Monday, April 20, 2015

Health & Fitness: Pregnancy Edition!

It has been requested that I do a post on staying healthy and fit during pregnancy. This is great because I have experience with a not-so-fit pregnancy where I led an extremely sedentary lifestyle and overindulged in food, a moderately active pregnancy where I ate healthy for a while and overindulged toward the end, AND a very active pregnancy where I ate well 70-80% of the time.

SO. I have experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly regarding activity level/eating habits and how they affected ME during my three pregnancies.

Alright, let's get to it! Here is a list of tips I have come up with to help you stay fit, healthy, and happy during your pregnancy! (Keep in mind, I only speak from my own experience. These tips may or may not work for you. Always consult with your doctor if you have questions regarding exercise and nutrition while pregnant.)

1. STAY HYDRATED. This does not mean have a bottle of soda with you at all times. That will not hydrate you. Drink LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of good old fashioned water. Other drinks are usually loaded with chemicals, sugar, caffeine and other yucky stuff that will not only make you tired and sluggish, but will pack on unwanted pounds as well.

2. STAY AS ACTIVE AS YOU ARE ABLE. Everyone starts out their pregnancy at a different fitness level. If you were not working out before you found out you were pregnant, now is not the time to go hard in the exercise department. If you WERE working out before you found out you were pregnant, it is usually safe to continue exercising at that same level throughout your pregnancy. What I recommend for most ladies who are pregnant is to WALK. I can't emphasize this enough. Walking helped me tremendously throughout my third pregnancy. I was walking 2-4 miles a day (and sometimes more), and my back pain disappeared. My energy levels skyrocketed. I was able to get a full night's sleep in my third trimester (say WHAAAAT?!). I know, it's crazy. Something as simple as walking can help with all of that. When I would take a couple of days off and sit on my rump all day, all of those aches and pains returned. Seriously.

3. EAT A HEALTHY, WELL-BALANCED DIET 80% OF THE TIME. I know, I know. When you are pregnant and all you can think about is a cookie dough concrete from Culver's, that bowl of oatmeal with blueberries does not sound like something you want to be eating. This is where the 80/20 rule comes in. During my healthiest pregnancy, I ate well 80% of the time, so that when I just COULD NOT shake that craving for a yummy dessert or a big plate of nachos, I had a little wiggle room to indulge. This was not an every day thing! Once or twice a week I would choose to eat whatever craving I couldn't shake, but usually my cravings would dissipate after a day or two.

4. EAT OFTEN. You are not doing yourself any favors by skipping meals to save calories. Try to eat 5-6 smaller meals a day. This will keep your metabolism high and your energy level up. You gotta have gas in the tank to drive, right? Similarly, food is the fuel for our bodies, and we have to keep our "tank" full to function well throughout the day. Try things like oatmeal with fruit, greek yogurt, veggies and hummus, mixed nuts, avocado. These foods have a lot of "bang for your buck," so to speak. They are very nutritionally dense, and the calories that you get when eating them will go a long way. In other words, your body will use what these foods have to offer. Also, eating what your body needs a lot of times will eliminate cravings for the not-so-healthy stuff! Remember, a good rule of thumb is to eat 300 extra calories while pregnant, and 500 while nursing. No need to go overboard!

5. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY & REST WHEN YOU NEED TO. You know your body, and you can tell when something does or doesn't feel right. If you are trying to stay active, but you are feeling faint or dizzy, take a break or talk to your doctor. If you are super swollen, try eating less sodium and drinking more water. That may or may not help, but it is worth a try. I battled low blood pressure during pregnancy and the best thing for me when I felt faint was to REST. If I tried to push myself through it, it got worse, not better. Don't try to be Superwoman. You are already growing a human, for Pete's sake! Plus, you will miss the opportunity to rest once that adorable, screaming bundle of joy enters into the world ;).

That wraps up the tips that I find to be the most important. It's just my "two cents," and solely based on my own experience, research, and opinions, but I hope it helps some of you who are looking for advice! Now here is a little background about me and my pregnancies.

Pictured above, from left to right, you can see how I looked right at the end of my first, second, and third pregnancies. MAJOR difference, right? From #1 to #3 I learned more and more about how nutrition and exercise affected my body. Less sweating, less swelling, less weight gain - all of these are perks that I attribute to taking better care of myself during pregnancy (and always). Not to mention the things you can't see - higher energy, less back/sciatic nerve pain, better quality sleep, less headaches, lower stress and anxiety levels. The list goes on and on. Hopefully this gives you a visual of the difference that your choices can make during your pregnancy. All three resulted in healthy, adorable children, so don't feel bad if you are overindulging or overly enjoying the opportunity to rest. The end result is still the same - a baby. This is just some food for thought for those who are looking for advice on how to stay healthy and fit during pregnancy.

I can post more on pregnancy related topics if anyone is interested. Just leave a comment with suggestions or questions and I will gladly expand on the subject!

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