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Food and Fitness Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy

When I think back to my pregnancy, it was a warm, loving, positive experience. After 42 long, hot, grueling weeks, we had a beautiful bushy-haired bundle of joy…

…And I had 80lbs.

80lbs of what, Erika?

Of body. 80lbs I didn’t expect, didn’t plan for and didn’t even consider. Clothes that didn’t fit, shoes that didn’t fit, and a life that wasn’t used to the larger, post-pregnancy me. Not only that, but my habits during pregnancy left me with more than a few health concerns, namely pre-diabetes and pitting edema that was so bad that I had to have repeated ultrasounds on my legs to make sure doctors understood what was going on with my body.

Granted, I gave birth to a healthy, happy, bouncing baby girl so apparently I did something right, but some of the advice I’d received about fitness and nutrition was the worst.

Want to avoid going down the same path I did? Here are a few tips to help you go into your pregnancy with a healthy mindset, help you prepare for your delivery, and come out of it all with your beautiful baby… without as much extra poundage in the end.

1)   Everyone hates to hear this, but you are not, in fact, eating for two. I mean, sure, there might be two of you, but one of you is far smaller than the other and requires far fewer calories to grow.

2)   Keep the cravings in check. I’m not going to lie:  my favorite craving was definitely dill pickles cut up in Rice-a-Roni…and I really wish someone would’ve put me in check. Check yourself! If you’re truly enduring some kind of nutritional deficiency, talk to your doctor and have your blood tested for such. The challenge with giving yourself carte blanche to indulge every craving you ever have is that it becomes a habit that you might carry with you into post-pregnancy… where you’re burning far fewer calories and far more susceptible to gaining weight because of it. No one’s going to cut you for the cupcake, but you do have to be mindful of how often you’re eating them, and whether or not a pattern is forming. Pregnancy can be a stressful time, and emotional eating is a real thing. Besides, gestational diabetes – a condition where your blood sugar is exceptionally high, due in part to hormonal changes in the body from pregnancy – can easily turn into type 2 diabetes if you’re not careful.

3)   Skip the processed foods. You knew this one, right? There is little research done on the effects of processed foods on baby, but we know the effects it can have on Mommy. Try to keep your diet overflowing with fresh (and frozen, whatever’s available) produce, whole grains and quality sources of protein, all in whatever combination works best for you.

4)   Stay moving! You might need to give up ab-focused workouts, true, but there’s plenty more you can do. Running – and, by extension, Couch-2-5k – is healthy for Mommy and baby, and gives Mommy a great way to relieve the stress and pressure and anxiety that can come along with pregnancy. Keep your home full of different activities, so that you have engaging options at your fingertips to save you from “bored eating,” or worse “bored hormonal fits.” (Maybe I’m the only one who had those? That’s fine. I’ll accept that.)

Consult your physician about what kinds of activities you can do during your pregnancy. Can you practice yoga? Can you lift weights? Some activities are better suited for one trimester as opposed to others, and you should feel encouraged to work with your doctor to help you create the best plan for you.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself. This one is most important. Pregnancy is an exciting, overwhelming, amazing, and loving experience. Being mindful about taking care of you—something I knew very little about when I was first pregnant— alleviates a lot of the food and fitness-induced health issues, so take care of yourself. Both your body and your new baby will thank you for it!

Erika Nicole Kendall is a certified women’s fitness specialist and trainer who writes the award winning blog A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss, where she blogs her journey from 330lb couch potato to certified personal trainer and nutritionist. Ask her your health and fitness-related questions on Facebook and Twitter.