I was interviewed by Cairns-based Philippa Bowman, Pre/Postnatal Fitness Expert at Nurtured Fitness.
To listen to the interview click here, otherwise read the questions and my summary points below:
1. Discuss how there is a lot of expectation that Mums will ‘bounce back’ after childbirth & people becoming obsessed with their diets. There is so many weight loss drinks/supplements targeted at new mums…What is your approach & philosophy to nutrition/diet?
- The expectation of mums will ‘bounce back‘ is everywhere in society. We receive constant messages in our society that our body is not ok the way it is, and we need to fix our body. If your body is not good enough the way it is, how was it able to create a tiny human? Society is heavily invested in making mums/people feel and believe there is something wrong with their bodies. Dieting is the very thing that we are told is the solution to fixing our body and all our issues. E.g. To lose weight, increase beauty, increase health and opportunity. Dieting does not deliver on any of this, and in fact, makes things worse.
- The expectation of the body will ‘bounce back’ leads to the preoccupation of body and preoccupation with food, which leads to dieting and disordered eating. Dieting/disordered eating is a significant risk factor for developing an eating disorder.
- My nutrition philosophy is:
- The non-diet/Health At Every Size®1 approach improves relationships with food and body.
- Food, eating and nutrition aren’t meant to be complicated.
- Food is for nourishment and also enjoyment.
- No one food or nutrient is the problem or needs to be restricted (allergies/intolerances excepted).
- Moderation/balance comes from reconnecting to your internal body cues.
- Positive language and an open mind towards food and your body is essential for health.
2. I’m pregnant and my appetite and cravings increase a lot. We get told not to put on too much weight or that you look ‘really small’! What do pregnant women really need to know about nutrition during pregnancy?
- An increase in appetite is normal and to be expected in pregnancy. It’s the natural biological response of being pregnant and a way of ensuring you eat more to nourish yourself and your baby. The second and third trimester is the time where you will find yourself eating a little bit extra than usual because of the increased requirements to grow your baby. You may find overall that your frequency of eating changes. E.g morning sickness. For me, eating regularly helped to relieve morning sickness, which therefore helped me to feel better. Everyone is different. If you didn’t get hungry, I would be concerned for you. If you ignored your appetite (hunger), I’d also be concerned for you too. Please seek non-diet dietetic advice if you are worried about your appetite or nutrition.
- Just because you eat more, doesn’t mean you will put on weight or “too much” weight (whatever too much weight means). Eating more food does not directly correlate with weight gain. The body is complex. The body will do what it needs to do. Calories in do not equal calories out. This is such an oversimplified way of looking at nutrition, that does not account for the body’s preference for maintaining its body set point or homeostasis. Yes, weight gain in pregnancy is normal, required and to be expected. Dieting and worrying about nutrition or body image is not helpful in pregnancy or at any other times in the lifespan.
- I feel like “You look really small”, is given as a compliment to pregnant women. Yet, this compliment can instil doubt in the minds of those ‘small’ appearing women, thus making them feel like they should have a bigger ‘baby bump’. I find this sad because nobody can tell the health of a person, mum or baby just by looking at them, not even health professionals. Health professionals can only determine the health status of a person by doing a thorough assessment, which involves asking thorough questions.
- Basic nutrition advice for pregnant mums – Food Standards Australia New Zealand recommend folic acid and iodine supplementation for pregnant women. Folic acid is recommended for women planning a pregnancy (about 3 months before conception). Iodine is also recommended during breastfeeding. If you are struggling with nutrition, a multi-vitamin and multi-mineral supplement containing the folic acid and iodine may be helpful. With food, focus on intuitive eating to meet your nutritional requirements.
3. Breastfeeding Mums – Our appetites are often still high during this phase. Some women claim to lose a lot of weight through breastfeeding, while others gain weight or lose weight when they stop breastfeeding. How can we take the emphasis off weight & not compare our experiences to anyone else around us? What do our bodies need at this time?
- Yes, body weight changes are different for different people and it can’t be controlled. This is why the focus needs to be on health – eating and lifestyle behaviours – health-promoting behaviours – how you feel. You will get benefit from doing this and your weight may decline or increase as a side effect, but the point is you improve your energy and health…and you will feel great!
- The way we take the emphasis off weight is to change our mindset around weight.
- I heard a saying recently that “you compare you feel despair”. Comparisonitis is toxic and does nobody any good.
- I recommended following/liking body positive advocates like Philippa and myself to flood your social media feeds with positive feel-good messages that supports nutrition, your body image, self-esteem and physical and mental health.
- Mums need good nutrition and self-care at this time.
4. Many Mum’s find lunchtime a really challenging meal because we don’t often know what is going to happen. Will our child have a sleep, resist the sleep, unexpected visitors etc?? Is there a way to get through this period without the overwhelm or surviving off toddler scraps?
- Ask visitors to bring lunch/food.
- Prepare food earlier in the day when you have an opportunity…a bit like making school lunches.
- Have leftovers handy, frozen meals (people fear frozen meals – food is food and it makes a great choice at the time).
- Eat when your child eats or at least check in with your body to see what it needs.
- Try not to skip meals and eat regularly, as skipping meals will affect your energy levels, mentality, milk supply if feeding and make you really hungry, which can result in binge-like behaviour. Bingeing is a normal biological reaction to restriction…and dieting!
5. What do Mum’s really need to know and what are we being misled about? Is there a practical way for women who are easily distracted by their young families to tune into their bodies & enjoy meal time.
I feel mums are misled about many things these days, however, one thing for certain is, mums are misled into believing that their body will ‘bounce back’ quickly to pre-pregnancy shape, size and weight AND that there is something wrong with the new ‘mum’ body.
The other significant thing that mums are misled about is that weight is something that can be controlled (in the long-term) with food and exercise (aka dieting).
I like to keep things really simple:
- Change your mindset…about food and movement. It has to be realistic and sustainable in your new role as a mum. If you find yourself fixated on your food/body then this is a sign something is not right and you need to seek professional help.
- Always forget the fads or latest diet. If it sounds too good to be true….It usually is. Dieting makes people heavier and does not produce long-term results. Dieting causes more harm than good. Don’t even talk about diets…Diet talk is so boring and wastes so much time and energy in the process!
- Make peace with your body. Your body is amazing!! You don’t need to fix it with food/exercise. Instead, use food/exercise to nourish yourself and make yourself feel better.
- Find the joy in eating by choosing foods you actually feel like, rather than what you think or what you have been told to eat…this is dieting behaviour.
- Preserve your time and energy to focus on what truly matters to you. Your time and energy is a precious resource.
- Trust yourself always with food and exercise! You are so resourceful. You are stronger and smarter (and more beautiful) than you realise or give yourself credit for. This trust or lack of trust flows onto every aspect of life – A recipe for many issues.