If you don’t follow me on social media, you may not know that I just announced I am pregnant! I’m 12 weeks now and we are over the moon excited for this adventure. I couldn’t be more grateful for this experience and I am so blessed to have had such an easy time getting pregnant again after our miscarriage. I know so many women who struggle with infertility issues for years, so I do not take this blessing lightly.
Now, although I am beyond overjoyed to be growing this tiny human in my body, the first trimester has not been a walk in the park. In fact, it’s been miserable at times. I don’t want to come across as too negative in this post, but I think it is so important to normalize the incredibly difficult symptoms, feelings, emotions, and ups and downs that women go through in pregnancy. I know I am not the only one who had a hard time in their first trimester, and I just want to share the completely honest truth about my experience in hopes that others will find some comfort or a relatable voice in my story.
The first few weeks after I found out I was pregnant were definitely the worst. I had constant nausea for weeks 5-8, and I did not handle it well. Coming from spending YEARS working on my health and recovering from my eating disorder, these weeks brought on a TON of anxiety, stress, and guilt. I didn’t want to eat any of the healthy foods I normally did. I couldn’t even look at meat or veggies for 3 weeks. All I wanted was junk food… basically anything carb and sugar loaded. Those types of foods are what I typically avoid like the plague because they cause me to binge and lead to depression, anxiety, and a whole host of other negative health related symptoms, so that was very difficult for me to navigate early on. Of course before the nausea hit, I told myself, “You don’t HAVE to give in to any cravings you will have. Just tough through it. Eating healthy will help you feel better.” I “promised” myself I would continue to eat my normal veggie and meat filled diet no matter how terrible I felt. Well that promise was QUICKLY broken, and laughed at.
Morning sickness is no joke. First of all, it’s not just in the morning. It’s ALL. FREAKING. DAY (at least for me). It’s even at night while you are sleeping! It came in waves for me, which was actually a blessing. The days I felt less nauseous were a god send. But I knew that meant I had some rough days ahead. I would say I’m lucky for never throwing up, but honestly, I wish I had. My body just doesn’t throw up. I can’t remember the last time I did. But I wanted to (and tried to) many mornings and I’m sure it would have made me feel at least a little better for a short time. But no. Instead, just dry heaving and constant nausea. I know I am so lucky to not have experienced hyperemesis, and I majorly feel for the women out there who have to deal with that. I actually feel very lucky because now as I type, my nausea is basically gone, and I know other women who were sick for their ENTIRE pregnancy. I can’t even imagine!
For weeks 6 and 7 I lived off of snack foods. I tried to eat healthier options like RX and Larabars, sweet potato chips, gluten free crackers, and fruits, but that only happened on certain days. I also ate pizza, donuts, cinnamon rolls, candy, french fries, and much more. It was a very rough time for me because I’m not like most people who can just crave the donut and eat one. I want to eat 12… and then some ice cream… and then some chips… and then whatever else I can find with sugar in it. It was hard for me to try and “give myself some grace” when I wanted those foods while at the same time realizing that I still have major disordered eating tendencies that I need to keep in mind and keep under control. From day 1 of finding out I was pregnant, I refused to harm my baby with any bingeing, and I’ve kept that promise to myself, but the past 2 months was such an intense battle mentally for me. When you have a sugar and food addiction, the feeling is as intense as a drug addiction. It’s not like that just goes away in pregnancy. In fact for me, it got worse! My cravings were stronger, my mind was weaker because of my exhaustion and nausea, and my confidence in myself to make “healthy” decisions was low. I managed to never have even close to a binge like I normally would have a few years ago, but there were many days each week when I definitely overate way too much and had to force myself to stop before I lost control. It was a constant roller coaster of ups and downs, but thankfully after a few weeks, I began to learn which foods I could tolerate without getting as strong of binge urges, which foods I needed to stay away from now matter how much I wanted them, and self care steps I needed to take to support my mental health.
For me, I almost think the mental side of it was worse than the physical side. I had so many fears during that first few weeks of nausea. Fears of bingeing, fears of harming my babies development with the foods I was eating, fears of gaining too much weight too quickly, fears of never feeling better again or never wanting to eat healthy again. It was a really intense time for me.
I am so happy to say that it was also a very short lived time (although it felt like an eternity). Once I got to week 10, my nausea eased up quite a bit, and I made a conscious effort to stop feeling sorry for myself and start taking action. I started meal prepping foods I knew I could stomach for work days, got as much sleep as possible, made sure to journal every morning about my gratitude and improvements to focus only on the positive, and eventually, day by day, it got easier and I started to feel more like myself again.
As you can tell from my story, even though I was nauseous all the time, I was still constantly hungry. I laughed when my doctor said “you might even lose weight during this time because of the nausea.” Yeah right! I gained 5 pounds in just a few weeks. I’ve never been one to not eat when I feel sick. Eating made the nausea better, and not eating was always WAY worse. I couldn’t go even 2 hours without some kind of snack or the nausea would intensify dramatically, no matter how much food I had consumed that day. I was a bottomless pit and felt like I was never full and never satisfied (I still feel like that now actually). This is nothing new to me because after a lifetime of bingeing, my stomach can expand to an epic size and my hunger and fullness cues have never been quite normal (except when I did Keto before pregnancy… more on that later). But it was harder to navigate during the first trimester because of the raging hormones, addictive foods, and extreme exhaustion.
My starting weight at my first appointment was 160. At my 12 week appointment I was 165. I have a lot to say about weight and pregnancy, but I’ll give you a short version right now. First of all, it was not easy going into my pregnancy at a weight that is recommended for my final weight at labor for my size (meaning according to the charts, I am “supposed” to weigh between 130-140 and then have gained 20-25 pounds for pregnancy). Starting out as technically “overweight” was definitely a stressor. I wondered how much I “should” gain, if I need to eat less, if I need to exercise more, and so on. I was terrified at first when I was crushin the donuts that I would gain too much weight too quickly and it would be unhealthy for me and the baby. After shifting back to my real food diet in the past 2 weeks however, I realized that a lot of the weight I gained was extra water weight from all the sugary and processed foods that my body wasn’t used to. When you go so long without those foods and then all the sudden eat them in excess, of course you are going to gain a lot of weight quickly. I gave myself some major grace in this department and reminded myself that when I eventually go back to eating like I used to, my body will gain whatever weight it is meant to naturally over time. I also did a lot of research in this department and realized that I can have a perfectly healthy baby at my size, even if I do reach a weight that some doctors would deem “unhealthy.” Reading and hearing other people’s stories about weight and pregnancy was very comforting to me. I knew there was no sense in stressing about it and I just surrounded myself with people on social media that were supportive in this area and unfollowed all the super fit moms and pregnant women that I knew wouldn’t do my mental health any favors. Every woman is so different. Every pregnancy journey is so different. The weight can be hard to accept at first, but just continue to remind yourself that you can be healthy at ANY SIZE. The charts don’t mean anything. How you care for yourself is all that matters. I finally reached that realization a few weeks ago and man did it feel good.
I started to learn over the weeks in my first trimester that eating highly processed and sugary foods, although it’s all I craved, was actually the very thing that made me feel worse! After forcing myself to eat lower carb and only whole, real foods for a few days, I would find my nausea to be much more tolerable and sometimes even go away completely. But as soon as I ate something high carb/sugar or over did it on the snacks and processed foods, I would feel terrible again for days. At first I thought it could be a coincidence, but then I started to test it. It was definitely true. Keeping my blood sugar low and without large spikes throughout the day made me feel SO much better. Whole real foods was never what I wanted to eat, but eventually by week 10, I was able to tolerate some form of meat and veggies again (hallelujah!) and just told myself I would do my best to stick with the foods I know helped my mental and physical health.
It’s amazing how terrible gluten and sugar can make you feel after not eating it for months. I immediately felt depressed, anxious, foggy headed, low energy, constipated, couldn’t sleep, and had really swollen and sore joints. It’s also amazing how quickly you can become re-addicted to those foods, even after not having them for so long. I’ve been trying to avoid processed foods and sugar for a few weeks now, and man, it’s hard. My sugar addiction is back in full force and it’s been quite the struggle to get it back under control. I’m still working on it now, and I’m sure it will be an uphill battle for a while. I will say though that after avoiding processed foods for the past 2 weeks, my mental health is back to a very happy place! No more depression, way less anxiety, and feeling much more “balanced” these days. I’m so much happier, am getting my energy back, and notice a HUGE difference in my health overall.
I bring this up because the most common thing I hear from people about pregnancy is that you should just listen to your cravings! That may be true to some extent because sometimes you are craving foods that have nutrients you are deficient in, but I do not believe this means that you need to listen to your sweet tooth cravings and just eat all the junk you want whenever you want. That food is not doing anything good for you or your baby. It is highly addictive, feeds depression and anxiety, and lacks any of the nutrients that you need for growing your tiny human. I’ve read so many cases of women just like me who discovered that keeping their blood sugar low and balanced was actually the key to controlling their morning sickness. If you fight those cravings just a little and choose real foods that you can still tolerate but don’t give you a huge blood sugar spike (like donuts), you may notice a big improvement in how you feel. I know I sure did!
I was so thankful to have read a book by Lily Nichols called “Real Food For Pregnancy” in my very early days before the nausea hit. It’s an absolute MUST read for any pregnant women, ESPECIALLY women with Gestational Diabetes. In fact, she has another book called “Real Food For Gestational Diabetes” that I haven’t read but I’m sure is amazing as well. Lily’s recommendations really helped me navigate my choices in the tough times and I will be following her protocol for the remainder of my pregnancy.
Aside from nausea, my other main symptoms since I found out have been breast tenderness, extreme exhaustion, constant constipation, bloating, and moodiness. My boobs were so sore for a while that when I would attempt to go for a run, I had to hold them with my hands the whole time. I’m sure this was great comic relief for those who saw me. The only way I can describe the feeling is like someone is stabbing your nipples with needles. It’s no fun.
The exhaustion has been hardest lately because I’m working mostly 12 hour long days this summer and we just had a very intense week with tons of overtime. By the afternoon I just want to start eating because I’m tired and need a pick me up. Caffeine is out so the next best thing is always sugar, hence my cravings. And the moodiness is just annoying. I’m sure more for Zach than me, but every day is different. Some days I’m in a great mood and have more energy than usual. Others, I just want to be alone, feel down, and have no energy to do anything but watch marathons on Bravo. Those symptoms are improving every day now though, and I am definitely feeling MUCH better overall. I really have nothing to complain about at this point. My nausea is only sporadic now, my energy is slowly but steadily increasing, I’m feeling super happy and like my normal self again, and I have a lot to look forward to in the future!
In terms of working out, it was very hit or miss during the first trimester. Some days I was super inspired to get up and get outside, other days all I could handle was sitting on the coach. I probably managed to average 2-3 workouts per week, but those were mostly short, like 20-30 minutes. Anytime I got my heart rate over a certain point, the nausea hit hard and I had to stop. I did best with light jogs, hikes, light weight lifting, and power yoga. It was also interesting that I found myself constantly craving sunlight for a while because when I got my blood work back I found out my Vitamin D was low! So that was a craving that was good to be listening to! Now that I’m feeling better, I plan to increase the consistency of my workouts each week, but I’m not putting any pressure on myself. Exercise has made me feel better this entire time, so it’s really nice to just be doing something because it feels good and not because I am forcing myself to do it. Honestly exercising has been my favorite part of my day for this entire experience so far. If I had to recommend one thing to other pregnant women for their first trimester, it would be to try and exercise in ANY way you can. Even walking is amazing.
I Hired a Health Coach
2 weeks ago I hired a health coach to help me get back on track. I knew with my sugar addiction being back in full force and still fighting the constant exhaustion that I could use some serious help. Some people may think it’s weird that I hired a health coach even though I am one myself, but I’ll be the first to admit that just because I help teach others how to gain control of their health doesn’t mean that I am perfect and don’t need my own guidance in the tough times. Everyone can benefit from a health coach, even nutritionists, doctors, and dietitians. It’s been the absolute best decision I could have ever made and I did it at the perfect time. I have been sticking to Whole30 since we started, and although it’s been extremely hard work, it’s totally worth it. I am back to feeling like myself again and I couldn’t have done it without the extra accountability and support.
I was reminded in this past 2 weeks why Whole30 is so amazing. It was exactly the reset I needed and it’s so reassuring to be eating foods that I KNOW make me feel awesome. I will say I have still been overeating quite a bit (my usual trouble foods- RX Bars, nuts/nut butters, fruit, and potatoes) because I’m still fighting that sugar dragon, but every day I improve in some way and I’m ok with baby steps right now.
Ok I’m done now. Sorry that was so long, but I had a lot to share after so many weeks of not being able to talk about it! If you are still reading, THANKS! I am so very happy that I am now entering my 2nd trimester and I can’t wait to continue sharing my journey with everyone. This blog will always and forever be a place of brutal honestly, so you can expect nothing less from me for the foreseeable future!