I am 15 weeks pregnant, and I have made the decision to transition back into a low carb/keto lifestyle once again. I ate this way pre-pregnancy, but once my first trimester nausea hit, it was simply too hard. All I wanted was carbs and junk food for weeks and I couldn’t even look at meat or vegetables for a while. I decided to go easy on myself during those first few months, and honestly, I have mixed feelings about it. I’m happy I gave myself some grace, adopted a more “go with the flow” attitude, and let go of trying to control anything. It was a good change of pace for me and I think I learned quite a few lessons during those 2 months.
On the other hand, after dealing with overwhelming binge urges, constant overeating, a returned addiction to sugar, and many unpleasant symptoms such as terrible sleep, increased anxiety, joint pain and swelling, less energy, and major digestive distress, I realized that maybe all those days of going easy on myself and eating whatever I wanted were not quite worth it. I’m paying for it now, and I wish I had tried a little harder during those earlier months. I spent years getting my eating disorder under control, and after the first trimester, I felt like I had taken quite a few steps backwards. It was so incredibly hard not to binge, and thankfully, I never did, but I have still struggled mentally on a daily basis and I have a lot of work to do to get back to that healthy place I was once in.
Thankfully, I have Whole30 to help me get there. I’ve been eating Whole30 since the end of my first trimester and I feel SO. MUCH. BETTER. A big part of that I know is just the hormones balancing out, but I think a lot of it is the food too. I don’t think it’s that much of a coincidence that as soon as I switched back to Whole30, my nausea got instantly better.
I knew Whole30 was the reset I needed to get back to my happy healthy place. And since I knew it was not going to be easy, I hired a coach to help me. Some people might think it’s weird that I hired a health coach even though I am one myself, but I will be the first to admit that health coaches need coaching too! Just like doctors need other doctors for medical help and therapists need to talk out their feelings too. I am human and in this very difficult season of life, I needed help. Big time. My coach helped me get my priorities in line, remember my WHY, and stay accountable and focused on my goals (eliminating sugar from my life again). She was crucial to my success. (If you are reading this, thanks Kim!)
For a sugar addict, cutting it out is no simple task. And it was even harder being pregnant. But thanks to my coach and lots of hard work, I did it successfully! I did however rely WAY too much on fruit, Larabar and RX bars, salty nuts, dried fruit, etc when I had sugar cravings for the past few weeks. As I always preach, your brain does not know the difference between the sugar in dried pineapple and the sugar in a snickers bar. I was fully aware of this, but honestly for the past month my only goal was to eliminate the processed foods and refined sugar. I needed baby steps.
Now that I am feeling better and much more clear headed, I am ready to take it up a notch. My binge tendencies and urges are MUCH MUCH better when I’m low carb/Keto, and I need to be in a healthy mindset for the remainder of this pregnancy to avoid bingeing. In addition, my glucose has been higher than ideal lately, and I know it’s due to my increased processed food intake in my first trimester as well as my over consumption of fruit, potatoes, and other carb and natural sugar loaded foods in my Whole30. Even healthy foods like fruits can negatively impact your blood sugar, especially during pregnancy. I’m also gaining weight at a very fast pace, faster than the recommended amount, and that concerns me and my doctor because one of the highest risk factors for not being able to have an unmedicated/water birth is too much weight gain. Oh did I mention I want to have a completely natural birth? More on that later.
After speaking with an OBGYN who is very knowledgeable in the nutrition field, I made the decision to make some changes to my diet due to the issues mentioned above. I will be going back to my low carb/keto style of eating for the remainder of my pregnancy. This will hopefully reduce my risk for gestational diabetes and slow down my weight gain a little bit. If you don’t know what Keto is and are curious to find out more details, I have a blog post called “All About Keto” that is a helpful read.
Just a few quick facts about ketosis and pregnancy to get you thinking…
– pregnant women naturally go into ketosis more easily, especially in the third trimester.
– women who breast feed also enter ketosis much easier.
– babies enter ketosis shortly after birth and stay in that state during breast feeding.
– breast milk is made up of 60% fat (ideal for ketosis)
Based on these facts (along with MANY more) and everything I have learned about the benefits of Keto for brain development in pregnancy, I am a firm believer that if the mom and baby naturally dip into ketosis this often, and a baby starts out it’s life in ketosis, it must be a healthy and natural way to eat during pregnancy. That’s just what makes sense to me!
Keto is a very controversial topic when it comes to pregnancy. Most people think that women NEED carbs for their baby to develop properly. Yes that is true to some extent, but even if you eat zero carbs, your body will produce all the glucose it needs from the protein you eat through a process called gluconeogenesis. We do not NEED carbs. We NEED protein and fat. Babies and pregnant women should actually not consume a high carb diet. Especially in the 2nd half of pregnancy when the body becomes much more sensitive to insulin. This is the reason many women develop gestational diabetes… over consumption of sugar and carbs.
Since my glucose is already showing signs of being high, I am taking action now. I don’t want to wait until my glucose tolerance test and find out I already have gestational diabetes. I might as well be proactive now. And the main reason I am making this decision is because eating keto/low carb is how I feel my absolute best anyways. It’s also how my bingeing is best controlled, which is crucial to me during this time. I don’t enjoy the blood sugar spikes, the constant cravings, the “hanger” and the moodiness when eating higher carb. I want to feel balanced again, and keto does that for me.
Now all this being said, I should explain what “Keto” means to me. This word has many different interpretations and meanings. Some people think that only certain foods are keto, others understand that it is just the nutritional state that your body is in. Some people can eat 75 grams of carbs per day and stay in ketosis, others get bumped out of ketosis with more than 15 grams. There is no “one way fits all” for keto. Every person’s body is very different, and even more so for a pregnant women.
What worked for me pre-pregnancy may not work now. I am exploring and seeing what I crave and how I feel. What I do know is that my body needs A LOT of veggies. I also need more protein than your “average” keto diet, and my fat intake is very high as well. I cannot fast, I need small meals all throughout the day, and I will probably start out with an average between 30-50 grams of carbs per day, with one day a week being more around 60-75 grams, but I NEVER count calories or macros, so this is all a guess. I am exercising a decent amount now, with some days being high intensity, so my body does well with some extra carbs once a week usually. Especially since I’m not quite to the point of being totally back into ketosis yet. I’m taking it slow and listening to my body as best as I can. But please keep in mind if you are reading this, this is what works for ME. This is not what works for everyone. If you are considering Keto or low carb for your pregnancy, you should 100% speak with a medical professional first and find your own style that works for YOU.
My goal with all this is never to be in ketosis ALL the time. I don’t track my blood ketones everyday, I don’t care about dipping in and out, and I’m not tracking calories or macros. Keto is not necessarily the goal. The goal is to FEEL GOOD, gain mental clarity, stay fit, sleep well, and balance my mood.
So basically to summarize, my Keto style is:
– lots of veggies
– a decent amount of meat and eggs
– lots of healthy fats
– occasional berries and starchy veggies
I want to document my journey through all this because there really are not very many blogs or resources out there for low carb or Keto pregnancy. And honestly, most of the ones you find easily on google are not in support of it. I understand the hesitation from doctors, but after doing my own research and talking to quite a few professionals on the subject, I am confident in my choice and I want to share my experience with the world. You don’t have to agree with my decision (I’m sure a lot of people won’t), but I would appreciate you respecting it. I’m excited to continue this journey, get back to my old style of eating, and get that “Keto brain” back. (If you don’t know what I mean, it’s the most clear headed, calm, and balanced feeling EVER.)
If you want a ton of research based information on why low carb is the way to go in pregnancy, I highly recommend reading “Real Food For Pregnancy” by Lily Nichols. She’s one of the leading dietitians in the pregnancy nutrition world right now and her book is amazing. I learned so much helpful information about anything from food to supplements to setting yourself up for success at your doctors appts.
Ok that’s all for now! I’ll continue with blog posts about this throughout my pregnancy, but for the most frequent updates, follow me on Instagram @toriakselrad .