November 16, 2012

Off limits

I subscribe to a great mailing list that offers pregnancy advice and updates on your baby's progress. It's so fun to share them every week with Matt - this coming Sunday, for example, is day one of week 17, and the baby will be about 5 inches long and weigh about 5 ounces, about as much as a turnip. There's a cute fruit or veggie comparison every week, which is fun to visualize. When we first started to follow, Nugget was just a blueberry!

Some of the emails they send, though, are ominous, and genuinely put the fear in me. This week's was a list of holiday foods you need to avoid - followed by a list of holidays and at least one thing for each.

One thing that has been oddly strange to get used to with pregnancy is consulting ingredient lists to see if I can or cannot eat something. There are extensive lists of foods that are considered off-limits to pregnant women, and some of them are surprising. Raw/undercooked meat? That was a little obvious. But sandwiches?! I wouldn't have thought. Sushi is off limits, including varieties with cooked fish, as you can't be sure if it's been kept at a healthy temperature. Smoked salmon, soft cheeses, apple cider, eggs cooked any way other than hard boiled or scrambled ... even tea!

When I really think about it, I suppose it is obvious. Sandwiches with cold cuts/deli meat may contain listeria, a bacteria that is usually broken down with ease but can affect pregnant women and their fetus(es), so your choices are (a) toasted sandwich or (b) something else. Runny eggs, soft cheeses, and cider, when unpasteurized, also carry the listeria risk (as does the mailing list's Thanksgiving threat, stuffing that has been inside a raw turkey). And the effect on pregnant women from the herbs in most varieties of teas has not been studied, so doctors recommend avoiding it.

I asked a midwife at the clinic this week about teas, because most days, I have a hard time getting my water in. I used to drink three or four 32 ounce bottles a day! Now I struggle some days to finish one. She suggested adding lemon to the water to maybe make it more palatable, or Crystal Light, which, to be honest, I'd be more worried about drinking than tea. I'm a lot more worried about the effect of artificial sweeteners on my baby than the herbs from tea!

She also said that if I reallllllly wanted to, I could drink tea if I wanted, just in moderation. Women who are coffee drinkers are asked to keep it to one cup a day, and soda drinkers should reduce consumption as much as possible. But tea, that's the one she said was off limits!

I'm a bit torn. I find it hard to believe that women in Japan avoid sushi for nine months, that women in France avoid cheese, that women in China avoid tea. Still, I would rather be overly cautious than not cautious enough, and so I am sticking to the rules.

It's interesting, because something that I struggled with for so long before losing weight was the idea of restriction. If I was told I couldn't have something, I wanted it harder. I craved it. I couldn't stop thinking about it. Then, I'd binge, and the "diet" was over. This time, I found success in weight loss because I permitted myself the things I craved, just in a healthy way. I bought pieces of string cheese one at a time, instead of a half pound block. I bought just one cupcake instead of a dozen, and it was eaten in a bakery, not alone in the dark of my living room. I had pizza for lunch once a week, except it was Lean Cuisine and not Pizza Hut. In doing these things, I found the balance I needed in order to avoid overindulging.

Now, I have restrictions. And I don't have a say in them. It doesn't matter how badly I want smoked salmon sushi (hint: REALLY badly) or how delicious a poached egg on a toasted English muffin sounds (hint: REALLY delicious). I think it's a lot easier to avoid a binge, though, than my previous diet attempts, because I know what's at stake here. I need to be strong and fight the cravings to make sure my baby is safe and healthy.