There is a lot to think about and prioritize during pregnancy. Proper nutrition for the health of both mom and baby is another crucial focus to add to the list.
Nutrition is so much more than just what you eat. It’s also how you eat. Intuitive eating is a concept or practice that can especially benefit pregnant women. If you want to nourish your body and stress less about food choices during pregnancy, this post is for you.
Let’s take a closer look at how the principles of intuitive eating can help you make peace with food and feel good during pregnancy.
Intuitive Eating During Pregnancy
Although a big piece of intuitive eating is listening to your body, there is more to it than that. Intuitive eating is a full approach to eating with significant mental and physical health benefits for people in all stages of life, especially during pregnancy.
This post will serve as an introductory guide about intuitive eating, a few ways it can be practiced during pregnancy, and what you can expect when implementing intuitive eating into your life.
What Is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is not a diet. It doesn’t come with strict rules or a list of foods to avoid. Instead, it’s an approach to help you build a healthy relationship with food. It’s about listening to your body and trusting your body to help you decide what foods and how much of them to eat. Conceptually, intuitive eating is about recognizing and honoring your body cues without judgment. This allows us to make peace with food at last.
The intuitive eating approach started in 1995 when registered dietitian nutritionists Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch coined it in their book Intuitive Eating.
Intuitive eating includes 10 foundational principles to help guide you on the journey of honoring your body and the hunger and fullness cues it gives you. Also, in the long term, intuitive eating encourages letting go of diet culture and improving your relationship with food.
How Does Intuitive Eating Work?
One of the main themes throughout the principles of intuitive eating boils down to trusting your body to decide what and when to eat. Intuitive eating works when you follow what feels good for you. Giving yourself permission to eat without judgment and without a diet mentality and the influence of diet culture is a major focus.
Intuitive eating is not a diet or a strict set of rules. There are no “good” or “bad” foods. The best place to start is to begin to be more aware of when and how you eat without judgment or shame. Are you physically hungry? Do you stop when comfortable full, or satisfied? Are you choosing foods you enjoy or because you ‘should’? Start to pay more attention.
Benefits Of Intuitive Eating During Pregnancy
Better Body Image
In one study, women with a positive attitude toward pregnancy weight gain were more likely to have healthier eating habits in late pregnancy. The same study discovered a positive association between intuitive eating and positive views on weight gain during pregnancy.
Many people are concerned about “How to Maintain Healthy Weight During Pregnancy.” While it’s true we can’t completely ignore weight gain during pregnancy, how you feel, meeting nutrient needs and the baby’s growth are far more important than the number on the scale. A positive body image can help you feel better both mentally and physically. It’s often associated with improved mood, mental health, quality of life, and physical health.
Better Blood Sugar Levels For Gestational Diabetics
If you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes (GDM), try not to panic. The good news is there are steps you can take to manage GDM! If you’re looking for ways to improve your blood sugar levels and manage your gestational diabetes, you’re in luck.
Intuitive eating is associated with lower fasting glucose and HbA1c levels during pregnancy and the first year after giving birth for those diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
We also have a GD guide and meal plan inside The Prenatal Nutrition Library to help you easily manage this diagnosis and feel less restricted regarding food choices!
Setting A Good Example For Your Children
Whether good or bad, children pay attention to the actions of their caregivers. If you can begin practicing intuitive and mindful eating during pregnancy, you’ll have a great foundation built by the time your little one is eating solids.
When you eat intuitively, you can set a good example for your child. You’ll be able to show them what a healthy relationship with food looks like. Then, as your child gets older, they will be better equipped to challenge diet culture and have a healthy relationship with food on their own. Children always listen to us and hear what we say about food and our bodies. The more positive things you can say about food and your body, the better!
How To Start Intuitive Eating During Pregnancy
The sooner you start, the better.
No matter your life stage, there is no better time than right now to start intuitive eating. The easiest way to start practicing this approach is to ask yourself what your body needs at that moment.
Recognize and follow your hunger and fullness cues.
Once you decide to give it a go, start paying attention to your eating habits and your mindset around food. Every time you eat, take note of your hunger and fullness cues. Consider whether you’re experiencing physical or emotional hunger.
If you feel physical hunger, try to determine just how hungry you are. You can rank your hunger/fullness on a scale of 1-10, from very hungry to uncomfortably full. Shift towards eating when you’re hungry but not starving. Stop eating when you’re satiated but not uncomfortably stuffed.
Change your mindset.
Intuitive eating dramatically changes your relationship with food for the better. It allows you to let go of expectations and make peace with food. But you have to be willing to take on that mindset. It takes time and a lot of practice, but your long-term goal is a healthy relationship with food. Start by telling yourself, “I control what goes into my body and when,” or “I can have X (cookies, chips, ice cream, etc.) food whenever I want.” Again, with intuitive eating, no foods are off limits unless you have allergies or medical reasons.
Honor your cravings.
Have you ever noticed that the harder you try to ignore your cravings, the stronger they feel? What if you stopped ignoring them and allowed yourself to tend to those cravings? Honoring these cravings is a core concept of intuitive eating.
Most cravings are a normal part of pregnancy. You don’t have to feel guilty or blame yourself for craving specific foods. With intuitive eating, you can listen to what your body wants instead of trying to deny it what it wants.
Practicing intuitive eating means there are no “bad” foods. It also means you can choose to eat a particular food whenever it sounds good; it doesn’t have to be a holiday or a special occasion. With intuitive eating, the aim is to eat until you’re satisfied. All foods can fit into a well-rounded diet.
What’s holding you back from eating intuitively during your pregnancy?
Now that you’ve learned more about intuitive eating during pregnancy, are you ready to start? Do you still have some questions or concerns? Are you feeling unsure about whether intuitive eating will work for you? Let me know your thoughts! Reach out by leaving a comment!
While you’re here, be sure to check out The Prenatal Nutrition Library (TPNL). You’ll gain access to hundreds of notes on preconception and pregnancy nutrition topics. It’s your home for the answers to all your frequently asked pregnancy nutrition questions, delicious and healthy trimester meal plans, and more! Check it out today!