I have done short-term transformations for physique competitions. But I am committed to my long-term transformation; staying healthy, strong and lean all year round for the rest of my life. I want to be the best role model to my family.
My top 5 tips for staying healthy during pregnancy
#1 Take the time to focus on your health BEFORE you start trying to get pregnant
Give yourself time, at least two years if possible, to invest and focus on your health. You want to be in the best shape physically, mentally and emotionally before you even start trying to get pregnant.
Forget 12-week diets, 6-week boot camps and 30-day detoxes to get fit and lose weight. These won’t fix any of your problems and will only exacerbate your poor health and lifestyle habits while you are pregnant and beyond.
Make yourself accountable to a coach and invest the time to;
- Learn how to lift weights to build muscle and establish a routine of intense weight training 3-4x a week. Muscle improves your immune system and will reduce the chances of getting sick while pregnant.
- Learn how to set up an environment that supports your body and health. Include time saving strategies to make nutrient dense foods more readily available and replacing the habits that no longer serve the lifestyle you want.
- Eliminate stresses that are detrimental to your happiness, health and well-being. This may include toxic relationships, metabolic blockers such as alcohol, or destructive emotional behaviours. Even the social media content you follow may be unhelpful to your well-being.
- Establish a good sleep routine where you wake up refreshed and energised.
The habits you have before you get pregnant are the ones that you will carry into pregnancy and follow you into parenthood. Getting fit and healthy should not be a knee jerk reaction.
Give yourself plenty of time to create new, healthier habits that will support the role model you envision yourself to be for your new family.
#2 Don’t stress about the stuff you can’t control. Focus on the things you can.
Pregnancy is incredible, but it can be pretty cruel too. From morning sickness, to the overwhelming need to nap when you have a long list of tasks to do, to the thought of coffee making you want to hurl, heartburn after eating your favourite foods, the various aches and pains and propping yourself up on a tower of pillows to sleep, or when your favourite jeans no longer button up and you have to buy your first pair of “stretchy maternity jeans.”
Often it won’t matter what you do or don’t do – you can’t change the symptoms. There is a lot out of your control. But the time will pass, so focus on what you can control, and you will be okay!
I was dry reaching and very nauseous for most of my first four months, and then sporadically in the weeks that followed. For someone who has developed healthier nutritional habits over the years, it really messed with my head to be suddenly eating marmite on toast or a few mouthfuls of stewed apple for breakfast rather than my usual protein packed meals with loads of colourful, fibrous vege. Some days it stayed down, some days it didn’t.
Some days I went to the gym and would stare at the weights, willing them to lift themselves while I tried not to spew. Other days I would have an awesome training session. And then there were days I was better off just going home.
One time I nearly passed out in a café and spent the next two days laying on the couch. This was tough mentally when you know you have loads of work to do.
Don’t stress. Just roll with it. Focus on what you CAN control.
Food prep when you can. Eat small mouthfuls of nutritious food when you can. Stick to your training regime, and make the most of a good session. If it was crap, better luck next time. Make the most of that time on the couch chilling out because tomorrow you could be super productive.
#3 Eat for health, NOT FOR TWO!
Suddenly the morning sickness starts to pass (fingers crossed), your cute little bump starts to pop, your appetite returns, and you begin to feel excited about life again. Although you will need to consume extra calories with each passing trimester, this is not an excuse to eat for two!
It’s an opportunity to eat for health and nurture your growing baby.
Eating small meals frequently packed with proteins, nutrient dense fruits and vegetables and good fats that are full of flavour and keep you satisfied is key. As your belly gets bigger the heartburn is real – it gets tricky to find the balance between getting enough calories in, but not eating too much you feel like you are going to pop and your oesophagus burns from stomach acid!
Omelettes, slow-cooked meals, vege fritters and yogurt with fresh or stewed fruit were delicious go-to’s of mine. Strategically adding in a small amount of higher energy carbs to some meals outside my metabolic window helped too.
If you are craving particular foods – see if you can identify why. I realised I had started to eat chocolate most days.
Was it because I was hungry due to smaller meals and not getting enough calories?
Was it emotional nerves about pending mum-life or stress about business/relationships/life?
Or was it just because it was in the house and I had easy access to it?
While I addressed these possible reasons, it was also possible I could get away with eating a small controlled amount each day. Photos and writing down what you eat each day are great ways to measure how your body is responding.
My goal was to nurture and meet the demands of my growing belly while remaining as healthy as possible, not to double the size of the rest of me!
#4 Listen to your body
Just when you think you have gotten used to one change… the next crazy dose of hormones hits! Learn to be mindful and in-tune with your body. It is pretty good at telling you what’s what.
I took four whole weeks off training around week 20. Weight training only accounts for about 2% of my week, and it’s only as good as the other 98% of my life.
Even though I had turned a corner from the first trimester, the quality of my training sessions were not what I thought they should be. On reflection, I was stressed about how to structure my business while I took maternity leave. I had spent two weekends doing photoshoots (one for me in Melbourne, one for my clients). Our social calendar was hectic. I wasn’t sleeping well. Up early for work at 5am most mornings plus working a few extra hours at the physio clinic. My food prep had started to slip.
I had a lot on my mind and my gut started to let me know about it (my reaction to stress and fatigue).
There was no point in training and adding more stress to my body if I wasn’t backing it up adequately. So I made the decision to take four weeks off. I focused on getting more sleep and managing stress. It made a massive difference. I felt fantastic! My gut was back to normal. I was enjoying my normal foods again, loving the relationship with my partner and itching to get back into a new training program. Another bonus was I didn’t get sick on my holidays which is an absolute first for me.
Throughout my entire pregnancy, I strived to stick my training regime of 3 sessions a week. It stopped being about working at high intensities but simply continuing movement patterns, muscle activation and staying active. Staying in routine. If an exercise no longer felt good, I would swap it for a different exercise that did.
I did a little cardio – walks with friends or climbing Anzac Hill. Breathlessness and pelvic pressure as my bump grew often dictated what felt good here!
The point is – training is important but not at the expense of you or your baby’s health. Your training will only be as good as your recovery. And this will only be as good as how well you are managing your stress, sleep, nutrition etc.
Exercise is only about 2% of your week. You know your body better than anyone. If something isn’t adding up, something needs to change. Listen to your body.
Besides when you have been weight training long enough, a few missed sessions, or even a weeks off is not the end of the world.
#5 Make sleep a priority
Work on getting into a good sleep routine well BEFORE you get pregnant. Sleep is crucial for a strong metabolism and healthy body. If you don’t know what it’s like to wake up feeling refreshed majority of the time, you are missing some huge potential.
Get into a routine of going to bed at an appropriate time to allow for 8-9hrs of quality sleep every night. When you are pregnant, sleep becomes even more important. Plus there is the added challenges of strategically placed pillows and getting up to the bathroom!
If you struggle to fall or stay asleep – talk to your partner, friend, GP or midwife about what’s on your mind. There are a lot of changes to come. It’s ok to feel a bit anxious. But your sleep shouldn’t have to suffer! Get to the bottom of it and enjoy those zzz’s while you can. Because in a few months that will probably go out the window!
Don’t feel bad for taking a rest or a nap during the day. You are growing a small human! You will get tired. Give yourself permission to have a lie down, read a book, or sit out in the sunshine and enjoy a cuppa.