I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes (GD) during my second pregnancy and was overwhelmed with confusion and disappointment in myself.
How could I get diabetes while maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle? Why did I get it this time and not with my first? Throughout this process, I learned that not only can GD affect anyone, regardless of how healthy you are or how much you exercise, but that appropriately pairing food and exercise to benefit your body, pregnant or not, can provide you with a better quality of life in general.
Admittedly, I didn’t know much at first.
Quite frankly, not only did I not know much, I’m now embarrassed to say the little I did know was horribly inaccurate. I’m so extreme that when I failed my first glucose test I put myself on a Keto diet (not the right thing to do in hindsight, but at the time I was panicking). It seemed like it made sense. Carbs = sugar. GD has to do with your body not processing sugars well. Cutting out carbs seemed like the sensible quick solution. Then I failed the second glucose test. I begged my doctor for a retest and she explained to me, “We don’t do that. Lots of things in life fall into gray areas. This however, is black and white.”
Once I got through messaging all my close friends who have had GD for their advice, they talked me off the ledge of guilt and frustration, I started to dig into problem solving mode.
I scanned the internet looking for resources, for stories of others who had been through this before me. The most helpful ones provided me with simple, memorable tips that were manageable to integrate into my everyday life as a mom to an active 1 year old, pregnant with my second child and the founder of this newly budding community and app, Bumpdate, in which I’m hugely committed to. My initial apprehension and fear of controlling my GD waned as I began to understand the mechanisms and science behind why this happens and how to manage it. Luckily, I was one of the fortunate ones to be able to get it under control with diet and exercise. I know some are not so lucky and have to go on medication and in more serious cases, insulin.
As I learned more and progressed with positive results (mood, sleep, energy, etc.) all from diet change, I became irritated that nutritional education isn’t more common when you get your positive pregnancy ultrasound.
I was 30 weeks pregnant when I found out I had GD! That’s pretty far along. I started to wish I had this dietary knowledge earlier, even when I was TTC. I wondered if so many issues people endure during pregnancy could be “controlled” or “prevented” in a way through adjusted nutrition. There’s an unfortunate and common misconception that you are “eating for two” or that when you are pregnant you can “treat yourself” and have “whatever the baby wants” albeit donuts, pizza, fried food, ice-cream, etc. I’m not here to say any of those things are bad. Believe me, as I’m typing those words, I’d love nothing more than a bite out of each of those, but what I did learn was to moderate those foods, time appropriately when you have them, go for a brisk long walk after meals, and combine them appropriately with proteins, fats and fiber.
For anyone new to this common diagnosis, below are the most helpful resources that created a manageable nutritional ecosystem that fit my busy lifestyle, while keeping both me and baby healthy.
Considering the 4x daily finger pricks, the blood sugar crashes and surges, and the unwavering fatigue and nausea I felt for the first few months of my pregnancy, my diagnosis provided me with a way to feel better. Call it a blessing in disguise – an educational journey I otherwise never would have been on. I don’t know many people who would say they enjoy “dieting”, especially while pregnant! I think the hardest thing is to make smart food choices when you feel nauseous. I tried really hard to not look at it as a “diet”, but rather a lifestyle adjustment. Once I implemented a low carb, low sugar or in other words, a conscious carb, conscious sugar and high protein, high fat regimine, I started to feel like myself again. The clouds of exhaustion began to part and excitement grew as my due date approached. That result alone was enough to make my new and improved nutritional choices addicting.
Here are some resources and lessons I learned that helped me navigate this diagnosis and change the course of my pregnancy for the better.
Most of these resources came from my dear friends who experienced GD. I also connected with knowledgeable folks on Instagram. They all became a part of my village – the people I reached out to and who came through for me with resources galore. A true reminder of why I am so committed to facilitating avenues for people to get support and realize they are not alone in their struggles through TTC, pregnancy and parenthood.
6 Lessons From My Gestational Diabetes Diagnosis
Lesson 1: You don’t have to eliminate carbs
You have to moderate the amount of carbs you eat and combine them appropriately.
Lesson 2: Be mindful of what you eat before bed
What you eat can negatively affect your sleep cycle – more so than the frequent bathroom breaks you are already taking. A bad night of sleep will make your fasting glucose number high. You want to sleep well and wake up with a fasting glucose level below 95.
Lesson 3: Avoid eating starches and sugars on an empty stomach
This simple step helps keep your glucose levels in check and avoid unhealthy cravings.
Lesson 4: Eat your meal in a certain order
If I eat my food in a certain order, my glucose levels won’t spike. The experts at @mindbodygreen say, when it comes to avoiding unnecessary glucose spikes, there’s more to it than just *what* you’re consuming.” For example:
1. Vegetables 2. Proteins + Fats 3. Starches + Sugars
Lesson 5: “Put clothing on your carbs”
This is what biochemist @glucosegoddess advises, which is really just a cute way of saying: Buffer your carb load with some protein, fiber, or fats to help balance your blood sugar.
Lesson 6: Don’t be afraid to eat carbs
When I first found out I had GD, I went Keto because I was afraid that eating any amount of carb would spike my blood sugar and ultimately hurt my baby. Leslee (@gestational.diabetes.nutrition), a GD Pregnancy Nutritionist, taught me that it doesn’t work that way. “When you eat the CORRECT portion of carbs, your blood sugars will actually stay more consistently balanced. Plus you will be nourishing your baby with nutrients he or she needs to grow in a healthy way. The issue in my opinion is not the carbs, it’s the lack of education about HOW to eat the carbs!” Leslee teaches GD moms how to portion and pair their carbs in a balanced way so they can lower blood sugars and grow a healthy baby! For more tips from Leslee, download her free guide: 5 Tips to Lower Fasting Blood Sugar
Thanks so much Gabs!