During my pregnancy I practiced intuitive eating – listening to my body’s wisdom and eating what I craved and made me feel good. Sounds simple, but it can be difficult to listen to our own bodies in this climate of fad diets and conflicting information. There is so much unnecessary pressure on pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to eat the “right” things. This pressure, while well intentioned, can distract us from connecting to our bodies and inner wisdom, while just plain stressing us out.
Intuitive eating is consuming the food and drink that you feel best nourishes your body in the given moment. It’s about trusting your body. It is essentially normal eating, without the chronic dieting, restricting, and labeling around food. This is a difficult feat in our culture, where we’re constantly bombarded with new diets, super-foods, and contradictory science. I believe we all know deep down, beyond all this noise, what works for our bodies. It’s different for each person and each time in your life – pregnancy and post-partum being two distinct periods where what you need may shift in a big way.
Something about being pregnant allowed me to let go of what I can now see in retrospect was an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy. In my early twenties, I became plant-based, and this interest in learning more about food is what started my passion for all things wellness. Looking back, I can see where my love for healthy eating and cooking was detrimental to my wellbeing. I was still always trying to lose the last five pounds and I had deeply ingrained negative self-talk patterns. If I had been pregnant with one baby, I likely would have continued down this path of control and perfectionism around my body and food. With twins, there is much less emphasis by doctors and experts on what to eat, and more emphasis on eating enough to support their growth. I did not limit myself at all – I ate purely on intuition. I now have a better relationship with my body and how I look at food than I ever have before. This is due to both my intuitive eating practice, and to the inevitable respect you gain for your body when it carries your babies safely into the world.
I want to empower all people, but especially pregnant and new mothers, to listen to their bodies. At no other time in your life as a woman do you have so much pressure from society, the medical community, and sometimes friends and family on what you’re eating and how your body looks. It is not acceptable to comment on how any woman’s body at any point. That is an issue for another motherhood blog post – but my point is that when you’re pregnant or a new mother, you deal with extra noise about your diet. Instead of looking outward, to books, your doctor, your mother, your favorite blogger, look inside. Get in touch with how you’re feeling, and eat only what makes you feel good, nourished, energized, and happy. How does one eat intuitively? Here are some tips, and a recipe for kitchari that I’ve been eating often in my post-partum period.
Tips for intuitive eating:
- Practice mindful eating, which will create space for your intuition to speak up. Pause before ordering at a restaurant or making your grocery list, perhaps asking yourself “what will nourish me right now?” Eat your food slowly, take note of how it makes you feel then and in the hours and days afterwards. Focus on how you feel, connect with your heart and then your physical body, and avoid over thinking and analyzing.
- Try freehand journaling about your relationship with food, what makes you feel good, what you enjoy eating, where you restrict yourself, your history with food. Writing stream of consciousness is the best way to get it all out, and see any negative patterns you may have around food. Awareness is the first step, always.
- Get in touch with your intuition in all parts of life. It can manifest as “pings,” an inner knowing, or an iteration of your interior voice. Meditation or getting quiet in any way – walk, deep breathing – helps you create the space for your inner wisdom to come through.
- Intuition is a muscle. The more you use it, the more it grows and strengthens. That impulse or little voice in your head will get louder and stronger, and will slowly drown out the negative “should” voice. This takes time and practice.
KITCHARI - AN INTUITIVE FAVORITE
I had kitchari – an Indian dish with rice, mung bean lentils and spices – once during some restrictive cleanse I did years ago and disliked it, but a month post partum it was all I could think about! When looking up the recipe, I discovered that it is recommended in Ayurveda for new mothers for its anti-inflammatory, soothing, warming characteristics. Once you begin eating intuitively, you’ll often find out something you’ve been craving and eating is actually the scientifically proven antidote to something that ails you.
Below is my slightly adapted recipe from Kripalu, but first is a quick recipe for the vegetables I’m currently topping my kitchari with. You can eat it plain, or with just some spinach, cilantro and squeeze of lime.
I have been adding this spring veggie mix to mine:
- 2 leeks – white & light green part only cut in half and then sliced into 1/2” thick pieces
- 1 zucchini – diced
- 1 fennel bulb – sliced
- 1 cup spring peas
- 1 bunch dandelion greens – chopped
- 1 bunch cilantro chopped
- ½ cup cashews
- Lemon or lime
- Instructions: Saute leeks over medium heat in a couple of tablespoons of neutral oil such as coconut, olive, sunflower or sesame oil. Add zucchini and fennel, sauté a couple more minutes with a liberal sprinkle of sea salt. When they look almost done, add peas and dandelion greens and cover to let steam a bit. Cook a couple more minutes, letting everything stay green and fresh – don’t over do it. Top over the kitchari and add chopped cilantro, chopped cashews, and half an avocado (or more). Squeeze a lemon or lime and an extra sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper.
Basic Kitchari – Adapted from Kripalu
- 1 cups yellow mung dal beans
- 1 cup white basmati rice
- 3 tablespoons ghee or organic sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons each cumin seeds, turmeric powder, and cumin
- 1 teaspoon each mustard powder, coriander powder, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, black pepper (cinnamon optional in winter)
- 5 green cardamom pods
- 4 cloves
- 3 bay leaves
- Instructions: Rinse the mung dal beans and strain them, or until the water runs clear. Heat the ghee or oil in a large pot. Add all the seeds and toast until the mustard seeds pop. Add the bay leaves and powdered spices, and mix together. Stir in the rice and beans. Add 6-8 cups of water, cloves, bay leaves, cardamom pods and ring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the beans and rice are soft and the kitchari has a porridge-like consistency. Makes a large batch you can eat over the course of a week.