Friday, October 16, 2009

The South Beach Diet for Pregnant People

Whew. I am feeling a lot better guys. My appetite seems to be back; I am back looking at recipes and food blogs; and I even ventured into the kitchen these last few days and helped Mr. F. cook dinner. (I know, magnanimous, aren’t I?). If I hadn’t had to work today, I might have even made muffins. MUFFINS! I don’t even remember the last time I had muffins, and that is really saying something. For those of you keeping track or interested, I am sixteen weeks and counting. I feel as though, soon, I will have something, non-pregnancy related to write about. Won’t that be nice? Unfortunately, this won’t be one of those posts.

I think I have mentioned before that I am taking a Bradley class. As I am planning on pushing out this child without the help of modern pain medication, I asked other “natural” birthing mothers their recommendation for a birthing class. A number of people, including my sister, recommended taking a Bradley class. The Bradley method is really good about discussing the various stages of birth, introducing pain management techniques, and teaching exercises that will mitigate the symptoms of pregnancy (back aches, etc) as well as to aid in positioning and laboring of the baby. My sister though added a caveat to her recommendation:

“they are going to ask you to keep track of your diet, and to make sure that you eat a crap load of protein. Take what they have to say with a grain of salt. I am convinced that this is why I had a 10lb baby with a head circumference in the 99th percentile.”

I didn’t really understand what she was saying at the time. After all, I have no problem keeping track of what I eat in a day, and I think I eat pretty healthily. I also thought that perhaps she just had a really militant teacher. (Excuse me while I laugh at my naivety.)

The Bradley method asks you to keep track of what you eat every week mainly to keep track of your protein intake (although they do mention in passing to make sure you get your fruit and veggies too). In part, this makes sense as you need protein to build, maintain, and regenerate body tissue for both the mother and the fetus. However, the protein goal that they set for you is 80-100 grams a day. This may not mean anything to you, as it didn’t really mean anything to me until I started keeping track of my protein. But I have since decided that this is a crazy high number.

Let’s take the first week of the experiment: I made a conscious effort to eat more protein. Instead of just toast or cereal for breakfast (both whole grain which isn’t too shabby in the protein department anyway), I added an egg and drank a cup of milk or two. For snacks, I made sure to eat nuts and cheese (with some dried fruit to mix things up). For lunch and dinner, I planned the menu that week to have lots of beans and lentils with the odd meat dish thrown in for two meals. What was the result of this effort? A measly average protein intake of 61.55 grams.

When it came time to report to the group, I was pretty much taken to task. “Not Enough Protein!” the class and teacher cried. The class was asked to “brainstorm” ways as to how I might add more protein to my diet. “Add protein powder to everything!” “Add eggs/dairy to everything!” “Eat more meat!” The take home message that I took from their suggestions was that I would just have to eat a whole lot more. To tell you the truth, I am just not comfortable doing that this early in the pregnancy. This is not because I am counting calories or afraid of gaining too much weight, but because I Just Don’t Want To Eat That Much Food. I am not about to cram 20 more grams of protein down my gullet when my stomach is registering FULL.

This made me start thinking--where on earth did they get these target numbers anyway? None of the Bradley books I have available cite any particular studies—the numbers just appear without any referencing whatsoever. Therefore, I can only assume that the protein target of 80-100 grams came from divine revelation to Dr. Bradley himself.

“And it came to pass that God said unto Dr. Bradley: A pregnant woman must consume 80-100 grams of protein. Let it be written, let it be done.”

In contrast, everything I have read from the internet (yes, I know it isn’t the best source of scholastic information) recommend a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram body weight for a normal adult. For me, pre-pregnancy, this would be 53 grams. Pregnant women though require more protein. However, I couldn’t find a consensus on what that number should be (though none were as high as 80-100 grams). One recommendation I read said that one should add 10 grams to your normal pre-pregnancy number. Whohoo! That puts me on target at 63 grams. Take that Dr. Bradley!

I took my complaints and my findings to my sister who just laughed. “I told you! It is crazy.” I guess she gained 60 pounds during her first pregnancy in her attempt to “be a good student” and to eat the required amount of protein. The result: a 10lb baby with a big head. With her other two kids she just tried to eat healthily and to eat high protein snacks when she was hungry. The result: she only gained 40 lbs and the kids were smaller (although not by much, 8lbs and 9lbs.). I have resolved to do the same: make smart choices when I am hungry but not be a protein martyr.

However, I am still dreading the weekly report in front of my pregnant peers. I have never been one to fly in the face of authority so I don’t know what I am going to say when it comes down to it. Lie? Fudge the numbers? Be straight up honest and say “I think you are all crazy, and I refuse to drink your kool-aid?” What would you do in my situation?


Hizzeather said...

Do what you think is right! Don't let them pester you into doing something that your intuition says isn't for you. How can they argue with that?

Retail Worker #48721093 said...

At least you aren't a vegan. I cannot even fathom how much tofu/tempeh/soy they would have to eat on this program.

Wild Rose said...

I personally think there is a lot of crazy nutrition recommendations out there based on ___very___ little, if any, science.
I've told you about Weston Price, the dentist who did anthropologic research on various native cultures and looked at there dental health as an indicator of good nutrition.
Here is a link to the nutrition site for pregnant and nursing mothers. These recommendations fly in the face of other "mainstream" recs. But, take a look.

My recommendations are to listen to your body most importantly, stay away from processed foods, and don't take protein powder.

Stay strong in the face of "authority" if it doesn't feel right to you. :-) Ask in class for evidence of the 80-100 mg protein recommendation.

Janssen said...

Oh my word, that is insane.

Washington Hills said...

You're pregnant! Eat what sounds good and your body will regulate EXACTLY what that sweet little body needs!


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