Considering stepping into the Intuitive Eating space but worried about the impact it will have on your pregnancy and Gestational Diabetes?
What if I told you that Intuitive Eating is not only possible, it’s actually BENEFICIAL for those who have GD!
Don’t believe me? Let’s break it down…
First off… What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy in people who don’t already have diabetes. Every year, 2% to 10% of pregnancies in the United States are affected by gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes occurs when your body can’t make enough insulin during your pregnancy. Some folks will have insulin resistance before they even get pregnant (and are at higher risk for developing GD), but during pregnancy your body makes more hormones and goes through other changes, such as weight gain. These changes cause your body’s cells to use insulin less effectively (insulin resistance).
Common signs of Gestational Diabetes include:
- Increased thirst. Drinking more than normal and feeling like you’re always thirsty
- Fatigue. Pregnancy can make you tired, but GD can make the exhaustion feel somewhat unbearable!
- Dry mouth. A parched mouth, despite drinking a lot
You are at an increased risk for developing GD if:
- You are older than 25 years old
- Family history of type 2 diabetes
- Personal history of prediabetes
- Gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies
- You are in a larger body
- Non-white race
Traditional advice for those with GD
“Traditional” GD management advice (i.e. the pamphlet you get from your doctor or unsolicited speech from Jenny at book club) involves a set or rigid rules you are expected to follow to a T in order to have a “healthy” baby and pregnancy. This advice often includes a list of “good vs bad” foods, guidance that tells you to restrict all carbs, measure foods, practice portion control, and many things you likely enjoy. While there is typically a wide range of diets and foods that can be involved in blood sugar management, traditional advice will oversimplify a very nuanced health concern.
The dangers of following “traditional GD advice”
It is always dangerous to generalize what a large population “should and shouldn’t” be eating, but is especially dangerous when those rules involve restriction. Encouraging black vs white, good vs bad thinking around food can lead to the demonization of nourishment your body literally needs to survive. Constantly tracking and stressing over food can create disordered eating habits such as…
- Frequent dieting, anxiety associated with specific foods or meal skipping
- Chronic weight fluctuations
- Rigid rituals and routines surrounding food and exercise
- Feelings of guilt and shame associated with eating
- Preoccupation with food, weight and body image that negatively impacts quality of life
- A feeling of loss of control around food, including compulsive eating habits
- Using exercise, food restriction, fasting or purging to “make up for bad foods” consumed
and even full blown eating disorders such as Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, and more. Restriction during pregnancy can lead to harmful habits and thoughts that carry on well beyond pregnancy, which begs the question “is it really worth it”? And before you say “yes, Emily I will do anything to keep my baby healthy”, but what if that didn’t have to include restriction and demonizing carbs? What if there was a more holistic, enjoyable, and sustainable route you could take to manage your blood sugars and have a healthy pregnancy with Gestational Diabetes? Enter… Intuitive Eating.
So what is Intuitive Eating and how does it relate to GD management?
Intuitive Eating involves practicing mindful eating while taking note of the physical and emotional sensations you experience while eating.
There are 10 essential principles to Intuitive Eating:
- Reject the diet mentality
- Recognize your hunger
- Make peace with food
- Challenge the ‘food police’
- Feel your fullness
- Discover the satisfaction factor
- Cope with your feelings without using food
- Respect your body
- Movement- feel the difference
- Honor Your health- Gentle Nutrition
Intuitive Eating is a rejection of diet culture and restriction. It’s all about developing and fostering self trust in an attempt to be able to understand your body cues, honor them, and move on. No calorie counting, ruminating, or guilt over what you eat. It’s about making peace with ALL foods and responding to your body’s needs with compassion instead of judgment.
Next steps- how to start incorporating Intuitive Eating for Gestational Diabetes today
I know you may be thinking “Emily, that’s a long list… where do I start?!” It can be overwhelming to give up diets and try something new- especially in the face of a Gestational Diabetes diagnosis. This is why I always encourage folks to reach out to a Dietitian for guidance on this journey, especially if you have GD or know you are at higher risk for developing GD. Intuitive Eating is a lifelong practice, not just something for pregnancy. The principles you learn through Intuitive Eating are principles you will learn for life (and will eventually become second nature).
Start small by giving up diets and trying to learn more about Intuitive Eating. IF you feel you’d like some guidance on your journey to lasting body and food peace, I would love to support you.
I am a Gestational Diabetes Dietitian & Full Spectrum Doula who is passionate about helping folks manage gestational diabetes from a holistic perspective with intuitive eating and body kindness for a healthy, happy pregnancy and beyond.
Click this link to book a FREE discovery call to learn more about me and how I can help.