Thursday, December 3, 2009

Conscious and Healthy Eating for Fertility

The holidays are upon us, and so it may not be the best time to start back on a fertility diet, but that’s exactly what I’m doing, myself. When you really think about it, there is never a better time to start (anything) than right now. The sooner you start, the sooner you move closer to your goal (a baby!).

I was already mostly following a fertility diet anyway, out of sheer habit. I rarely eat sugar, wheat or dairy. We buy all our food organic and mostly eat at home. I do have a weakness for decaf coffee and white wine, however, and when I go out to eat, which I also like to do, my food is typically not organic, although it’s usually a healthy choice.

So what did going on a fertility diet mean for me? Cutting out that trip to Peet’s Coffee in the morning and adjusting back to herbal tea; skipping the occasional glass of wine after a long, stressful day; not popping into my mouth little bites of whatever my husband’s making or my son didn’t finish if it’s not allowed; limiting my eating out to restaurants I know serve something mostly organic; saying no to any dressing or sauce of which the ingredients are unknown; and most of all, simply being more conscious of what and how I’m eating.

I assumed, for example, I was getting plenty of vegetables. I love veggies, eat them all the time. But when I paid attention I realized I was getting three servings, which is not bad, that’s the minimum. But better to cut back on starch-type foods like crackers and bread so there’s room for more veggies. Five servings is better.
To help you stay on track, I advise making a list of food guidelines that might be for you an area of weakness, and at the end of each day, check each item in the list if you were able to stick to that guideline. For example, some of the items on my list include the following:

1 glass of water with fresh lemon juice (helps balance pH)
6 to 8 glasses of purified water
4 servings of starch-type foods max. (better to O.D. on veggies)
Min. 3 servings of veggies
Red Clover Tea (aids fertility)
No eating after 6 p.m. (late night eating is not so great on digestion)
…And so on

“No sugar” or “No diary” is not on my list because I don’t even think to eat these. That’s already a habit for me. But for remembering to get in all those glasses of water each day, or to not go crazy gorging on crunchy non-wheat crackers, box after box, while I worked (another weakness!), I needed a little help, and this list gave it to me.

Using a checklist like this can be useful for you to see exactly how and what you do eat. You might be surprised. I do have a few precautions, though, about using it. First, do not allow it to make you feel bad about yourself!! Very important. If you couldn’t put a check mark next to “No sugar” one day, do NOT let that mean you are a looser who can’t do this and will never have a baby, and then eat a box of chocolates to make you feel better. Keep in mind that you are a beautiful person with a great deal of value to offer this world (and a baby) and this is just one sugar item on this one day. This is especially important for the perfectionists out there (like me). It’s the overall, big picture balance of healthy living and healthy eating that’s important. Give yourself credit for doing the best you can and let it go.

A second precaution is to know you may need a period to adjust to the guidelines you’re commanding of yourself. I was mostly already on a fertility diet, so I didn’t have to travel too far.  If you’ve never given up sugar or dairy before, for example, you may want to give yourself a couple of weeks to adjust. Maybe your list will say: No more than 1 dairy item today.

Finally, know that your emotions will challenge you. When I’m stressed, I want to much on salty crackers or (if my day is over) have a glass of wine.  Boredom can also drive me to the fridge, or interestingly, over to Peet’s for that decaf coffee. Some who get depressed or sad, reach for the chocolate or ice cream.  These are habitual responses to our emotions. Often we don’t even think about it. 

What we want to do is replace emotional eating with healthy eating, making the later a habit.  Instead of cracker-munching in response to stress, I take deep breaths, meditate for a few minutes, listen to soothing music, which calms and grounds me again. If you’re dealing with depression, talk to someone, go out for a walk, exercise.  Teach yourself different responses than eating food that isn’t good for you and won’t fix the problem or emotion.

Keep in mind always, you’re doing the best you can. Focus on success, not failure.  Focus on the image of the beautiful baby you’re trying to conceive, his/her face. That desire alone will help keep you on course.
One last tip: before I started, I stalked up on healthy snacks, because I’m a muncher: baby carrots, celery sticks, healthy non-wheat crackers, hummus (for dipping), almonds & raisins (great for sweet tooth), plenty of veggies, herbal teas, and more.  Make sure these are all handy! Next week, I’ll see if I can’t come up with more snack foods.

Links: I love these ten tips for conscious eating (click here).

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