Inside: How to have a belly only pregnancy the healthy way.
How to Have a Belly Only Pregnancy
You’re all belly!
For both of my pregnancies, I mostly gained weight in my belly, so I heard this a lot!
That’s not to say my thighs and butt didn’t get a little bigger than normal, but my belly is where most of the gain was concentrated.
For some reason, a lot of mamas want to have a belly only pregnancy — perhaps it sounds “ideal” or seems like it will be easier to lose afterwards. I can only speak from my own experience.
How we gain weight in pregnancy (just like when we’re not pregnant) depends on our body type and genetics. Some of it is out of our control.
So when I say “belly only pregnancy,” what I really mean is a healthy pregnancy where weight gain is mainly related to baby weight, extra amniotic fluid, etc.
Last time around, I did gain a little more weight than maybe I would have hoped, but I kept the weight gain in the healthy range without doing anything that might endanger myself or my baby, like strict dieting.
So that felt like a win!
First, “Let it Go”
The first thing you have to do when you find out that you’re pregnant is to let go of any need you feel to diet, count calories, and be hard on yourself.
Your main focus is growing a healthy baby. Period.
As someone who was always fit and trim prior to becoming pregnant, allowing yourself to gain weight sort of goes against everything we know. I worked hard to get this body, and now I’m just going to let it go??
Here’s the thing: you will lose the weight afterwards. It might not be easy, and it might not be immediate, but you will lose the baby weight if you put in the effort.
Fact is, you need to gain weight.
How much exactly depends on each individual woman, but the average is 25-35 pounds. I actually gained a little more that that with my first pregnancy, but I went 41 weeks and 1 day. By the end I was so tired and miserable that I could barely walk around the block — I figure I probably put on a quite a bit of water weight in those last couple weeks.
The point is, you want to focus less on the number on the scale, and more about how you feel and how your baby is growing.
If you don’t gain enough weight, you’re actually putting your baby at risk and you could cause pregnancy complications or lasting health issues for yourself.
The First Trimester = Your Grace Period
Let’s face it, the first trimester sucks for almost all of us.
While I was overjoyed to be pregnant, with both this pregnancy and my last I suffered through intense morning sickness that lasted over four months.
I had no energy to exercise. I had severe food aversions. I was tired, nauseous, and felt plain crappy almost all day, every day.
My main focus during the first trimester was simply to survive and get through it. I allowed myself to rest and skip my usual workouts (I wouldn’t have made it through a workout anyways). I also allowed myself to eat whatever I could stomach. One day it might be a hamburger, the next it might be a salad.
If you also find the first trimester especially rough, give yourself the grace you need until you start feeling better. You can start incorporating exercise back into your routine when you’re up for it.
Here’s what I did to have a belly only pregnancy both times
Once you’ve gotten through any morning sickness and you’re feeling better, you can start paying more attention to exercise and what you eat.
Here are the key things I do when pregnant to stay healthy and keep my weight gain under control:
1. Stop Eating When You’re Full
Sure, every now and then I give in to my cravings. I mean, we only get to be pregnant so many times in our life so I think we deserve to enjoy it!
However, the rest of the time it is important to listen to your body. If you feel full, take a break.
For me, I would describe it like hitting a wall. I’d be eating…and then all of the sudden…BAM!! I’m full.
So I stopped right there.
Eating past the point of fullness while pregnant is even harder on me than eating past the point of fullness normally – because there is a baby in there taking up all your extra internal space…and then some!
Your body signals when it’s time to stop, but you have to pay attention to it.
2. Stop Eating at Least 2 Hours Before Bed
This is also one of the “tricks” I used to help get the baby weight off after delivery.
As we get closer to bedtime, our body’s metabolism slows down, mainly because we are less active than we are during the day.
Nighttime eating is also more likely to be characterized as “snacking,” or consuming non-essential foods after we’ve already eaten dinner.
The result: higher calorie snack foods + less efficient processing = more calories stored as fat.
That doesn’t mean you have to completely deprive yourself of dessert. The key is to be mindful of what and when you eat.
Avoid sitting in front of the TV with a bag of chips or cookies, as this so-called “mindless” eating leads to overconsumption, without even knowing it.
If you feel like a treat, take a couple cookies out of the bag or give yourself a scoop of ice cream and stop there.
I’ll totally admit that I treat myself to a scoop of cashew milk “ice cream” after dinner occasionally, but I try to give my body a couple hours head start on digestion before I hit the sheets.
Eating close to bedtime while pregnant causes pretty nasty heartburn for me, so that is another deterrent.
3. Stay Active & Find a Workout that Works for YOU
Before I got pregnant this time, I religiously attended intense 1-hour yoga classes 3 times a week. On the other days, I either did 30 minutes of cardio or weigh training. I usually gave myself one day off to rest.
During the first trimester, I could barely get out of bed some days, so I scrapped my intense workout routine. However, when I started feeling better in month 4, I started working back in my favorite exercises.
Right now (month 8) my regime looks like this:
- 1 hour yoga class (twice a week) — One class is power yoga with traditional sun-salutation and warrior sequences. The second class is “warm” yoga, which is the same sequence as the hot yoga classes I used to do, but at a lower temperature.
- 20-30 minute walk (2-3 times a week) — When the weather permits, we take an evening walk around our neighborhood as a family. This is the perfect pace for both myself and my daughters (ages 3 and 9). Bonus: an evening walk helps them fall asleep faster when we get home!
When it comes to prenatal exercise, you generally don’t want to start a whole new program or activity that is unfamiliar. Stick to things that you’ve already tried and are experienced in, and modify to meet your needs as your pregnancy progresses.
As I get bigger, there are some yoga moves (twists, inversions, etc.) that I’ve had to stop for now. It was a sad day when I could no longer do a headstand (my favorite pose), but I know that I’ll be able to pick it back up again someday!
If you’re unsure, walking is usually a safe bet, and walking is also one of the most effective exercises for general health and wellness. It’s also an activity that you can do fairly easily while pregnant, and one that the family can do together. Unless your doctor instructs you otherwise, walking is a great way to stay active while pregnant!
4. Make Sleep a Priority
With two kids, a growing belly, and a full-time business to run, sometimes I push myself more than I should. My husband reminds me that one of my priorities (if not my number one priority) needs to be getting at least 8 hours of sleep.
Lack of sleep can cause a variety of health issues (pregnant or not):
- Decreased cognitive function and memory, impaired decision-making
- Increased cortisol levels (which in turn increases appetite)
- Hormone imbalances
- Signals your body to go into “survival” mode, slowing metabolism
All of these can lead to weight gain, as well as making you feel crappy in general.
Whether it is working a nap into your day or going to bed an hour earlier each night, make sleep a priority in your life and find a way to get more of it!
Not only will you feel better (more sleep helped curb some of my worst morning sickness symptoms too), but getting enough sleep can help keep your weight gain in the healthy range.
The Most Important Thing To Remember About Pregnancy Weight Gain
I already said it at the beginning of the post, but it is so important that I’ll say it again…
You need to gain weight while pregnant!
You can and will lose the baby weight afterwards if you put in the effort.
So allow yourself the grace to grow a healthy baby (and grow bigger yourself) and enjoy the experience along the way.
Our bodies are all different, and will show in different ways, but that doesn’t make what’s happening any less miraculous! Remember that mama – YOU are growing a miracle!
*Note: This post is based on my personal experience; I am not a medical professional. Your experience may be different than mine.
More from my pregnancy archives:
- Rookie Mistakes to Avoid with a Second Pregnancy
- How to Get a Free Baby Box (and why you should)
- 102 Things You Never Say to a Pregnant Woman
- 10 Ways to Naturally Induce Labor
- How to Relieve Itchy Skin after Pregnancy
- 15 Things to Do when You Find Out You’re Pregnant
- 10 Awesome Pregnancy Perks (You’ll Miss Later)
- 52 Things Couples Should Do Before Baby Arrives
- 10 Early Pregnancy Symptoms that are Easy to Miss