10 Tips For Healthy Weight Gain in Pregnancy

There are so many frustrating things that go along with pregnancy. We are bombarded with so many new things to worry about and plan, and with our first kids most of us aren’t worried about the weight. We just eat and plan and worry.

But, those cravings catch up with us. Before a lot of us know it, we’ve gained as much as recommended and then some and we still have months to go! For some reason, pregnancy seems to help us keep on every extra calorie and it can be rough to control those cravings and the extra hunger.

So, what are we supposed to do? How do you keep your weight gain to a minimum while still indulging in the cravings, keeping up with the intense hunger, and getting the nutrition your baby needs?

With my first I gained 50 pounds, and I was already overweight, so the recommendation for me was 15-20 pounds total. Needless to say, I had a LOT of extra left over after the baby was born and breastfeeding didn’t help one iota. This time around I’m working my butt off to keep my weight gain minimal and I’ve been successful so far.

I decided to write down some of the things I’ve done differently this time. Hopefully these will be helpful to you whether you’re a first time mom, or a seasoned mother trying to finally have a healthy pregnancy. Best of luck!

Be realistic with your goals

If you’re pregnant, you’re going to gain weight. I have gotten pretty frustrated with the doctors who seem to talk only about weight. I know there are more important things in pregnancy than gaining a little extra chub. And truthfully, it’s not the end of the world if you have some extra baby weight afterwards. Having kids changes our bodies; even if you don’t gain a pound your body will look a little different. 

So I don’t think it’s kind to scare women into not gaining any weight and sticking to a strict diet during pregnancy. Babies make us hungry and sometimes I wonder if the doctors demanding these strict weight gain limits on us have ever had children of their own.

Looking at all of this logically, here is the weight gain that is necessary and inevitable:

  •  Baby: 6-10 pounds
  •  Placenta: 2-3 pounds
  •  Amniotic fluid: 2-3 pounds
  •  Breast tissue: 2-3 pounds
  •  Blood supply: 4 pounds
  • Stored fat for delivery and breastfeeding: 5-9 pounds
  • Larger uterus: 2-5 pounds
  • Total: 25-35 pounds

Even if you are already overweight, asking you to only gain 15-20 pounds is literally asking you to lose weight. They say “don’t lose weight when you’re pregnant”, but they are actually expecting you to without saying it. In my opinion, this is wrong.

You NEED to gain 25-35 pounds, regardless of your weight. If you’re obese, maybe you should lose weight while pregnant. I’m not a doctor. But if you’re of an average weight and can function in a healthy way, my personal opinion is 25-35 pounds regardless. You can try to lose weight AFTER the baby is born.

And if you gain 40? Just chill. It’s gonna be fine. You may not lose all the baby weight right away… that’s a myth for sure. It won’t melt off, even if you’re young. Extra fat is extra fat. Being pregnant doesn’t change that. But extra fat isn’t the end of the world either. Be practical and realistic and don’t get hung up on every ounce.

Weigh yourself every day

With all of that said, there is also benefit to keeping tabs on your weight gain. I think part of the problem with my first is that I didn’t have a scale in the house. The only place I was seeing my weight was at my monthly doctors visits and an occasional visit to my mother’s bathroom (where I was clothed and it was usually halfway through the day).

There is so much benefit to weighing yourself at the same time every day, on the same scale, wearing the same thing. This is because it isn’t the exact number that matters, it’s how quickly those numbers are changing. I weigh 5 extra pounds at the doctors office because I am wearing clothes, shoes, sometimes have a phone in my pocket, have already eaten a few meals, and it’s the middle of the day and I’m a bit swollen.

But the number isn’t what matters. What matters is watching how quickly I’m gaining. I know that if I weigh myself right after I pee, first thing in the morning, and I’ve gained 2 pounds since yesterday, that my diet was off. Either I ate too much, didn’t move enough, or I need to poop.

This helps me to assess my diet and exercise and see if what I’m doing is working. I should be gaining a few ounces a week, not 5 pounds in a week. When I see my weight shoot up, I am able to think through what I’m doing and make small changes that keep me on track. It’s not about being obsessive, it’s about making sure that my lifestyle is conductive to healthy weight gain.

Follow a “weight gain” plan

Okay, so it may be a bit controversial among mothers about whether or not you should look at something as strict as a weight gain plan during pregnancy. But, this pregnancy weight gain calculator is SUPER helpful. The biggest downside to getting something like this is the temptation to freak out if you don’t follow it exactly. The plan will tell you to gain a few ounces-1 pound every week of your pregnancy, which shocker, isn’t how it works in real life.

You will go for weeks without gaining anything and then gain 5 pounds in a month. It’s going to happen. I tried to just stay under the biggest number. Thankfully, there was quite a range for each week of what was an “appropriate” weight. If I went over the largest number, I would try to scale back on snacks and take some extra walks and I would end up back in the healthy range.

This goes right along with weighing yourself regularly. You just need to be aware of what’s happening and keep tabs on it. It’s not about obsessing, just about being aware.

Don’t eat for two…

In fact, my best advice is to not eat anything extra at all! UNLESS you’re one of those crazy people who struggles to get enough calories..but I was actually one of these people! Before pregnancy, because of health issues, I actually struggled to maintain weight and couldn’t seem to hold on to my calories.

However, as soon as I got pregnant, my body grabbed onto everything and I’ve gained just fine (a little too well in my opinion!). The majority of us women will do just fine gaining weight. Don’t be worried about your baby getting enough. Worst case scenario, if you don’t get enough, they will suck it out of you (more on that later) and you might lose fat from your body, or have muscle loss or tooth decay. But your baby is going to be fine unless you’re literally starving.

Your body is going to make sure that baby gets what it needs. Yes, they will tell you you need this many extra calories in each trimester, but I’ve noticed in my own diet that I just automatically start taking in those extra calories.

My best advice is to not make any attempts to add more calories and to just eat when you’re hungry. Definitely don’t eat if you’re not hungry. Your body will let you know what you need.

Drink tons of water

This is one of the simplest points. I don’t have a lot of advice for you. Just do it. Do it for your baby. Pregnancy requires TONS more fluid intake. You have to make amniotic fluid, double your blood supply, and drink enough to keep your baby hydrated. That means getting lots more water than you did before pregnancy. If you aren’t peeing every 20 minutes or so, you’re not getting enough water. Drink, drink, drink.

Hot or cold, flavored or plain. Just drink. Caffeine is potentially dangerous for fetuses in large amounts, and the sugar from juice, soda and coffee creamer will add up to extra weight gain for you. But honestly, I would venture to say it’s much better to be hydrated and gain way too much weight than it would be to be dehydrated and stay in the recommend weight gain.

If you must drink flavored things to get your hydration, do what you have to do. Just watch your caffeine intake. Dilute gatorade or lemonade or juice if you have to. Try fruit infusion water bottles. Drink decaf tea and coffee as much as you like! Just get those fluids so you can have a healthier and more comfortable pregnancy.

Keep moving

The first trimester is really difficult. I would guess that it’s probably pretty common to lay around those first 3 months. This time around, I was literally on the couch all day every day while my toddler watched TV. I didn’t eat, didn’t clean, didn’t do anything. It was rough.

But, thankfully, most of us won’t gain much, if any, weight during the first trimester. Especially if you’re nauseous at all. That means that by the time our nausea goes away and we get our energy back up, we’re at the same size we were before so we can easily get back into an exercise routine.

The easiest thing to do is exercise from as early on as you can so you can grow your muscles along with your weight gain. And even if all you do is walk, keep moving so that you can have a strong frame to hold your baby throughout pregnancy and after they are born! 

You don’t have to be a weight lifter or do full workout routines. All you need to do is keep active and busy and don’t let yourself give into the desire to sit around. Pregnancy is exhausting, but believe it or not, laying around makes you even more tired! If you want to be able to function in the 3rd trimester and get through labor, you need to move that body now. Remember: you’re only going to get bigger, so prepare your body to be strong enough to handle the weight!

Watch your portion sizes

Earlier, I talked about how your body will make sure you get enough food. And it’s true. If you don’t watch out you might start taking in larger portion sizes without even realizing it. This happened with my first. I really didn’t think I had changed my diet at all! I was eating the same types of foods and the same amount of meals every day.

I didn’t realize until I was eating out with a friend and I looked at her plate and realized that I was eating AT LEAST double of what she was, if not more. I was so shocked I was gaining weight so quickly, and when I “tracked” my calories I just chose the normal serving size instead of actually measuring my portion sizes. I had tricked myself into thinking I was healthy because of the types of foods I was choosing (which is obviously important), but I had forgotten that portion size matters just as much when it comes to weight gain.

The absolute best way to get more calories in your diet to help the baby get what it needs is to have more snacks throughout the day. If you start expanding your portion sizes, you will stretch out your stomach and your body will demand that much food after the baby is born. If you just eat lots of small meals, you can more easily go back to your previous calorie consumption after baby and it won’t affect you as much.

Other benefits to 6-7 small meals a day are more options for variety and better nutrition, keeping your blood sugar level to prevent gestational diabetes and keep a steady flow of nutrients to your baby, and making you more likely to get what you really need instead of just pigging out.

Focus on your muscles

Exercise during pregnancy should not be for weight loss, and honestly it wouldn’t help anyways. Keeping your muscle tone during pregnancy will help you to manage your weight because your muscles need fed! It will give you a little wiggle room with your food intake, and will also make you feel a lot better.

A big motivator for me to work out (I didn’t work out before pregnancy at all!) was that I wanted to have a cute baby belly. Last time I looked alright, but it was my first. That pregnancy left me with a wobbly lower belly and I really, really didn’t want to just look like a bloated cow. Just the little bit of exercise I have done has given me stronger back and abdominal muscles and my belly looks firm and high and I have had no lower back pain this time around. I’m positive it has to do with having stronger abdominal muscles than I did the first time around.

Once I had eased out of my morning sickness, I began doing short zumba routines on youtube and strength training videos. Only 10-20 minutes a day and I was feeling so strong! This pregnancy I’ve had FAR less pain that I did with my son. If your muscle tone is good you will be able to hold up the weight of your growing uterus and baby so much easier and you will feel much better.

Exercise to be strong for your kids. Exercise to look good. Exercise to have more energy. Exercise to carry your baby better. Exercise for a faster and easier labor. It’s worth it.

Make your calories count

I know this “phrase” is over done, and I actually get irritated when I hear it. But it’s true. You need more calories when pregnant, but if those calories are coming from soda and cookies instead of fruit juice and bread, they will go 100% to your fat gain and not to your baby’s development (because there are no nutrients in those foods to help your baby grow!). Believe it or not, you can actually eat tons of food and have an unhealthy baby. It’s not just about the calories… it’s about the nutrients you feed your baby so they can grow to be strong and healthy.

When you’re tempted to fill yourself with empty calories, imagine your child being knit together in your womb. Their intricate nervous system, brain, and heart are being grown right now. What you eat fuels that growth and ultimately affects how well they grow. There is nothing wrong with having some empty calories every day to treat yourself. I usually eat a cookie, cup of ice cream or 1-2 cans of soda each day. I’m not perfect! But I also do my best to make sure that the bulk of my calories come from nutrient rich food to feed my baby the things he needs to have a healthy body for the rest of his life. It’s my job as a mama!

Don’t let your child suck the life out of you (literally!)

Another thing to consider when choosing your food (I didn’t think about this when I was pregnant with my first child) is that your child NEEDS nutrients to develop. They will ultimately get what they need, but if you aren’t getting those extra nutrients through your diet, your child will literally suck them out of your body. This means fatigued muscles, exhaustion, dizziness, blurry vision, sensitive teeth (and possible tooth decay!), thinning hair, and gross skin for you.

When I was pregnant with my first, I gained 50 pounds. I also had all of the symptoms I listed above. I didn’t understand why no matter how much I ate I was still exhausted and weak and dizzy. I didn’t have the pregnancy glow… my skin was grey and covered in acne and my hair never got thick like other women talk about. My baby was tall, but he came out super scrawny. His organs developed just fine but he didn’t have any meat on his bones.

Now that I’m pregnant again, I’m much thinner and have taken care to eat on purpose. I have much more energy and stamina, my skin is gorgeous and glowing, my hair is thick and full, my muscles aren’t achey and I feel amazing. Simply because I’m getting the nutrition I need from my diet and exercising to keep my muscles strong, I feel dramatically different than I did with my first. I don’t have the sciatica, back pain, headaches, or trouble sleeping that I had with my first. The first time I didn’t believe that it mattered what I ate because I was pregnant… I thought that was a free ticket to eat whatever I pleased. I was so wrong, and I’m glad that I have found ways to do better this time. Hopefully it will result in an easier birth and healthier child!

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