Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Paleo and pregnancy weight gain

Paleo and pregnancy weight gain (and losing the baby weight)

I have a rant today about pregnancy weight gain, and the subsequent dreaded "losing the baby weight".  I heard horror stories from lots of people about ridiculous weight gain during pregnancy and how Very Long it takes to lose said weight after the baby comes.  A complete stranger at the climbing gym told me that she gained 70 pounds with her first pregnancy and 60 with her second!  NOT twins by the way. 

The weight issue has been a non-issue for me, and I think that is because I kept a strict Paleo diet throughout my pregnancy and after giving birth.  I gained a total of 25 pounds during my pregnancy (started at 127, ended at 152), and I went 10 days past my due date.  By the 10th day post-partum, I was down to 133, within 6 pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight. 

Throughout pregnancy (and after), I never dieted, and I never thought about food quantity, only food quality.  I strictly avoided gluten grains, indulged in other grains very rarely (maybe once a month), dabbled a little in high-fat dairy but had to scrap that experiment when I broke out, and kept my sugar intake pretty low.  I didn't even worry about total carb intake too much, increasing the amount of fruit and sweet potatoes I ate and adding in occasional white potatoes.  Most of my diet was grass-fed/pastured meat, eggs, vegetables and fruit, butter, coconut, and plenty of dark chocolate.  I felt satisfied and had plenty of energy. 

I wanted to put this out there because a lot of women feel powerless over their bodies during and after pregnancy, and they can gain control by cutting out those stupid "healthy whole grains".  I read so much bullshit nutrition advice on pregnancy websites, encouraging snacks like low-fat yogurt, peanut butter, bread and crackers - not to mention all the excuses about how you need to "treat yourself" and the cultural indulgence for downing large quantities of ice cream and candy when you're pregnant.  It drove me crazy.  This is the worst advice, guaranteed to make you put on too much weight.  And we wonder why the numbers of women with gestational diabetes keep rising? 

I'm awfully glad I didn't listen to conventional wisdom about pregnancy nutrition and instead made an effort to understand the actual research and mechanisms.  People will say that I'm "lucky" because I didn't gain much weight and lost it so quickly.  But I bristle at that.  I worked hard to eat healthy foods, I didn't indulge in junk food, and it was not always easy.  But I knew that by choosing the right foods and avoiding problematic ones, I was doing the best I could for my and my baby's health, and as a nice benefit (or even as evidence of the healthiness of this approach), I kept control over my weight.

Yes, every woman's body is different.  Not everyone is going to have the exact same experience as I did.  But how many women could reduce or even eliminate their struggles with baby weight if they just gave a grain-free diet a try?  Most will never know because they will never hear about it, are afraid of contradicting their doctor, or just don't want to be bothered to give up their favorite foods.  I just want to encourage people to give it a try and see how nice it is to retain control over your body.  It is empowering and will only bolster your and your baby's health. 


Lauren Bradley said...

I'm glad to see this, I'm 16 weeks pregnant and stick to a primal diet. I do use high fat content grass-fed organic dairy products in order to get more saturated fat in my diet, so I call it primal not paleo. In the past four months I've only gained a two pounds and I can't see how I'm supposed to gain the 35-40 pounds suggest by most "common wisdom." I was starting to get concerned about my low weight gain but I'm not anymore. I'll just keep doing what we do and the baby will be fine. When did you put on the majority of your 25 pounds?

Amy said...

Hi Lauren. Only 2 pounds does seem low for 16 weeks, but a lot depends on your starting weight/body composition. I started out lean, around 18% body fat, so I put on 5 pounds right away, probably closer to 10 by the beginning of the second trimester. The majority of the weight I put on late 2nd/early 3rd trimester, then it slowed down again. At 16 weeks, your kiddo is still pretty tiny - when he/she starts getting bigger you'll probably notice more weight gain. If you stick to a primal diet, I think you'll find it worth it in so many ways. My son is now 4 months and very healthy and happy, much of which I attribute to my diet when he was developing. Just a caveat: I am not a doctor, so I can only give my perspective, not any real medical advice.

Anonymous said...

Amy that is how my pregnancy is going, I am 5 1/2 weeks and I feel like I have put on 5lbs already (no scale so I am not sure). I was extremely lean an athletic to start with so I figure my body is trying to put on a little "insurance policy" fat.

Dannie Boyd said...

May I ask how much your son weighed at birth? Also, what did your OB think of your diet? I know these are personal questions. For some reason, I worry about low birth weight. I think because this lifestyle is new to me. I'm trying to gather more evidence before I take the plunge. Thanks!

Amy said...

Hi Dannie. My son weighed 7 lbs 1 oz at birth and gained at a normal rate (and continues to do so - he is almost 18 mos now). He continues to be super, super healthy. When I was pregnant, I had a bad experience with my OB practice and left them for a group of nurse midwives. They get more training than regular midwives, and this group operated out of the same hospital as my former OB GYN group. That meant that the OBs were there for an emergency, but I only ended up seeing the midwives. They were very supportive of my diet, as it was highly nutrient-rich and based in whole foods. Their biggest concern that they see is with people who don't eat meat because that's where growth can be an issue. There's really nothing to fear with a paleo/primal approach. Eat lots of high-quality meats, fats, veggies, and whole fruits. There's no reason it has to be low-carb - just avoid the grains and instead eat sweet potatoes, squash, even some white potatoes without the skin. Check out some testimonials at or They both partner with Chris Kresser's The Healthy Baby Code. These are great resources for paleo/primal pregnant mamas and they have much more info for your OB to look at. Be aware that doctors are not always open-minded and can freak out when you tell them you're cutting out a food group like grains or dairy. The MD behind their name doesn't mean they're correct. You can be empowered to do your own research and make your own decisions.

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