This is part two of a two-part series. Click here to read part one, where I explain our philosophy behind doing a Whole30 while pregnant, and address severe morning sickness as one reason that a Whole30 might not work for some pregnant people.
On Instagram I often have women asking me if I recommend that they do a #PregnantWhole30. Our opinion is that a Whole30 while pregnant is a great way to support your healthy, happy pregnancy and provide nutrients to your body and your growing baby. However, there are some situations that make it less ideal for certain women or at certain times during a woman’s pregnancy. Beyond morning sickness (which I address in part one), there are two additional reasons why you may NOT want to do a Whole30 while pregnant. Those reasons are weight loss or a history of disordered eating.
Weight Loss: Doctors Orders Trump Whole30 Rules
Our second consideration, weight loss, is a tricky one. The primary thing to remember here is that your health care provider’s recommendations override the Whole30 rules. While the Whole30 is not specifically a weight-loss program, many people do experience weight loss as a result of their Whole30 experience. For the pregnant population, we need to be mindful of this. The reason for doing a Whole30 while pregnant is not to lose weight. It’s to provide your body with the most nourishing food available while supporting a healthy weight gain.
Women sometimes lose weight in the first trimester due to food aversions, nausea, and vomiting even when they’re not on a Whole30. If, however, you are already dealing with food aversions/nausea/vomiting and the only foods you’re able to keep down aren’t compliant with the Whole30 program, you may be better off stopping your Whole30 until this phase subsides.
If you’re able to combat the weight loss by adding more healthy fat to your meals, eating smaller and more frequent meals, finding Whole30 compliant substitutions for foods you can’t tolerate, and the variety of other tips given in my previous blog posts about doing a Whole30 while pregnant, then this may not be a limiting factor for you.
If you’re overweight or obese and your provider is okay with a small to moderate weight loss (granted you’re eating sufficient calories for you and your baby’s needs) then this is another situation that may allow you to continue, if desired.
If at any point you suspect you may be losing a significant amount of weight or your provider is concerned about potential weight loss, you’ll need to re-evaluate your approach. This may mean adding another meal or mini-meals to your current Whole30 plan or adding additional servings of healthy fats, veggies, fruits, or protein to your meals to combat the weight loss. If you absolutely can’t eat more and weight loss is a concern, then follow your doctor and/or provider’s orders. You may need to stop your Whole30 until you can consume enough food to continue with a healthy weight gain.
One quick word about the scale. While it’s against Whole30 rules to weigh yourself, prenatal visits often require weight gain checks. If they make you step on the scale, you can choose to ask them not to tell you or avert your eyes, but if they want you to know or want to talk to you about it, that also trumps Whole30 rules. If your provider is concerned with your pregnancy weight gain (or lack thereof), you should be following their instructions, including weighing to ensure you stay on track.
Eating Disorders or Disordered Eating Behaviors: Work with A Trusted Care Team
If you’re dealing with any disordered eating behaviors or a diagnosed eating disorder, a Whole30 may not be the best option for you at any time, including during pregnancy. Here’s a blog post about the potential upsides and downsides of doing a Whole30 for those currently dealing with an eating disorder or who have a past history of an eating disorder.
The premise is that starting a Whole30 while managing an eating disorder (or history of an eating disorder) really depends on the person and the context. You need to work with your trusted counselor (please consider finding one if you don’t already have one) to develop a smart, safe plan for any new dietary plan you’d like to go on, including the Whole30. I’d also make sure you and your counselor work with a dietitian trained in prenatal health to make sure your plan is well-rounded for the specific demands of pregnancy. Please feel free to modify the plan to fit your prenatal needs while keeping the main principles of eating nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods in check.
As mentioned above, any of these factors may make completing a Whole30 less appropriate for you during pregnancy or at certain times during your pregnancy; however, use your best judgment and the approval from your provider to figure out when/if it’s the best option for you.
You can always cut your Whole30 short and start it at a later date if something pops up. The important thing is that you do what you need to do during the rough times to keep yourself and your baby healthy and this may look like something other than the Whole30. Our community supports your decision to Whole30 or not during your pregnancy.
Stephanie Greunke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition who specializes in women’s health. She is a certified personal trainer and prenatal and postnatal corrective exercise specialist. Stephanie guides and supports women locally and globally through her web-based private practice, RockYourHormones.com.