Throughout my adult life I have eaten and drunk exactly what I wanted, when I wanted. Although, this is not actually true. I thought this was the case, until I fell pregnant.
The first trimester was a struggle. I was lucky enough not to suffer the way some women do, but there was still fairly constant nausea, occasional random voms and an overwhelming inability to eat anything healthy. Early on, I had a meal I would usually have loved: sweet potato bake, fresh cherry tomatoes, fresh avocado. I choked down four bites before abandoning the plate in favour of a tub of Ben & Jerry’s. Pregnancy literature including websites and, dare I say it, forums, claims that if you don’t eat healthily you’re setting your child up for failure from the get-go, but what are you meant to do if you just can’t face steamed broccoli and brown rice?
In the early stages of pregnancy I ate carbs, pretty much exclusively. Macaroni cheese by the plateful, more veggie burgers than I can shake a stick at, pizza – so, so much pizza. I scoffed buckets of ice cream and topped them off with popcorn. I was hungry, but only for food I’d always been told was bad for me. And do you know what happened? I took on nutrients (yes, even from evil cheese sauce!), I felt energised, I put on the recommended amount of weight, and eventually I was able to look a salad leaf in the face again. The midwife told me that as long as I was eating, it didn’t matter what I was eating.
I always thought I didn’t have hang ups about food. I thought I ordered dessert if I wanted it, but that I just didn’t often want it. I thought I had a healthy attitude to food, and perhaps I did. I’m seeing now, though, that perhaps I didn’t. I think back to all the times I scoured the dessert menu and opted for a coffee instead, all the times I had a glass of water instead of a sandwich. There have been times in my life where I have had to count calories to make sure I was eating enough every day. Times where I’ve been running thirty-five miles a week on 1800 calories a day, certain that I was doing it right because I followed portion sizes and focused on vegetables and limited treats. Times where I’ve been to the doctor feeling shattered, most likely because I wasn’t getting enough from my standard meal of veg and eggs on brown toast.
There has to be a balance. I enjoyed the first few months as much as anybody enduring nausea and bone-crushing fatigue can hope to, and I’m glad I’m now able to face whole grains, fruit, veg and beans most days. But those first few months taught me that my attitude to food has been sorely misguided up until now. In the future, no matter if I’m pregnant or not, if I want dessert, I’m getting dessert.