Wednesday, June 27, 2012

14 weeks pregnant and sweating the sugar question again

So 14 weeks, feeling fine, no weight gained (if anything, a few more pounds lost), barely starting to show.  Or not showing?  It's hard to tell.  I do carry plenty of fat in my abdominal region; my lower stomach looks the same, but sometimes/in some outfits it seems there's a bit of a swell higher up.  I think I can get through the summer without maternity clothing, but will need some items come fall/winter.

While my body is trucking along just fine, my mind is up to its old antics.  Namely, I'm playing with the idea of complete abstinence from desserts for the rest of my pregnancy.  I've had some bad eating days lately and one day last week in which I just flat-out binged on ice cream sandwiches, and after that I felt so fed up and frightened that I wondered if simply walking away from that whole category of food is the smartest thing to do.  Not forever, but for now.

See, I've been over this before.  Prior to getting pregnant, I had attempts at abstinence backfire enough times that I finally settled on moderation and re-learning as the best way forward.  I still think learning to eat "problem foods" moderately is the best long-term solution.  I was making progress throughout 2012 with this approach, and before I got pregnant, I viewed my frequent slip-ups with sugar as merely part of the learning process.

I don't feel so easygoing about it anymore.  I feel like I can't afford slip-ups the way I used to, and as I'm still fairly new to the moderate eating game, they happen way too often.  Some of the things I think about:

1.  I weigh 245 pounds about 14 weeks into pregnancy. I'm at high risk for gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia.  Can I "afford" binges or episodes of overeating?  Even if I don't binge, can I "afford" to eat nutritionally poor, sugar-laden foods on a regular basis?  Keep in mind, I do not eat a low-carb diet to start with.  My body is processing considerable sugar throughout the day due to my consumption of grains, fruits, dairy, etc. 

(As an aside, I am certainly not low on calories and I don't believe my urges to binge/overeat are the result of my body desperately trying to get more energy to support a growing baby, or anything like that!)

2.  Eating sweets moderately requires a LOT of mental effort from me.  Even on my best days, it requires energy and willpower to stop at a certain point and to ignore the cravings for more than inevitably follow. (Hormonal swings haven't made this any easier, I can assure you.)  I don't have as much energy and time to fight these battles as I used to, and think it'd be easier on me, in many respects, to simply cut sweets out of my life for now.

3.  In a few weeks, the baby will be swallowing amniotic fluid throughout the day that is flavored by the foods I am eating.  Research suggests that certain dietary preferences start to form in utero, largely through this mechanism.  (Breastmilk is similarly flavored and believed to influence later food preferences and eating behavior, too.)  If family history is any indication, my baby probably has food/addiction/weight challenges awaiting him or her already.  Do I want to do anything that might make matters worse?

Even if abstinence is the best route, I don't know if I can maintain it.  I've never been able to before, but then again, I've never had to factor a baby into the picture, either.  I'd like to try and see.  If I sense that it's about to backfire in a big way,  I will have to go back to the daily grind of battling for moderation.   Even if moderation (with all my inevitable slip-ups) isn't ideal, I CANNOT go through the abstain-binge-abstain-binge cycle while pregnant.  One round of the abstinence experiment is all I will do; if it fails, I will not be attempting it again during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

There isn't much research or literature out there on binge eating disorder and pregnancy.  All my books briefly cover anorexia and bulimia in pregnancy, not even mentioning binge eating disorder.  Yet I know I cannot be alone in this, and I wonder how other women handle it.


  1. You have to make the best choice for you. Full stop. If telling yourself that you will avoid an entire category of food frees your mind, then it may be the best choice.

    For me, I find that wanting to eat a lot of sugary food means I'm not eating enough nutritionally dense food. Considering you are pregnant and haven't gained weight (and may have lost weight), it's possible that your binges are driven by essentially inner starvation. Now, that may not be so and you know your body better than anyone, and it may be beside the point, but you may have better control if you eat more overall. However, you need to do what works for you and certainly swearing off of certain less nutritious food may be better than adjusting your approach to food otherwise.

    As always, I wish you the best and hope that your pregnancy goes well.

    1. Thanks! And your point is well taken; I am sure I am eating enough calories, but perhaps I am not eating enough nutritionally dense food within those calories. I could definitely boost my intake of protein and vegetables. In the first trimester, they made me nauseous, but now I'd probably feel fine eating those things.

  2. I think this is a very well thought out and logical post. It sounds like a sensible plan.

    An obvious concern is whether complete abstinence from sweets will set you up for a binge. What I do is allow myself one serving of frozen yogurt per day, and I don't have it until evening. It's my "reward" for eating well all day. That way I get my sweet "fix" but it is only 130 calories and is not too unhealthy. I believe totally depriving myself would just lead to obsession and possibly a binge.

    For you, however, you make good points about the mental energy it takes to moderate your intake. I think this is certainly worth trying, and it is smart to limit yourself to one attempt. Then if it fails you can go back to moderation.

    On a side note, it is wonderful you are so attentive and concerned with nutrition because of how it will affect the baby. My only comment is to not be too hard on yourself, re: eating carbs, the amniotic fluid, etc. My mother ate a healthy, balanced diet but this was well before the obsession with carbs and sugar. She had six healthy babies. Your body culls nutrients from what you eat for the baby first, and your body gets the leftovers. So as long as your diet is well balanced overall, your baby is being well nourished and some sugar/carbs is not going to adversely affect him or her.

    1. Hi Anon! Yes, whether abstinence is going to lead to obsession and binging (yet again) is the big question! I like your frozen yogurt routine and if it becomes obvious that I need to attempt moderation instead of abstinence, I may try a similar technique to yours.

      Do you keep the frozen yogurt at home? In the past, when I've allowed myself small treats each day or several times a week, I had an easier time of it when I made myself go outside to get a single serving of something. When stuff was at home, it "called" to me and I had to work extra hard to be moderate--it really wore me out sometimes, and of course, sometimes the buildup of pressure led to me overeating whatever I was stocking in my freezer or pantry.

      Just curious how you go about it!

  3. I do wish you good luck with this as it can't be easy. For myself as much as I try to moderate or only have one serving of something it never seems to work and I am better off trying to stay away altogether but it is different for everyone.

    I agree with the previous comment to not be too hard on yourself. Because of the way science and medicine are constantly changing there are going to be things that you do that are later found to be risky but you can't drive yourself crazy trying to catch all of them.

    1. Hi Arwenn, thanks for your support and I agree with you (and Anon above)--it's easy to drive yourself crazy with research and fear and anxiety during pregnancy...which is probably worse for the fetus than any given food out there!

      Good luck to you as well--if staying away altogether is working for you, good for you! It's important to have that kind of self-knowledge.