The pregnancy advice market is filled with quotes like “Listen to your body” or “ You are what you eat” amongst several others. And actually it is really hard to ignore your body when it so readily holds mutinies and starts ordering you about. Your body is wired in such a way, that it forces you to do things like going to bed early or eating enough protein. But in the artificial food scenario of today, a healthy snack is more difficult to come by than an irresistible sugary one.
An this is bad- for the mom and the baby.
Obesity researcher Nicole Avena sets out in her new book, What to Eat When You’re Pregnant, on how it is crucial to avoid overindulgence and the importance of eating healthily when pregnant. Firstly, she says, the average American woman who becomes pregnant is already overweight or obese, which heightens the risk of conditions like pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, and postpartum haemorrhage. And if they were to gain weight when pregnant,this will likely be retained post-pregnancy.
Secondly, many are aware of the fact that what happens in the womb does not stay in the womb. Research that Avena and colleagues have done (mostly in rats) has found that not only can an in-utero diet high in fat or sugar lead to the child growing up obese, but maternal diet, she writes, “can have a long-lasting impact on the offspring’s risk of developing mental-health disorders, impaired social behaviors, lower cognitive abilities and increased response to stress”.
That’s a bitter pill to swallow, especially in a society that seems designed to make people fat and feel validated about it. With more and more individual studies on the impact of maternal behavior being reported, it can feel as though the media is building a case against mothers and their responsibility towards their diets. But instead of fat-shaming the to-be mothers, Avena wants them to eat healthy regardless of their BMI.
So if you are wondering if the ill-effects of the delicious chocolate ice-cream you have been gorging can be somehow erased from your baby, then sadly the answer is no. Avena placed baby rats, born to mothers fed on high-sugar and high-fat diets, with rats on healthy diets – to breastfeed and raise them. “They still grew up to have these changes in the brain, and have propensities to want to consume high-sugar and high-fat foods,” she says. However, as human we still have the benefit of doubt and if self-restraint is taught and the child is brought up to recognize their satiety signals, “then that’s going to mitigate the effects that might have occurred from in-utero exposure”.
But what about those cravings that are synonymous with pregnancy? Avena demystifies cravings by coming up with an approach simply acknowledging and accepting it, instead of caving in or avoiding it all together.This sounds almost impossible but you can plan this out starting with making healthy foods more readily available than the contents of the nearest vending machine, making friends and family aware of the cons of feeding you treats and getting sufficient sleep. Tipping off friends and family to resist feeding you treats helps, too, as does sufficient sleep. All in all, listen to your body, but only when you know its intentions are sound.