Almost before my first trimester was over, I had scoured the internet and bookstores for information on pregnancy. I like to know what information is out there and I like to read a lot of it to see all the different perspectives. One "piece of advice" that came up time and time again was to "remember you're not eating for TWO! You only need about 300 extra calories a day!" This advice always came, without fail, with an example of what these three hundred extra calories would look like: "that's the equivalent of a small bagel - WITHOUT cream cheese!" or "that's only a small apple and a piece of whole-wheat toast - NO BUTTER".
Maybe it's something about the way that this advice always felt so criticizing, as if pregnant women were so stupid that they needed to be told in the most basic terms that food, surprise, has calories.
I'm not saying that we, as a human population, don't have problems with estimating portion sizes and the amount of calories in a meal or snack. I am saying that the way to teach someone about portion sizes is not to wait until they are at their most emotionally vulnerable (aka being pregnant and hormonal and probably seeing numbers on their scale that they don't want to) and then start shouting about how many calories are in that bagel they ate for lunch. And don't forget to use all-caps when you assure this hypothetical pregnant woman that this calorie count is WITHOUT cream cheese. God help you if you added cream cheese to that bagel.
I don't know. At first I thought it just bothered me because it felt criticizing. I tried to rationalize it. I thought to myself, well, maybe a lot of women see being pregnant as a time when they really can eat anything and maybe we need to address that somehow.
But, no. Not like that.
While it is important to know that pregnancy doesn't require more than 200-400ish extra calories (depending on the individual person and the pregnancy), there's no reason we need to be so critical. I would argue that 90% of the reason that most women feel like they can eat anything while they're pregnant is because being pregnant is the only time in their entire lives that they feel like they don't have to be hyperaware of what they are eating and it is the only time in their lives that they feel like they can just enjoy what they eat.
As women, we spend a lot of time thinking about what we eat, and how much of it we should eat, and how much society will hate us if we eat the wrong amount of the "wrong" stuff. Aren't there always studies coming out about the high percentage of teenaged girls who say they need to lose weight and who say they have dieted within the last few months? Isn't it obvious that we are messing up girl's minds?
So then we have a problem. On the one hand, we need to fix society somehow and work towards having a healthy relationship with food. In the meantime, what do we do with this condescending eating advice for pregnant women?
This is the part where, if I were a smarter person, I would lay out a solution. I don't really have a solution.
Healthy eating (and living) starts with a simple concept - eat less and move more. Be mindful of what you eat and make an effort to move around during the day. And then it gets complicated by foods that taste really good but have a ridiculous amount of calories and by social norms and by entire industries (beauty, food, diet, etc) that might not have our best interests at heart. It gets complicated by the fact that each person will respond a little bit differently to the information they hear.
I do feel that if we could start with a healthier relationship with food, pregnancy might not be viewed as the only time that a person can "cheat" on their life-long diet.
With that in mind, I'd love to hear your opinion on whether or not I'm overreacting! Smiley says I might be reading just a bit too much into everything. I'm always game to hear what other people think!