Pregnancy is a time when your body requires more nourishment as you’re growing a new human being. Here’s what to know if you’re constantly feeling hungry.
BY: CRYSTAL KARGES, MS, RDN, IBCLC
There’s nothing that can make you question your sanity like the experience of pregnancy hunger.
Hunger during pregnancy can take on a whole new level of intensity as your body works to tell you what it needs to grow your baby and sustain a healthy pregnancy. While feeling and honoring hunger cues are a normal part of a good relationship with food, hunger during pregnancy can sometimes seem scary or even confusing.
When you experience hunger in pregnancy, you might be wondering:
“Why am I hungry all the time?”
“Is it normal for me to feel so hungry?”
“Does my body really need more food right now?”
“Can my body be trusted with extra calories?”
“Is my weight gain going to spiral out of control?”
Pregnancy hunger can sometimes feel chaotic and out-of-control. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The truth is that your body is fully capable of doing what it needs to do to keep you and your baby healthy, and most of all, your body can be trusted.
This is where intuitive eating can be helpful, as a way to support you through seasons where your body might feel a bit foreign to you. No matter what changes your body is going through, you can learn how to dial in to exactly what your body needs and feel confident to give your body just that.
Before we talk about how intuitive eating can help you navigate pregnancy hunger, let’s step back first.
Why can hunger feel so much more intense and frequent during pregnancy, and is this normal?
For starters, you are completely normal, mama! Your body is undergoing so many changes in a short period of time to grow your sweet baby, and it is working hard.
To ensure that your body is getting adequate nutrition during this process, you may feel more intense hunger than normal, or you may feel hungry more frequently. This can be especially true if:
- You’re coming out of the first trimester.
- You’ve experienced weight loss in early pregnancy.
- You dealt with morning sickness.
- You’ve had increased movement and activity in any particular day.
- You’re continuing to breastfeed another child while pregnant.
- You’re carrying multiples.
- You have a history of restricting or chronic dieting.
The fact is, our bodies are so smart.
They are constantly taking information from inside and out, and recalibrating based on the different changes we are going through. Your body knows what it needs to function at its best.
During pregnancy, changes that are happening in your body as your baby grows will require additional nutrients and calories to support these changes. Your body will respond appropriately by prompting increased hunger cues when you need more nutrition to support changes such as:
- Your body made a placenta, a whole new organ to support your baby.
- Your blood volume will increase by up to 50% by 34 weeks of pregnancy.
- Your breast tissues have increased so you can feed your baby.
- Your body is growing a whole new human being, from scratch.
Phew! Aren’t you tired even thinking about how hard your body is working to grow your precious baby? And because your body needs more nutrition and calories to support these changes, it is very common to have periods of time in pregnancy where your stomach might feel like a bottomless pit.
Even if this hunger seems more intense than anything you’ve ever experienced before, it is not something to fear. It’s simply your body’s way of telling you it needs more energy to do the jobs involved with growing a baby.
If you feel out-of-control with pregnancy hunger, this is where intuitive eating can be helpful. Here’s how you can start practicing it during pregnancy.
HAVE UNCONDITIONAL PERMISSION TO EAT.
Being an intuitive eater helps you explore your body and the cues that it is giving you from a place of curiosity rather than judgement. When you can practice this mindset shift, you are free to give your body the food that it needs with unconditional permission to nourish your body appropriately.
GET OFF THE DIETING ROLLER COASTER (FOR GOOD!)
Pregnancy diets (or any other diet for that matter) are completely unethical, harmful and ineffective. It’s common to want to turn to a diet or outside set of rules when you feel like you can’t trust your own body.
As you rebuild trust with your body through intuitive eating, you will build confidence in yourself as the expert of your own body. This means you can stop listening to the external guidelines for eating and throw all diets out the window – for good.
BUILD PEACE WITH FOOD OVER THE LONG TERM.
The premise of intuitive eating is building trust with your body. For some women, it takes time to learn how to listen to your body again and to trust it as the expert of what you need.
When you take back ownership of your basic eating signals, you can truly make peace with food over the course of your lifetime and become a healthier person overall.
BE EMPOWERED TO HONOR YOUR HUNGER.
Hunger is not meant to be something to fear, resist or control. Hunger is our bodies way of communicating with us when there is something we need.
Eating and enjoying food are basic needs that every human deserves. Every time we respond to what our bodies need and honor our hunger, we build trust with ourselves.
FOCUS ON THE SATISFACTION FACTOR.
Attunement to your body’s satiety cues is an equally important part of intuitive eating. Exploring what foods feel good in your body during pregnancy is needed to help you feel satisfied.
Eating whatever you feel like without regard for your hunger and fullness cues is not part of eating intuitively. Allow yourself the space to rediscover what foods bring contentment and satisfaction in your body. Keep in mind that this might change throughout pregnancy – that is perfectly normal and okay!
Ultimately, these tools will help you respond to your body and hunger/fullness cues from a place of trust and confidence, rather than a place of fear and uncertainty. This is important for overall health, no matter what stage of life you’re in. Some quick, practical tips for responding to pregnancy hunger could include:
- Eat frequently throughout the day. This might include having 3 meals and 3 snacks or something along the lines of this meal pattern.
- Combine protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats at each time you eat to help promote satiety.
- Continue to take your prenatal vitamins to support your nutrient needs.
- Avoid dehydration by drinking adequate fluids throughout the day.
- Keep nutrient dense snacks in easy to access places, like your purse or car, so you are never without food when hunger strikes.
Throughout your pregnancy (and lifetime), remember that you can trust your body. You can build an alliance with your body rather than fear or resist the ways it it trying to keep you (and your baby), alive, nourished, and safe.
If you’ve had a hard time responding to what your body needs, use pregnancy as a time of appreciation for what your body is capable of doing. Practice being kind toward your body by feeding it well and nurturing yourself, physically and mentally.
From there, you can trust the information your body is giving you to help guide your eating during your pregnancy –
And throughout your life.
Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: KAROLINA GRABOWSKA
Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Board Certified Lactation Consultant, & mama of 5. With a virtual nutrition practice, Crystal helps overwhelmed mamas nurture a peaceful relationship with food & their bodies, end the battles at the dinner table and transform their kitchens to place of peace & joy. Learn more at Crystal Karges Nutrition.
Thanks for such a ideas. I’m experiencing it a lot right now
Thank you thank you thank you for this article. I’m in the first trimester (first pregnancy) and feel like a bottomless pit lately. This was so reassuring I actually teared up reading it! As someone who has always had a bad relationship to food (what person socialized as a woman doesn’t?), I really do hope pregnancy will be a time I can learn to come to terms with seeing food as neutral, meant for nourishment, comfort and enjoyment. I love the intuitive eating idea and have been fighting against internalized fatphobia for years! This is so lovely. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart (and my stomach!).
Thanks for the tips