Starving and Running

How to eat and how to exercise.


Kristina and Kristi wrote with separate but related questions this week. Kristina is starving and Kristi is running. They're both concerned about staying healthy while honoring the screaming messages their bodies are sending them.

Kristina is about eight weeks along and is hungry all the time. Lucky! That sure beats being nauseated all the time. She eats small meals all day but still feels hungry a couple of hours later. She wonders if there's something wrong with her and is worried about gaining too much weight if she continues with an appetite like this. First of all, let me reassure you, Kristina. You're normal. Though women with morning sickness get all the glory, just as many women have no nausea and are in the same club as you. Count your blessings but also, count your calories and watch your diet closely to avoid gaining too much weight. You're on the right track by eating small meals throughout the day. That's the trick to maximizing energy while minimizing nausea.

Nothing feels worse when you're pregnant than getting too hungry. That hunger quickly turns into nausea and before you know it, you're worshiping the porcelain god. Trust your body. If you're hungry every two hours—eat every two hours. Just eat the right stuff. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies, lean protein, whole grains, dairy products and water should be the main elements of your diet. Fitness experts recommend pairing carbohydrates (fruit, veggies, breads and grains) with proteins and healthy fats at every meal. That could be one slice of whole wheat toast with a tablespoon of peanut butter and a banana. That's less than 300 calories but has enough protein, fiber and good fats to keep you full a while. A cup of low-fat yogurt and a handful of granola a couple hours later is about 250 calories.

Be careful about the junk food. This is the stuff that'll come back to bite you in the big old butt. When you're starving, a couple of donuts and some chocolate milk are pretty irresistible. You'll rack up close to 550 calories though and will feel hungry (and guilty) again quickly because empty calories with minimal fiber and protein burn fast. You'll also get a sugar-dump from consuming a lot of high-sugar foods that'll elevate your blood glucose levels quickly then slam you to the ground when it's all burned up. The result: fatigue, headache and fat thighs. Pack healthy snacks.

Kristi is a runner who's also about two months pregnant. Before she realized she was pregnant she was training for a marathon. My hat's off to you, you crazy girl. I admire people who do that and I know I never, ever will. She's not planning on continuing her training goals (the marathon's out for this year) but wants to keep running. This girl loves to run. Go for it, Kristi. You're going to have to log fewer miles as your belly grows but the official American Academy of Obstetrics and Gynecology statement is: If you were a runner before you became pregnant, you often can keep running during pregnancy although you may have to modify your routine. Talk to your doctor about whether running during pregnancy is safe for you.

I've taken care of women who ran the day they went into labor. There was an article in Newsweek this week about extreme athletes (one was a competitive runner who trained extensively while pregnant) who push their body to the limits. Though exercise is really, really important during pregnancy, be careful about defining those limits. Your body is busy on a really big project. Don't push it too hard. Your doctor/midwife will help you figure this out.

Some sports are on the no-no list: horseback riding, downhill skiing, contact sports like ice hockey, soccer, and basketball; scuba diving, gymnastics and water skiing. I don't think you ought to go bungee jumping or paragliding either. Just my opinion.

The general rule is: if you're already an active exerciser, like Kristi, you can continue with your sport as long as you don't push yourself too hard, don't get overheated or dehydrated and aren't so clumsy you're likely to fall over your shoelaces. As your bump grows, your center of gravity will change and you might fall down-go boom. Also, stay off your back once you're into your second trimester to keep from compressing major blood vessels with your big, heavy uterus.

If you're new to exercise—this is a perfect time to start. Go for a daily walk. Aim for at least 30 minutes every day. Add some prenatal yoga or a gentle aerobics class. Let your instructors know you're pregnant so they can help you with safe modifications. Exercise will burn calories, bump up your energy, build bones and muscles, keep your blood pressure stable and help you avoid gestational diabetes and...fat thighs. It's a good thing.

So, my dear Kritina and Kristi, I'm glad you're both so in tune with your bodies' needs. Diet and exercise are key to healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. You'll avoid excess weight gain, increased health risks and chances for cesarean section . Plus you'll fit into your cute pre-pregnant clothes faster after delivery. I know you're still looking forward to buying cute maternity clothes but you won't believe how important it will become to get back into your old jeans.

Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to and it may be answered in a future blog post.

This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.