Q&A: I'm already overweight, is it safe not to gain anymore during pregnancy?
I have not lost the weight I gained during my first pregnancy, after which I went from a size 10 to 18. I am now pregnant again and don't want to gain any more weight than is considered normal during this pregnancy. I realize you should not diet during pregnancy, but is there any way I can avoid gaining additional weight? I am only in my first month and am uncomfortable with my size.
I am very excited to be pregnant again, and want the best for my baby. However, I know that my weight gain is not healthy. I am a vegetarian. All the diets I have researched include meat. Any suggestions?
I am so glad you are asking about this early in your pregnancy! The Institute of Medicine now recommends that for women who are obese (a technical term for a body mass index greater than 30) weight gain should be no more than 15 pounds. Weight loss, however, isn’t a good idea. So how do you accomplish this? If it were easy, you would have gained less the first time around, so I am going to assume that maybe you have some bad habits that are playing a role?
Here are some ideas. You will need to figure out what works for you.
- Listen to your body. Eat when you are hungry, and stop when you are full. This may sound basic, but we all eat for lots of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with hunger. Boredom, depression, social events, and the time of day are often triggers to eat when we don’t need to. Try to substitute other activities, like exercising or talking to a friend, to meet those needs.
- Eat slowly. It takes about 30 minutes for the food you eat to register in your satiety center. If you eat more slowly, you will feel full after you have eaten less. Conversely, if you eat quickly, you can pack a lot in before you feel full.
- Add exercise to your routine. Exercise is helpful because it burns calories and also improves your sense of well-being. Plus while you are working out, you aren’t eating!
- Eat breakfast. Overweight people are more likely to skip this important meal than normal weight people are. One possible explanation is that to keep to a normal weight, people listen to the signals from their bodies. Skipping meals allows you to become ravenously hungry, and then overeat.
- Eat small portions. Sometimes it even helps to get smaller plates at home. What constitutes a portion of food is a lot less than we usually think. Restaurant portions are huge! Remember if the veggie burger at the restaurant is twice the size of the one you would have at home, it will have twice the calories. Eating out is a big source of excess calories. You do not have to finish everything on your plate!
- Eat vegetables. As a vegetarian, you can probably appreciate the diversity of vegetables that are available. Roasted or steamed veggies are very healthy, and you almost can’t eat too many. Let vegetables and low-fat sources of protein (low-fat milk products, eggs, tofu, or beans made without a lot of fat, and if you eat fish, low-mercury fish) be the basis of your diet.
While these ideas may be helpful, the best option for you is consultation with a dietitian. You can work together to establish a vegetarian diet that has the right number of calories for you and the baby, without providing the excess that will cause you to gain too much weight. Then after the baby is born, you can go on a health kick and get back to your size 10. Good luck!