Pregnant Pause: Digesting Junk Food and Unwanted Opinions

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junk foodI’m stating the obvious, I know, but every single pregnancy decision you make is rife with potential controversy. Absolute strangers feel perfectly fine in their own heads about offering their opinions, advice, or finger-shaking at the slightest provocation.

I’ll never forget the night I went to a dinner party and it came up that we were going to find out the sex of the baby. “Oh, I wouldn’t do that,” one old biddy advised me, “You really should be surprised.” I’m sorry lady, but do I even know your name? More to the point, do you know mine?!

Luckily, my backbone was firmly in place and I calmly and decisively delivered my prepared statement: “We think it’s a surprise at any point in pregnancy, and I’d rather not be hopped up on drugs when we do find out.” Then I braced myself for the unasked-for lecture on unmedicated births, but happily, I was spared that.

This is the deal: your pregnancy, your decisions. Unless you are causing physical harm to yourself or your baby, no one has the right to make you feel guilty or like a bad mother. NO ONE.

And that goes for your food choices as well. A fellow pregnant friend had to deal with a co-worker, who was all Judgey McOpinionPants that my friend hadn’t given up sugar for her pregnancy.

Personally, this pregnancy turned me into a Salt Vampire. Usually fairly light-handed in my application of salt in the past, I have really been piling it on recently. Which is odd because with my pregnancy-endowed super smeller, it would seem to follow that I’ve got a super taster as well, right? So why the need to increase my blood pressure?

Well, some articles, books, or blog posts might tell me that I’m craving salt because the baby wants minerals he’s otherwise lacking. These same articles also tell me that I don’t want chocolate because the baby is telling me to eat healthy food. So, then I gotta ask: what is said baby is trying to tell me when I crave McDonald’s cheeseburgers, Safeway doughnuts, and root beer?

Look, I know there are pregnant chicks out there who make the irrevocable decision to eat healthy, healthy, healthy their entire pregnancy and that’s admirable, it really is. However, for me, it wasn’t at all reasonable in the first trimester. And by “reasonable” I mean, “either I eat this bag of Cheetos or the kid starves because everything else is making me nauseous.”

Ironically, I was a fairly healthy eater before I got pregnant. I ate mostly grains, legumes, and vegetables with fish and some meats mixed in. I didn’t overdo it in the dessert department, and I tried to restrain my rampant cheese obsession. Also, we mostly cooked at home with only occasional dinings-out.

That all went out the window in weeks 6-13 where I scarfed every possible item of junk food known to man and couldn’t bear to set foot in the kitchen.

At my first doctor’s appointment, I had to fill out a sheet describing what I had eaten in the previous week. This was my menu: hot dogs, grilled cheese, cookies, Totino’s pizza, apples, crackers, water. My UCSF midwife smiled at the list. “This reads like one of my pregnant teenagers,” she commented. I hurriedly told her that normally I was a really healthy eater and that I knew I had to get good stuff in my body for the baby. She calmed me down and said it was perfectly normal and no, I wasn’t already a bad mother.

After I got past my nauseous stage, my body went back to allowing in all the stuff from my old diet without kicking up a mighty, bathroom-dashing fuss.

What I’m trying to say is, pregnancy is stressful enough as it is, so if you’re craving “bad food,” try not beat yourself up about it. Can you go overboard and eat ten donuts a day for every day of your pregnancy? Sure, all things in moderation and so on, but the upshot is, it’s only nine months, you’ll get your body back on track.

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Category: health and nutrition

About the Author ()

A former picky eater, Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic is a writer, editor, and lapsed cheesemonger in the San Francisco Bay Area. A culinary school grad with an English lit degree, she has written for CNN.com, MSNBC.com, Popular Science, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. Additionally, she has been writing for KQED's Bay Area Bites since its inception and is the website editor for KQED's Emmy-award winning show "Check, Please! Bay Area." Stephanie was an original recapper at Television Without Pity and worked on a line of cookbooks for William-Sonoma as well as in the back kitchen of a Jacques Pépin cooking show. Her first book, SUFFERING SUCCOTASH: A Picky Eater's Quest To Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate (Perigee Books, 2012) is a non-fiction narrative and a heartfelt and humorous exposé on the inner lives of picky eaters that Scientific American called "hilarious" and "the perfect popular science book for a reader that doesn't think he or she wants to read a popular science book." Stephanie lives in Menlo Park with her husband, three-year-old son, assorted cats, and has been blogging at The Grub Report for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter at @grubreport
  • Denise Lincoln

    Hi Stephanie – Ha! The good old days of bad-girl pregnancy eating. I craved Taco Bell beef tacos for about a month, until Kim initiated an intervention. I also ate a ridiculous number of Barney’s hamburgers. What’s funny is I hate Taco Bell and am not a fan of Barney’s, yet my pregnant body really craved these foods. Also, I found it astonishing how many people felt inclined to provide very personal advice (strangers in grocery stores, people at work who never stopped to speak with me before, etc.). btw: this is just the beginning. There will be mothers at the park who sneer at you if you give your kid gold fish; not to mention the whole supplementing with formula debate! Good luck :-)

  • Kim

    I loved cheeseburgers during the first trimester- I didn’t feel like eating, but I knew if I had one in front of me, I’d eat it. I also grew to love salt – I used to prefer a light hand with salt, but I piled it on when I was pregnant. Even now, a year after the birth, I still have a preference for more salt than I used to. I also went from eating light, legume and vegetable based meals, to hearty midwestern fare. It was hard on my husband’s waistline! Still is, as I’m breastfeeding….

  • http://underthesheets-shhh.blogspot.com/ Laura

    This made me laugh out loud and we love your blog! We would love for you to join the Northern California Blogger Network on Facebook.

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=81379964792&ref=mf

  • Becky

    I spent most of my first trimester craving fried food, which I can usually only take in small doses. I figured it was my body telling me it needed lots of calories, and it didn’t matter what they were — the bulk number of calories was most important.

  • http://www.grubreport.com Stephanie Lucianovic

    Denise: I’m totally dreading the sneering mothers and contemplating making, selling, and wearing a tee-shirt that says: “My Breasts, My Business.” I’m in constant amazement that people think they can foist their un-asked-for opinions on others.

    At best, it sends the message that I’m an idiot and unable to think for myself or make rational decisions based on facts, experience, or general intelligence. At worst, it’s completely presumptive and obnoxious.

    Becky and Kim: So glad to hear about your junk food cravings!

  • Carly808

    I just want to thank you for writing this article! I am 11 weeks pregnant and have been having the worst cravings for sweets, ice cream and chocolate. I just ate an ice cream sundae and a few other sweets a few minutes ago and have been wracked with guilt over it. I am definitely going to try and do better starting tomorrow, but for right now, your article is exactly what I needed to hear! Thank you so much!