“Just because I can no longer see my feet, doesn’t mean I should lose sight of the rest of my figure too!”
Pregnancy is often fraught with unpredictable cravings, mood swings, bursts of energy, fits of anxiety, and moments of extreme tiredness .It’s a tricky time in which one can yo-yo often between “that pregnancy glow” and feeling clunky, tired, and unattractive. Though symptoms differ from woman to woman, I am sure everyone who has ever experienced it will agree that, no matter how or what your unique pregnancy journey is like, it is still one of incredible newness, change, and a constant need to adapt to what is going on in your own body. With so much happening, it sometimes takes extra discipline to maintain a positive self image, and balanced lifestyle. With the fatigue, back aches, and round ligament pains, it is easy to make excuses not to optimize one’s eating habits or work out, for example.
So how can we encourage one another and remind each other of the wonderful blessing it is to share in this miracle of creation? How do we remind ourselves of our responsibility to take good care of our bodies as the vessels that they are? And how do we keep ourselves from falling into that cliched rut of “letting ourselves go” during pregnancy, and gaining not just baby weight, but a sense of disappointment or disdain towards ourselves as well? I am not one to focus so much on the exterior, but I do think all things are connected, and there is much to be said about ensuring we love ourselves – inside and out, and are able to share that love with others. So. Here are some ways I like to Love My Bump and Nurture my mind, heart, and spirit throughout this pregnancy. These things help keep me disciplined and accountable to taking good care of my body for mine and my family’s (especially our baby’s) sake, but also encourages me to continuously view this journey and all the changes as an opportunity to directly participate in the miracle of creation.
#1: Start the day on the right foot.
For me, the best way to start the day is with 3 things in close succession:
1) A quick prayer and some dedicated time spent in God’s word (whether it be via reading the Bible or going over a devotional) to recenter one’s self and enter the day with positive, refreshed perspective
2) A tall glass of cold water infused with lemon and cucumbers [and ginger too if you like] in it! (to activate the metabolism)
3) A champion’s breakfast! Often that just means something high in fiber, calcium, and good carbs with a hint of protein and fats. Lately, my daily kickstart involves: 1/4 cup of oats, a 3.5 inch banana, 2 tbsp of Greek yogurt, a dash of cinnamon, a little under a tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter, and sometimes half a serving of cottage cheese on the side to get some good protein. This typically amounts to approximately 300 calories, is a great way to whip that metabolism into gear, and keeps me full for at least a good 2.5-3.5 hours.
#2: Eat well throughout the day.
To keep myself on track, on weekdays I try to follow a reasonable diet that involves 1 ample breakfast, a mid-morning snack of fruit (ie pomelo) or wheat crackers (ie Jacob’s Hi-Cal Vegetable 80-calorie packs), a lunch of 2 veggies-1 carb-1 protein, an afternoon “mini-meal” (either a veggie sandwich, a grilled cheese sandwich, or a protein bar), and an ample dinner of 2-veggies-1 carb-1 protein. A sample look at my meal plan throughout a regular work day would be as follows (excluding breakfast, which has already been described in detail in #1):
Mid-Morning Snack: Jacob’s Hi-Cal Vegetable Crackers
Lunch: 2/3 cup of broccoli, a cup of tomato based pasta with veggies; then sometimes I’ll also throw in 5 almonds or a Gluten Free chocolate chip cookie for dessert
Merienda/Mini-Meal in the Afternoon: Half a grilled veggie panini
Dinner: Baked white fish, asparagus, tomatoes, creamed spinach (and often I’ll throw in a “late dessert” of a single piece of dark chocolate – like a dark chocolate Reese’s mini-cup)
Being disciplined needn’t necessarily mean being entirely restrictive of your diet. You’re pregnant! Eat what makes you happy, but do so in moderation, and be sure to get your “veg and protein fix” to guarantee your baby of all the nutrients he or she needs to grow strong and healthy in there!
#3: Get off your butt and do something!
Keeping yourself busy isn’t just about continuing to work, or taking up nesting and domesticating techniques like knitting or crochet. It’s also about keeping yourself moving. There have been numerous studies boasting the positive effects exercise has on both mothers-to-be and their babies-in-utero. Increased circulation, lowered risk of blood clots, higher energy levels, better weight management, and “easier births” even…the list of benefits goes on and on. Many pre-natal books and OB-GYN’s will even advise a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity per day, so this is something I myself generally take to heart. Even if it only means walking for 30 minutes around the mall next to my office, I believe it is best to invest that time in for both mine and the little bun’s sake. My weekly “workouts” typically include a trip to the gym to bike/elliptical and do arms (weights) and stretches for an hour 2x a week, low impact home workouts 2x a week, and gentle walking 1-2 more times a week. Here are some of my favorite resources to keep fit and on top of things:
1) My Fitness Pal — I use the app on my phone to track my eating and calorie burning progress
2) Jessica Smith TV’s low impact prenatal cardio workout video on YouTube — I use this often for my home workouts
3) Brittany Bendal’s Prenatal Barre workouts — I use these when I’m feeling more energetic as the isometric holds get challenging towards the end and always get my cardio going!
4) A pedometer! Either use your phone, a fitness watch, or even just count in your head — it helps. Try to make sure you get that “minimum 10,000 steps” on days when you don’t work out. You don’t need to walk briskly, you can just walk leisurely while shopping or in a park for a while and you’ll easily reach this quota.
#4 Buddy up!
To keep myself accountable, I love to buddy up with family. Most of the time, my buddy is my husband, but sometimes it can also be my mother or sister. I simply ensure that if they are going to the gym, I’m coming with them. It’s a great way to have company if you’re feeling lazy or like you need that extra boost.
Here is a picture of my husband buddy (from the back) walking ahead of me as we do a leisurely trek through rice paddies in Bali. (This was in Week 11 or so of the pregnancy)
#5 Treat Yourself!
Now when I say treat yourself, I definitely don’t mean go all out. I just mean, allow yourself simple pleasures in life doing the things you love with the people you love (or alone too!). Take time out of your work day to breathe, sleep in late on a Saturday morning, go on a Babymoon with your husband, continue to keep the romance alive with dates out and movie nights, have that piece of cake on a Sunday afternoon, skip a workout day and just go for a stroll in the park or picnic with a nice book…the list goes on. Just think about the things you love, and allow yourself opportunities to do them. It’s easy to get caught up in focusing only on the baby, and only on the pregnancy, but it’s important to continue to see yourself as an individual, and your relationship with your husband as its own
See below for my 5 favorite treats this pregnancy, which have really kept things in perspective for me and helped both my husband and I bond over the pregnancy experience whilst still nurturing our own relationship and putting our faith (and each other) first:
1) An epic European Babymoon across 7 cities in 3 weeks! — My husband and I took 3 weeks off in July to enjoy a true European vacation. We visited 7 different cities, and spent most of our time on foot and/or taking public transport everywhere. It was a great way to stay active, see new places, try copious amounts of delicious food, and enjoy each other’s company.
2) Taking time off to be with family — In July, we took time off before our Babymoon to go to the Netherlands and be with family for our wonderful yearly reunion. And on weekends now that I am working from my home city, I am also able to spend more time with my parents, siblings, and the rest of the extended family (including close family / childhood friends).
3) The occasional sinfully delicious treat! — This treat goes well beyond my usual small cookie, or piece of chocolate a day, and is typically something truly heavy, and fatty, like a greasy burger bigger than my face or a bag of fries or a proper slice of cake with ice cream.
4) Signing up for a Dutch language course set to get me to B1 proficiency (aka able to read and write, and able to converse colloquially; the mid-level between A1 [lowest in language proficiency levels] and C1 [fluent]). — My husband is Dutch and we would like our children to speak Dutch fluently too, so I figured no time like the present to start this! The classes were an investment, and they require time investment as well (it’s like taking night classes after work hours, since I also am still holding a regular full time job!), but they are incredibly enriching and stimulating to the brain: like a new puzzle to solve everyday!
5) Weekly/bi-weekly dates with mijn man (excluding nights bonding over Masterchef; and popcorn+movie nights) — These dates are usually very simple, as that’s what we like. We usually go somewhere for burgers, or coffee, and we sit with books and talk (or not even) for hours.
So there you have it! Let me know if you have some of your own tips, tricks, recipes, and workouts to share as well!