Monday, November 3, 2014

The Great, Fantabulous, Marvelicious Pregnancy Pet Peeve Rant!

I was having a good laugh a little bit ago reading about the different pregnancy pet peeves that women develop during their nine-month "miracle time." A lot about criticizing name choices, breastfeeding opinions (opinions and advice about anything, really), comments on belly sizes, even choosing birthdays. ("Oh, you should have the baby on my birthday! Even though your due date is three weeks ahead of that!")

I've had a serious rant cooking in my brain for several weeks. Actually, ever since I announced that I am pregnant with my first child.

So let me begin this epic RANT with the following caveats:

I am not a doctor or medical professional. Before you do anything, always check with your doc. I do, however, have a Bachelors in Kinesiology and a Masters in Sport Performance, a third degree black belt in karate, and multiple certifications in Group Fitness Instruction. I do not believe one study is the end-all-be-all answer to any health question, especially since money can make research tell you whatever it pays for these days. I try to do as much research as I can manage on a topic before spouting my opinion in such a public way, but admittedly, my research is largely limited to the internet, which is not always reliable. I do glean a lot, though, from my background in schooling, as well as my certification publications, such as ACE's magazine.

Some of my closest and dearest friends have been known to commit the "atrocities" I am about to annihilate. I in no way want to make them feel bad for the things they have said to me, but I do want to explain in detail why this gets me so hot under the collar. I am a first time mom-to-be, and I do not have loads of experience with children, most seriously lacking in time spent with infants. I want opinions, I want advice, and I want people to understand when I decide not to take their advice. I also want people to know why I might get snappy about this subject, when I generally try to be an un-snappy person. Please remember as you read on that everyone has opinions and these are merely mine. I'm fine if you disagree, I'm just begging you not to make it personal, or make a mountain out of a molehill.

So if I'm so worried about other people disagreeing with me, why am I bothering with this rant?

Because this is an issue that I think is extremely important. Because this issue reaches deep into every human being, male or female, and many struggle with it day in and day out, pregnant or not.

So here, my friends, begins my biggest pregnancy pet peeve rant. Prepare yourself, for it's going to be a long read.

If I hear one more person say, "If you're craving something, you should just go ahead and eat it because your baby needs it," I'm going to -- 

(Okay, I still haven't figured out what I'm going to do. I don't want to be violent, and there's many arguments that I'm already crazy, so ... )

A while ago, I posted on Facebook that I was seriously craving McDonald's Chicken McNuggets, and it was too bad I am aware of how horrible they are for the body. This was a random lament, not one I expected to spark such a huge reaction in me.

Every single person who commented on that post said the same thing: "Eat the nuggets."

There were variations on that, of course, but the message was the same.

(Again, if you are one of my beloved friends who made one of those comments, please understand that I'm not angry or trying to hurt you. I just want everyone to see where this rant is coming from, and why it's so important to me.)

I get it. Fast food and junk food is a big part of society's vast array of edible choices. It's not harmful if it's eaten every once in a while, not as a main staple.

The problem is, most of us have our heads in the sand when it comes to the reality check of "How much are you really eating?"

Sugar is everywhere. It's being put in everything, in various forms. And it is highly addicting. I myself am a serious junk food addict. And that's where the problem lies.

People say they can control how much junk they eat, but are they really?

I don't want to get in the great diet debate. I mean, like Paleo vs Vegetarian vs Vegan vs Wheat vs Dairy, etc. That's a debate that will never die and will always have hard core backers that swear this diet or that diet works for them.

But I think we can all agree that there is too much sugar in most of our store-bought items, too many chemical ingredients in prepackaged food. I think we can also agree that fast food restaurants are not in business for our health. They are in business to make money. Their food is addicting to keep us coming back for more, even knowing how unhealthy most of it is. The only reason any fast food joints are offering "healthier" options is because of public backlash and people suing for making them fat.

Okay, got that out there. So what does this have to do with pregnancy cravings?

I have seen many forms of this opinion floating around: If you are craving something, that means your baby needs it.

Now, I don't think I've hit that point yet where the crazy pregnant lady cravings are supposed to happen. I'm not quite fourteen weeks along at this point. As mentioned in my last post, I have had the aversions, the nausea, and the superpower sense of smell. Most of those have now gone by the wayside. (I'm still waiting for the trips to the bathroom to lessen, but I think I should give up on that ship.)

I've had cravings most of my life, stemming from my teenage years when I ate bags of candy in one sitting and had fast food every week. Since my mid-twenties, though, I decided I didn't like the aftereffects of such binges. I decided it wasn't worth the crashes after the sugar high, the racing heart, the jittery shakes, the queasy tummy. I stopped buying candy, doughnuts, and Mickey D's. I asked my mother to stop sending me bags of candy on holidays. Husband and I wanted to try going Paleo, and took a year to eat up all the pasta, cereals, and other grains we'd stored. We still have brown rice and dairy, so we're not exclusively Paleo, but we're eating a lot more fruits, nuts, and veggies than we did before. Our eating habits have significantly improved, and so has our general health and well being.

When I had my first trimester nausea and food aversions, I became so desperate to find something that sounded good, something that my queasy tummy would accept. I turned to cereals and pastas during that time. But at least everything I chose I kept as organic and all natural and healthy as I possibly could.

Those Chicken McNuggets I was craving? Hubby went to Fred Meyer and got me a box of high quality, minimal ingredient, organic chicken nuggets that actually tasted much better than the fast food version. (Though admittedly, they were expensive as hell. I've only had that one box since then.)

Now, I realize I'm starting to sound preachy, maybe even holier-than-thou. That's not my intent. My intent is to lead by example, to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. My career has been all about helping people get on track to a healthier lifestyle, and sometimes that requires being the mean one, the raging bitch about important issues.

I know a lot of moms out there will be yelling about how there's no such thing as a bad craving, how if you're craving a certain food, it is because your baby needs something in it.

And those are the key words: something in it.

Most of us will be craving garbage all the time, because most of us have eaten garbage for so long and we like it. I know fast food is horrible, but if my husband, or mother or whoever, brought me a McDonald's double cheeseburger, twenty-piece nuggets, and large fries with a Sprite, I'd probably eat it because it smells so damn good. I am not perfect. (Did I mention I'm not perfect?)

But this statement infuriates me so much because so many women use it as a banner to cave in to whatever junk they want to eat, because "the baby needs it."

So if a mom-to-be told you she was craving dirt, laundry detergent, sand, or rocks, what would you say? "Go ahead and eat it because your baby needs it!"

Good lord, I pray not.

Most likely you would tell her that she is deficient in something and to seek medical assistance. According to this article (see link), it may be an iron deficiency, as many women get anemic while pregnant. But it may be the body is missing other vitamins and minerals too.

There are other sites that mention possible reasons behind other, more regular cravings and possible solutions to them (such as having sorbet or yogurt instead of ice cream).

So why is it okay to tell a woman that if she is craving junk food to go ahead and eat it? Wouldn't healthier substitutes be a better suggestion?

For example, when I have a major chocolate craving, my response is to make a Paleo chocolate mug cake. It is composed of organic cocoa powder, coconut flour, almond flour, an egg, coconut milk, real maple syrup, a little organic vanilla extract, and honey. I mix it up in a coffee mug and bake it. I believe this to be a much better option than most of the chocolate bar and candy options out there.

Or perhaps I'll buy a small container of organic chocolate ice cream with the fewest ingredients I can find and share it with my husband. Or maybe a bar of organic dark chocolate of at least 78% dark.

So many women struggle with diet, health, and body image in their regular lives, with so much tempting food out there that is bad for us. But I would hope and pray that during this time of all times, when a woman is growing a precious new life within her, that she would realize that this is the time to take charge. It's no longer just about her. It's about the little one inside her that has no control over the decisions mommy makes about her body.

One of my fears is that my child will be born with those cravings already in place. It has been documented that babies can taste what the mother eats during pregnancy through the amniotic fluid, and during breastfeeding through the milk. They develop likes and dislikes during that time. Babies can be born addicted to the drugs or the cigarettes the mother was smoking, and then they have to go through withdrawal after birth. I do not want my child to have the same health issues that some I love dearly have been dealing with their whole lives.

If we know these things about our babies, how can we just wave away the importance of what we eat while the child is developing?

It's hard, though. I know how incredibly hard it is, especially this time of year, with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all one right after the other. But we can make better choices, at least during this one time when our unborn children are residing within us. For example, when my child is born, I want to start a new Halloween function. Sort of a Trunk or Treat thing, where the treats are toys, books, or useful goodies instead of candy. Or if this is not possible, perhaps trading the candy for a larger toy the child has been wanting, and then disposing of that candy in some other fashion. (I heard there's a dentist in Anchorage who buys back children's Halloween candy after the holiday because he cares about kids' teeth. I want to meet this guy.)

For those who moan about junk food being okay in moderation, all I ask is that you take a real hard, definitive look at your diet and see if it really matches with your belief. Check the ingredients of packaged food that you buy at the store. My midwifery has their clients fill out a food diary for three days. I decided to do it for longer than that, and keep track of my diet as well as exercise. (Since I am no longer teaching at this time, I need the record so I know for sure I'm exercising as regularly as I think I am.) Sure enough, I was skipping more days of exercise than I was willing to admit to myself, even after my fatigue and nausea issues had vanished. Now I can fix that.

My biggest hope for this public post is that it will help other pregnant women make better choices for themselves and for their children. There is so much information out there about what pregnant women should and should not do, and much of it is conflicting. But I believe that healthy eating is one thing that a woman should not stint on or dither about. In improving her own life and health, she can also help those closest to her improve, such as spouses, family members, and friends.

You know, that whole "Physician, health thyself" thing.

Whew. That was quite a load off my chest (which has been getting heavier by the moment without such subjects weighing on it). Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. ;)

While I'm here, I will further demonstrate how I am not perfect: Every Saturday, I have a small Sierra Mist soda with my garden salad lunch and Sun Chips. On Halloween, I had my organic dark chocolate, but I did have a single York Peppermint Patty at a restaurant after my shrimp salad. At a Nanowrimo meeting last Saturday, I had a sugar cookie with icing and some Cranberry Sprite (after informing everyone to keep me away from the rest of the cookies, else they disappear.)

Also, if it is a choice between a less healthy food option and not eating at all because of nausea and vomiting, I understand how difficult it can be to make yourself eat when you're not hungry. So if it would otherwise mean starving yourself, then go ahead and eat something. But try your best to make it organic or all natural or some equivalent. The fewer ingredients on the list, the better.

At this point, all I can say is: Blessed be, lots of luck to you other mothers-to-be, and