intense core work, exercises in which
you could easily fall, or perform any deep twists, so I made the
When I found out I was pregnant my
heart rate monitor became my best friend. 140
bpm is the recommended maximum heart rate for pregnant women. For
most people this is a moderate max heart rate in which you can break
a little sweat and feel slightly out of breath. I highly recommend
using a heart rate monitor for exercising while pregnant. That way the guess work is taken away, and you can get the
optimum benefit out of your workout while insuring that your baby is safe.
While strength training, I kept the
workout moderate by using light weight and high repetition sets (12
to 15 reps). That way I could keep my muscle tone without over
straining my body and putting stress on my baby. As I got bigger
and my balance began to falter, using the machines in the gym felt
safer than using the free weights. Keeping my muscles strong greatly
decreases the time it will take to get my pre-baby body back. I see
it all the time. Women who stay toned during pregnancy take less
time shedding the baby weight postpartum.
Like many women, yoga helped me to stay
calm and focused throughout my pregnancy, but on a physical level it helped me maintain my core strength. The breath work is great
for calming the mind and body, but is is also a key component to
strengthening the transverse abdominis (the band of core muscle that
wraps around the torso like a big thick belt). Keeping the
transverse abdominis strong throughout pregnancy can help the
pre-baby belly come back sooner, and can help prevent and repair a
diastasis (separation) of the abdominal muscles. So taking deep yoga
breaths on and off my mat has hopefully kept my core intact.
Looking back over the last 9 months I
feel a sense of pride. I think of this experience as the first test
of motherhood. Could I put my baby's needs before my own? Could I
take care of my body to keep her healthy? Yes I could! Was it
completely selfless? No it wasn't. There were definitely moments of
frustration as my body changed, and my patient husband had handle
many “I feel fat” situations. I will admit that I want to fit in
to my pre-pregnancy jeans as soon as humanly possible. BUT overall it was the growing love
for my baby that kept me on the healthy path. I could not have done
it without her tiny presence.
And hopefully all this exercise and healthy eating will make for a easy labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery...Stay tuned for the postpartum blog