Courtesy of Mandy Lange

I Tried To Be Paleo While Pregnant, & The Experiment Totally Changed Me

By
Share
Ad failed to load

“OK,” I sighed as I gulped the damp sea air. “I’m ready to have another kid now.” I was running a marathon along the foggy San Francisco Bay, and the thought surprised me as soon as my hot pink sneakers tread across the finish line. I was feeling strong, healthy, and capable. It could have been my endorphins finally kicking in after 13.1 miles of trudging over hills, or the roar of spectators emboldening me, but I felt great, in part because I had adopted the Paleo diet a few months before.

I decided right there that I wanted to have another baby — but this time, I would treat my body right. I would eat clean, abstain from bread, and ignore all sugary products; in short, I would get pregnant and stay on the Paleo diet.

My first pregnancy was marred by delivery complications that ended in an emergency c-section. Both my newborn son and I suffered infections, which required us undergoing a week of extra hospitalization. Our respective recoveries were slow and frustrating; the stress of a complicated birth had taken a toll on my body. Though I ate "all-natural" foods and had always been deemed in good shape by medical professionals, after I had my first baby I felt sick, exhausted, and far from healthy.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Mandy Lange

To take charge of my mental and physical health, I made the decision to “go Paleo" long before I made the decision to have another baby. The Paleo diet is sometimes referred to as “the Caveman diet,” because it prioritizes eating proteins, fruits, and vegetables over eating carbs and refined sugars. Freed from the bonds of processed, sugary foods, I found that I slept better, had fewer hormone swings, enjoyed exercise more, and rarely got sick. Most importantly, I felt happier. I was committed.

I visualized myself as the expectant lady in a maternity ad, smiling and caressing her swollen belly as her firstborn looked on proudly. I wish that was how it went.
Ad failed to load

A few months after my race by the bay, I discovered I was pregnant. Although I was thrilled, at first I was a bit wary about whether it was OK to continuing eating Paleo, due to all of the dramatic changes taking place in my body. When I did some research, I discovered that doctors typically discourage women from dramatically changing their diets during pregnancy. Dr. Octavia Cannon, an OB-GYN in Charlotte, North Carolina and Vice-President of the American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians and Gynecologists, assuaged these concerns. She tells Romper that pregnant women can indeed continue their Paleo lifestyles “with some modifications." She cautioned that there are some risks for women who eat Paleo while pregnant, including low blood sugar and worsened constipation “due to high protein in the diet," so to combat this, Dr. Cannon suggests that women on the Paleo diet consume “complex carbohydrates and fruits and vegetables with a higher glycemic index (rice, yams, yuca, bananas, etc). Vitamins and supplements can be helpful as well.”

After educating myself and discussing my lifestyle with my doctor, who encouraged me to continue to eat the way I felt was best, I had the green light to continue following the Paleo diet. Considering how great I felt on the diet when I wasn't pregnant, I visualized myself as the expectant lady in a maternity ad, smiling and caressing her swollen belly as her firstborn looked on proudly.

I wish that was how it went.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Mandy Lange

My early pregnancy was spent suppressing gags and kneeling in front of a toilet. I experienced a brand of pervasive nausea that lasted the whole day through, leaving me unable to even chop a vegetable without running to the bathroom in disgust. The dark, leafy greens, healthy meats, and juicy fruits that once comprised my diet became intense food aversions. The thought of eating kale reduced me to tears.

My body seemed to be punishing me for having a healthy lifestyle.
Ad failed to load

I had no idea what to eat without regressing to my days of eating bread and ice cream. I tried to coax myself into eating starchy, easily digestible snacks, but my stomach seemed to have lost interest in harboring food now that it cohabited with a baby in my body. It was maddening beyond belief. I had eaten, exercised, and slept exceptionally well prior to conception, but my body seemed to be punishing me for having a healthy lifestyle.

Considering how sick I felt, I was surprised to find that with every prenatal appointment, my doctor said I was gaining weight "normally" and my baby was growing normally as well. Although I wanted to stomp and whine and curse my reproductive system, it appeared to be doing its job adequately. Still, it seemed this baby wanted nothing to do with eating Paleo, and after months of frustration, I wasn’t sure how much longer I wanted anything to do with it, either.

The weeks dragged on. I had to buy bigger pants. But despite what I felt was my body’s increasingly close resemblance to a bowling ball, the biggest change I saw was not in my appearance, but in my attitude.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Mandy Lange

Eating a Paleo diet helped me exercise control over the sickness and exhaustion I'd experienced before my second pregnancy. I knew what I could eat, what would make me sick, what treats I could “cheat” with, and what side effects I'd experience. When I got pregnant, however, I lost that control. Instead of being proactive and taking charge of my health and my diet, I was stuck with a body that was responding to uncontrollable hormonal changes. Unable to focus on my Paleo diet, I began to focus on the positives: I had a supportive husband, a growing son; I'd been able to conceive; my family was healthy, and even if I felt like garbage most of the day, ultimately I was healthy too. When I shifted my perspective from frustration and anger to acceptance and self-compassion, my confidence increased and my pregnancy became much easier to enjoy.

Instead of forcing myself to eat protein and being angry at myself when I couldn't stand the smell, I learned to listen to what my body wanted. I ate what I felt like eating, even if it wasn't technically Paleo.
Ad failed to load

Once I adopted a more mindful attitude, I began to notice that my nausea ran in predictable cycles. Instead of forcing myself to eat protein and being angry at myself when I couldn't stand the smell, I learned to listen to what my body wanted. I ate what I felt like eating, even if it wasn't technically Paleo. This meant I would occasionally go a day without a meat or a vegetable (the horror!), but it turned out not to be such a big deal.

When I took the time to listen to my body, I found that eventually I was able to get the nutrients I needed and I could consume those foods without an issue. I didn't feel that I had to give up my Paleo lifestyle, or the benefits that came with it. I just had to learn how to trust myself.

Pregnancy is exhausting. The little energy I had as a pregnant woman was better spent on loving and appreciating my body, instead of obsessing about what I ate. Paleo empowered me to manage my health, but it also helped me accept that there are aspects of my health simply beyond my control. Ultimately, I learned I needed to be kinder to myself and my body during one of the most demanding chapters of my life. Regardless of what I ate, that was the thing that made me feel healthiest of all.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

15 Baby Names With Unique Nicknames, So Your Family Has Options

I love a good diminutive name, also known as a nickname. I believe I’m partial to them because of my own name, Abigale, but I go by Abi. And since they’re both uniquely spelled, everyone thinks my name is pronounced Ah-bee for some reason — but even …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}