If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know that recently I have been enjoying baking sweet treats and cooking delicious vegetarian food. It’s not that I just decided to start taking pictures now for the first time. It’s that this is the first time in my adult life that I am not afraid of making meals and treats that aren’t skimmed down to have the least amount of calories possible. Before getting pregnant, nightly dinners more often than not were large salads with some meatless protein or pasta. Noah would cook the occasional meal (his version of ramen is the best), and I would always wonder how he could make the same things that I would cook taste better. While it’s true that he’s skilled in the kitchen, he would agree that his food tasted better simply because he wasn’t afraid to use oil and properly sauce food. Everything in me wanted to believe that food was more than just fuel, but I couldn’t get my heart to believe it.
In the months leading up to my positive pregnancy test, I did start to intentionally gain weight. My goal was to kick-start my hormones and get my reproductive system happy with me after years of neglect. Even though I was gaining weight, I still didn’t feel like I was eating freely. There was still a strong dichotomy of good food versus bad food in my head that pulled at my conscience and my emotions. True food guilt rather than offhand comments about eating too much is a nasty thing. It strips away your happiness and replaces it with worthlessness. Your mind twists reality and makes you believe that eating is weakness rather than strength.
And then I got pregnant.
I mentioned in an earlier blog that I was honestly scared that I would be really hard on my changing body. Similarly, I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to let go of my skewed perception of food to do what was right for my growing baby. Pregnancy was either going to be the worst thing for my mental health or the best thing.
I quickly realized that I didn’t have a chance but to listen to my body’s hunger cues. Every few hours, my choice was either consume food (and quick) or be consumed by nausea. Could it be that food was actually a cure to my discomfort instead of the cause? Then the cravings kicked in. Boy did I fight them for a good while. I mean I really gave them a run for their money, but a pregnant woman can only last for so long. When I finally satisfied my desires (a few sour patch watermelons and pieces of candy later), the craziest thing happened. I didn’t become a junk food addict. Rather, my cravings disappeared. I realized that being afraid of eating candy because it was “bad” was more weak than listening to what my body was telling me about wanting (and probably needing) sugar.
It was about the end of my first trimester and start of my second trimester when I finally gave a big fat “screw you” to my guilt and negative outlook on food. I hit the point where I was supposed to start putting on weight regularly, and my body was hungry enough to follow through with it. At 12 weeks I found out that I was having a baby boy, and when I said the words “my son” out loud, I felt a switch flip and a wave of emotions. The extra weight… the chubbier cheeks… they were for my son and my son’s health. How silly is a fear of butter when I have a son that depends on me for literally everything. How unimportant is eating two pieces of bread rather than one when I am nurturing my son. How can I be an inspiring mother to my son if I can’t get myself together?
The switch has never flipped back. I’ve truly embraced eating whatever and however much my body tells me it needs. For a person who used to be afraid of both butter and oil, it’s crazy how nervous I am about not being able to get them at the store. I get down to about a pack and a half of butter in the fridge, and I’m ready to add it to my grocery list. Granted, I enjoy many healthy foods, and I value how I physically feel after a nourishing meal. I do hold back slightly on portions, but that is honestly so I don’t get acid reflux and feel like I have to recline on my couch for an hour after eating. Noah got me Chinese takeout for Mother’s Day from my favorite local restaurant, and I literally had to do prenatal yoga and chill for the rest of the evening because of how uncomfortable I felt physically (still worth it in this case though). I went to bed bloated but smiling, because I had no guilt. For the most part, I am letting my nausea and fatigue lead the way in dictating my food intake. I have no idea about my caloric intake, and I want to keep this intuitive eating up after pregnancy has come and gone (minus the nausea and fatigue).
While I don’t think everyone that struggles with negative thoughts about food has to go get themselves pregnant (especially any men that may be reading this), I think everyone can probably find something or someone in life to instigate accountability. Here are a few motivations that I can think of:
- Ability to let loose and relax with friends (eating and baking together, going out to restaurants, spontaneity, etc)
- Ability to bond with a significant other over food
- Prevention of physical health concerns or the healing of current ones
- Enjoyment of an upcoming vacation with all the different foods that will be there
- Ability to set a good example for your kid, niece, nephew, or any younger person in your life
I also had to stop playing the blame game. Acknowledging,
- I am the one cursing my life, plaguing it with guilt and fear. Food isn’t doing that.
- I am the one choosing sadness over joy after a dessert. Desserts aren’t evil.
- I am the one creating rules for myself. No one else cares what I eat.
- I am the person hardest on my physical looks. No one is pressuring me.
Trust me, it’s not easy. If I had believed in this years ago, maybe I wouldn’t have “lost” my college years. Now on the other side, I know that life is so much more worth living when you have the energy to embrace it. Food is a joy of life and not a curse. Food is what is fueling this precious gift inside me, and I am so thankful for it.
So, I guess to answer back on the unknown that I faced months ago. Pregnancy wasn’t the worst thing to happen to my mental health; it was the best. My son has already changed my life for the better.
P.S: I would have never shared any of these photos before because of how prominent my chubby cheeks are. Do I look like what I think I do in my head? No. Do I look like other glamorous bloggers whose photos convey effortlessness and coolness? No, but this is me, and I’m happy.